What exactly is a talking catfish? Well, talking catfish are members of the Doradidae family and posses the unique ability to create a strange grating noise with their spines or swim bladders. Members of this family of catfish originate from certain areas in South America.
When someone refers to a “talking,” “chocolate,” or “humbug” catfish they are usually referring to the Striped Raphael Catfish (Platydoras armatulus). These fish are quite entertaining and attractive and are therefore somewhat popular for aquarists. The fish itself has a brown body with several orange or very light brown stripes running down its back. It also has a very light brown or even sometimes orange underside and three sets of “whiskers” (barbels) near its mouth. The fish tends to enjoy hiding and scavenging through sand on the bottoms of fish tanks.
These fish are also covered in many sharp spines, which become erect when the fish is stressed or scared and can get caught in nets or injure skin. The sounds which are considered this fish’s namesake are produced in one of two ways. In the first, the fish rubs its pectoral fins against their sockets and creates a grating sound of sorts. In the second, the fish moves muscles at the back of its skull, in turn vibrating the swim bladder and creating sound.
The supposed full size of this fish is somewhere around eight inches, although opinions vary. For the catfish to have a proper environment and thrive, its tank must be of a decent size. There has supposedly been very little success with breeding this species in captivity. Juvenile fish can often be seen at pet stores that have the resources to stock this interesting fish. This species is classified as a community fish, but stories have been told of it eating fish small enough to fit into its mouth.
Striped Raphael Catfish and talking catfish in general are interesting and lovable fish. They liven up any community aquarium, and can add another element of enjoyment and fun to a fish-tank. Their distinct coloration and appearance and their “speech” make them stand out from other kinds of catfish. They also perform the time honored job of their order: cleaning up the bottom of a dirty tank.