The Royal Farlowella (Sturisoma panamense), also known as the Twig or Whiptail Catfish, is a member of the Loricariidae family of South American suckermouth catfishes. While many suckermouth catfish species have yet to be bred on any major scale in aquariums, the Royal Farlowella has been bred by a few farms. This fish is highly unique with its very thin, twig-like appearance and the “streamer” extensions on its tail.
The Royal Farlowella is primarily nocturnal, but will often become active during daytime hours once established in an aquarium with plenty of driftwood, rockwork, and other hiding places. It is not known to eat wood heavily like some suckermouth catfish (Panaque sp., etc.), but it may benefit from some supplementary wood (or rather the biofilm on driftwood) in its diet. The Royal Farlowella will not bother most plants, but it will eat plenty of algae in the aquarium, especially as a juvenile. Feed the Royal Farlowella a diet heavy in vegetable matter, including high-quality vegetable flakes, sinking algae wafers and pellets. It will also appreciate being fed some fresh vegetables such as shelled peas, spinach, zucchini and cucumber. Occasional meaty foods such as bloodworms are also beneficial when fed very sparingly. This fish eats constantly, so too much meat/animal protein in its diet can be unhealthy for the fish as well as the level of waste it produces in the aquarium.
The Royal Farlowella is very peaceful and is compatible with most other non-aggressive fish and invertebrates. It is possible that larger specimens might eat very small dwarf shrimp, particularly their fry. However, many aquarists keep the Royal Farlowella with their shrimp colonies with no problems. The Royal Farlowella can reach a length of 8 inches, but it is a very thin fish that does not account for the bioload that many thicker fish of a similar length produce.