fish medium level

Helogenes marmoratus

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Dwarf Wood Cat

Helogenes marmoratus is a species of whale catfish belonging to the family of Cetopsidae. It has a colour pattern that resembles dead leaves. The fish may even lie on its side among the leaf litter as a form of camouflage. It can easily be mistaken as a piece of dead wood when it rests on its side, motionless on the bottom.

Distribution: Atlantic drainages of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, upper Río Orinoco and Río Negro systems in Venezuela, Amazonas Basin in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador; Orinoco, Upper Orinoco; Amazon, Middle Amazon (Solimoes), Rio Negro.

Submitted by
Benedetta Spelta
0.2393390, -63.0959396
Geographical region
South America
Drainage Basin
Rio Amazonas
River catchment
Rio Negro
Water body type
Water body name
Water body part
Water body course
Upper course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name
Type locality
Essequibo River, Guyana.
Conservation status/IUCN Red List
Not Evaluated (NE)

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Black water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
22-26 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

Dissolved Oxygen


Standard length
7.5 cm
Water volume (min. aquarium)
100 l
Social behaviour
Lives single
Behaviour description

Generally peacefull and is recomended to be kept in groups in an aquarium. It goes along well with a vast variety of peaceful fish as long as they are not too small.

In its natural environment Helogenes marmoratus is found both in black- and clearwater streams, preferably with slow and fast flow, mostly over sandy ground. This species hides in the litter or aquatic vegetation.

Its esemblance to dead leaves is a well known type of camouflage recorded for several other small vertebrates that dwell in the leaf and root litter on the ground. This nocturnal fish spends the daytime among submersed root-tangle with leaf litter in Amazonian streams. It is very difficult to spot visually, due both to its shape and color, which blend with the substrate, as well as to the heterogeneous nature of its cover.

Aggression grade
Night active
Sexual dimorphism


Nutrition in Nature

Feeds on terrestrial insects, insect larvae and small worms.


Breeding tank set-up

There is no breeding report.

Nutrition parents

High quality live food.

Mating type
Spawning behaviour
Breeding habits
Hatching period
Number of eggs in average
Parental care
Fry number
Nutrition fry
Notes on reproduction


Comment by the expert

Lima et al. (2005) note that Helogenes marmoratus jumps on the bank during rotenone fishing by Tukano and Tuyuka indigenous people, then jumping back to the stream after water renovation.