That is sad Mel,
I saw a Farlowella catfish at my lfs the other day actually - very strange/interesting looking fish. I do know that they can be very sensitive to water conditions, just like oto's & can often die suddenly.
They do need some driftwood to chew/suck on in the tank as it helps their digestion. They do not really eat algae that much but need the usual flakes, worms etc. to supplement their diet & if there are a lot of other fish in the tank competing for food, he may end up starving because they need a more regular food source.