We present you the guide for beginners on the characteristics and basic care of catfish. We show you step by step the fundamental knowledge to successfully care for beautiful catfish.
The catfish is widely used in aquariums because, in addition to being colorful, it helps keep the aquarium clean. Catfish feed on leftover food, preventing it from rotting and altering the chemical composition of the water.
There is a great variety of species that are included within the so-called Catfish, and its name comes from the filamentous barbels that are reminiscent of a cat’s whiskers. These characteristic whiskers are essential sensory organs to detect the food they consume.
Some groups of these fish have a kind of suckers in their oral cavity that makes it easier for them to adhere to the aquarium glass to feed, and by the way leave it clean of algae.
Characteristics of catfish
Some groups have sharp, retractable spines on the front of their pectoral and dorsal fins. There are also groups that have skin plates that are the evolution of scales and serve as armor against predators.
Most catfish arefreshwater fish, although there are species that inhabit brackish water estuaries and also coral reefs.
Many catfish prefer to live in groups of three or more, and the large ones need to live with tank mates of similar size, if they cannot eat the smaller ones.
Maximum size and longevity of catfish
The size depends on the type of species. They can range from just over 2–3 cm for dwarf Corydoras species to 1–2 meters or more for giant Pangasius species.
Regarding its longevity, catfish can live from 7 to 15 years.
The aquarium and the water
These tropical freshwater fish will generally thrive between levels of the following parameters:
- Temperature: 22°C – 28°C
- pH: 6.4 – 7.4
- General hardness: 50 – 200ppm
Feeding of Catfish
The most common species that are available for the aquarium are excellent cleaners although they will gladly accept a mixture of plant matter and protein. The best quality dry foods meet these needs.
An occasional feeding of frozen produce or live black worms will keep most species of catfish satisfied.
Tip: It is always a good idea to research the type of diet your Catfish needs to select the correct foods. For example, bottom feeders need to be provided with a type of food that sinks.
Herbivorous catfish species such as Ancistrus Cirrhosus and Hypostomus plecostomus sometimes do not have enough algae in the aquarium to meet their needs.
We recommend feeding these fish a variety of plant-based foods such as: algae wafers, spirulina, and frozen natural leaf spinach aquarium ingredients.
In general, smaller species such as Corydoras are excellent community species and can be kept in groups of 5 or more individuals.
Other species such as the Ancistrus Cirrhosus, the catfish Synodontis angelicus or the Catfish Hypostomus plecostomus are usually kept in community tanks.
Color and varieties of catfish
reproduction and breeding of catfish
Many catfish species will aggressively defend their nest. Spawning activity is often triggered by rapid changes in water quality (may be temperature and/or mineral composition), with activity often observed after a water change.
Some catfish also have very unique methods of reproduction.
Synodontis multipunctata have a very unusual breeding habit: breeding pairs eat fresh cichlid eggs and replace the eaten eggs with their own eggs.
There is no parental care on the part of these catfish, they are totally dependent on surrogate parents or adoptive parents to raise their offspring.
One of the best known groups of catfish are the Corydoras, the popular bottom-dwelling fish found in many home aquariums.
Affectionately coined “ Corys ” by hobbyists, these fish average between two and three inches in size. They are easy to care for and undemanding in terms of their habitat needs.
Most corys need a neutral pH habitat (6 – 7.5) and a low level of hardness (50 – 150 ppm). Their temperature requirements depend on their location of origin, but the recommended temperature range is 21-26°C and they are great cleaners and are easy to find in schools.
Other examples of catfish commonly seen in most homes are the Ancistrus catfish.
These Catfish are kept mainly by feeding on algae and are very useful for cleaning the glass of the aquarium by removing excess algae. While the Ancistrus catfish is frequently seen in many store aquariums and is easy to keep, there is another, increasingly popular species that is highly attractive.
The Ancistrus Peppermint, with its jet-black skin and conspicuous white spots.
Peppermint require a slightly acidic to neutral pH environment of 6.0 – 7.0, low hardness of 20 – 150 ppm and temperature between 23 – 27°C.
The Kryptopterus minor catfish is unique in its appearance; almost his entire body is transparent. Their bony structure and nervous system are easily visible and the internal organs of these fish are enveloped in a reflective silvery sac. These animals need company, so it’s best to keep a group of at least four to six fish in the same tank.
They have a relatively high pH, tolerance 5.5 – 7.2 and do well at low hardness levels 50-150 ppm, with temperatures between 22 – 27°C.
If you want more information about fish, do not hesitate to visit our guides on the care of the main fish used in aquarism.