Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
fast facts

About Catfish

Aquarium Size
Large (50+ gal )
Swimming Region
Fish Water Condition
Varies depending on species
Suitable Tank Mates
Other species of catfish, Koi, Giant Gourami, Oscars, Pacu
Difficulty Of Care
Monthly care
Top Breed
Catfish General Description

Catfish are a large family of freshwater fish extremely popular in the aquarium trade. Most species of catfish are extremely hardy and make for fascinating aquarium specimens. They are characterized by their whisker-like barbells which are used to gather a great deal of sensory information. Unlike most other species of freshwater fish, the catfish’s body is not covered in scales. Instead, they have thick, leathery skins which are often covered in a thin layer of mucus. Most species of catfish also have a bony and spine-like ray on their dorsal and pectoral fins. When feeling threatened, they will often lock these rays in place, making them stick outwards and providing the catfish with a certain degree of physical protection.

Most species of catfish are extremely hardy and make for fascinating aquarium specimens.


Different species are found in freshwater habitats across the world.


The many different species come colored in shades of white, pink, brown, yellow, grey and black.

Maintenance and care
The specific aquarium needs of different species of catfish vary based on their natural habitats. However, most species are extremely hardy and can adapt to a fairly wide range of water conditions. That said, they can be sensitive to abrupt changes in water quality and are sometimes sensitive to the side effects of various medications.

Catfish are a primarily bottom dwelling species and prefer a soft substrate such as sand or smooth gravel. Most species are also extremely active and spend most of their time swimming up and down the aquarium. They thrive in aquariums which provide them with enough swimming space as well as numerous hiding places.

Most species of catfish are extremely peaceful and make great community fish. They shouldn’t however be kept with slower moving, timid species which might be stressed out by their exuberant physical activity.

Most species can grow quite large and it is important to the individual species’ growth potential before raising them. Often they need to be raised in large, outdoor ponds because of their great size and strength.


Most species are omnivores and can be fed on a pellet or algae disk based diet. Some species, like plecos, are scavengers and will scour the aquarium bottom and sides for algae. Some carnivorous species may also devour smaller tank mates that they can fit in their mouths.

Most species are extremely hardy and can adapt to a fairly wide range of water conditions.


It is virtually unheard of for catfish to breed in the home aquarium.

Aquarium varieties

Otocinclus, Cory, Pleco, Bristle Nosed, Clown, Iridescent Shark, Glass, Bumblebee, Columbian Shark, etc.

Photo credit: CHUCAO/Wikimedia; sannse/Wikimedia
Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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