Freshwater fish, Catfish, Information, Species

Catfish: Complete Species Overview

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by Jason Matthews



Catfish are freshwater species that are hugely popular among fish enthusiasts. They are ideal for both seasoned and beginner aquarists because they are easy to care for. Freshwater catfish are a great addition to your community tank due to their vibrant colors and energetic personality.

But how do you take care of catfish? This guide will cover all you need to know about their diet needs, care guide, ideal tank conditions, and tank mates.


Scientific Name: Corydoras panda, Pimelodus pictus,

Common Names: Catfish, Pictus catfish, Upside-down catfish, Redtail catfish, Suckermouth catfish

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Adult Size: 2 to 5 inches depending on the variety


Beginner friendlyIntermediate depending on the species
Tank preferenceBottom dweller
Water temperature72-82F
Water pHa PH of 6-8
Water hardness3-10 dGH
Tank sizeMinimum 10 gallons
BreedingEgg layers

Fun Fact

Catfish got their name from their barbels or whiskers, which they use to find food in the tank. These whiskers look similar to the ones in a cat hence the name catfish.


Catfish are native to South America and regions in the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. They were discovered over 100 years ago. Since then, they have become quite popular in the aquarium trade. Today, there are multiple varieties of catfish with distinct features, characteristics, and body appearance.


big catfish
[Image Credit: Gerhard, Pixabay]

If you are looking to stock catfish in your aquarium, you need to know that they are quite different in appearance. While they all have whiskers, they come in different colors, patterns, and variations.

Here are some of the common catfish species you’ll come across.

  • Pictus catfish: They are silver colored with black spots. Like other catfish species, they have a large, downturned mouth and a forked tail.
  • Cory catfish: Coloration varies among this species from albino to brown. They have three pairs of barbels and are protected with an armor of bony plates across the entire body.
  • Upside Down catfish: Although known for swimming upside down at the top of the aquarium water, this variety has the same inner ear structures and features as other catfish.
  • Bandit Cory: This type of Corydoras catfish gets its name from its distinctive facial “bandit” black mask. The fins are black, while the rest of the body is light brown.
  • Bristlenose catfish: This species is characterized by multiple whiskers around the head.
  • Julii Cory catfish: This catfish has a spotty pattern all over its body and very expressive eyes.


Catfish species have sexual differences. You’ll notice distinct features between the males and females on all the varieties. For instance, if you have the pictus catfish, the females are slightly larger and rounder when they become sexually mature.

Average Size

On average, catfish varieties can be 2 to 5 inches in length, depending on the variety. The smaller varieties can be kept in a smaller tank of about 10 gallons with other tankmates; however, the larger ones, like pictus that grow to up to 5 inches, require a bigger space.


beautiful catfish
[Image Credit: Anil Sharma, Pexels]

Typically, most catfish varieties are known for their peaceful behaviors. They are non-aggressive and not too territorial. However, you need to know the temperament of the variety you want to keep.

For instance, if you have pictus catfish, you need to know that they eat smaller fish when hungry. They are also quite active; therefore, they should not be stocked together with slow-swimming fish species because it irritates them. On the other hand, if you have a species like cory catfish, they spend most of their time on their own at the bottom of the tank.


Catfish are schooling fish; therefore, they should be kept together with their own kind. You can stock them in groups of a few to five or six. Since they are peaceful, you can choose small-sized species like mollies, guppies, and swordtails.

Avoid keeping your catfish with aggressive species like cichlids, barbs, and Oscars when choosing tankmates. Additionally, it would be best if you did not keep them together with aggressive betta fish.

Tank Size and Conditions

Water health is essential for your catfish. While smaller-sized catfish can fit in a 10-gallon tank, the larger species require bigger aquariums. For instance, if you keep a shoal of pictus catfish, you’ll need at least 150 gallons of water for a group of 4 to 6.

When setting up the tank, you need to recreate their natural habitat. Ensure the water temperature is between 72-82F and pH is between 6.0-8.0. Use a proper filtration system to maintain the water quality and help maintain health. To maintain the water parameters, you should regularly test the tank.

You should add about three inches of substrate in your tank and decorate it with plants, rocks, and driftwood. If the aquarium is too big, you might need a heater to maintain the water temperature.


Catfish species are omnivores; therefore, they won’t be challenging when it comes to feeding. This fish species feeds on worms, small insects, and larvae in the wild. Thus, in captivity, you need to ensure that you provide them with a balanced diet.

You can add pellets, flakes, and algae wafers to the tank. If you have bottom feeders like Cory catfish, you can sink pellets and allow them to scavenge like in the wild. They will also feed on bloodworms and daphnia as treats.


To breed catfish species, you can set up a dedicated breeding tank. Place the breeding pair in the tank until they spawn. Once the eggs are laid, they usually hatch between three and six days. While some catfish breeds don’t need a lot of work, others, like pictus catfish, are difficult to breed in a fish tank. They need a bigger tank and space to reach sexual maturity.


Catfish are a vibrant species that you can add to your tank. However, it depends on the specific breed you choose. While some varieties are peaceful and easy to maintain, others might require more work, making them ideal for seasoned aquarists.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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