Facts About Catfish

Learn more fascinating facts about catfish, including how to add them to your aquarium, below. Although they might not sound exciting,
Learn more fascinating facts about catfish, including how to add them to your aquarium, below. Although they might not sound exciting,

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About Catfish

Polynemus aquilonaris
Polynemus aquilonaris

Learn more fascinating facts about catfish, including how to add them to your aquarium, below. Although they might not sound exciting, catfish are an amazing breed of fish that can survive in temperatures ranging from slightly above freezing to almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be found living inland and in the coastal waters of every continent, excluding Antarctica.

Where do catfish live?

Catfish are a very diverse group of ray-finned fish that get their name from their whiskers, which resemble felines and are barbels that serve as a defence mechanism (unlike other fish that have scales to protect them). Catfish can live in a variety of environments; some species can only survive in freshwater, brackish water, or stagnant water; others can live in rivers and streams with swift currents. Other species of catfish are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day, while others are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

Almost forty species of catfish exist in North America alone, but only six have been cultured for or show potential for commercial production. Aside from that, some species of catfish make excellent pet fish and aquarium mates. Channel catfish, a category that includes more than 45 species, account for all the commercial food fish production in the United States. There are nearly as many regional nicknames for fish as there are species. In the United States alone, they are known as mud cats, polliwogs, chuckleheads, big bullheads, shovelheads, scoopers, and flatties, to name a few.

What do catfish eat?

Wild catfish have very diverse feeding behaviors, with some remaining strict scavengers and others preferring to swallow large fish and other prey whole. Some can be carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, or even limnivores (eating microorganisms within mud). Even though the native habitat of catfish varies greatly, all catfish love to eat, and contrary to popular belief, they are not all bottom-feeders.

The diet of catfish varies with size; juveniles consume insects and larvae, while older fish consume snails, other fish, and fish eggs. A few species of catfish even like to eat wood and algae, and a few more are parasitic, consuming the blood of other fish, frogs, rodents, and even pelicans.

While they do consume algae and other decomposing organic matter that sinks to the tank bottom, aquarium catfish differ slightly from their wild counterparts in that they require additional food to survive and should be fed similarly to other pet fish.

How big do catfish grow?

One of the largest catfish ever recorded weighed in at nearly 700 pounds, and the smallest species of catfish reach just one centimetre in length. The three largest species of catfish are the Mekong giant catfish, the Wels catfish, and the Piraiba catfish. It is easy to find catfish in all different shapes and sizes, which is great news if you are thinking about adding one or more to your aquarium.

Can I add a catfish to my aquarium?

The type of catfish you choose for your aquarium depends on the size of the tank you have and the other types of fish in it. Some aquarium catfish species remain small, like corydoras, while others grow larger, like plecos and Columbian sharks, also called Jordan’s Catfish. Many pet catfish species tend to do well in groups or small schools, and they even get along with some of the more aggressive species of fish, like betta fish. Catfish are a great addition to any aquarium because they help keep it clean.

Want to know more about catfish? Here are a few additional fun facts:

  • A catfish has about 100,000 taste buds, and their bodies are covered with them to help detect chemicals present in the water and also to respond to touch.
  • Some ancient cultures used to keep catfish in their latrine ponds as a natural way of getting rid of waste.
  • The Asian walking catfish can pick itself up and “walk” across the ground with its front fins and tail. It will walk short distances when it needs to relocate to a different pool or body of water.
  • Some species of catfish can breathe through their skin, which is why most species of catfish lack scales and have smooth, mucus-covered skin.
  • Catfish are one of a few fish that have an organ called the Weberian apparatus that they use to communicate with each other underwater. The Weberian apparatus also helps improve its hearing ability. Catfish make additional sounds by rubbing parts of their bodies together underwater.

By Kali Wyrosdic


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