There are over 2,000 known species of Catfish spread all around the globe in both fresh and salt water, and varying in size from a few centimetres to 3 metres. Catfish are so-called due to their ‘barbels’ which resemble a cat’s whiskers. These barbels are a special organ used to detect food and the environment around them

Many varieties of Catfish are scavengers and feed on the sea or river bed. Catfish do not have scales but most possess a kind of armoured plating, with some breeds having poisonous spines.

Aquarium Catfish

The most popular type of Catfish for the home aquarium is the Corydoras, which means ‘little armoured fish’. Sometimes they are referred to simply as ‘Cory’. These hardy Catfish from the Amazon region vary from about 3 -10cms in size. They are non-aggressive and they can mostly live with other types of fish. However if they are to be housed with Cichlids, it is important to ensure they are compatible, since some breeds of Cichlid are aggressive and will kill other fish.

Caring for Catfish

Having Catfish in your fish tank can be a great way of helping to keep it clean, since they will scavenge around their habitat on the hunt for a tasty morsel.
– When setting up a tank, it is important to make sure the pH is correct for the species, and that the substrate you add is clean to prevent infection.
– Many Catfish like to hide and you can help them feel secure by setting up ‘mini-caves’ using rocks and other substrate such as driftwood.
– Since many Catfish are bottom-feeders it is important to have soft material rather than hard or sharp substances on the base of the tank to avoid injury.
– Catfish are mostly nocturnal and therefore it is best to feed them at night, using food that will settle on the bottom, although this of course depends on the species, as does the type of food you supply for your fish.
– Even though Catfish can help clean up your tank, it is still important to ensure that decomposing food is removed and the water in the tank is kept healthy and clean at all times.

Popular types of Aquarium Catfish

Glass Catfish

This fish has a silvery-coloured head and transparent fins. It can live happily with other types of fish, although the gold African Glass variety needs to be housed with other fish of the same species.

Upside-down Catfish

As the name suggests this fish swims in an upside-down position, and feeds on insects from the water surface rather than the bottom of the tank. It is yellow and brown in colour and grows to around 10cm.

Bronze Cory

This Cory fish is easy to breed and to care for, hardy and peaceful, and can be a little shy. It should be housed in small groups of about four to six.

Peppered Cory

This is another hardy fish which is less shy than the Bronze, and likes to observe the activities going on outside its tank! It is active in the daylight and is an excellent scavenger.

Catfish diseases

Like other fish species, Catfish can suffer from infections from bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoan parasites. The type of treatment will depend on the disease and the cause. Measures such as keeping the water at the right pH, cleaning the tank regularly, feeding your fish an appropriate diet and providing a low stress environment, will all go a long way towards helping to keep your fish free from disease.

A final note on Catfish

Owners of Catfish say they are fun to have as they can be very funny to watch, due to their playful nature and their antics in the water. If you are after an easy care, hardy and robust pet, you might like to consider a Catfish aquarium for your home.