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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Catfish



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Traits & behavior

This means they eat both plant and animal matter, including prepared foods, small live foods and certain vegetables.

Catfish, especially corydoras, prefer to be in groups of three or more. However, larger species can be kept individually.

Bottom swimmers
Most catfish swim at the bottom of the aquarium, however, pangasius are midwater swimmers. Certain catfish, like the plecostomus, will hang from the side of the aquarium by their suckermouth.

Some species of catfish, such as the plecostomus, are useful in keeping the aquarium free from algae.

Things to remember

Size at maturity
Adult size must be considered when selecting catfish, as many will grow quite large.

Sharp spines
If you must handle your catfish be aware that they have stiff, sharp spines on their fins that can inflict painful wounds.

Adding fish
Whether you're just starting your aquarium or introducing new fish into your tank, don't forget to add only 1-3 at a time.

Safety & cleanliness
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit disease to humans. Keep your pet's home clean and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home. Infants, young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the infirm or elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat. Consult your doctor for more information.


Staple diet
Choose live, frozen and freeze-dried meaty foods, such as tubifex worms, earthworms, bloodworms, glass worms and brine shrimp. Feed according to the directions on the packaging. Always remember to thaw frozen foods before feeding.

Vegetable flake and pellet foods are an ideal supplement for your catfish. Be sure the food reaches the bottom for bottom-feeders such as corydoras.

Frequent feedings
For optimum health, feed your catfish as much food as they will consume in 1-3 minutes, twice a day. You can alternate between regular staple diet feedings and 2-4 meals per week of a specialty food.


Signs your catfish are healthy:

  • Eating vigorously and swimming at all levels of the tank
  • Clear eyes, smooth, clean skin and fins free from any lesions or inconsistent colorations
  • Calm, steady gill movements

Things to watch for:

  • Poor growth or weight loss
  • Inflamed gills, skin or fins
  • Fins clamped to sides
  • Scraping body on rocks

If you notice any of the signs described above, check your aquarium water quality and consult a PetSmart Aquatics Specialist.


Catfish prefer a shallow aquarium because they will occasionally come to the surface for a gulp of air. Corydoras will do well in a 5-10 gallon aquarium, while other species may require 30 gallons or more. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water for every one inch of full-grown fish.

These fish prefer fine gravel or sand substrate on the bottom of the aquarium. Plant lots of bunch plants, such as elodea and cabomba, as well as root plants, such as swordplants and vallisneria. Decorate with driftwood and smooth rock, leaving plenty of room in the center for swimming.

Fish compatibility
Small catfish such as corydoras should be kept with other community aquarium fishes like characins, livebearers and rasboras. Larger species can be kept with large aggressive fishes, such as cichlids and large barbs.

Water changes
Test water weekly to assess water quality. It is recommended that 10% of your aquarium water be changed per week. At the very least, 25% of your aquarium water should be changed per month.

Water temperature
Catfish require a tropical community aquarium with water temperatures ranging between 74-78° F. Use an aquarium heater to maintain water temperature.

Aquarium placement
Place your aquarium in a low-traffic area, away from direct sunlight and drafts.

Aquarium stand
An aquarium stand will safely support the weight of your filled aquarium.

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