Can you have a Catfish as a Pet?

catfish as aquarium pet@user18437304 / Freepik

The short answer is yes, you can keep catfish as pets, and they actually make exciting fish for home aquariums. There is a wide range of species, sizes, and colors available, meaning that you can often find the perfect catfish to complement your existing setup. Catfish can be kept within a tank of their own, or they can be incorporated into a shared tank where they can prove to be very useful, cleaning the food and detritus that falls to the bottom of the aquarium. If you are wondering about the ins and outs of keeping catfish as pets, we have created this handy guide to ensure that you have all the information you need.

What do Catfish eat?

Catfish tend to prefer sinking pellets or massive flake foods when kept within an aquarium. Catfish are benthic creatures, meaning that they live at the bottom of the tank or the ocean’s floor in the wild. They live on the substrate and sift through it to find a source of food. This means that any tank food that floats on the surface of the water is unlikely to be received by the catfish, potentially causing them to go hungry. Instead, you should opt for food that sinks, allowing them to eat whatever is dropped or left behind by the fish higher up in the tank. Most catfish species are nocturnal and prefer to be fed at night when the lights on the tank are turned off. In terms of creature feed, catfish often enjoy brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and bloodworms, either live or frozen. However, if you opt for frozen food, then ensure it is thawed before adding it to the tank. Other feeding preferences depend on the species of catfish.

How long do Catfish can live in a Fish Tank?

Within an aquarium environment and if looked after correctly, catfish can live for between seven and 15 years. In this time, some species can grow up to one foot in length, with the majority of catfish preferring to live in groups of three or more. If you invest in larger catfish, it is best to pair them with similar size fish as they tend to eat smaller species.

READ MORE: Small Aquarium Fish

How do you cater a tank towards a Catfish?

While small catfish can live in 5-10 gallon tanks, larger species will need at least a 30-gallon aquarium to thrive. You should also look to keep the tank away from direct sunlight or drafts. As mentioned before, catfish are substrate fish, meaning that they spend most of their time on the base of the tank and only eat food that travels down that far. You should look to layer the bottom of your tank without around three inches of gravel to allow the catfish to search for food. Catfish require a water temperature of between 74 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and prefer to bed fed at night when the tank light has been switched off.

Once you purchase your catfish, bring them home and place them in the tank while still in their bag. This allows them to get used to the water temperature and the environment. Leave them in the bag for 15 minutes, then use a net to transfer them into the main tank water, leaving the old bag water behind if possible. Only add a maximum of three catfish to the tank at one time and check the chemical balance as you go, because new fish tend to change the levels.

how long do catfish livePhoto by Will Turner on Unsplash

How do I know if my Catfish is healthy or unhealthy?

The signs of healthy catfish are clear and easy to look for. A fit and healthy fish will have clear eyes, eat vigorously, and continue swimming along the bottom of the tank. When it comes to an unhealthy or distressed catfish, there are a few signs to look out for. Loss of color, loss of appetite, spots, fungus, cloudy eyes, bloating, loss of weight, erratic swimming, and labored breathing are warning signs in an unhealthy catfish.

Do Catfish need heaters?

Most aquariums require some form of a heater to maintain a consistent temperature for the fish housed within. When it comes to catfish, they prefer temperatures of between 74 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. To reach these levels, you will want to invest in an aquarium heater with sufficient power. Generally, you want to look for a heater with five watts of power for every gallon within your tank. For example, a ten-gallon tank heater should have 50 watts of power, or a 30-gallon tank heater should have 150 watts of power. Larger aquariums may need a heater at each end to keep a consistent temperature across the entirety of the water.

READ MORE: Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish Combination

What are the best species of Catfish for aquariums?

Certain catfish species are better suited to aquarium life for a number of reasons, whether that be the conditions within the water or how easy they are to look after. We have compiled the ten best catfish options for your next tank purchase:

  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Gold Nugget Pleco
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Upside Down Catfish
  • Glass Catfish
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Clown Plecostomus
  • Bumblebee Catfish
  • Whiptail Catfish

What are the best species of Catfish for shared tanks?

Some species of catfish are better suited to sharing an aquarium with different fish than others. If you already own a tank with a number of fish or are keen to create a mixed aquarium, it is important that you invest in a catfish that plays well with others. Here are the best four species for shared tanks:

  • Zebra Pleco
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Clown Plecostomus

ThePets is an informational website that features articles written by qualified veterinarians and professional writers. You can learn more about our editorial process. When selecting food for your pet, use Pet Food Finder, and search for the clinic to treat your pet using Vet Clinics Locator.

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