41 Amazing Aquarium Catfish (& Which Ones To Avoid)

Most tanks aren’t complete without a catfish. They eat a lot of the food that other fish miss, and they’re also great at helping to reduce the amount of algae in the tank. However, when you’re choosing, you’re going to notice there are so many different types of catfish to choose from.

In this article, not only will you learn about the different types of catfish, you’ll also learn how to look after them as well! So keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

What Are the Different Types of Aquarium Catfish?

There are so many different kinds of aquarium catfish to choose from, with subsets within subsets. With that in mind, here are all the different types!

 Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras catfish come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, but all have some common features, including armored scales, a flat underside, and a short snout. Most of their dorsal fins are prominent, and most sports forked tails. Like most catfish, they have three pairs of whiskers on their face and big eyes with a distinctive ring around them.

Most corydoras catfish thrive with sandy or fine gravel substrate which helps keep their undersides and barbels from becoming damaged. They also like to hide, so planting lots of aquarium plants is a good idea.

They will eat almost anything, including leftover food that fall to the substrate, but it’s still important to feed them a well-balanced diet of sinking pellets, algae wafers, daphnia, and bloodworms.

Most corydoras are very easy to take care of and can tolerate a range of pHs from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, a range of hardness from soft to hard, and a wide range of warm water temperatures. But be sure to check the specific conditions for each particular type before you add them to your tank because it does vary.

(Want to know about all the great corydoras to add to your tank?)

Striped Raphael Catfish

striped raphael catfish

Striped Raphael catfish have a unique body shape with a large wide head that narrows to a pointed tail. They are black or dark brown in color with white or yellowish stripes that run laterally from head to tail. They also have sharp fin rays and a small hook on the end of their pectoral fins that can snag easily, so be careful with the decorations you add to the tank.

Striped Raphael catfish need sandy substrate and lots of hiding places suc caves, driftwood, or even small PVC pipes. Their diet is fairly straightforward. They’re scavengers in the wild so have no problem eating leftover food that falls to the bottom of the tank. But supplemental foods such as algae wafers, sinking pellets, brine shrimp, and bloodworms will also help keep them in optimal health.

Apart from this striped Raphael catfish are easy to care for, and can be a great catfish for beginners.

Striped Raphael Catfish Care Sheet

Synodontis Catfish

Synodontis Catfish are beautiful spotted catfish, that come in a variety of colors and patterns, in fact, there are over 10 difference species that we know about!

Just like all catfish sand or gravel are good choices when it comes to substrate and they’ll need a few hiding spots that can allow plenty of algae to grow on them, which they can eat, so putting a few pieces of driftwood in the tank is also a good idea.

Unlike some other catfish which primarily eat algae and plant matter, synodontis catfish also need meat in their diet as well, so make sure you’re supplementing their diet with live/frozen food.

Synodontis catfish aren’t a particularly challenging species. As long as you can keep the water parameters in the tank stable, and you’re feeding them enough, they’ll stay happy and healthy.

Plecostomus Catfish

Common_&_Bristlenose_Pleco

There are over 150 species of Plecos which come in a variety of sizes and temperaments, so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picking one. Generally, they’re all the same shape, although, they can vary in appearance based on color, pattern, appendages, and especially size. So before picking a pleco for your tank make sure that you’re researching them thoroughly.

Most Plecos need lots of hiding places so it’s important to equip your tank with a variety of shelters, including driftwood, leaf litter, floating and rooted plants, and cave structures.

Their diet varies, but most are algae eaters and very efficient cleaners. They’ll happily consume the build-up that accumulates within their tanks. Some also require more protein-rich food in the form of frozen or live insects, worms, and crustaceans, but most will eat both animal and plant matter.

It’s important to research the exact water parameters the type of pleco you choose for your aquarium, as they can vary in their pH, temperature, and water hardness needs.

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus in planted aquarium

Otocinclus are very small catfish only growing to about 2″ in length; with cylindrical bodies that narrow to a point at their tails. They also have a sucker mouth and a distinctive brown stripe that runs laterally down their bodies.

They usually stick to the bottom of the tank (although they will suction themselves to the sides of the tank to clean) to vacuum up accumulated algae in the sediment, so choosing a sandy substrate is best. Providing plenty of hiding places, especially cave structures and driftwood can help keep this species from stressing out.

Otocinclus catfish primarily feed off algae, and in my opinion, they’re the best fish for keeping the tank clean. But their diet should also be supplemented with algae wafers, lettuce, spinach, and zucchini to ensure they are getting enough to eat. They’re easy to care for and usually prefers slightly acidic water.

Otocinclus Catfish Care Sheet

Pictus Catfish

pictus catfish

Pictus catfish are silver in color with black dots all over their body, clear fins, and body-length white whiskers. They prefer sandy substrate with lots of hiding places in the form of cave structures and driftwood. They should have dim lighting, so if you use aquatic plants, the best choice would be low-light mosses, or floating plants like duckweed.

Pictus catfish are scavengers that will eat almost anything, including food other fish missed and algae that fall to that substrate, but for maximum health their diets should consist of a well-balanced combination of vegetables as well as frozen and fresh live food like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and blackworms.

They are not picky at all about their water conditions, making them extremely easy to care for. Just make sure the water parameters in the tank aren’t fluctuating wildly!

Pictus Catfish Care Sheet

Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish

As their name implies, Glass catfish are completely translucent so that their bones and organs are clearly visible in their long slender bodies. Fine gravel or sandy substrates are best to avoid damaging their delicate bodies, and it’s important to provide a lot of hiding places with rooted aquatic plants and mosses.

Glass catfish will eat pellet or flake food, but they prefer live or frozen brine shrimp, grindal worms, moina, or daphnia. They can be challenging to keep as they are very delicate and shouldn’t be overfed. They prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH, moderately hard water hardness, and fairly warm water temperatures.

Glass Catfish Care Sheet 1 (1)

Bumblebee Catfish

Bumblebee catfish

Bumblebee catfish have black heads with large alternating sections of yellow and black all the way down to their tails. They enjoy plenty of driftwood and rocky hiding places which will help make them feel safe. Although they don’t need vegetation, aquarium plants are also going to make them feel safe!

The best food to feed your bumblebee catfish is a high-quality sinking pellet supplemented with protein rich foods like bloodworms, and daphnia, as well as algae too! Their ideal water parameters are fairly straightforward; they can tolerate water pHs on either side of neutral, moderately hard water hardness, and fairly warm water temperatures.

Bumblebee Catfish Care Sheet

Upside Down Catfish

Upside down catfish are light brown with dark brown splotches all over their body. Most notably, these catfish swim belly side up, as their name implies. They usually hang out under large coverage areas, so it’s best to equip your tank with broad-leafed plants like Amazon sword, as well as large pieces of driftwood, and spacious rock caves.

Due to the nature of its swimming, Upside Down catfish tend to scavenge the underside of leaves and driftwood for accumulated algae and biofilms. They should also be fed preferably live (but will also accept frozen) mosquito larvae, blackworms, bloodworms, and tubifex. They will also eat sinking pellets and some fresh vegetables, including cucumbers and shell peas.

Upside Down Catfish Care Sheet

Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)

Siamese algae eater
Siamese algae eater in planted aquarium

Siamese Algae Eaters love well-planted aquariums with plenty of swimming space filled with hiding spots, rocks, and driftwood. Also, don’t forget that maintaining good water quality is crucial to keep your Siamese Algae Eaters healthy and happy, so regular water changes are essential!

As their name suggests, Siamese Algae Eaters have a huge appetite for algae. However, if there’s are not enough algae in the tank, they can be fed with sinking algae wafers or blanched vegetables like zucchini or spinach. Daphnia, tubifex worms, and mosquito larvae given as treats will also make them happy.

As friendly catfish, Siamese Algae Eaters are compatible with many different tank mates, including peaceful bottom-dwellers like corydoras and kuhli loaches, as well as mid-to-top dwelling fish like angelfish, platies, and swordtails.

Siamese Algae Eater Care Sheet

Chinese Algae Eaters

Chinese algae eater

Chinese algae eaters are a dull light brown or golden color with a dark brown stripe that runs laterally down the length of their body from head to tail, they’re extremely similar to Siamese algae eaters in appearance, although they’re a lot more aggressive.

As denoted by their name, they eat a lot of algae that grows on the various surfaces of the tank, but as they get older and bigger, they need more protein-rich foods to supplement their diet, so make sure you’re providing this as they age.

Chinese algae eater’s are fairly easy to care for as long as you remember to feed them properly. Again, what’s most important is making sure that you’re keep the water parameters as stable as possible for tehem.

Chinese Algae Eater Care Sheet

Flying Foxes (Epalzeorhynchos kalopterus)

Flying Foxes thrive in a spacious well-oxygenated tank with a strong water flow and a mix of open swimming areas. Using gravel as their tank substrate and adding lots of plants, driftwood, and leaf litter can help create a more natural environment, making them feel at home.

Flying Foxes are omnivorous and have a diverse diet. They will happily eat algae, but their diet should also include high-quality sinking pellets, flakes, and occasional live or frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp. If you want them to develop the best vibrant colors, keep their food sources diverse!

Flying Foxes can be somewhat territorial, so it’s important to choose peaceful tankmates that can withstand their occasional territorial disputes. Compatible tankmates include peaceful barbs, rasboras, loaches, and other community fish species.

Flying Fox Care Sheet

Asian Stone Catfish

Asian stone catfish can vary in shades of brown or gray depending on their surrounding environment, diet, and season of the year. They love to hide, so it’s a good idea to provide a lot of aquatic plants and shelter.

A sandy bottom is also best as they like to bury themselves in the substrate. Since they are nocturnal, dim lighting should be provided throughout the day.

Asian stone catfish will eat a combination of animal and plant matter, so give them a well-balanced diet of foods such as algae wafers, fresh vegetables, catfish pellets, and frozen and live critters.

One important thing you should know about Asian stone catfish, is that while they look amazing, they can be hard to spot in the tank thanks to how good they are at camouflaging themselves

  • Care level: Easy
  • pH: 5.6 to 7.6
  • Hardness: 8 to 15
  • Temperature: 64 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons

Sun Catfish (Horabagrus brachysoma)

Asian Sun Catfish thrive in a dimly lit tank with a soft, sandy substrate that allows them to bury themselves and prevent injury to their sensitive barbels. When setting up their tank, make sure to add driftwood, caves, tubes, rocks, and other decorations that provide them with hiding spots.

In addition to frozen or live foods, Asian Sun Catfish benefit from a varied diet that includes high-quality carnivore pellets and sinking wafers. They’ll also love having a mix of protein sources, such as live or frozen bloodworms, mysis shrimp, krill, and chopped fish or shrimp.

Even though Asian Sun Catfish are relatively peaceful, they can be territorial towards their own kind. Good tankmates include similarly sized peaceful community fish like barbs, rasboras, danios, or gouramis. However, they can also coexist with larger, non-aggressive fish like bala sharks and rainbowfish.

Sun Catfish Care Sheet

Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish

True to their name, twig catfish resemble small twigs and are very good at camouflaging. They are light brown in color with two dark stripes that go from their elongated snout to tail. Due to their excellent blending in skills, they require lots of plant matter and wood structures in which to hide and feel safe.

Twig catfish will eat the algae that grow on the various surfaces in your tank, but their diet should also be supplemented with algae wafers and vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, and lettuce to maintain optimal health.

They can be slightly challenging to care because of how peaceful and shy they are. One thing to seriously consider is their tank mates, as you’ll need to keep them with other peaceful fish.

Lastly, you NEED to keep the water parameters stable with these fish as they slight water fluctuations can affect their health.

Twig Catfish Care Sheet

Eel Tail Banjo Catfish (Platystacus cotylephorus)

Eel Tailed Catfish

As these catfish love to bury themselves, Eel Tail Banjo Catfish require aquariums with a sand substrate and plenty of hiding spots, such as caves, PVC pipes, or dense vegetation. Providing driftwood or bogwood is also beneficial as they may graze on them.

Eel Tail Banjo Catfish are mainly carnivores. They prefer live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, small crustaceans, or sinking carnivore pellets. However, It’s important to offer them a diet rich in protein to meet their nutritional needs, so feel free to feed them high-quality sinking pellets as well. However, make sure they’re still getting plant matter as well.

Eel Tail Banjo Catfish are friendly and can live with other non-aggressive community fish. You can put them in a tank with small tetras, rasboras, Corydoras catfish, and other similarly sized species. 

Avoid keeping them with larger predatory fish and fish with different water parameter requirements. They’re also known to eat snails as well, so you may want to avoid adding snails to your tank.

Eel-Tailed Catfish Care Sheet

Hoplo Catfish (Megalechis thoracata)

Hoplo Catfish

Hoplo Catfish are most comfortable with hiding spots such as caves, rocks, or driftwood in their aquariums. They also prefer a sandy substrate, and adding floating plants to diffuse light will make them feel more at home. Good filtration and regular water changes are also a must to maintain water quality, and keep it perfect for them.

In the wild, Hoplo Catfish eat a lot of small insects so in your tank, they should be eating a mix of sinking pellets, live or frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp, and occasionally vegetables. 

Generally, Hoplo Catfish are peaceful but they can still be territorial during breeding periods. Some good tankmates for them are peaceful tetras, rasboras, dwarf cichlids, and other similarly sized non-aggressive fish. And of course, you should avoid keeping them with aggressive species.

Hoplo Catfish Care Sheet

Pangasius Catfish/Iridescent Shark (Pangasius paucidens)

Pangasius Catfish require large aquariums due to their size. And since they’ll be housed in large tanks, it’s crucial to have an efficient filter to handle the waste they produce. Also, don’t forget to provide hiding spots in their tank using caves, large plants, or driftwood to mimic their natural habitat.

Pangasius Catfish are omnivorous, but as they grow, their diet shifts more towards carnivorous while still needing vegetable matter. They should be given a mix of sinking carnivore pellets and live or frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp as well as vegetables like spinach and frozen peas. 

Although Pangasius Catfish are friendly, they can outgrow and overwhelm smaller tankmates. So, suitable tankmates include large, robust fish such as silver dollars,fire eels, or other catfish of similar size. Avoid keeping them with small or delicate fish that may become prey.

Iridescent Shark Care Sheet

Types Of Synodontis Catfish

Apart from corydoras and plecos, several species of synodontis catfish are also highly popular in the aquarium trade. If you’re interested in learning more, here are some of the most common synodontis catfish!

Featherfin Squeaker

Feather Fin Squeaker Care Sheet

Featherfin Squeakers have an elongated body and stunning feather-like fins. To ensure their well-being, it’s important to provide them with a spacious aquarium that offers plenty of hiding spots, such as caves and driftwood.

They thrive on a varied diet, including meaty foods, sinking catfish pellets, and anything in between. While daphnia, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp are considered ideal as live food, occasional treats of blood worms (either live or frozen) can also be given to them.

Pygmy Leopard Catfish

Pygmy Leopard Catfish Care Sheet

With their striking black and white patterns, Pygmy Leopard Catfish are small but captivating. These catfish are best kept in groups and enjoy aquariums with rocky caves and hiding spots to explore. To keep them happy and healthy, their diet should primarily consist of sinking catfish pellets, algae wafers, frozen foods, and brine shrimp.

Decorus/Clown Catfish

Decorus Catfish Care Sheet

Famous for their vibrant orange and black colors, Decorus Catfish are a stunning species that thrive in large aquariums with ample swimming space and hiding spots. When feeding these catfish, it’s imperative to include catfish tablets specifically formulated for bottom-dwellers as well as blanched vegetables.

Upside-Down Catfish

Upside Down Catfish Care Sheet

Upside-Down Catfish are peculiar catfish that spend most of their time swimming upside-down near the water surface. When setting up your tank for upside-down catfish remember they so best in aquariums with floating plants and feel most comfortable in peaceful community tanks.

Angelicus Catfish

Angelicus Catfish Care Sheet

The Angelicus Catfish is a remarkable species known for its distinct black and white spot pattern. To ensure their well-being, it is essential to provide them with a spacious aquarium of 55 gallons for 1-2 adults, that has a soft sandy substrate and plenty of hiding spots. This creates a secure environment that they can thrive in.

When it comes to feeding these catfish, it’s important to offer them a varied diet. This should include a combination of flake and pelleted foods, crushed crickets, blackworms, fresh and freeze-dried shrimp, as well as plant-based foods. This diverse menu ensures that they receive all the necessary nutrients for their health and vitality.

Pyjama Catfish

Pyjama Catfish Care Sheet

Pyjama Catfish are visually striking with their eye-catching yellow and black striped patterns. They thrive in aquariums that offer ample hiding spots, rocks, and driftwood. These elements create a comfortable and secure environment for them to explore and feel at ease.

When it comes to feeding Pyjama Catfish, they readily consume catfish tablets, pellets, flakes, as well as frozen and live foods such as brine shrimp. This combination of food sources provides them with a balanced diet and keeps them satisfied and healthy.

Remember though, these examples highlight just a few of the captivating and diverse Synodontis catfish species available in the aquarium trade. Each of these species brings its unique beauty and charm to any aquarium setting. But before you purchase one, make sure you’re up to the task of taking care of them!

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask in the Facebook group!

Types Of Corydoras

Here are some of the most common corydoras you can add to your tank as well! However, if you want a complete list, then check out this article on the different types of corydoras!

Bronze/Common Corydoras

Common Corydoras Care Sheet

Bronze corydoras have a timid nature and sport a bronze color with dark patches on their back. In their tank, they you should give them lots of plants for hiding and a substrate of soft sand or rounded gravel. To keep them happy, remember to feed them sinking catfish pellets, as well as live/frozen food and blanched vegetables.

Blue Spotted (Black Sail) Corydoras

These adorable fish have white bodies adorned with charming black spots. With delicate barbels, they prefer a fine sand substrate and enjoy seeking shade amongst lush plants. As low-maintenance fish, they adapt well to different water conditions. Just make sure to provide them with a variety of foods, from plant matter and algae flakes to live/frozen food.

Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras Care Sheet

Say hello to the tiny pygmy corydoras, which reach just over an inch in length. These social fish feel happiest when surrounded by plenty of plants and hiding spots. Feed them sinking foods that are small or soft, such as frozen daphnia, cyclops, baby brine shrimp, and sinking wafers.

And remember for maximum happiness, your pygmy corydoras should be kept in groups of 5-6 or more.

Panda Corydoras

Panda Corydoras Care Sheet

Panda Corys are white to slightly pink with three distinctive black splotches. They love good water quality, so make sure to keep the tank clean and change the water regularly. Don’t forget to use a good filter too!

Soft gravel or sand makes is essential for minimizing the risk of damage to their barbels and soft underbellies, and don’t forget to add some cool decorations for hiding. Sinking food tablets or pellets are perfect for them. And remember to mix it up for a varied diet! Shrimp, worms, and various insects are great choices for variety.

Sterba’s Corydoras

Sterba's Corydoras Care Sheet

Sterba’s Corydoras are friendly and charming fish with white bodies adorned with black and white dots. They prefer a tank with plenty of plants and a sandy substrate for digging. These Corys have a diverse diet, enjoying high-quality catfish pellets as well as frozen and live food.

Arched (Skunk) Corydoras

Skunk Corydoras Care Sheet

Arched Corys are white with a black stripe from snout to tail. They love to explore the bottom of the tank and sift through sand or gravel. To make them comfortable, add taller live plants in their tank that don’t interfere with their foraging. Sinking food pellets are perfect for Arched Corydoras, but also give them a varied diet of shrimp, worms, and insects.

Peppered Corydoras

Peppered Corydoras Care Sheet

Peppered corydoras have a light dull green color with random dark green splotches, giving them their peppered appearance. They love having lots of aquarium plants and a fine sandy substrate in their tank, so make sure to try and provide this. When it comes to feeding, offer them sinking food pellets and supplement their diet with frozen/live insect larvae, worms, and shrimp.

Elegant Corydoras

As their name suggests, Elegant Corydoras have stunning silver bodies with unique black patterns. They hang out in the middle and bottom of the tank, so simply provide them with a soft sand substrate and keep the tank clean. Sinking catfish pellets and frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp are the best options for their diet.

Types Of Pleco

Candy Striped Pleco

Candy Striped Pleco Care Sheet

Like all plecos, Candy-striped plecos love staying at the bottom of the aquarium and thrive in environments that have plenty of rocks, driftwood, and aquarium plants. While they do consume algae like most other plecos, candy-striped plecos also need protein-rich foods. Therefore, it’s recommended to provide them with a combination of live and frozen foods on top of plant matter.

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Plecos Care Sheet

Bristlenose plecos are mainly known for their wide heads which are covered in bristles (however, this isn’t as noticeable in the females). They enjoy foraging at the bottom of the tank for food and algae, as well as any decorations you may have in the tank. O top of algae, their diet should also include sinking food pellets, algae wafers, and about 15% of their diet should be protein too.

Clown Pleco

Clown Pleco Care Sheet

Clown plecos add a splash of color to any aquarium with their black bodies adorned with yellow and orange stripes. Remember when keeping clown plecos adding driftwood to their tank not only provides a great shelter but also serves as a food source as they consume accumulated algae along with the decaying wood itself.

While they have a natural affinity for eating algae, it is beneficial to supplement their diet with additional algae wafers to ensure they are well-nourished and maintain good health.

Zebra Pleco

Zebra Pleco L-046 Care Sheet

Apart from being less sociable than other plecos, zebra plecos are nocturnal fish too that may not even emerge during feeding time. They need both plant matter and meat in their diet so make sure to feed them things like blanched vegetables, algae wafers, live bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber lip plecos are recognized for their comically large sucker mouth, which is even bigger than most other plecos. They are low-maintenance, spending most of their time on the tank substrate. They sustain themselves by consuming algae that grows on various surfaces within the tank. Fortunately, they are not demanding when it comes to water conditions, although they do prefer moderately hard water.

Leopard Frog Pleco

Leopard Frog Pleco (L-134) Care Sheet

Leopard Frog plecos are renowned for their striking black and yellow stripes. They are predominantly nocturnal and can display territorial behavior, so it’s make sure to provide ample hiding spaces and consider separate tanks if necessary. They have a versatile diet and enjoy both plant and animal-based foods, such as algae wafers, fish food, and live treats.

Vampire Pleco

These dark-colored plecos are sought after for their captivating light dots. Keep in mind that despite their beauty, they can exhibit territorial tendencies and may pose a threat to other fish. Their diet consists of protein-rich foods, including live or frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp. They thrive in acidic, moderately hard water conditions.

Snowball Pleco

Snowball Pleco (L-102) Care Sheet

Originating from the Rio Negro, Snowball Plecos appreciate having plenty of hiding spots and a strong water current in their tank. The presence of cave structures, driftwood, and lush aquarium plants will contribute to their well-being as well.

Their diet should include plant matter, such as algae wafers, vegetable flakes, and fresh treats like zucchini, peas, spinach, and cucumber.

Gold Nugget Pleco

Golden Nugget Pleco (L-018) Care Sheet

Gold Nugget Plecos showcase beautiful dark olive bodies adorned with bright yellow spots. It is best to keep only one in your aquarium as they can be quite territorial with other fish.

When feeding Gold Nugget Plecos, it’s important to note that while algae is their primary food source, they also appreciate a well-rounded diet that includes protein-rich treats to maintain their health.

Which Catfish Are Best Avoided (Especially For Beginners)

While there are numerous beautiful and catfish to choose from, it’s crucial to be aware of certain fish that may present challenges or prove unsuitable for most home aquariums. Here, are some of the worst catfish you can keep, and why they’re best avoided

Iridescent Shark

Iridescent sharks undoubtedly captivate with their sleek, silver bodies. However, they can grow up to an astonishing four feet in length. Accommodating their size necessitates enormous aquariums or even pond-like setups, which is beyond the means of most home aquarium enthusiasts.

These active swimmers tend to outgrow typical tank conditions, leading to water quality issues and causing stress to other tankmates. Therefore, it’s advisable to avoid keeping iridescent sharks in home aquariums.

Redtail Catfish

Redtail catfish are renowned for their vibrant red tails. But unfortunately again, these catfish can grow to immense sizes, exceeding three feet in length. Their rapid growth rate and large size require extensive tank space and pristine water conditions, which can be challenging to maintain in an average-sized aquarium.

Additionally, redtail catfish have predatory tendencies, posing a threat to smaller tankmates. Due to these factors, it is best to refrain from keeping redtail catfish in home aquariums.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

With their unique striped patterns and elongated bodies, tiger shovelnose catfish are undoubtedly captivating. However, they can grow to lengths of over three feet. These catfish are active swimmers and require ample space to thrive.

Moreover, tiger shovelnose catfish display high levels of aggression and predatory behavior, especially towards smaller fish. Therefore, it’s recommended to avoid housing tiger shovelnose catfish in home aquariums, particularly smaller setups.

Paroon Shark

The Paroon shark, also known as the redline torpedo barb, is a popular fish due to its vibrant colors and energetic nature. However, it can grow up to a foot in length, making it unsuitable for small or moderately sized aquariums.

Paroon sharks are active swimmers that prefer open swimming space and thrive in schools. In fact, keeping a single Paroon shark in a confined tank may lead to stress and aggression.

Common Plecos

Common plecos are often marketed as efficient algae eaters and are commonly found in pet stores. And while it’s true they’re great algae eaters, they can grow quite up to 14″ in size. These catfish are also notorious for their significant waste production and their tendency to uproot plants.

The tank space required to accommodate their size and the resulting waste production can overwhelm most home aquarium setups. Additionally, as common plecos mature, they can become territorial and aggressive, posing a threat to other tank inhabitants. So while it’s not impossible to keep common plecos, you do want to make sure you’re keeping them in a large enough setup.

betta care facebook group

How to Choose Catfish for Your Aquarium

Choosing the right catfish for your aquarium can be an exciting journey. By conducting thorough research, considering factors such as size, compatibility, diet, behavior, and seeking expert advice, you can make informed decisions that will contribute to a thriving catfish community in your tank.

  1. Research Catfish Species: Start by researching different catfish species to find ones that align with your aquarium setup and personal preferences. Consider factors such as adult size, activity level, and behavior. Some popular catfish suitable for most fish tanks include Corydoras catfish, Bristlenose Plecos, and Otocinclus catfish.
  2. Size and Tank Compatibility Catfish species vary significantly in size, so it’s important to assess the available tank space and choose catfish that can comfortably fit and move around without overcrowding. Consider the compatibility of catfish with other fish in your aquarium to avoid aggression or territorial disputes.
  3. Diet and Feeding Requirements Catfish have diverse dietary preferences, ranging from herbivorous to omnivorous and even carnivorous. Make sure the catfish you choose have dietary requirements that can be met within your aquarium setup. Some catfish are bottom-feeders and will scavenge for food, while others may require sinking pellets or specialized diets. Research their feeding habits beforehand to ensure you can provide them with appropriate nutrition.
  4. Behavior and Tank Setup Understanding the behavior of catfish species is crucial for creating a harmonious tank environment. Some catfish are social and thrive in groups, while others prefer solitude. Determine the behavior of your chosen catfish and provide a suitable tank setup accordingly. For example, catfish that appreciate hiding spots will benefit from the addition of caves, driftwood, or plants in the aquarium.
  5. Water Parameters and Maintenance Research and ensure that the catfish species you choose can adapt to the general water parameters of your aquarium. It’s important to maintain a clean and well-filtered tank to provide optimal water conditions for the health and well-being of your catfish.
  6. Seek Expert Advice When in doubt, seek advice from experienced aquarium enthusiasts or consult with professionals at your local fish store. They can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on their knowledge and experience.

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Catfish

Now you know about all the different aquarium catfish and what to look for, here’s a guide on how to setup the aquarium for them!

Tank Selection

Before anything make sure you’re choosing the right sized tank for your catfish, taking into consideration their adult size and ensuring that you’re providing ample swimming space. A larger tank is always recommended, not just for the swimming space but for better water stability and to avoid overcrowding.

Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit with Fish Tank, Fish Net, Fish Food, Filter, Heater and Water Conditioners
  • LARGE ENVIRONMENT: Larger environments can house more fish or a greater variety of fish. Maintains water temperature. Essential for tropical fishkeeping

Filtration System

When keeping catfish, you should also invest in a high quality filter to ensure the water stays clean. Most catfish produce a lot waste, so efficient filtration is crucial for maintaining good water quality. Remember to use a combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration methods to keep the water clean and free from harmful substances.

Fluval 307 Perfomance Canister Filter – for Aquariums Up to 70 Gallons – Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Efficient Aquarium Canister Filter: Fluval eTEC technology delivers powerful pump performance and ultra-quiet operation; uses same energy as LED light bulb

A Heater

Remember, catfish are tropical fish, so a lot of them are going to need a heater. Whilst some can handle coldwater too, it’s important to remember that heater’s keep the temperature in the tank stable too. If there was ever a large temperature fluctuation in the tank it can be fatal to your catfish.

Sale
HiTauing Aquarium Heater, 50W/100W/200W/300W/500W Submersible Fish Tank Heater with Over-Temperature Protection and Automatic Power-Off When Leaving Water for Saltwater and Freshwater
  • 🐠【Rapid Heating and Two Temperature Control System】300W aquarium heater is sutable for 40-75 gallon fish tank and made of the most stable nickel-chromium heating wire, which can quickly and stably conduct heat to the surroundings. It has a built-in temperature control system of Fahrenheit and Celsius(Temp range: 63-94℉/17-34℃). You can press and hold the button next to the controller for 2-3 seconds to switch.

Substrate

Selecting a suitable substrate for your catfish is vital to ensuring their prolonged health and to avoid them getting hurt. Opt for fine-grained sand, aquarium soil, or smooth gravel, as rough substrates can damage their sensitive barbels. Catfish, particularly bottom-dwelling species, appreciate a soft substrate they can sift through in search of food and explore.

I personally love aquarium soil as it helps you keep a planted tank with next to no fuss.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Create a natural and stimulating environment by incorporating decorations and hiding spots. Catfish enjoy caves, driftwood, and rocks where they can retreat and feel secure. These additions mimic their natural habitats and provide opportunities for exploration and play.

Lighting

You need to choose appropriate lighting for your catfish too. Avoid intense lighting, as catfish are nocturnal creatures and prefer dimly lit environments. Use subdued or adjustable lighting systems to replicate their natural day and night cycles. Or use floating plants to help diffuse the amount of light entering the tank.

Aquascaping and Aquatic Plants

It’s always best to add live plants to your catfish’s aquarium where possible. They provide additional hiding spots, help oxygenate the water, and contribute to a healthier ecosystem. Choose catfish-friendly plants that can withstand their digging behavior and do not require high lighting or CO2 supplementation.

Java fern, java moss, and cryptocoryne wendtii are some great choices.

This is everything you need to setup your catfish aquarium, just make sure that you’re also consistently monitoring the tank after you’ve set it up as well to keep on top of any water parameter changes.

FAQs

Here are some frequntly asked questions people have about aquarium catfish.

What Are the Smallest Aquarium Catfish?

Asian stone catfish or pygmy corydoras are the smallest aquarium catfish, both with a maximum size around an inch long. As a result, they don’t require a tank larger than 10 gallons but they should be kept in a school of at least four to five to ensure they feel safe.

Since they like a lot of hiding places, it can be hard to find them in the tank because they are so small.

Are Catfish Good for Aquariums?

Catfish are great for aquariums. Not only do they come in a variety of unique colors, patterns, and sizes to add a splash of flair to your fish tank, but they also are very good cleaners. Most aquarium catfish are scavengers and will eat any leftover food that falls to the substrate, as well as the algae and biofilm build up on various surfaces inside the aquarium.

Recap

Aquarium catfish come in all different colors and sizes and can range in ease of care from beginner level to expert fish keepers. Most of them are efficient scavengers that will help clean your aquarium tank spotless by consuming any algae or biofilm build-up on the various surfaces within their home.

They require a wide range of optimal water parameters from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline waters and soft to hard in terms of water hardness, but most prefer warm water temperatures. Since they come in all different sizes, from 1 inch to almost 2 feet, it’s also important to pay attention to the best size tank for the species of your choice.

Whichever aquarium catfish you choose, rest assured they will make a great addition to your aquarium tank.

About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!