Catfish

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There are a wide variety of Catfish species available in the hobby and they have become increasingly popular through misconception, through the good they can do in your aquarium and because they look cool and different to anything else available in the hobby. Everyone knows about the famous algae eater the Pleco but buying 1 of these can end up in disaster unless you have a large tank as these fish can outgrow most readily available home aquariums all the while not really tackling your algae problems. The truth is there are far better and reasonably sized alternatives to the Pleco which are suitable for the smaller aquarium but never the less all Catfish will need dietary supplements as the algae in your tank alone will not be enough. Special Catfish pellets are easily sourced and contain the nutrients to keep them happy. Below is a list of some the most common Catfish in the hobby.

Hypostomus plecostomus / Pleco – If you are in the fish keeping hobby or you are just starting chances are you have heard about this fish or perhaps you may have even kept one. Plecos are extremely popular and are available at most LFS sold as algae eaters, while they certainly do eat the algae that naturally grows in your tank they won’t completely eradicate the problem in which case you need to look at what maybe causing the algae if indeed there is a problem. The algae in the tank alone will not be sufficient for the Pleco and food supplements such as algae pellets must also be provided for a well balanced diet.

These are great fish to have and can add a different visual element with their usual patterning, although they can get quiet large you can house one in a 200Liter tank while a 250Liter or larger would be better if you plan on keeping your Pleco long term. These are generally peaceful fish and are suitable for community set ups that don’t have Discus, Anglefish and Goldfish. Plecos are also aggressive to their own species specially as they get older so keeping 1 fish per tank would be best. Wild Plecos have been known to reach around 60cm/24inches in length but in aquariums they are considerably smaller. This is a nocturnal species and is most active during the evening and night.

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Size: 30-40cm/12-15inches // Temperature: 18C’-26C’ // Water Hardness: 1-25dGH

PH: 6.5-8 // Aquarium Size: 44ImperialGallons (200L) should be the minimum considered

Difficulty: Beginner

Ancistrus cirrhosus / Bristlenose catfish – The Bristlenose is another of the popular Catfish in aquaria with an even more unusual shape than the Pleco, they have “tentacles” growing on their nose and are masters of blending in their background and hiding so don’t be surprised if you don’t see much of them! They are great for cleaning algae in your aquarium but again they must be supplemented with Catfish pellets to provide a balanced diet. Bristlenoses are popular in African Cichlid tanks due to their bony back which acts as a kind of armour protecting them against aggressive cichlids and keeping their tank clean. Because they only grow to 9-10cm they are easily kept in smaller tanks and are friendly towards all other fish but can be aggressive among their own kind. Albino varieties are available but rare.

Size: 9cm/3.5inches // Temperature: 23C’-27C’ // Water Hardness: 2-20dGH

PH: 5.8-7.5 // Aquarium Size: 13ImperialGallons (60L)

Difficulty: Beginner

Corydoras / Cory Catfish – Corys are small species of Catfish that come in a variety of patterns all of which are easily sourced from most LFS. They make for fantastic additions to any community tank not just as a little “clean up crew” but they also look cool with their interesting patterns! Although occasionally they go to the surface or for a swim they spend most of their time on the substrate digging and stirring up any waste material and allowing the filter to collect them whilst consuming any food material. Unlike some of the larger Catfish Corys are generally more active and are not nocturnal, they also prefer to be kept in groups of 3-6+ and will often be seen hanging together. They will find any uneaten food and plant matter in the tank but to provide a healthy diet supplement them with sinking Catfish pellets. Due to their peaceful nature they are suitable for most aquariums but should not be kept with large aggressive fish.

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Panda Cory:
  • Size: 6cm/2.3inches
  • Temperature: 22C’-25C’
  • PH: 6-7.5
  • Water Hardness: 1-12dGH
  • Aquarium Size: 10ImperialGallons (45L) for 3, 60L or more for bigger groups
  • Difficulty: Beginner
Peppered Cory:
  • Size: 6cm/2.3inches
  • Temperature: 22C’-26C’
  • PH: 6-8
  • Water Hardness: 4-18dGH
  • Aquarium Size: 10ImperialGallons (45L) for a group of 6
  • Difficulty: Beginner
Pygmy Cory:
  • Size: 3cm/1.2inches
  • Temperature: 22C’-26C’
  • PH: 6.5-7.4
  • Water Hardness: 2-15dGH
  • Aquarium Size: 10ImperialGallons (45L) for 3, 60L or more for bigger groups
  • Difficulty: Beginner

Other varieties include: Bronze Cory and Albino Cory.

Pimelodus Pictus / Pictus Catfish – This Catfish is also widely sold as a bottom feeder and cleaner and although it does do some cleaning again it can’t be used as the only method to get rid of waste and algae, in fact the Pictus will quickly deteriorate under poor water conditions. Although not aggressive to other fish their generally active behaviour and large size can stress out other tank mates, whilst they are a predatory species and will most likely hunt small tank inhabitants such as Neon Tetras and other similar sized fish. Ideal tank mates are medium to large fast swimming species such as the Rainbow fish while people have successfully kept them in African Cichlid tanks. In a tank with subdued lighting this species can be observed all day although significantly more active at night.

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Size: 12cm/4.7inches // Temperature: 22C’-25C’ // Water Hardness: 1-15dGH

PH: 5.8-6.8 // Aquarium Size: 55ImperialGallons (250L) for a group

Difficulty: Beginner

Synodontis Nigriventris / Upside down catfish – This species is not that common in the hobby and most of the LFS I have visited in the UK don’t sell them however, you can find this species online at Aquatics To Your Door subject to availability. This is an extremely unusual species due to the fact that it literally swims upside down a crafty way to camouflage against predators using it’s darker coloured belly to blend in. This is a peaceful species and ideal in community tanks however, it does grow to around 10cm and likes to be kept in small groups of 3-6 so a 120Liter tank for a group should be considered the minimum.

Size: 10cm/4inches // Temperature: 24C’-28C’ // Water Hardness: 5-20dGH

PH: 6-7.5 // Aquarium Size: 27ImperialGallons (120L) for a group

Difficulty: Beginner

Kryptopterus Minor / Glass catfish – The Catfish available in the hobby are full of surprises and are very unique indeed. The Glass Catfish is no different, easily recognised by it’s “see through” body allowing observers to see the spine of the fish and internal structures of the fish. They certainly add an odd element to any aquarium and are suitable for peaceful community tanks, however, the Glass Catfish is very sensitive to fluctuating water conditions and poor water quality so aquarists must be willing to provide stable conditions and do regular partial water changes. Do not keep these fish with aggressive tank mates and a group of 6 should be the minimum number considered to allow the fish to express their shoaling behaviour. Although popular among beginner fish keepers due to their fragility and care levels they are more suited to intermediate and advanced aquarists.

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Size: 8cm/3inches // Temperature: 21C’-26C’ // Water Hardness: 8-12dGH

PH: 6-7 // Aquarium Size: 27ImperialGallons (120L) for a group

Difficulty: Intermediate

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