20 Best Freshwater Catfish for Aquariums

Catfish

For many pet lovers, Catfish certainly are a must in their aquarium.

The fact that Catfish are one of the most popular species of fish is evidence of their fascinating looks and distinct personalities. Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned aquarium owner, you can almost never go wrong by choosing Catfish as the inhabitants of your aquarium.

In this guide, you will get a detailed explanation about 20 types of Catfish you can stock for your aquarium.

Some of these details include their life-span, feeding habit, temperament, and how to care for them. This guide will be sure to help you make an informed decision of the type of Catfish you want.

That being said, let us explore the options you may choose to go for when choosing an aquarium catfish.

Preliminary Considerations

Catfish have different lifespans and if well taken care of, may live for several years.

The Striped Raphael, for instance, may live for up to 7 -15 years. Otocinclus and Banjos have been known to live for over 5 years, while the Pictus Catfish may live in your aquarium for about 8 years. You can expect a Whiptail catfish and a Queen Pleco to live for more than 10 years.

Catfish generally are easy to keep, but this may depend on the type of catfish it is

For example, while the Corydora does not demand much from its owner, a Ghost-fish requires constant care and attention. Also, some species such as the Clown Pleco and Tiger-Shovelnose, need to have their water changed as constantly as every 3 days.

When choosing a tank to house your catfish always pay attention to the size

This is because you want to ensure enough space for swimming and burrowing. Also, pay regard to the substrate and provide sand substrates for bottom feeders, while gravel may be suitable for armored catfish.

If you plan on having a community aquarium, always remember not to put smaller fish with other aggressive species or a larger species which might mistake it for food.

Catfish may be herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores

Herbivores feed on algae wafers and flakes, driftwood, cucumbers, yams, squash, peas, and zucchinis.

Carnivores generally feed on meat-based feeds such as bloodworms, brine shrimps, common earthworms, and sometimes smaller fish. While omnivores may enjoy both a plant and a meat-based diet, they generally tend to feed more on meat and less on plants.

Best Freshwater Catfish for Fish Tank

Ghost Catfish

Glass catfish

Ghost catfish are sometimes referred to as Glass catfish and are so named because of their transparent flesh.

They generally prefer to stay in schools and like can often become reclusive or stressed when kept alone, thus it is advisable that they are kept in schools of 5-6 individual fishes.

The ghost catfish is an omnivorous species and mostly prefers to stay in slightly acidic waters. It is important that they are handled with care because they are vulnerable to diseases such as Ich.

Extra care must be taken in regards to their feeding as they hardly fight with competitors for food and as such, they often starve when placed with other aggressive fish. The usual solution is to keep them in a single-specie aquarium.

Ghost catfish are a low-light species, i.e. they are most comfortable in dark tanks. However, this doesn’t mean that they are to be permanently and completely shut off from the light. Simply providing hiding places such as live plants or rocky caves should do the trick in that regard.

Upside-down Catfish

Upside-down Catfish

Named for its ability to swim and feed in an inverted position, the upside-down catfish is a calm and gentle species that is sure to attract attention. Just like the Ghost catfish, the upside-down catfish is an omnivore and thus needs to have a plant and meat-based diet.

The upside-down catfish also prefers to stay in schools of up to 6 other fish of its species. Note though that this particular species thrives in well-planted tanks and mostly prefers broad-leafed plants.

Corydoras catfish

Corydoras-Catfish

Cories are certainly one of the most sought-after catfish in the world. This can be traced to the fact that they are easy to care for. All you need to ensure is that this omnivorous has a plant and meat-based diet, that it is kept in a school of 5-6 fishes, placed in water with a stable temperature, and that it is kept in an aquarium of a sand substrate.

Bristle nose Pleco

Plecos

The bristle nose pleco is a relatively small catfish that grows up to 3 ½ inches in length and which spots a spiky growth on its nose. They are quite peaceful and would make a great addition to a community tank. The bristle nose is an immense algae eater and can adapt to a range of water temperatures.

You would do well to provide the fish with plenty of nutritious options such as zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. Algae wafers and other plant-based food would also make a great addition to your fish’s menu.

The bristle nose is definitely one fish you would want to add to your aquarium collection as it is a great scavenger and can help keep your aquarium free of leftover food.

Asian stone catfish

This small rocklike catfish is also known as the Hara Jerdoni. They are very small, shy, and hardly undergo any activity except when kept amongst a school of up to 4-5 fishes.

The Hara Jerdoni is a sensitive fish; thus, it is important that its water condition is kept stable as a shift in temperature or even oxygen levels, can prove to be dangerous. It is documented that they prefer sand substrate over the harsher rock and gravel. You would do well to provide live foods such as blood worms and also a sand substrate instead of rock and gravel for this little beauty.

Pictus Catfish

Pictus Catfish

The Pictus Catfish is a nocturnal, medium-sized option that grows to a length of about 11-12 inches. This fish may sometimes be aggressive and may feed on other smaller species. So, it is safer not to place them in the same tank with smaller fishes. Putting them in a small school serves them just as fine as being put alone. They mostly eat flake food or bloodworms and may occasionally feed on plants. Their immense whiskers are one of the highlights of this fish reaching all the way back to the caudal fin.

Please watch out for the spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins of this species, because these spines are poisonous and can cause quite a sting if they prick your skin.

Bumblebee Catfish

The black and yellow markings of this fish give it its name and fame. These peaceful fish hardly grow more than 3 inches in length. Despite being an omnivorous species, they are generally very peaceful. However, some have been known to eat small tank mates.

These fish prefer tanks with warmer temperatures within 73- 78 degrees. So long as their feeding is taken care of and they are kept with other peaceful but larger or equal sized fish, then you should have no problem caring for them.

Clown Pleco

Clown Pleco

The clown pleco is a small fish that grows to about a maximum of 4 inches. While it will munch at algae and fresh vegetables, this little clown is quite a sucker for driftwood. So, make sure to keep driftwood aplenty in the aquarium.

The clown pleco is peaceful and can survive in a community aquarium so far as there are no aggressive and bigger fishes around to gobble it up.

Gold Nugget Pleco

Golden nugget pleco

The Gold Nugget is a bigger cousin to the clown pleco as this fish can reach a length of up to 10 inches. The fish can be recognized by its dark body with golden yellow spots and markings along its dorsal fin.

The Nugget is an omnivore, so its diet should not constitute a problem for you. It can do well on algae, vegetables, and meat-based sinking food. This absolute beauty is quite peaceful and certainly does get along well with neighbors.

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

Algae eating, low-cost maintenance, and easy-going; one can easily be lured into keeping an Otocinclus catfish. However, irrespective of its interesting features, there are certain things that might make the Oto a challenge for beginners.

A heavily planted tank with lots of cover and hiding places is essential for keeping an Oto. Also, good water flow and quality must be ensured before choosing an Oto. Other than these, the Oto is an excellent choice for your planted aquarium as they do not feed on your plants even while eating algae off them. They are also peaceful and will have no trouble with nonaggressive fishes.

The Striped Raphael

Otherwise known as the ‘Talking fish’, the Striped Raphael is an omnivorous fish that can reach 10 inches in length. The strongest strength of this fish is that it can cope with a wide range of neighbors. This is because it is gentle and nonaggressive to weaker species in so far as it does not mistake them for food. It can also certainly hold its own against more aggressive fish due to its large size and armored covering.

The Striped Raphael can be kept in a small school but will also do fine by going solo. It is important though that they are kept in a large tank with the sandy substrate as they spend a lot of time burrowing in the substrate.

The Queen Arabesque Pleco

With its regal-looking arabesque patterned flesh, the Queen Pleco is indeed royalty. This beauty hardly grows more than 4 inches in length. Aside from its stunning beauty, the Queen Pleco is distinct from other Plecos because it doesn’t feed on algae. Rather, it is wholly carnivorous and prefers a meat-based diet.

Due to its gentle nature, it could be fatal to place this beauty in a tank containing other aggressive or larger fish. This pleco thrives in tanks with strong currents and regular water changes.

The Whiptail Catfish

Whiptail Catfish

The Whiptail Catfish is a species that grows to a fairly large length of about 6 inches. They are known to successfully blend in with their environment due to their tan or black colors. Although the Whiptail Catfish has a gentle temperament, it is not always a natural fit for a community tank. This is because a neutral water pH and well-aerated water with high quality are required to sustain them.

So, if you must keep them in a community tank, please ensure that the other fish you keep have similar requirements for tank parameters. The Whiptail Catfish is an omnivore, so they can survive on meat-based food and algae. You should keep them in planted tanks with lots of hiding places so that they don’t become stressed.

Walking Catfish

The Walking Catfish is an air-breathing freshwater aquarium catfish. This species mostly has a black color but can also come in a pale flesh. They mostly enjoy tanks that utilize both an aquatic and terrestrial habitat. These fish can reach almost a foot in length and will eat anything small enough for it to swallow.

Due to their aggression, you would be better off keeping it with only bigger fish. Due to their scaleless and mucus-coated skin, you should provide a fine substrate in their tank.

Banjo Catfish

With its flat head and a body that looks like a banjo, the Banjo Catfish is one of the easily recognizable catfish. Most banjo catfish sold at pet stores reach a maximum size of 6 inches, but some have been known to reach a length of 2 feet.

This omnivorous species is a nocturnal feeder so you had best make sure to put in some bloodworms and brine shrimps every night. The banjo is a nonaggressive fish and you can always put it in with smaller fish. A sand substrate is recommended for this species.

Spotted Raphael Catfish

This talking fish is a rather beautiful catfish. Its body could range from a black to dark brown color patterned with an irregular small spot that can range from bright white to pale yellow.

The Spotted Raphael Catfish is omnivorous and is not a fussy feeder. It is a bottom feeder that will consume any food that reaches it. The Spotted Raphael is a nocturnal feeder and, should be fed right before or after the lights are turned off on the aquarium.

FeatherFin Squeaker Catfish

FeatherFin Squeaker Catfish

The Feather fin is a close relative of the upside-down catfish. It is an excellent choice as a when looking for an attractive and long-lasting bottom feeder. This species can survive singly or as part of a school. When kept singly they make a rather intriguing sight and are particularly active when feeding. This catfish prefers a tank with lots of hiding places, particularly driftwood. The substrate should be sand or smooth gravel in order to lessen chances of barbel damage

Featherfins are omnivores that have an appreciation for meaty foods and vegetables. Brine shrimp and blood worm are excellent snacks for the feather fin.

Iridescent Shark Catfish

Freshwater Aquarium Sharks

The iridescent catfish is a schooling catfish, whose name originates from its juvenile coloring and shark-like body shape. This catfish, though, is only recommended for very large aquariums such as a 300-gallon tank. It has a peaceful temperament and can thrive well with other fish, as long as their tank mates are too big to swallow.

The Iridescent Shark Catfish starts out as an omnivore and can eat anything that it can find. As they grow larger, they tend to eat more live and meaty foods. At some point though, they lose their teeth and may become increasingly herbivorous.

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

Tiger Shovelnose Catfish

The tiger catfish is a large catfish that can grow up to 2-3 feet given the right sized tank, food, and water condition. This aggressive omnivore is recommended only for experienced aquarium owners. It prefers to feed on meaty foods and large pellets. Tiger Catfish have very large mouths and can easily eat small fish. They do, however, rarely eat their tank mates if kept well fed.

Tiger catfish are very active and may easily injure smaller fish with their energetic and active behavior. Due to their frenetic energy, they are reputed to accidentally jump out of their tanks, so please ensure that you fit its tank with a very secure lid. You also would do well to place them in large tanks of up to 400 gallons.

Zebra Pleco

Zebra Danio

As its name suggests, this catfish is colored like a zebra with black and white stripes. This is a small fish species that may grow up to a size of 10 cm. This fish is an omnivorous species and can be fed with frozen and live food such as bloodworms or brine shrimp. They can also eat crushed peas and peeled zucchinis.

The fish has a gentle temperament and can do well with other non-aggressive species. They may, however, develop territorial and aggressive issues if kept with members of the same species. You should use sand or gravel for its aquarium. The tank should have many hiding spots and its water should be frequently changed to keep it fresh and full of oxygen.

Saurabh Kumar

I am a passionate fish keeper, with years of experience. You will find some really useful tips and information on this blog about Freshwater Aquariums.

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