Aquarium Catfish: Complete Guide (Popular Species & Care) (2023)

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Want to add some diversity to your aquarium? Freshwater catfish could be just what you need!

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Known for their calm and friendly disposition, many freshwater catfish make excellent additions to both species and community aquariums. This is not surprisingbottom feedersthey are so cute!

Whether you have a large or small tank, this guide will help you choose the perfect catfish to fit in your tank.

in this article

  • of Korydora
  • Companion catfish
  • Plecostoma
  • Other popular aquarium catfish
  • Closing thoughts

of Korydora

One of the most common and readily available catfish is thecorydoras catfish. Anyone who has looked at the wall of tanks in a fish store should be able to recognize this little South American fish.

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Leisteen Corys

Among the myriad species ranging from the prolific Albino Cory to the rare Orange Laser Cory, these peaceful fish would make a great addition to any community aquarium.

With the highly sensitive bars they have on either side of their mouths, finding stray bits of food is a breeze.

They spend most of their time facing forward at the bottom of the tank. That is why corydoras must be in asoft sandy bottom, because too much time sifting on a rough substrate can damage the bars.

These fish can be found in flocks of hundreds or even thousands in the wild, and it is important to mimic this in the aquarium. House your goslings in appropriate schools to make them more comfortable and allow them to display their natural behavior.

1. Green or Copper Korydora (Bronze of Korydora)

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  • Size: 2.75 inches (7 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 75 l (20 gal)
  • Minimum school size: 6-8
  • Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Omnivorous, live and spherical food suitable for catfish.

A common species found where aquarium fish are sold. Copper larks are easily identified by the iridescent green coloration pictured above.

Very social animals, they almost always aretightly trainedwith another.

Green and all other corydoras come from low-oxygen water and have developed the ability to bolt to the surface of the water and take a gulp of air before returning to the safety of the river bottom. Such behavior is also often observed in the aquarium.

Although they are usually harmless, check your water quality if you notice several grains in your pack repeatedly splashing to the surface. Poor quality can sometimes cause this behavior.

2. Corydoras with pepper (Corydoras paleatus)

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  • Size: 2.3 inches (6 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 75 l (20 gal)
  • Minimum school size: 6-8
  • Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Omnivore (live food and pellet food)

These fish are characterized by their black and gray spots. They tend to be a little less robust in body shape compared to other species.

Have you ever seen a lark wink?It seems unlikely since these animals have no eyelids. The behavior displayed looks like a "blink", but what the corydoras are actually doing is rapidly rolling their eyes.

The exact reason why they roll their eyes is unknown. Some speculate that the rapid eye movements help detect predators or food, others believe that Cory uses its eyes to push down food or air like a frog.

3. Pygmee Corydoras (Corydoras pygmaeus)

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  • Size: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Minimum school size: 10
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Omnivore (live, frozen/thawed and pelleted foods)

Also known as Salt and Pepper Cory, they are Pygmiesthe smallestof their gender. Don't be fooled by their size.

While most recommend 10 gallons as a minimum for Pygmy Corydoras, a more appropriate tank size would be between 15 and 20 gallons.

These fish are significantly more active than other corydoras and spend much of their time darting, using every inch of their tank space. Because of this, they need about the same tank size as other larger Corydora.

4. Sterbai Korydoras (Korydoras Sterbai)

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  • Size: 2.5 inches (6.4 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 75 l (20 gal)
  • Minimum school size: 6-8
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Omnivore, a quality pelleted food supplemented with live food.

This particular species of corydoras comes from the Rio Guapore that runs through Bolivia and Brazil. Although harder to find at your local fish store, Sterbai's unique speckled color makes them a desirable addition to any aquarium.

This variety is often confused with Harald Schultz Corydoras (Corydoras haraldschultzi) and it's easy to see why.

(Video) 10 Best Types Of Freshwater Aquarium Catfish | Catfish for a Freshwater Aquarium

Note the different patterns to tell the species apart. Sterbai's design is characterized by white markings on a black body, while Harald Schultz's design is just the opposite: black markings on a white body.

5. Orange lasercorydoras (Corydoras sp. CW010)

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Photo source:

  • Size: 3 inches (7.6 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 75 l (20 gal)
  • Minimum school size: 6-8
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Omnivores (live, pellets and wafers are acceptable)

Orange Laser Corydoras are one of the few unknown species of corydoras in existence. Scientists and hobbyists suspect they belongBronze of KorydoraofCorydoras melanotaenie, but further research is needed.

The vibrancy of the orange color can vary from fish to fish. Orange Laser Corydoras look remarkably similar to Bronze Corydoras with their greenish body color. But the eye-catching neon orange stripe on the back of these skates sets them apart from the rest of the pack!

Companion catfish

Synodontis are African catfish, known for their strange appearance and interesting skills.

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Upside down catfish:Companion nigriventris

Most, if not all, Companion species have theability to swim upside downfor easier access to food on the surface of the water or on the underside of various pavements. Thus, the genus earned the nickname "Upside Down Catfish".

This common nickname is also the chosen name for a very specific species of Synodontis, Synodontis nigriventris, so it may be necessary to clarify which species are being referred to to avoid confusion.

It is not uncommon for aquarists to list these types as well"beeper"due to their unique ability to make a screeching noise when threatened or otherwise distressed. This sound is not made with the mouth, but with bones in the pectoral fins!

With over 100 species of Synodontis to choose from, choosing the right one to add to your tank can be a daunting task!

6. Clownsynodontis (The decor of the Synod)

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  • Size: 10 inches (25 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 75 gal (284 L)
  • Minimum school size: one. It is not required to be kept in schools.
  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6,0-8,0
  • Diet: Omnivorous, not picky. Live food is preferred, but quality pelleted food is also acceptable.

Clown Synodontis can easily be distinguished from others of its species by observing the great elongation of the dorsal fin seen in adults.

Another distinction of the Clown Synodontis, or Clown Squeaker, is the difference in the design of the head compared to the rest of the body.

The head is covered in almost tiny, densely packed black dots, while the rest of the body is milky white with much larger and more scattered black spots.

Patterns in other Snynodontis species are generally the same from head to tip of tail.

It is best not to keep Clown Squeakers with small fish as they may fall prey to the larger Syno. Although they are not aggressive, they are better maintained with larger fish such as e.gcichlidsto avoid needless death of lesser companions.

7. Alberti or catfish "Big Eyed Pipit" (Synodontis alberti)

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  • Size: 8 inches (20 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 208 L (55 gal)
  • Temperature: 72-81°F (22-27°C)
  • pH: 6,0-8,0
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Algae, pellet foods, live foods, and blanched vegetables such as squash make up the diet of this species.

Alberti's durability makes it one of the best beginner companions.

They have some of the largest bars in their group, as well as large eyes. Both are useful if you are a nocturnal fish and need to find food and avoid predators in the dark.

Even during the day, Bigeye Pipits are still not very fond of bright light, so the use of hanging plants is recommended to keep light levels low.

Unlike Clown Syno, Alberti is a shy fish that should not be housed with aggressive cichlids. Instead, these guys prefer to be housed with smaller, calmer tank top dwellers.

The long senses of this catfish can hinder other inhabitants of the bottom. A heavily planted aquarium with many burrows or hiding places is also essential for this species.


OfPlecostomait is native to South America and, depending on the species, can be found in the Rio Negro, Rio Xingu and Amazon rivers of Brazil.


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In their natural environment, Plecostomus prefer fast flowing water with high oxygen contentsteen. In the aquarium it is important to mimic this environment.

Driftwoodit is also an important ingredient in Pleco aquariums. Some species consume wood by sucking out the outer layers with their specialized burrows!

Unfortunately, due to the sheer amount of fish illegally released into local waterways, the Common Pleco has become an invasive species in the southern United States.

Rivers and streams that were once free of plecostomes are now so overrun with these fish that native species are threatened. The pleco invasion is so severe that local officials have been known to encourage fishermen to catch and kill these fish.

8. Regular Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus)

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  • Size: Known to reach 24 inches (61 cm) in the wild, although more likely to only reach about 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) in captivity.
  • Tank capacity: 200 gal (757 liters)
  • Temperature: 72-86°F (22-30°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: herbivores (live seaweed, squash, cucumber, seaweed wafers and veggie wafers are acceptable)

As the name suggests, common plecos are the most common plecos in the fish farming hobby. Undoubtedly, the common pleco is also one of the most abused fish. Novice fish keepers have been known to house this catfish in improperly sized tanks without realizing ithow big they get.

9. Bristlenose Pleco (hook cirrhosis)

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  • Size: 5 inches (13 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 151 L (40 gal)
  • Temperature: 72-86°F (22-30°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Herbivorous. It feeds on algae and plant matter in nature. In captivity, they are usually fed squash, cucumber, veggie wafers, seaweed wafers and good old live seaweed.

The bristlenose is a more suitable pleco for life in captivity. Upright max4 by 5 inches (10-13 cm), are more suitable fish for aquariums than the common plecos.

They are easily recognized by the tentacle-like sensations on the face. Males and females of this species can be distinguished by noting the placement of the "hairs".

Females usually only have hair around their mouth, while males have deeper hair that covers most of the face. The typical Bristlenose is usually black, but there are also albino and orange fish.

Bristlenose Plecos are non-violent fish, toosuitable for community aquariums. Good aquariums should have plenty of hardscapes for plecos to hide in. Be generous with driftwood and rocks and make sure there are plenty of caves and shelters.

10. Goudklompje Plecostomus (Baryancistrus xanthellus)

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  • Size: 14 inches (35 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 100+ gal (378+ l)
  • Temperature: 77-86°F (25-30°C)
  • pH: 6,5-7,5
  • Diet: omnivorous (frozen/frozen, waffles, pellets, squash and cucumber)

Golden Nugget Plecos are a rarer species of Loricariidae and also significantly more expensive. There are three different variations of the Golden Nugget: L018, L081 and L177. All of these are located in various locations along the Amazon River Rio Xingu.

Like all plecos, Golden Nuggets thrive only in aquariums that mimic a South American riparian habitat. Decent power,living plants, and lots of wood androcksshelters are essential.

Another important property to mention is that this fish needs protein in its diet. Golden Nugget Plecos are known for their malnutrition problems. The occasional addition of shellfish will make this fish a happy omnivore!

Behaviorally, Golden Nugget plecos areterritorial for other bottom dwellersbut they show no ill will towards the inhabitants of the upper and middle reservoir. If you want more than one pleco in a single tank, you will need to provide additional caves and hiding places to give the fish room to move away from each other if necessary.

Playing it safe here by not living together is the best option. The Golden Nuggets have been seen battling each other for long periods of time.

11. Royal Panache (Negro panaque)

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  • Size: 14 inches (35 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 568 L (150 gal)
  • Temperature: 72-86°F (22-30°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Herbivore (wood, squash, cucumber, pea)

Royal Panaques, or Royal Plecos, are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and unique specimens of the genus. Plecostomus lovers are easily attracted to the blue-green color of this species.

Like Golden Nugget Pleco, Royal Panaques are also well knownterritorial with other bottom dwellersen plecostomus.

To maintain stable water conditions, aa strong filter is required. Royal Panaques, like any large plexostome, excrete a significant amount of waste. Regular cleaning of the aquarium is said to be beneficial to the health of this fish and all other companions.

This item is definitely one of themeat woodvarieties, plenty of driftwood and driftwood are essential for Royal Panaque to thrive.

Other popular aquarium catfish

12. Painted catfish (Pimelod painted)

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  • Size: 6 inches (15 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 55 gallons (208 L), 100+ preferred
  • Minimum School Size: Can be kept singly, but appreciate being kept in groups of 3-4 in an appropriately sized aquarium.
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
  • pH: 7,0
  • Diet: Omnivore, non-selective (live, pelleted, frozen and blanched vegetables)

Photo of catsthey are found naturally in rivers with warm, sandy bottoms in South America. Pictus cats arevery active, fast swimmers and therefore should be housed in a larger tank.

Kept separately, it is said to be okay for these guys to be housed in smaller 55 gallon tanks, but that is the bare minimum as these fish should really have more room to swim around as they like.

When it comes to tank size, regardless of species, bigger is always better! When keeping multiple Pictus in one tank, it is recommended to keep them in no less than 150-200 gallons (567-757 L).

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Other aquarium requirements with this species include moderate water flow, plenty of plant cover with accessible skins, and a soft sandy substrate.

The amount of waste released by this species should also be considered, as it is imperative that the aquarium has a strong filtration system to keep these scaleless and delicate fish healthy.

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Tank lights should be kept low orshaded by floating plants, because Pictus cats are nocturnal and can become stressed by very bright light.

13. Glass catfish (Cryptopter minor)

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  • Size: 4 inches (10 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Minimum school size: 6-8
  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: Omnivorous (daphnia,artemia, small worms, pellets and flakes)

OfGlass catfish, also known as the Ghost Catfish, gets its name from its amazingly translucent, glass-like body.

Kryptopteros, the genus name, comes from the Greek words "cryptos" and "wing". Words meaning "hidden" and "fin" consecutively in reference to the apparent absence of dorsal fins.

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In low light

Perfect water parameters are essential. These fascinating fish are highly sensitive and should not be placed in new aquariums. An established tank with stable water parameters is of the utmost importance to the health of glass cats.

Native to fast-flowing streams in South Asia, Glass Catfish require medium to high currents in their tank. It is also recommended to fully plant the tank with plenty of cover as these fish are also known to be quite shy.

14. Redtail catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

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  • Size: 3 to 4 ft / 0.9-1.2 m (up to 5 ft in the wild)
  • Minimum tank size: 1,500 to 2,000 gallons (5678-7570 liters) for a single fish
  • Minimum school size: single or couple
  • Temperature: 68-80°F (20-26.6°C)
  • pH: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Diet: omnivorous, mainly meat (worms, small fish and shrimp), fruits, vegetables

Ofredtail catfishis another large species from northern South America. It is easily recognized by its wedge-shaped body, which is dark gray on the back and beige on the belly, and its distinctive red tail.

These fish are aliveup to 15 years oldin captivity and quickly become extremely large. Consider the filtration, heating and cleaning requirements of the massive tank they need to thrive.

Redstarts are destructive and can break or digest any plants, ornamentals and driftwood in their habitat, including items such as heaters and filters.

Choosing partners for this fish is difficult. It is onenatural predator, so avoid smaller fish. Adding pacific fish of a similar size is an option, but this increases the minimum tank size.

One of the easiest things about redtail catfish is feeding them. They are not fussy and will balance live and frozen meats. When they are young, they eat every day, but when they grow up, only once or twice a week.

15. Otocinclus or Oto catfish

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  • Size: 1.5 – 2 inches (4-5 cm)
  • Minimum tank capacity: 75 l (20 gal)
  • Minimum school size: 3-5
  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,5
  • Diet: Herbivorous. Live algae is the main part of their diet, but they can also add zucchini or cucumber.

Many hobbyists like to keepOtocinclus catfishdue to their amazing ability to destroy algae as they make up most of this fish's diet.

It is important to have a steady supply of algae in your aquarium at all times, too little and the fish can become malnourished. To ensure that there is enough viable algae, leaving the tank lights on for at least 12 hours a day should be sufficient.

It may also be necessary to grow more algae in a separate aquarium or a small container on a windowsill. Some keepers manage to successfully add blanched vegetables like zucchini and cucumber to their Oto diet, but this may not be possible with all Oto's. They are small fish!

The Otos spend most of their day grazing with the pleco-like scoundrels! They are active fish, said to run around the tank with ease.

Otos can coexist with various small fish and invertebrates. Very peaceful, these catfish tend to stay away from other fish.

16. Chinese seaweed (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

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CAE Gold variety

  • Size: 5 to 10 inches (13-25 cm), depending on tank conditions
  • Minimum tank size: 30-50 gallons (113-189 L)
  • Minimum school size: Maintained as a single member of its species
  • Temperature: 23-26.6°C (74-80°F)
  • pH: 5.8-8.0 (6.5-7.5 best)
  • Diet: omnivorous (algae, live foods, blanched vegetables)

OfChinese seaweed eatersalso called honeysuckle or puffweed, it is closely related to the catfish, but scientifically it is classified in the loaches family. However, this strange fish has similar tank cleaning benefits when paired with its long,Lifespan 10 yearsand resilient nature.

This fish is best preserved as a single member of its species in a singlelarge bucketto fully utilize its development potential. Keep the water well filtered to avoid nitrate build-up and strong currents.

Good tankmates are those that occupy the middle to upper levels of the water column, such as danio,of the tetra, Seby goerami.

They may be aggressive towards fish of the same color and size or slower moving fish. Do not place them with flat fish, such as e.gangel, because they can cling to it and feed on it.

These omnivores have changing nutritional needs as they age and require supplemental nutritionlive food rich in protein, seaweed wafers and blanched vegetables. Their aggression can also increase as they get older.

17. Tiger Shovelnose (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum)

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(Video) Top 10 Cory Catfish for Your Aquarium

  • Size: 2.5 to 3 feet (0.7 to 0.9)
  • Minimum tank size: 250 gal (946 l)
  • Minimum school size: One or two, depending on tank size
  • Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
  • pH: 6,0-8,0
  • Diet: omnivorous, but mainly meat-based

The tiger shovelnose catfish is another species with a unique appearance. It has a slender body and a long, flat nose adorned with wavy bars to navigate its dark and salty waters.

Their tiger name comes from a silvery/golden body with stripes and spots.

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They are hardy and can live a long time anywhere18 to 25 years old. A fast-growing 4- to 6-inch (10-15 cm) fish can quickly reach lengths of up to 100 cm3 ft (0.9 m). Plan a major investment in a large tank.

Their main diet in the wild consists of smaller fish and crustaceans. In an aquarium they need a good mix of live and frozen foods, with occasional vegetables or sinking kibble.

This active fish occupies all levels of the tank. Pair it with fish of a similar size and temperament. If you keep more than one tiger, make sure they can all mark a territory. Keep the aquarium lid on tightly as this strong species can jump.

18. Twig catfish (Farlowella vittata)

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  • Size: 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons (75 liters), add 10 gallons (38 liters) for each additional fish
  • Minimum school size: alone or in small groups
  • Temperature: 75-79°F (24-26°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,0
  • Diet: mostly herbivorous (waffles, blanched vegetables, occasional frozen meats)

The branch catfish is perhaps one of the most unique in appearance. True to its name, it has a long, thin stick-colored body. It spends most of its time motionless, clinging to an object with its mop and blending in with its surroundings.

These fish can live from 5 to 15 years with proper care. They need very clean and well oxygenated water to thrive.

It's a classy catfishshy and at risk of being outcompeted for food. Combine them with similar slow-swimming species such asneon tetra, invertebrates, orsnailsto make sure they are eating enough.

Unlike other species of catfish, the hardy twigthey will reproduce easilyin a community tank.

Males can become territorial during mating and will protect both eggs and newly hatched young. Make sure the fry are fed fairly small amounts of food, as fry loss due to starvation is quite common.

19. Asian rock catfish (Hara jerdoni)

  • Size: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Minimum school size: 3-5
  • Temperature: 72-78°F (22-25.5°C)
  • pH: 6,0-7,2
  • Diet: Small live food, including daphnia andbloodworms.

Asian stone cats are perfect nano aquarium fish. They are small, have little activity and look good as a rock.

Being hara jerdonivery shy catfish, which are rarely seen outdoors during the day, but are known to become more confident when kept in groups of 3-5. They can easily be overtaken by larger fish. If you are interested in roommates, be sure to choose small, discreet roommates.

Being differentsensitivefish, stable water conditions are vital to keeping this species healthy. Any sudden shift in parameters, including oxygen levels, can be dangerous.

Stone Cat aquariums prefer to spend daylight hours nestled among plants and should be stocked with low-light plants such as moss, java fern andanubias. It has been documented that they prefer sandy substrate to harder rock and gravel.

20. Bumblebee (Microglanis iheringi)

  • Size: 3 inches (7.6 cm)
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons (76 liters), add 10 gallons (37 liters) for each additional fish
  • Minimum school size: alone or in small groups
  • Temperature: 21-25°C (70-77°F)
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Diet: omnivore (sinkable pellets or wafers, spirulina, blanched vegetables, live or frozen meats)

Ofbee catfishcomes from the northern part of South America. It has the black and yellow stripes of its namesake, a forked tail, long bill and a wide mouth. They use their large pelvic fins to run along the substrate and forage.

This nocturnal specieshe spends most of his time in hiding, so you can get away with a smaller tank. Creating lots of rock or drift shelters is essential. If your bee can't hide during the day, it will be constantly stressed.

they are beespeacefuland can be combined with species of similar size and temperament. They are not picky and eat everything from algae and plant matter to insects and larvae. Do not place them with neon tetras, invertebrates and fried fish because your fish may eat them.

This fish lives up to five years, is extremely hardy and is not susceptible to common freshwater tank diseases if their water is kept clean and well oxygenated.

Closing thoughts

In general, freshwater catfish are excellent fish to keep. The few listed above are only a fraction of the catfish available.

No matter the size of your tank or the size of your wallet, there is a catfish for you!

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