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Ictalurus punctatus or "Getüpfelter Gabelwels“

Reinhold Wawrzynski

find the American name "Channel Catfish" much more appropriate than our German name for this species "Getüpfelter Gabelwels". This catfish anyway is known to be a challenge for every experienced catfish keeper.





I. punctatus in his juvenile colour dress.

I. punctatus
in his juvenile colour dress

It is difficult to get the Channel Catfish here in Germany but was lucky in June 2007 to get one specimen at “Köllezoo” in Stuttgart, there my friend Wolfgang Ros had him reserved for me. The mite was only about 6 cm long and I already feared problems for the long drive to Hanover where I live. The kind employee of this shop however packed the catfish into a gigantic plastic bag and filled it with oxygen. So everything turned out all right anyway.

Ictalurus punctatus

The animal has grown until today, approx. 9 cm. I know what is coming to me as the final length should reach 70 cm later or perhaps longer, however since I’m also keeping other big catfishes in big aquariums I am already used to it. Of course for a normal society tank this fish is not the right one. He only can be kept in a species tank. Probably this species can be kept with other Ameiurus catfishes or other big fish species. My Ictalurus punctatus is swimming in a 300 litre tank and he is used to following a swarm of Silver catfish (Schilbe intermedius). The colouring and and the kind of fins are a little similar but though not the same. He seems to feel quite settled.

Again and again you can see Ictalurus punctatus swimming in the swarm with Schilbe intermedius.

Again and again you can see Ictalurus punctatus swimming in the swarm with Schilbe intermedius

The Channel Catfish is native from the USA like all blue catfishes (Ictaluridae). His habitat is indicated in the German literature with the Rio Grande and Southwestern USA. however today he has spread much further. Finally this catfish is a popular fish for sports angling or is spawned with thousands in aquacultures and then eaten as a fish for everyday consumption. Such a Catfish meal tastes very delicious. I have a few times already fished for blue catfishes with my relatives in Kentucky and of course the catfishes were put straight back into the water.

Fishing in Kentucky, getting a big I.punctatus

Fishing in Kentucky, getting a big I.punctatus

Although in the specialist literature shaded tanks are recommended my fish swims in an aquarium well planted with quite normal light. Of course one must offer caves and hiding-places. The tank is without a heater and the temperature is about 22° c. A great “Juwel Jumbo” filter keeps the water crystal clear. The water is changed every 14 days around about one third. Ictalurus punctatus eats great flakes and food tablets without any problems, frozen mosquito larvae is also taken. This catfish however is also quite greedy like my other blue catfishes (Ameiurus nebulosus) if there are given fresh earthworms. Different frozen fish fillets, divided of course into pieces, are also not disdained.

The "Happy German Catfishfreaks" when they buy there I.punctabus baby.

The "Happy German Catfishfreaks" when they buy their I.punctabus baby.

There is an albino form besides the wild colour which is kept with pleasure in garden ponds in the USA and Great Britain. The trend could come towards Germany once too. The bright colour variant is taken with pleasure because one can hardly find the natural colour in a pond.

This fish can be recommended to everyone who has a sufficiently big tank, but it doesn’t really thrive and prosper in too small tanks; therefore one should consider the purchase of such an animal with great thought.

Text (status: October 2007) and pictures: Copyright Reinhold Wawrzynski
Translated by Wolfgang Ros.

Edited by Allan James.

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                                                                                                               Article updated = December 19, 2018
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