ou will not find this coldwater catfish
in your 'coffee table book' on community fish as the "Channel
Catfish" is one creature that you can safely say would decimate
a tank of guppies and neon tetras in no time at all.
In saying that they do make nice pets when small but beware when
they start to put on size even though they are somewhat slow growers
to begin with.
These North American catfishes used
to be the mainstay of aquatic coldwater outlets in the U.K.when
I first started out in the hobby and along with "Black Bullheads",
(Ameirus melas), were bought to put in with the family
goldfish as they looked "different"!, but a year on
when they put on size and started to nip the flowing fins
of the Goldfish they weren't quite so popular and I suspect a
few of them met untimely deaths due to the frustration of the
"aquarist". Thankfully they are not imported as much
now and it is quite unusual to see them in the U.K.
Touching on this subject I received a phone call from a friend
last month (June 2001) who was setting up a coldwater tank and
was on his way to buy a few goldfish and tank from someone else
who was giving up the hobby and he had offered him three catfish
which were in the same aquarium. Of course he didn't want them
and pleaded to my good nature to relieve himself of them or they
would meet a sticky end. Of course being a catfish man I couldn't
bear to see them suffer and I was of course intrigued to know
what they were, thinking they would probably be Bullheads. Imagine
my surprise when he brought three 9 inch Channel Cats along which
I duly photographed (pic below), one was an albino and the other
two were in what I would call their juvenile colours, (black
on top, white underbelly) and to cut a long story short another
aquarist had e-mailed me just a few weeks previously wanting to
know where he could get some as he has a large pond, and so they
went to him on the other side of Scotland with my good wishes.
Funny how things turn out!.
How they will fare through a Scottish winter and the sometimes
subzero temperatures will be interesting and will they hibernate
just as Goldfish do?.
Well enough of my meanderings and back
to the subject of this months factsheet, Ictalurus punctatus,
the Channel Catfish. When young they are very "catfish
looking" but when they get large, (see pic below) and I
have handled a 2ft monster, their heads get very broad and large
and they do get heavy, too heavy in fact for an aquarium and
as I mentioned above they do better when housed in a pond even
though you might not see them too often, unless of course if
you have the albino variety which would stand out a little better.
The natural form of this fish is a steely grey with a few spots
scattered about. They are in the main a very hardy catfish and
water parameters can be wide and varied although regular water
changes and water movement will benefit the well-being of the
They have been introduced to a few countries
throughout Europe but are native to North America and Mexico and
are mainy used as a sport fish in the U.S. where it is one of
the species used in the "pay as you fish" ponds.
To tell the difference between the "Catfishes" and the
"Bullheads" in the family Ictularidae is quite
simple, the Catfishes have a forked tail, as in the Channel Catfish,
and the Bullhead catfish have a truncate (straightish) caudal
There are now moves afoot by the U.K. Government through the Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAAF) to impose restrictions
on some coldwater species like the above mentioned Channel Catfish,
due to the dangers of introduction to native waters and the threat
to its occupants through disease and predation. In other words
you could be paying up to £30 for a license to keep them. In the
future due to the exporters having to implement new guidelines
on matters such as health records for each fish, they could become
quite rare in the U.K.
Update: As of November 1998 in the U.K.you must have
a licence to keep the above species. This licence is now issued
free, but does take a few months to process. For more information
log on to the DEFRA
Dorsal 1/6; Anal 1/25-30; Pectorals; 1/9;
Ventrals 8. Caudal fin forked, jaws equal.
Colouration variable; pale brown to grey-green,
back darker, underside yellowish to clear white with a silver
gleam. Sparsely sprinkled dark spots on the flanks. Fins colourless,
occasionally with dark edges. Also albino version.
Best to be kept on its own, or in a very
large tank with other large catfish that can take care of themselves.
Housing with large Cichlids is another possibility.
Spawning takes place in early spring and
the nests are constructed under rocks or caves with the parents
guarding the young.
Inhabits rivers and streams and prefers
clean, well oxygenated water. Feeds primarily on small fish, crustaceans,
clams and snails. In the aquarium/pond they will eat most food
with a preference for live/frozen food and also worms such as
earth worms and white worm. Will also take catfish tablets and
Ichthys = fish; ailouros = cat.
punctatus: From the Latin punctatus
|Burgess Warren E.,
Freshwater and Marine Catfishes
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2002. FishBase.World
Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org,
18 August 2002
Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 1991. A field guide to
freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton
Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.
Sterba, Günther; Sterba's Freshwater Fishes
of the World 1.
Middle Picture: Allan
Bottom Picture: Andy Smith
Central drainages of the United States to southern Canada
and northern Mexico
| 70cm. (27ins)
|If you found this page
helpful you can help keep ScotCat running by making a small