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.
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.
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
they will fare through a Scottish winter and the sometimes
subzero temperatures will be interesting and will
they hibernate just as Goldfish do?.
albino & normal
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 Channel Cat.
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 fin.
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.
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
site. Due to the size attained
by this species it is doubtful that they will ever
be imported into the U. K.
drainages of the United States to southern Canada
and northern Mexico.
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.
Care & Compatibility
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.
place in early spring and the nests are constructed
under rocks or caves with the parents guarding the
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 trout pellets.
Ichthys = fish; ailouros = cat. punctatus: From the Latin
punctatus = 'spotted'.
W.E. 1989 An atlas of freshwater and marine
catfishes. A preliminary survey of the Siluriformes.
T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey
(USA). 784 p. Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors.
2002. FishBase.World Wide Web electronic publication.
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.
Sterba, Günther; Sterba's Freshwater
Fishes of the World 1.