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Ameiurus nebulosus  LeSuer, 1819  

his picture depicted below of the 'Brown Bullhead' is of a 20" individual owned and coveted by coldwater catfish enthusiast, John Henderson of the Northern Area Catfish Group of Great Britain, now renamed The Catfish Study Group (UK). This fish has won numerous awards in the coldwater catfish section.

Ameiurus nebulosus

When small the 'Brown Bullhead' is quite tolerant of other species, but in a short matter of time when it starts growing you would not be able to keep any other fish in the same tank as they would be viewed as lunch!. Warning! do not put in with your  prized goldfish, or prized goldfish no more.

This catfish is raised commercially in the United States and widely stocked in ponds and Lakes. The flesh of this catfish is orange-coloured. Ameiurus nebulosus prefers deeper and clearer parts of lakes than A.melas, the "Black Bullhead", and is therefor more susceptible to falling water conditions in the aquarium than the latter.

One thing they do have in common with catfish from the Asian continent is that they possess 4 pairs of barbels (chin barbels dusky or black) unlike the catfish forms of South America who in the whole have three pairs. This can be a good way to identify your catfish if you are not too sure from where it originates from.

Ameiurus nebulosus


There is 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 Brown Bullhead, 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.

: 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.


Dorsal 1/6; Anal 1/(21-)22-23(-24); Pectorals;1/8; Ventrals 8. Hind edge of pectoral spine toothed, serrations becoming blunter with age. Caudal fin very slightly emarginate. Adipose fin short, inserted above the hinder end of the anal. Lateral line complete.

Dark brown, with a green, violet or bronze luster by reflected light, often with cloudy blotches. Belly whitish to grey. Iris yellow. Anal fin variously marked, usually mottled or darkest on the basal third or half of fin, but never as in A.melas.

Bullheads adapts well to aquarium conditions but do bare in mind that they does grow big along with the capable size of its mouth! so if housing with other temperate fish you would be better going for larger stock such as yellow perch or the larger sunfishes. Putting them in with goldfish is not a good idea, not for the poor goldfish anyway!. They adapt well to most aquarium conditions as long as you give them a cave of some sort and to keep the lighting down to a minimum for viewing purposes.

In its natural habitat in early spring the female lays her eggs in the substrate in shallows that are warmed by the spring sun, or under an overhanging bank, the eggs are laid in balls and adhere firmly to the bottom, they can number into the thousands. The black young hatch out after 8 days and are cared for by the male.

Adults eat just about everything, pellet food, tablet food, frozen bloodworm, earthworms, shrimps and prawns.

Ameiurus: A reference to the tail.
nebulosus: Clouded, dark or mottled.

Sterba's Freshwater fishes of the World Vol.1 197

Photo Credits

© Allan James @ ScotCat

© Reinhold Wawrzynski @ http://wawrzynski.de.tt

Factsheet 008

Ictalurus nebulosus marmoratus, Ictalurus nebulosus nebulosus, Amieurus nebulosus, Amieurus vulgaris, Amieurus lacustris, Amieurus cactus, Amiurus vulgaris, Amiurus nebulosus, Pimelodus atrarius, Pimelodus cactus, Pimelodus felis, Pimelodus vulgaris, Silurus nigrescens, Silurus coenosus, Pimelodus nebulosus.
Common Name:
Brown Bullhead
North America: Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada to Mobile Bay  in Alabama in USA, and St. Lawrence- Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Mississippi River basins from Quebec west to Saskatchewan  in Canada and south to Louisiana, USA. Introduced into several countries. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction. Asia: Iran and Turkey (introduced).
48cm. (19¼ins)
08-30°C (45-87°F)    
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                                                                                                   Factsheet 8 = updated December 14, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top