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FAQs on Catfish Behavior

Related Articles: Catfishes Sucker mouth Cats/Loricariids, Otocinclus, Callichthyids, Ictalurid CatfishesMochokids/Synodontis, Candirus (Trichomycterids, Cetopsids), Marine Catfishes: Plotosids, Ariids

Related Catfish FAQs: General, Identification, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction

Most catfish are rather sedentary, but some are almost always moving! Cetopsis coecutiens is one  of these latter.

Weird Catfish Behavior 11/16/11
<Hello Trent>
I have an Albino Channel Catfish probably a little over a foot long in a 125 gallon aquarium, sand substrate, external Jebo filter. Good ph and everything. My question is why he will give a little body twitch and then swim back and forth darting at the bottom to swipe his side on the sand every one in awhile? It just strikes me as odd. So any help would be awesome! Thanks
<Mmm, some twitching is "natural", but a bunch... May well be due to accumulated metabolite. One window for looking at such is measuring nitrate... Is yours more than 10-20 ppm? If so, you need to increase percentage and/or shorten time frames twixt water changes, increase filtration, utilize chemical filtrants... See WWM re NO3. Bob Fenner>

Sand, Siluriiform facultative aerial respirators
<Hi Jordan>
The type of sand I ordered online and it has Already been washed and I got it because it had some Important bacteria and it was made for catfish actually.
<Okay, so there are a couple of different companies who are producing this live sand they claim has beneficial bacteria already in it. I have not used this sand, as I am cheap and have large aquariums to fill, and always end up using cheap sand from the Ace Hardware! I'm glad that you made sure it was fine for catfish, since that's all you seem to be collecting -- and it's certainly understandable, as I enjoy all of my catfishes thoroughly.>
I also have another question I just noticed my fish have been getting air from the top of the tank and I have a bubbled but I don't want to put it in :) should I put it in ( I know the Hoplos are air breathers to make bubble nests)
<Yes, your Corys are air breathers, as well. This only leaves the Raphael, who shouldn't be making a lot of trips to the surface, like the others. There's more dissolved oxygen at the top of your tank, because oxygen comes into the water at the surface. This means that there may not be enough oxygen at the bottom of the tank for the Raphael, if he's one of the ones struggling to get air. This is where filtration comes in... we'll discuss that in a sec!>
and the filtration I have is a tetra 30g filter I don't think it's a good quality though.
<This filter claims to move 150 gallons per hour (I checked PetSmart's website), so it's turning over your tank 7.5 times per hour. This should be enough to provide oxygen to all areas of the tank, so I'm wondering if by "all the fish" you mean just he Hoplos and the Corys, you're doing okay, but if it's the Raphael, as well, then I worry. If this catfish breathes air, I am not aware of it (Bob or Neale, please correct me if I am wrong!). So, it could be considered "abnormal behavior" for him, which means something's going on. In any case, I look forward to the test results tomorrow, and am hoping that, though I am not trusting of any product which is left on a store shelf for an indeterminate amount of time and claims to still have live bacteria still in it (!) the Seachem product and the sand you've purchased have cycled this tank, for the fishes' sakes.
I've tried a lot of products in my time fishkeeping, and very few have impressed me. Though others may feel differently, "Stability" was not one of them, and as I said, I have never used this freshwater "live" sand.
I'll speak to you soon!>
Thank you! Have a nice night!
<I'm getting back to you rather late... so I can affirm that it was a nice night!
<I'm going to combine these two e-mails...>, more re filtr...
Sorry I am sending so much, but I said the wrong name of the filter I have a TOPFIN 30g filter have a nice night Melinda and again sorry for sending so many emails!
<No problem, because I like to help. Otherwise I wouldn't be here! You seem to be extremely motivated to do things right, and I want to help you achieve what you've got in mind. I've discussed this filter above. I've been able to identify some filters as wonderful, and others as useless, during the time I've kept fish. I don't care for hang-on-back filters with these carbon-laden cartridges at all. You have carbon, which becomes spent after three weeks to a month. Then you have some meshy material on the outside of the cartridge. During the time this cartridge is in the system, the mesh and the carbon inside begin to become biological media. That is, bacteria grows on it. When your replace that cartridge, you're essentially removing the majority of your beneficial bacteria, and leaving your system at risk for a mini-cycle (think serious ammonia spike). In addition, as I said earlier, carbon "wears out" and stops absorbing chemicals fairly quickly, and you don't even need it at all in most systems. I only use it to remove medication from the water if I've had to use it. So, these aren't my favorite. Please read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltrmedart.htm. You want a filter which will provide biological and mechanical filtration, and still have room for chemical filtration (like carbon, phosphate-removing pads, etc.) if you happen to need them. One of the reasons I'm mentioning this is that you stated earlier that you do plan on a 55 in the future. If you choose to upgrade, I'd go with a 75 -- not much more room, way better footprint, more gallons. In any case, I'm rambling, but there are some nuances to filtration not often understood by beginners, and not understanding ends up costing money in the long run -- I figured I'd broach the subject now!

More Re Hi again! FW subst., sel., cleaning. Catfish resp. 2/25/10
Hello Melinda,
Air breathing in the family Doradidae is suspected but unproven. On the one hand, they have no obvious specialisations, e.g., to the digestive tract, as with Corydoras. But on the other hand they are known to survive quite a long time out of water (don't ask me how scientists know this... too depressing).
In any event, if thorny catfish do breathe air, they do so only as a last resort, so your analysis is spot-on that a Striped Raphael darting constantly to the surface would be an unhappy catfish. Also as you state, catfish are sensitive to poor bottom water conditions, and will often reveal problems with water circulation more quickly than fish nearer the top of the tank.
Cheers, Neale

Catfish, Siluriformes species comp.  9/9/08
Hello again, Neale,
I hope you can help me once more. I have a question about catfish. I just love them and have several different kinds in my aquarium. I almost have more catfish than other kinds of fish. My tank is fairly large (63 gallons), so they have room. I also have wood in the aquarium, which they love.
<Sounds great! You're speaking to another catfish fan. Do make sure you get across to Planet Catfish and ScotCat, both great sites for this particular niche of the hobby.>
I have read that some catfish can be very aggressive and territorial.
<Only some catfish are territorial, primarily those that guard their eggs (e.g., Plecs) or need to secure hiding places. By contrast many others are gregarious: Corydoras, Glass Catfish, Ariid sea catfish, etc.>
However, the catfish in my tank get along very well. They do not fight at all and actually seem to enjoy each other's company. What do I need to do to keep it this way?
<It all depends on the species, and I can't really answer this question without knowing what catfish you're keeping. If it's Corydoras or Glass Catfish or Dwarf Synodontis -- there's nothing to do: they're schooling fish. Bristlenose Cats by contrast are territorial, or at least the males are, but provided they have space enough to spread out, won't cause any problems. The only commonly maintained species that routinely cause problems are the larger Loricariids (Plecs) and the bigger Synodontis.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Bullying Multipunctatus Catfish Thanks again for all of your priceless assistance. I am not sure what to do with my Synod Multis. In a Malawi 90 gallon I have 3 Synos- a Eupterus and 2 Multis. The slightly smaller (3.5"), but longer resident, Multi seems to chase the more recently introduced Multi a  lot. At first I thought, give it some time, but a few weeks later it is still going on as intensely. I have never noticed any scars or wounds on the Multi, just that lately it seems to rest more than usual  in strange positions, leaning on things at times. At feeding time, he still swims around the bottom and eats. I am not sure what the best course to take is. There are definitely enough caves, but the bully Multi almost seems to seek him out at times. I have read they are schooling fish somewhat, would adding another Multi or two help? I also have a 55 Tanganyikan tank where I could move him, except this tank is full of 1-2" juveniles, including a 2" Syno Angelicus (which is my favorite catfish of all and I don't want to endanger him). Any advice greatly appreciated. >> It will help to add more Multis. I would try to have a group of 5 fish that are around the same size. They will chase each other also, but not only one fish will be under constant stress. Good Luck, Oliver Killer Catfish? Thank you! You really put my mind at ease. I love my 3 aquariums even if they got a little neglected when I had a baby last August (never to the point of bad water or disrepair, just not as diligent as I had been). Now that I am turning my attention fully back to my aquatic pets, I have one more question and I'll leave you alone. I have done a lot of research on this, but haven't come to a conclusion. I have an unplanted 55 gallon tank with two 330 Penguin BioWheel filters with a 4.5 year old silver tip shark catfish (Mack the Knife) and a large Pleco (Rainbow Barrone, Jr.). He had been coexisting with one Oscar who succumbed to old age. My husband was pretty heartbroken by Salvador the Oscar dying, so he didn't want another one. I got a Jack Dempsey, but Mack apparently killed him one night in a territory dispute. Short story long, is there any other species that would be compatible with Mack, or should I just leave him and Rainbow in there alone? < If Mack is going to kill all the new fish then I think leaving him alone is the best way to go>  Also, I've noticed Rainbow sucking on Mack lately. Is this a harmful practice? Should I separate them? Mack doesn't seem to mind as he just lays there. Thanks again! < Plecos have mouth parts for scrapping algae of things like rocks and wood. They will also scrape the protective slime off fish and can be a problem for fish like discus and angels. Little Cory cats on the other hand are just looking for bits of left over food and are harmless.-Chuck>

Are my fish pregnant? Hi my name is Catt Roden, I was just wondering if you could help me, my catfish keeps trying to bury itself at the bottom of the tank. I have had my two catfish for 6 months and do not know much about them, so I was wondering if it may be pregnant.  If so what should I do with the tank and how can I help my two fish?  If not could you tell me why it is doing that? Thank you, Catt Roden <Catt... what type of catfish are these? If you know part of their name, try plugging this in to Fishbase.org and learn more re their life habits... Many catfishes DO dig in the substrate... some live a good part of the time under it in the wild. I doubt if your fish are actually pregnant... Study my friend... learn the scientific name of your fish, their husbandry... Bob Fenner>

Three Line Cory Catfish question Thank you so much you have helped me in the past, I hope you can again. This Cory catfish started acting funny, he is constantly going up and down, but not for the usual gulps of air, just blindly bumping into everyone else up around and down. <Mmm, may well be interacting with its reflection... in your aquarium walls. Corydoras Catfishes are extremely social... do best in groupings> All the water parameters are ok and all the other fish are ok too, so is one other Cory catfish. Do you have any idea what this might be, I figured if it's a parasite or something the other fish will be affected. Thanks again for your time and your insight. <If you have room, I would add another two or more of this species. Bob Fenner>
Re: Three Line Cory Catfish question
Thanks for the speedy reply. I wanted to add that this Cory bumps into other fish swimming while he flutters/scutters like on a roller coaster along the glass. <Not atypical> Zooms up and down however he slows down enough to not hurt his barbels when close to surface, but when in water he bumps into other fish, did I say that twice. <Yes, yes> He has 1 buddy and he completely ignores him, the other just works all the time, rarely I see him tries to follow other but there' no pattern and goes back to working. I do have reflection on the glass but do you think that might be the cause with him bumping around? Thanks for your patience. By the way Happy New Year! <Yes, and thanks much. All will likely be fine in time. Bob Fenner>  

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