The catfish (also known as catfish or catfish whose name comes from its English version ‘catfish’) belongs to the order of Siluriformes and comprises 33 families, approximately 400 genera, and more than 3000 species. 

Catfish characteristics

Thanks to this wide variety, they make it the favorite pet and offer great attraction as an ornamental element. In addition to this, they also present several characteristics to play a fundamental role in maintaining the aquarium.


Undoubtedly, what most characterizes this species is its whiskers that resemble a cat and give them this name. But they also share a similarity in terms of functionality since they are sensory organs with which they easily detect the food they are going to consume. These can be both on the sides of the mouth and under the head or muzzle. 

It varies according to the species. Regarding the fins, both pectoral and dorsal, these are provided with pointed spines that in some of the species can even be poisonous (releasing an endorphin if they feel in danger) and cause severe injuries in other fish. And especially in predators. 

It also characterizes them that their body is not covered with scales but rather healthy skin. Even some species have dermal plates that act as a shield when it comes to defending themselves.

Although their size can range between 25 centimeters and one and a half meters (it can even reach 2 meters in exceptional cases), their weight is always above what they seem, also oscillating between 1 and 100 kilos. 

As for the characteristics mentioned at the beginning of the text that makes catfish the perfect pet, they are in the habit of cleaning the bottom of aquariums (mainly leftover food). There is also a species with suction cups in the oral cavity, which gives them the ability to adhere to the aquarium’s walls and clean them.


One factor to consider is that each of the multiple species of catfish that exist has very different characteristics and habits. For this reason, the most important thing is to obtain more detailed information according to the species chosen as a pet. For example, American catfish and blue catfish, in addition to food from the deep, also tend to surface to capture aquatic insects, crabs, mollusks, crustaceans, and other fish. 

Catfish characteristics

In addition, these two species also stand out in that they are nocturnal. As for the blackfish feeds mainly on fish and insects, some other aquatic larvae, small crustaceans, eggs of different fish, and aquatic plants. Although they can also provide at night, they are not considered nocturnal. On the other hand, yellow catfish are scavengers and tend to feed on small fish, shrimp, snails, crabs, vegetation, and organic matter.

As you can see, feeding is incredibly complex in the vast species of catfish, so depending on which one we choose, they will tend for one thing or another.

Regarding the aquarium, this will also vary a lot due to size. Therefore, it is essential to know the species well to see when each one grows, and its development does not become a problem. 

If what you are looking for is a small one, the most suitable are called kids, which do not grow very much, are very active, and spend most of their time at the bottom of the aquarium. If, instead, you have a large aquarium, the best option is the plecostomus, which are large and of impressive beauty due to their color. They are nocturnal, but their maintenance is simple, and they coexist perfectly with fish of other species.

For the more adventurous (and those with enough space, of course), you can opt for those that look like miniature sharks. 

The Panfasiidae family resembles this other species and attracts a lot of attention but can reach a large size, so you have to think twice. On the other hand, if you are looking for more color than shape, you can think of the Pseudopimelodidae that sport orange and black stripes. For this same reason, they are known as bee catfish.

Regarding the construction of the aquarium, as far as ornamentation is concerned, they must have logs or other objects they can hide. 

As has already been said, many catfish species tend to spend most of their time on the bottom, so this surface must be fine in the sense that it allows them mobility like gravel so that it does not damage them.