Aquarium Fish

Keeping Monster Catfish

Online Aquarium Fish Magazine | Keeping Monster Catfish

Again, as with all monster fish, this is not for the normal hobbyist. You need to be able to provide a large pond for keeping monster catfish, as tanks large enough to house these guys for life would be extremely expensive, heavy and not very practical.

Catfish are some of the most beloved fish in the monster hobby due to their amazing variety, huge appetite and amazing personality. But they are also some of the largest fish kept. I must stress that if you are interested in getting into large cats, do your research. That cute little 3" paroon "shark" will grow up to 8 feet long and weigh over 600 lbs, not exactly a good fish to keep, even for the monster keeper.

The most common "monster" catfish that are seen in local fish stores are RTC (Red Tail Catfish), TSN (Tiger Shovel Nose), LSN (Lima Shovel Nose) and ID sharks (Iridescent Shark), but there are hundreds upon hundreds of species of big catfish available. For the sake of this article, however, I will be focusing on the basic care of these fish that seem to be bought on impulse because their adorable when they're only 4 inches (or smaller in some stores), Red Tail Catfish and the Tiger Shovel Nose.

These fish, in general are super hardy. Keeping up with water changes, filter maintenance and a steady temperature are key. Something to keep in mind with catfish is that they usually grow extremely fast to a certain size and then slow down. I bought a 3.5 inch Red tail cat less than 4 months ago. Gus now measures over 13 inches. My tiger shovel nose, who was purchased at the same time, was 5 inches and is now 12. ID Sharks have a slower growth rate, but still will get up to 20 inches (if not larger) in aquaria.

I've already discussed the basic setup for monster fish, now lets go into catfish a little deeper. A temperature consistent with most tropical aquariums is perfect for these fish. I've had the best coloration and growth with 77°F. Unless you're keeping these fish in a large display, I highly recommend a bare bottom setup with some larger pieces of pvc or driftwood. This provides hiding spots, but also is the easiest to clean.

Water changes are essential with any aquarium, but even more so when it comes to large catfish. Up to 40 percent water changes 2-3 times a week are recommended. This keeps water levels where they should be.

While most fish stores will suggest feeding feeder fish to aquatic predators, it is best to get them onto a prepared diet ASAP. Feeder fish are bred for quantity rather than quality and can pass on any disease to your fish. I've never heard of a catfish refusing food, so this should be very easy. Feed a variety of food. Mine get a mix of Hikari Massivore Pellet, Sinking Algae Wafers, Freeze Dried Krill, Frozen Krill, Frozen Bloodworms, Dew Worms, Black Worms, Earthworms, Frozen Market Shrimp, Tilapia etc. Frozen Seafood Medley (mussles, calamari, shrimp, fish fillet etc) is a life saver. Same with bait shops. As I'm sure you can see, there is a lot of meat in this diet. Hence the high water change volume. As they get larger, some catfish become sort of like swimming dogs and will readily accept foods from your hand and come to the surface to be pet.

RTCs can reach up to 4 feet in length and weigh well over 50 lbs. TSNs are in the same boat. They are actually both considered great game fish. Becoming increasingly available in the hobby is a hybrid of the two. Commonly called a Red Tailed Tiger Shovelnose. However, these hybrids can suffer from something known as hybrid vigor. They grow big, fast. And because they are relatively new to the hobby, no one knows for sure how large they get. I know someone on another forum who has had his fish for less than 2.5 years and it currently measures 37".

All in all, these fish are incredible. They are, like I've said, swimming dogs. They are some of the most long-lived fish available, able to live 20 years or longer.

Best of luck,

Gus, approximately 8" when this was taken:
Red Tail Catfish

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