Published August 6, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
The Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) can get up to around 50 inches (130 cm) or larger in size when fully grown! The more commonly seen sizes are around half that - 25 inches (65 cm) or so. They are considered fast growers and will outgrow 99 percent of home aquariums so it's best to not buy this catfish unless you have a large outdoor pond to put them in.
It should be much more dificult to acquire this fish since it is mostly inappropriate to stock except for in the rarest of conditions. The redtail catfish can live for many years so putting one in a small tank that they can quickly outgrow is inhumane and not a good idea at all. Pet stores will not usally take them back either. Buyer beware.
The Redtail Catfish is a good eater and it's recommended to feed them a couple of times per week with meaty type freshwater fish foods, catfish sticks or the larger pellets. They will eat smaller tank mates. There are videos online of people feeding them feeder fish and this is not recommended. Feeder fish can carry all sorts of disease and parasites, not to mention the cost of feeding live fish versus a good quality catfish pellet or flake food.
Breeding them in the home aquarium is not common at all given their potential adult size and because you cannot determine differences externally of males and females of this catfish.
Even after reading all of the above and if you are still interested in keeping them be ready to get an aquarium or pond in the 1,000 gallon size range along with massive filtration. They are big eaters and frequent partial water changes will be needed as well.
Red Tail Catfish Care
Scientific Name : Phractocephalus hemioliopterus
Common Names : Redtail Catfish
Care Level : Moderate (needs a huge tank or pond)
Size : Up to 53 inches (134 cm)
Water Parameters : pH 5.5 - 6.8 | Temperature : 68°F - 82°F (20°C - 28°C) | Water Hardness : 5° to 10° dH
Lifespan : many years, decades
Origin / Habitat : South America, Amazon and Orinoco River basins
Temperament / Behavior : This catfish eat smaller tank mates.
Breeding : Bred on commercial farms but not likely in the home aquarium given their adult size.
Aquarium Size : Think large ponds or best left in public aquariums.
Tank Mates : Other large fish species that won't become food for this catfish.
Fish Disease : Freshwater Fish Disease - Considered quite hardy
Diet / Foods : Whatever it wants. It will eat most any foods put into the tank. Feed them every couple of days or so catfish sticks, meaty pieces of fish. They are well known for swallowing smaller aquarium decorations.
Tank Region : Bottom to middle
Gender : Some think the red colors on the tail fin mark gender differences but to our knowledge there are no known external characteristics to go on.
Photo Credit : Photos copyright JJPhoto.dk
More Catfish Profiles
Gets to about 2.7 inches and should be kept in small schools.
Upside Down Catfish
Gets to around 4 inches and does well when kept in groups.
A plecostomus that demands high prices due to limited availability. Populations in the wild are threatened.