Copyright 2009 by JVR




Order: Siluriformes

Ictaluridae Family; IT IS: Ictaluridae or Ameuridae; IUCN: some South African species

(Gill, 1861)


Description/Field Marks:  Depends upon species, but “range from very small to very large fish, do not have scales, and possess eight sensory barbels, or "whiskers", according to (accessed 1 September 2009).  Considered a bony fish consisting of 36 families and more than 3,000 species.


Male/Female:  Comparatively speaking, females have large tails and fins.


Diet: “The diet of catfish is mainly dead or live fish. However, larger specimens will eat most things including frogs, rats, coypu and snakes,” according to (accessed 1 September 2009).  Also, catfish “are more tolerant of water with low oxygen and low light levels than many other groups of fishes. They are often nocturnal or feed during the day in turbid waters, using their sensory barbels to feed upon insects, crustacea and fish,” according to


Courting Displays:  Auditory as well as visual and tactile.  Some species also “utilize their pectoral spines to produce stridulatory sounds” as well as a “ ‘creaking’ sound during defense or appeasement behavior when being attacked” according to (accessed 25 September 2009).


Nesting: Cavity nesters, according to (accessed 25 September 2009).


Eggs:  Mass deposited by female in nest and male fertilizes it, but fertilization of eggs is known to be internal, external as well as “sperm passage through female digestive tracts” according to (accessed 25 September 2009).


Incubation:   Late spring.  Depending upon water temperature, six to ten days.


Behavior/Longevity:  Bottom feeders due to negative buoyancy.  Estimated up to ten to fourteen years, even 21-23 years for some species such as channel catfish.

Habitat/Local Sites:  Prefer non-acidic ponds of less than 15 feet and larger than 2 acres; alternatively, small deep ponds are not as conducive to catfish.

Range:  Extant catfish species live in inland or coastal waters of every continent except Antarctica,” according to Wikipedia (accessed 25 September 2009).


Environmental Threats: Despite being a predator and scavenger, catfish are at risk due to chemical contamination of ponds.


Did you Know: They are so-called because of their barbells, which look like cat’s whiskers.



1)      Gary Elson and Oliver Lucanus, Catfish: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual (Barron’s, 2003).

2)      Louise Riotte, Catfish Ponds & Lily Pads: Creating and Enjoying a Family Pond (Storey Communications, 1997).


Other References:


“PAS |Lake and Pond Stocking”



FIELD NOTES:  Elza Gousseva’s photo of 2001 and JVR’s August 2009 photo.