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Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Ameiurus natalis  (Lesueur, 1819)
Common Names Yellow Bullhead
Butter Catfish, Christmas Catfish, Gul Dværgmalle (Denmark), Noel's Bullhead, White Whiskered Bullhead, Yellow Belly Catfish
Type Locality Uncertain locality.
Synonym(s) Ictalurus natalis, Pimelodus natalis
Pronunciation Ai MEE you russ - nay taal iss
Etymology Ameiurus: ''curtailed'' refers to the lack of a deep notch in the caudal fin. The specific etymology is commonly written to derive from the Latin ''nates'' or buttocks, probably in reference to the enlarged cheek muscles of breeding males. Butt-cheek catfish would be an awesome common name but it is, tragically, incorrect. The species was introduced to science under the name Pimelodus natalis by French naturalist Charles-Alexandre Lesueur in 1819. Since Lesueur did not explain the meaning of natalis, American ichthyologist David Starr Jordan attempted to explain the name in several publications, including the seminal four-volume Fishes of North and Middle America (1896-1900). Jordan claimed that natalis means “having large nates, or buttocks.” This explanation on a misinterpretation of the Middle English natal, which, depending on its derivation, can mean two widely different things: buttocks or Christmas. Jordan applied the anatomical version of natal to the catfish’s name, apparently unaware that Lesueur included in his description a French cognate of Pimelodus natalis in the form of “Pimelode Noël.” In naming this catfish natalis, Lesueur was, in fact, honouring a French fisheries inspector whose name means Christmas: Simon-Barthélemy-Joseph Noël de La Morinière (1765–1822). This excellent etymological detective work and correction was published in Scharpf, C. (2020). Lost in translation: The true meaning of “natalis” in the name of the yellow bullhead Ameiurus natalis. American Currents, 45(2): 11-17.
Article Link - CotM Right 2003 Right November
Down Species Information
Size 470mm or 18.5" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The yellow, brown and black bullheads look very similar to each other, but the yellow bullhead is easily distinguished from the other two species by their yellow or white (vs. dusky or black) mandibular barbels.
Sexing Males have an elongate genital papilla. Breeding males have greatly expanded head muscles.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution North America: Atlantic and Gulf slope drainages from New York to northern Mexico, and St. Lawrence-Great Lakes and Mississippi river basins from southern Quebec west to central North Dakota, and south to the Gulf. Trade restricted in Germany (Anl.3 BArtSchV). At least one country reports adverse ecological impact after introduction.
North American Atlantic Drainages (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Gulf Coast Drainages, Mississippi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
North American Atlantic Drainages, Great Lakes (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Gulf Coast Drainages (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Least Concern, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2011.
pH 6.0 - 8.0
Temperature 5.0-25.0°C or 41-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters A hardy fish that can live in a wide variety of conditions. Able to withstand lower temperatures, so heating is not necessary. Can be maintained in outdoor ponds if winters are mild.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding In the wild, the yellow bullhead feeds on crustaceans, aquatic insects, worms, beetles and small fishes. Not a fussy feeder in captivity, taking both prepared and frozen food readily. Will eat smaller fishes if given the chance. User data.
Furniture Inhabits streams and lakes with sandy bottoms. Best maintained in an aquarium of 55 gallons or larger. Provide ample hiding places.
Compatibility Peaceful both with other fish. Conspecifics may establish a dominance order based on size. Should not be kept with tankmates small enough to be eaten.
Suggested Tankmates Larger North American native fishes like sunfish and yellow perch, given its propensity for eating smaller tankmates.
Breeding Breeding occurs primarily in the late spring and early summer. Shallow nests are prepared by one or both parents, by fanning the pelvic, anal and caudal fins, shoving material out with their snout, or picking up material in their mouth and carrying them away from the nest. During spawning, the fish lie side by side, facing in opposite directions and twisting their caudal fins over the eyes and head of each other. About 650-7000 eggs are laid, with the eggs, which are yellowish and are about 2.5-3.0 mm in diameter, hatching in about 5-10 days. The male then guards the nest, fanning the egg mass, yawning widely over the nest, or even taking the egg mass into the mouth (possibly to aerate them). Upon hatching, the young cluster together in a mass at the bottom of the nest, and the adult fish may approach the mass and agitate it with their barbels; this apparently moves the larvae near the bottom of the mass to its surface. The fry are guarded until they reach about 25 mm TL.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Mémoires du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris v. 5, pp 154.
Registered Keepers There are 26 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
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Last Update 2022 Sep 06 01:12 (species record created: 2001 Apr 25 00:00)