Catfish of the Month Right Arrow January 1998 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded January 01, 1998



Channel Catfish, Getuepfelter Gabelwels (Germany), Plettet Dværgmalle (Denmark) - Ictalurus punctatus   (Rafinesque, 1818)

Channel catfish are a multi-faceted fish if ever there was one. Aside from being readily available as 2" juveniles to unwary novices, they can also be found on the menus of most Southern United States eateries. To this end these fish are farm bred in large numbers (it is in fact a major industry). The fish pictured above is the more commonly available (to aquarists, not gourmets) albino variety.

I have often encountered this fish for sale in amongst goldfish. Unscrupulous dealers will pass of this fish as "the ideal coldwater scavenger", which is utterly incorrect in every conceivable way. The fish is a predator, not a scavenger, will not take coldwater (to level of being wintered outside in a Scottish pond) and "ideal" is not really a word applicable to a fish likely to grow larger than the tank it is being offered for sale in! In more gentle climes this fish is suited to ponds, but not around these parts!

This all sounds rather negative, but in the channel cats defence, it is probably the cheapest, most hardy and arguably active of all the big cats (perhaps alongside Pangasius or Arius sp.). They are great pets, full of inquisitiveness and energy and will soon learn to react to your presence around the tank. Just don't keep them with goldfish and start making space for that 8ft tank in the garage!


Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific NameIctalurus punctatus  (Rafinesque, 1818)
Common NamesChannel Catfish
Getuepfelter Gabelwels (Germany), Plettet Dværgmalle (Denmark)
Type LocalityOhio R., U.S.A.
Synonym(s)Silurus punctatus
Pronunciationick tal oo russ - punk TAT uss
EtymologyIctalurus: From the Greek ichthys, meaning fish, and ailouros, meaning cat; literally "fish cat" (=catfish). punctatus meaning spotted alluding to the smattering of back and lower body black spots on primarily younger fish.
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 700mm or 27.6" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationThe albino variety is more often encountered for sale than the normal colouration. Often confused with Ictalurus furcatus In juveniles the blue generally has a darker body with a whitish belly while the channel is silvery with few small dark spots. The channel cat averages 27-30 anal fin rays while the blue has 33-35. Ictalurus furcatus has a head that is wedge shaped, consistent with a blue cat's wedge shaped head is a noticeable dorsal hump in front of the dorsal fin, a channel cats head is more rounded or cigar shaped. Barbels on a blue cat are reduced in relation to I. punctatus. Also in comparison to channel cats which have a rounded anal fin the anterior margin of the anal fin is truncate in I .furcatus.
SexingIt is almost impossible to distinguish between sexes with individuals of around 10 pounds or less. Generally, the easiest way to sex a channel catfish is by the head. Mature males have a broad, muscular, kind of spade-shaped head, while the female's head is smaller and more rounded. Also, between the pelvic fins, the female has two openings. The male has just one (the anus) and a small fleshy flap (genital papillae) that sticks out a bit. The larger the fish, the easier and more distinct these differences become.
General RemarksFor aquaculture these are sometimes kept at a higher temperature for maximum growth, they can also withstand extremes in temperature, but in the home aquarium or pond the temperatures suggested on this page are for long term comfort.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionNative in Southern & Western USA, introduced in other areas, for example, Massachusets.
North American Atlantic Drainages, Great Lakes (click on these areas to find other species found there)
North American Atlantic Drainages, Saint Lawrence (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Gulf Coast Drainages, Mississippi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
pH6.0 - 8.0
Temperature12.0-21.0°C or 53.6-69.8°F (Show species within this range)
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingAll prepared foods, youngsters can be grown very quickly on bloodworm or more cheaply on commercial fish meal. Will eat constantly, but care should be taken not to pander to this tendency as the strain on filtration becomes immense. Large individuals can be fed weekly.
FurnitureAn active catfish when young, becoming less active with age. A large swimming area is necessary to get the best from this fish. The water column need not be more than 30cm if dimly light.
CompatibilityPeaceful but predatory.
Suggested TankmatesLarge central American cichlids fit the bill both in terms of size and water conditions.
BreedingCommercially farmed in large ponds and so breeding is easily accomplished on the correct scale. This scale however does not encompass the home aquarium.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesAm. Monthly Mag. Crit. Rev.v. 3 (5) (Sept. 1818) - pp355
A Field Guide To Freshwater Fishes North America
North American Native Fishes for the Home Aquarium
American Aquarium Fishes
Registered Keepers(1) Lornek8, (2) VirgoWolf, (3) kntrygrl4lyfe (k: 2), (4) ElectricYellowPlecostomus, (5) Plecofanatic1989, (6) joepleco, who also notes: "I catch these every year (spring) in a drainage outlet of a park lake near my house. Its cool to see them swarm in a big ball by the hundreds, even cooler to scoop up 10 or more by fish net and take a couple of the 1 inchers home and raise a few of t", (7) maynardwix, (8) steelhead99, (9) Plunt (k: 2), (10) San, (11) necrocanis, (12) geekshow, (13) blurock (k: 3), who also notes: "One blue and Two Albino
Names-
Blue Channel: Baker
Albino Channels: Glacier and Rainier ", (14) doesdavid, (15) Bake, (16) pmbooper (k: 3), who also notes: "2-4 inch channel cats in 200 gal.-1-12 inch channel cat in 1000 gal. ", (17) bapachu, (18) darkhighlord, (19) wwajfd, who also notes: "Will outgrow any Aquarium. Grew 6 inches a year. From 4 inches to 22 inches in 3 years.", (20) Hoyo12, (21) Leah1976, (22) ewurm, (23) pickles4601, (24) Viktor Jarikov, who also notes: "Biggest one in the tank, about a foot, housed in his own section behind a divider", (25) Bimmerboy12, (26) sequoiacat, who also notes: "I have the albino variation.", (27) Bisclavret, (28) shivamotiram, (29) arapaimag (k: 2), (30) Missytown6, (31) Duster1971, (32) Seagirt, who also notes: "Thinks she's a koi and swims and eats with them.", (33) Margie, who also notes: "Lives in koi pond. Overwinters at 39 deg F.", (34) catfish-pigeon, who also notes: "Albino type. Active at all hours", (35) luv4bigcats (k: 2), (36) fatboy8, (37) TankTheHoplo, who also notes: "Named Pepsi,lazy fellow, made a nest in the front of the tank and rarely leaves, but constantly looks around. He's weird.", (38) mosin nagant147, (39) Walkie-TalkieCatfish (p: 2, k: 2), (40) in_the_seance, (41) Omegacore, (42) slayer5590, (43) xShovelnose, who also notes: "Got a juvi channel with my grandfather. accepts flakes and bloodworms.", (44) River Birzer, (45) farmergijoe, (46) Chicxulub, (47) JonathanReid, (48) Valk176 (k: 2), (49) Wv turtle man, (50) N.A.keeper21.

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Last Update2016 Jan 31 23:46 (species record created: 1998 Jan 01 11:22)

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