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 Name Ictalurus punctatus  (Rafinesque, 1818)
Common Names Channel Catfish
Getuepfelter Gabelwels (Germany), Plettet Dværgmalle (Denmark)
Type Locality Ohio R., U.S.A.
Synonym(s) Silurus punctatus
Pronunciation ick tal oo russ - punk TAT uss
Etymology Ictalurus: 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.
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Jump to next section Species Information
Size 700mm or 27.6" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The 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.
Sexing It 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 Remarks For 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
Distribution Native 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)
IUCN Red List Status Least Concern
pH 6.0 - 8.0
Temperature 12.0-21.0°C or 53.6-69.8°F (Show species within this range)
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding All 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.
Furniture An 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.
Compatibility Peaceful but predatory.
Suggested Tankmates Large central American cichlids fit the bill both in terms of size and water conditions.
Breeding Commercially farmed in large ponds and so breeding is easily accomplished on the correct scale. This scale however does not encompass the home aquarium.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Jump to next section Further Information
References Am. 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
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Last Update 2016 Jan 31 23:46 (species record created: 1998 Jan 01 11:22)

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