Looking for an unusual fish to add to your large freshwater aquarium?
The eclipse catfish is rarely seen among fish keepers in the aquarium hobby, but it can be kept by an intermediate or advanced fish owner. These predatory fish have beautiful colorations and can grow to impressive sizes.
Still, they are catfish with big catfish needs.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about eclipse catfish and how to keep one of these colorful fish in your own freshwater aquarium!
All of the Names for Eclipse Catfish
The eclipse catfish has many names. Scientifically, it is known as Horabagrus brachysoma. In the hobby, you may see it listed as:
- Günther’s catfish
- Yellow catfish
- Solar/Sun catfish
- Bullseye catfish
- Golden red-tail catfish
Luckily, they are easy to identify and in an incredibly small genus. The Horabagrus genus only contains one other member, Horabagrus nigricollaris, which is an endangered species and not available in the aquarium hobby.
Horabagrus brachysoma, though, is still classified as a vulnerable species according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Natural populations have mainly been affected by harvesting, changing environments, and pollution.
The eclipse catfish comes from Southwest India, throughout the states of Kerala and Karnataka. They live in blackwater conditions with highly turbid yet slow-moving waters.
Solar catfish are omnivores, eating both plant-based and meaty food. The variety of their diet grows as they do, with juveniles’ favorite food being small crustaceans and adult catfish expanding their diet to include other options. Reproduction rates and feeding intensities are also affected by the monsoon seasons.
Rogue populations of eclipse catfish have also been found in the southern regions of Puerto Rico and are believed to have been unintentionally introduced by fish farms in the aquaculture industry.
The eclipse catfish is a beautiful species that is relatively easy to identify. Like most other catfish, they are larger fish, with adults growing to be anywhere from 12-18 inches (30.5-45.7 cm).
Common sun catfish have a flattened head, large mouth surrounded by barbels, and spaced-out, rounded eyes. Their body is a light grey/yellow mix with a white underbelly. Each of their fins is yellow-ish, except for a forked orange-hued caudal fin.
Their most notable feature is the black spot behind their gill covers — the reason for their several namesakes. This spot is outlined in yellow, which can look like a solar eclipse when the moon passes in front of the sun, or a target, giving them the name bullseye catfish.
Eclipse Catfish Tank Requirements
Though eclipse catfish are large, they’re actually one of the smaller catfish species available in the freshwater aquarium hobby. Given the right setup, they can successfully be kept in captivity for the duration of their lives.
Unfortunately, they are commonly sold as juveniles, still only being 2-3 inches (5.1-7.6 cm), regularly misleading many hobbyists into believing this is their mature size and that they don’t need a larger tank.
Though some more experienced hobbyists might keep their eclipse catfish in a grow-out tank that is significantly smaller than their permanent home, this is not recommended. Oftentimes, that necessary transition never happens and the fish isn’t moved to the correct aquarium size.
What size tank do eclipse catfish need?
That being said, the minimum tank size an eclipse catfish should ever be kept in is at least 200 gallons (757.1 L).
Though that might seem like a lot, you need to allow for the adult size of the fish, the bioload of the fish, and any potential tank mates you plan on keeping. After all, it’s much better to have too much space than not enough with this species.
Eclipse catfish tank setup
Setting up the aquarium is relatively simple. Eclipse catfish are nocturnal creatures and prefer dark conditions similar to the natural habitat of blackwater environments.
You can achieve this by darkening the tank with tannins and dim lighting. Tannins naturally come from pieces of driftwood, or you can add them from Indian almond leaves and other dried foliage.
These nocturnal fish also do best in sandy habitats, so a soft sand substrate is best for them as they can use their sensitive barbels to shuffle for food without scraping their underbellies on coarse gravel.
Most importantly, eclipse catfish need good filtration and regular tank maintenance. As they get older, they become very messy eaters and create large amounts of bioload.
Filtration should be rated for at least 2-3X the size of the aquarium with weekly water changes.
Eclipse Catfish Tank Mates
Eclipse catfish potentially eat anything that can fit inside their mouth. It is important to avoid smaller tank mates and bottom-dwellers that will hang around where your eclipse will spend the majority of its time as this can cause territorial spats.
Ideal tank mates for eclipse catfish include:
- Plecos (Loricariidae family)
- Bichirs (Polypteridae family)
- Silver dollars (Characidae family)
- Arowanas (Osteoglossidae family)
- Large cichlids (Cichlidae family)
Eclipse catfish cannot be kept with small fish, period. They’re predator fish, so even if you think smaller aquarium fish are capable of outswimming your eclipse, those itty bitty fish will be eaten eventually.
Otherwise, eclipse catfish are ideal community fish when paired with other appropriately-sized types of fish.
Eclipse Catfish Behavior
Eclipse catfish are just like any typical catfish: opportunistic feeders and nocturnal hunters. They are most active at night and try to eat any type of food that falls in front of them.
They’re generally slow-growing, which can be deceiving to beginner catfish-keepers. Still, you will need to keep their potential max size in mind to stock the rest of the aquarium accordingly and to give your catfish the best setup possible.
Generally, though, they’re peaceful and won’t intentionally hunt down other tank mates. They will, however, try to eat any smaller prey and uneaten food they come across. As mentioned before, they do best if they’re the only fish in the bottom water column.
Do eclipse catfish need to be kept in schools?
No, they don’t need to be kept in schools. In fact, trying to keep more than one eclipse catfish per tank usually results in an overabundance of bioload, and in worse cases, cannibalism.
Though they might be kept in schools at your local aquarium store, they can live perfectly solitary lives.
Eclipse Catfish Diet
Catfish are notorious for trying to eat anything that fits inside their mouth, and for good reason! They are highly opportunistic feeders that will try to swallow anything whole they come across. Fortunatley, this makes feeding them easy.
What fish do eclipse catfish eat?
As juveniles, they should be primarily given crustaceans like clams, mussels, and crabs. As they grow, their appetite will broaden and they can be fed most aquarium foods.
This includes live, frozen, and freeze-dried:
- Worms: earthworms, bloodworms, Tubifex worms
- Insects: mealworms, crickets
- Seafood: clams, mussels, crab, shrimp, pieces of fish
- Feeder fish (only if they are guaranteed disease-free)
Eclipse catfish are omnivores, so they need a source of plant matter as part of their regular diet as well. This can be supplied through algae pellets and wafers.
Breeding Eclipse Catfish
Some people have successfully bred eclipses in captivity for aquaculture purposes, but it is not recommended to attempt in the home aquarium.
For one, male and female eclipse catfish are difficult to tell apart. Secondly, a breeding pair and their spawn would need an enormous tank — remember, each adult requires 200 gallons to itself.
It should also be said that there isn’t an incredibly large demand for these fish in the market, and it could potentially be difficult finding appropriate homes for the offspring.
The eclipse catfish is an uncommon species in the home aquarium hobby for a few reasons. Firstly, they grow to much larger sizes than most home fish, and they are incompatible with most other fish. Additionally, they can create significant amounts of bioload, meaning that housing them is more difficult than your typical freshwater fish.
However, if you’re able to properly accommodate them and create an ideal habitat, they are a complete spectacle in the aquarium.
If you have any questions about eclipse catfish, other species of monster fish, or if you have had experience setting up your own large freshwater natural habitat, please leave a comment below!