Pictus Catfish Care and Breeding Guide

Pictus Catfish Care and Breeding Guide

A hobbyist looking for fish with energetic personality and delightful colors should consider keeping the pictus catfish. It has become very popular amongst most aquarists as it exhibits very interesting characteristics. Of course it requires lots of care too. For that reason, it may not be a very good idea for novices. The fish is more for seasoned hobbyists.

Scientifically, the pictus is known as Pimelodus Pictus. Other names used for these fish include cat fish and pictus cat. It belongs to the family of the pimelodidae.

Origin of Pictus Catfish

The pictus fish is native to the Amazon River and Orinico. Countries where it is found include Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Columbia. It is often confused with the Synodontis Angelicus catfish which is native to Africa. While they share a number of similar characteristics, they require very different conditions to survive.

In its wild surrounding, it prefers shallow yet warm waters. It dominates river bottoms with muddy or sandy soils. They are shoaling fishes in the wild and normally live in large groups.


They are unmistakably white or silver with black spots on the whole body. They also bear white barbels that may stretch all the way to the caudal fin. They have very sharp pectoral fins. Both the caudal and pectoral fins are transparent.

The body is slender. This may stretch to lengths of 5inches in captivity. In the wild they often grow longer. Like most catfish, the pictus boasts of a forked tail. The mouth is turned downwards.

Tank Requirements

The pictus stays in warm waters in its natural environment. That is why it is found in shallow streams or rivers. To ensure it remains healthy in captivity, the same water temperatures should be maintained in the tank. The following tank requirements will do for the fish:

  • temperatures between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH of 7.0-7.5

The pictus live in groups or shoals, for this reason, it would be proper to keep at least 4-5 to make them happy. They are wide swimmers and would do best with a large tank. For more than three, a tank of 150 gallons should do. In case only one is kept in the tank, 45 gallons will be sufficient. Lighting should be dim. If not, the plant canopy will have to be heavy to provide some level of darkness at the bottom of the tank.

Place a number of rocks with crevices to allow it to hide at daytime. Also you will need to add enough sand and some earth to give them a muddy feel. They love to swim in mud in their natural habitat. Try to mimic this. Put in some driftwood and add plants with wide leaves to provide a canopy. Java moss, hornwort and moss balls are some of the best plants for the tank.

Provide a filter for the tank that will ensure there is a strong current flow. A hang on filter could be a suitable choice as it offers a good water flow. It also keeps the nitrate concentration in the tank to the minimum. The pictus are quite sensitive to nitrates.


In the wild, pictus catfish eat about anything. They scavenge for any type of food they can chance upon. Since they are considered omnivores, they eat both meat and plants.

  • Foods to keep them healthy in the aquarium are:
  • Insects like black-worms, earthworms, ants, dragonfly larvae and snails. Clean the worms properly to avoid contaminating the tank. Also, be sure they (insects) do not have insecticides if they are offered live.
  • Frozen foods are a specialty too. Frozen daphnia, bloodworms and brine shrimp are a delicacy to them.
  • They also feed on small fish. Avoid keeping them in the same tank with fish like neon tetras.
  • Feed them vegetables like lettuce and spinach.

They mostly settle at the bottom of the tank. Put the feeds at the bottom so that they enjoy their meals. Placing food at the top may irritate or stress them.

They are scavengers who are likely to disturb the substrate as they look for feeds. This means that the bottom of the tank needs lots of reinforcement so that it is not skewed.

They have a large appetite that must be minded. If not, they may be aggressive to the smaller fish. Not to forget is the fact that cleaning the tank regularly is a necessity. Leaving the tank with waste for long periods may contaminate the tank and the food therein.


Like a number of fish, the pictus’ sex is not easy to determine. Both the sexes look alike. However, the females become rounder during their breeding periods.

So far, not much has been recorded about the pictus fish breeding in captivity. For trial purposes however, stocking a number of them can give one the chance to breed them. Some aquarists have been successful in breeding fish, not because they know how to distinguish between the sexes but because their trials succeeded.

Pictus catfish live as a group. When three or four are placed in a tank, there might just be one male among females or vice versa. Chances of breeding are high. An enthusiast may just try.


The pictus is known to be non-aggressive. They are not territorial either. All the same, certain factors must be kept in the mind when keeping them in the same tank with other fish. They are likely to eat smaller fish if not well fed. When choosing tankmates, avoid smaller fish that can fit into their mouths. They are also very active fish that swim about the whole tank. Slower fish like the cichlids should not be kept in the same tank. As earlier stated, they have sharp fins that may harm other fishes.

Keep the pictus with other tankmates only if it is the smallest as it is known to be predatory. This way, the tank will be safer for the other species. Good candidates for sharing the same tank with the pictus include the giant danios, opaline gourami and other catfish.

Even though pictus catfish is often not advised for beginners, when a keeper sets the mind to offer all tank requirements and feeds, the fish should do just fine even for a novice.

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