Glass Catfish – uniquely different

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The Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus vitreolus) – also known as the phantom fish or ghost catfish – is an extraordinarily attractive fish.

It has a mesmerizing transparent body that makes its bones and organs completely visible to the human eye.

Glass Catfish are native to Asia and were originally mistaken for two other very similar species of fish – Kryptopterus bicirrhis and Kryptopterus minor – before finally being recognized as Kryptopterus vitrealus a few years ago.

If you want to know more about Glass Catfish and its needs, keep on reading this beginner’s guide to Glass Catfish care that will help you both before and after buying the fish.

Appearance

The Glass Catfish has a striking appearance, thanks to its unique transparent body that lets you see its skeleton and internal organs.

Glass Catfish Appearance

Along the vertical axis of the body, you will be able to see its ribs and a central spinal column.

Their dorsal fin is located at the back of their body in a slightly raised position.

Their tail fin and ventral fin are both nearly invisible and won’t be noticeable unless you look carefully.

A Glass Catfish’s body provides it with a fair bit of camouflage which serves as an advantage against predators.

Their transparent bodies make them hard to notice, saving them from attacks by predator fish.

You will also be able to notice barbels on their head as part of their appearance.

These barbels come out of their nose and extend past their face, which gives them a look similar to that of whiskers.

Owing to these cat-like “whiskers,” the fish has the word “catfish” in its name.

These barbels are the reason a Glass Catfish is so sensitive to any changes in water parameters and their general surroundings.

Some can even detect electromagnetic waves.

When it comes to the size of the fish, Glass Catfish is relatively small and grows to about 4-5 inches with a long and slender body.

Natural Habitat

Glass Catfish originally hails from Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand.

They live in rivers and streams with moderate currents.

They usually stay in the middle of the body of water and seldom stray too far from their usual place of safety.

Their barbels are an organ that comes in use very frequently.

Without these barbels, Glass Catfish would not be able to survive for as long as they usually do – which is 8 years.

The barbels are a sensory organ that helps them navigate through low-visibility waters.

They also help the fish to survive in this environment.

When kept in captivity, you should try and emulate the same environment as the Glass Catfish have in their natural habitat to make this fish feel at home.

Glass catfish tank mates

Ideal Tank Conditions

As I mentioned earlier, Glass Catfish are sensitive to any changes in their environment.

They never respond well to fluctuations in their surrounding conditions.

The following conditions should be kept in mind and appropriately met before you bring your Glass Catfish home.

Water Parameters

  • Ideal water temperature: 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water hardness level: 8 to 12 KH
  • Water acidity/pH level: 6.5 to 7.0
  • Water current flow: Moderate

Keep in mind that these numbers are not estimates. Rather, they are specific conditions that should be met otherwise the fish will not flourish. 

These specific parameters are the reason why the fish are labeled as “moderately difficult” to care for.

To make the fish feel comfortable in the tank, they should be given plenty of room to swim.

Similar to its natural habitat, the fish will spend most of its time swimming in the middle of the tank.

Another thing is to include plenty of plants in your tank.

This will not only keep the water clean but also provide the fish with hiding spaces for when it is scared.

Finally, Glass Catfish have extremely sensitive barbels.

Therefore, your tank should be free of any sharp substrates or large-grained sand.

You should use small gravel or sand so that the fish does not get hurt.

What Size Aquarium Does a Glass Catfish Need?

A Glass Catfish usually needs about 30 gallons of water in the tank at a minimum.

This gives them enough space to swim around to their heart’s content.

It also provides them enough room to move away and hide from anything they might feel threatened.

How Many Gallons Should Be Added Per Fish?

For every 1 additional Glass Catfish that you add to the tank, you should add about 5 more gallons.

Giving the fish plenty of room is key here.

If they are not given enough space, overcrowding can occur and health issues can arise.

Food for Glass Catfish

Diet And Nutritional Requirements

Glass Catfish eat a varied diet that includes a wide range of foods.

They accept any dried fish food given to them in the tank.

Pellets, granules, or flakes can be given to them as part of their diet as long as they are small enough for the fish’s mouths.

Sometimes, your Glass Catfish may not accept normal dried fish food.

In this case, the fish should be given live or frozen food instead.

Some foods that the Glass Catfish happily accepts include:

  • Bloodworms
  • White worms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Tubifex
  • Mysis

If you want your Glass Catfish to go back to eating dried food, a good strategy is to mix in some dried food with the frozen and live food.

From there, you can slowly reduce the amount of frozen food over time until all of it is gone.

Eventually, the fish will get used to eating dried food without causing any trouble.

Breeding 

Not a lot of information is known when it comes to breeding Glass Catfish.

There have been a few breeding successes in Asian fish farms but a definite method has not been pinned down yet.

In their natural habitat, Glass Catfish mate during the rainy season.

Needless to say, that is almost impossible to fully replicate in a home aquarium to push the female to breed.

You would also need to feed the fish plenty of live food to encourage the female to spawn.

If you are successful in breeding, the female will scatter her eggs on the plants in the tank.

The eggs will hatch after 3-4 days.

These tiny newly hatched Glass Catfish can be given baby brine shrimp to eat as their diet.

Caring for a glass catfish

Ideal Tank Mates 

Glass Catfish have a mild temperament and are generally very peaceful fish.

They work extremely well in community tanks and can live in harmony with other non-aggressive fish.

Some ideal tank mates for your Glass Catfish could include:

  • Celestial Pearl Danios
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails
  • Cory catfish
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Neon Tetras
  • Guppies

However, these are not the only fish you should limit your tank to.

There are many other species that a Glass Catfish can live alongside.

I had my group of Glass Catfish in a community tank with Neons, Guppies, Rummy Nose Tetras, and Cory Catfish and they did absolutely fine.

All these fishes are fairly easy to keep and care for and you will not experience any trouble between them and your new Glass Catfish.

They will not do well if you have large and aggressive fish in your tank, such as Tiger Barbs and Sharks.

Aggressive fish tend to attack smaller and slower fishes leading to injury and death.

Other competitive and territorial fish like Oscars and Cichlids should also not be kept in the same tank as these fish.

Grouping Glass Catfish Together

Glass Catfish like being in groups so keeping these fish together is very important for them to thrive in captivity.

These fish usually form tight groups in the wild and this rule should be followed when they are brought home.

Do not just buy one or two Glass Catfish.

They need to be in a group of at least 5 for them to not become stressed.

A single fish will stay in hiding and eventually die.

Diseases and Treatment

Glass Catfish usually do not suffer from severe illnesses.

The biggest problem you will encounter while caring for them is the water conditions they are being kept in.

Any unfavorable changes or fluctuations in its ideal parameters can cause significant harm to your fish.

This is why, you should keep a close eye on your tank conditions before and after you bring the fish home.

When it comes to diseases, they are quite resilient.

They do suffer from general sicknesses here and there.

Some signs of disease to look out for are given below.

  • Lice: If your Glass Catfish gets lice, they will get very irritated and rub themselves against surfaces to try and remove the lice. You can notice them becoming more and more restless which is very uncommon for these fish.
  • Ich: If your fish is suffering from this issue, it will show on their body. They will form a white, grainy substance on their skin. Moreover, you will witness them gasping towards the surface of the water.
  • Fungus: A fungal infection will show on their body as well. You will notice a grayish-white growth on their fins as a result of this.
  • Dropsy: Your fish show signs of bloating and their fins will project outwards as a result of this disease.

If you notice your Glass Catfish showing any of the above symptoms, the first thing you should do is quarantine the fish and isolate them in a separate tank.

From there, you can carry on with their treatment in that isolated tank.

This will also save your other fish from getting infected.

Keep in mind that as long as you keep a careful eye on the water parameters, perform water changes every week and properly feed the fish, it is highly unlikely your fish will be exposed to any of these diseases and illnesses.

Guide to keeping glass catfish

Behavior

As mentioned earlier, Glass Catfish thrives in groups.

They are different from your typical catfish species based on the fact that most catfish prefer to stay at the bottom of the tank.

This is not the case with Glass Catfish.

This fish likes its space and enjoys swimming around in the aquarium.

They spend most of their time with their heads up, tails down, and at a 45° angle.

They prefer the mid-section of the tank but will swim in other areas as well.

They are extremely peaceful fishes.

They do not attack other fishes and would rather retreat than confront them.

A Glass Catfish is not a territorial or aggressive fish.

This makes them an ideal addition to a community tank (apart from how amazing they look).

The only time they will react is when they feel like there is a threat.

In that case, they would duck for cover and find a place to hide themselves from that threat.

Is Your Aquarium Suitable For Glass Catfish?

Glass Catfish is an extremely visually and unique-looking fish.

It is very tempting for fish keepers to want to add something different to their fish tanks.

However, before you decide to go out and buy a group of glass catfish for your tank, analyze your tank’s existing conditions and whether you will be able to accommodate the new fish’s needs for survival.

The conditions of your tank must meet the water parameters mentioned above otherwise things can go awry for the poor fish.

I would not recommend a beginner to keep this fish.

However, if you have more experience and are capable of keeping the tank’s water in good condition then give this uniquely looking fish a try.

They will definitely bring a different element to your tank.

Common Questions 

Are Glass Catfish Aggressive?

No, they are not. They are actually exactly the opposite being shy and timid. If frightened then they will quickly hide away from the threat.

Do Glass Catfish eat shrimp?

Glass Catfish should not eat grown shrimp. They might see baby shrimp as a food source but being such a timid fish, they are not adventurous enough to tackle fully grown shrimp.

Can Glass Catfish live with guppies?

Yes, they complement guppies very well, and seeing as both are community fish then they should get on just fine.

Can you breed Glass Catfish?

They are very difficult to breed in a home aquarium. They have been bred in commercial fisheries but there is not a lot of information available regarding how to breed them.

Do Glass Catfish whiskers grow back?

Yes, the whiskers should grow back.

Why is my Glass Catfish turning white?

Glass Catfish will start turning white if they are stressed or becoming ill. Make sure there are hiding areas available and perform a partial water change.

Can Glass Catfish tolerate salt?

This species of fish does not need any salt added to their habitat.

Are Glass Catfish nocturnal?

They are not fully nocturnal like other catfish. They are more active during the day and at dusk but you should see them during the day as well.

Why is my Glass Catfish hiding?

Glass Catfish are quite timid and hide away if they are frightened or stressed. They also prefer low lighting. Try adding some floating plants to your tank to draw them out. Also, make sure there are no other fish intimidating them.

Check out all these different kinds of freshwater fish.

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AUTHOR

Irma Bense is the founder of BetterFishkeeping.com. She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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