Pictus Catfish: Friendly and Hardy

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Looking for a unique and eye-catching addition to your freshwater aquarium?

Look no further than the Pictus Catfish.

This popular catfish species, scientifically known as Pimelodus pictus, is beloved by aquarists for its distinctive spotted appearance and outgoing personality.

If you’re considering adding a Pictus Catfish to your aquarium, read on for everything you need to know about their care, diet, and tank mates.

Origin and Habitat

The Pictus Catfish, also known as Pimelodus pictus, is a freshwater fish that is native to South America.

Specifically, they are found in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.

These catfish have been kept in aquariums for many generations and are a popular choice among fish enthusiasts.

In the wild, Pictus Catfish are nocturnal fish that can be found in shallow freshwater streams throughout Brazil, Peru, Columbia, and Venezuela.

They prefer to live in areas with a moderate to strong water current and a sandy or gravelly substrate.

They are known to be very active and are often found swimming near the bottom of the riverbed.

When it comes to their habitat in the wild, these catfish are typically found in areas with dense vegetation and plenty of hiding spots.

They are known to be social fish and are often found in groups.

In the aquarium, it is important to provide them with plenty of hiding spots and places to explore.

Caring for Pictus Catfish

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the Pictus Catfish is Pimelodus pictus.

It belongs to the Pimelodidae family, which is a family of catfish found in South America.

The Pictus Catfish is also commonly known as the “Pictus Cat” or “Pictus Catfish”.

It was first documented by an Australian zoologist named Franz Steindachner.

The Pimelodidae family is known for its long barbels or whiskers, which are used to locate food in murky waters.

This catfish has long, slender barbels that help it navigate and find food in its natural habitat.

Appearance & Size

The Pictus Catfish is a stunning fish that boasts a unique appearance.

They have a silvery, scale-less body that is covered in black spots.

Their long barbels, which resemble whiskers, are one of their most distinct features.

These barbels are used to help the Pictus Catfish navigate and search for food in the dark.

In terms of size, the Pictus Catfish can grow up to 5-6 inches in length.

They have sharp pectoral fins that they use to help them swim and navigate through the water.

Their caudal fin is also sharp and pointed, which helps them to move quickly and efficiently.

When it comes to their appearance, the Pictus Catfish is a beautiful fish that is sure to catch your eye.

Their black and silvery coloration is striking and adds a unique touch to any aquarium.

They are also known for their playful and active nature, which makes them a joy to watch.


They can live for 8-10 years with proper care.

However, their lifespan can be shortened if they are not provided with the right environment and diet.

Here are some tips to help you increase the lifespan of your Pictus Catfish:

  • Tank Size: They require a minimum of a 50-gallon tank. A larger tank will provide more swimming space and reduce stress, which can affect their lifespan.
  • Water Quality: These catfish are sensitive to poor water quality. Maintain good water quality by performing regular water changes and monitoring the water parameters.
  • Diet: Pictus Catfish are omnivores and require a balanced diet. Feed them a variety of high-quality pellets, frozen or live foods, and vegetables to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.
  • Behavior: These are active and social fish. They thrive in groups of 3 or more and require plenty of hiding spots and caves to explore. Providing them with a stimulating environment will reduce stress and promote a longer lifespan.
  • Diseases: Pictus Catfish are susceptible to various diseases, such as Ich and Fin Rot. Monitor your fish for any signs of illness and treat them promptly to prevent the disease from spreading.

By following these tips, you can help ensure your Pictus Catfish live a long and healthy life.

Temperament & Behavior

Pictus Catfish are known for their friendly and peaceful temperament, making them a great addition to any community tank.

They are active fish that love to swim around and explore their surroundings.

However, they are also nocturnal, which means they are most active during the night.

Social Behavior

These are social creatures that thrive in groups.

They are happiest when kept with other members of their own species, but they can also be kept with other peaceful fish that are of similar size.

It is important to note that they can be territorial, so it is important to provide them with enough space to establish their own territories.

In terms of activity, Pictus Catfish are very active fish that love to swim around and explore their surroundings.

They are also known for their playful behavior, which makes them a joy to watch.

Provide them with plenty of hiding places, such as caves and plants, as they also like to have a place to retreat to when they feel threatened.

Tank Size and Setup

If you’re planning on keeping a Pictus Catfish, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tank size and setup.

In this section, we’ll go over the minimum tank size, water parameters, tank setup, and what to put in their tank.

Tank Size

These catfish are active swimmers and need plenty of room to move around.

A minimum tank size of 50 gallons is recommended, but larger is always better.

Keep in mind that Pictus Catfish can grow up to 4.5 inches in length, so a larger tank will give them more space to swim and explore.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the right water parameters is crucial for the health and well-being of your Pictus Catfish.

Aim to keep the water temperature between 75-81°F (24-27°C) and the pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5.

The water hardness should be within the range of 5 to 15 degrees General Hardness (dGH).

Tank Setup & What To Put In Their Tank

When setting up your Pictus Catfish’s tank, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Here are some tips:

  • Filtration system: A good filtration system is essential for keeping the water clean and healthy for your fish.
  • Substrate: Use a fine-grained substrate that won’t scratch your Pictus Catfish’s delicate barbels.
  • Driftwood and caves: These catfish love to hide and explore, so provide plenty of hiding spots with driftwood, caves, and rocks.
  • Heavily planted: Pictus Catfish prefer heavily planted tanks, so consider adding live plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and Amazon Sword.
  • Community tank: These are social fish and do well in community tanks with other peaceful species like tetras, corydoras, and loaches.

By following these guidelines, you can create a comfortable and healthy environment for your Pictus Catfish to thrive in.

Diet and Food

Feeding your Pictus Catfish a balanced diet is essential to keep them healthy and happy in your aquarium.

While these fish are scavengers and will eat almost anything they can fit in their mouths, it’s important to provide them with a variety of foods to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

One of the best things you can do for them is to supplement their diet with live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and insects.

These foods are high in protein and will help keep your fish healthy and active.

You can also feed them sinking pellets, which are designed to sink to the bottom of the tank and provide your fish with a more natural feeding experience.

Avoid feeding them too much at once, as this can lead to overeating and digestive issues.

It’s also a good idea to feed them a variety of foods, including vegetables and snails, to keep their diet interesting and varied.

When it comes to feeding your Pictus Catfish, you need to remember that they are primarily nocturnal fish.

This means they are most active at night and may not eat as much during the day.

To encourage feeding during the daytime, you can provide a dimly lit environment and feed them during daylight hours.

Tank Mates

There are plenty of options to choose from that can coexist peacefully with your Pictus Catfish.

Here are some suitable tank mates for your Pictus Catfish:

While Pictus Catfish are generally peaceful, they can become aggressive towards smaller fish or those with long fins.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid keeping them with species like Bettas or Guppies.

Also ensure that your tank mates are bottom feeders, as Pictus Catfish are known to be active swimmers and can sometimes monopolize the surface of the tank during feeding time.

Providing sinking pellets or wafers for your bottom-dwelling tank mates can help ensure they receive adequate nutrition.

If you’re looking for a larger tank mate, Angelfish and Angelicus Catfish can also be suitable companions for your Pictus Catfish.

Just make sure that your tank is large enough to accommodate these larger species, as they can grow quite big.


Pictus catfish are generally hardy fish that can tolerate a range of water conditions.

However, they are prone to certain diseases and conditions that can affect their health and longevity.

In this section, we will discuss some of the common diseases that Pictus catfish can develop, as well as their symptoms and treatments.

Common Diseases

Here are some of the most common diseases that these fish can suffer from:

  • Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (Ich): This is a parasitic disease that causes white spots to appear on the fish’s body. It can be treated with medications such as malachite green or copper sulfate.
  • Fin rot: This is a bacterial infection that causes the fins to become frayed and ragged. It can be treated with antibiotics such as tetracycline or erythromycin.
  • Columnaris: This is a bacterial infection that causes the fish’s body to become covered in a white or gray film. It can be treated with antibiotics such as kanamycin or nitrofurazone.
  • Dropsy: This is a condition that causes the fish’s body to become bloated and swollen. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor water quality and bacterial infections. Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause of the condition, as well as using medications such as Epsom salts or antibiotics.


Preventing diseases in Pictus catfish involves maintaining good water quality and providing a healthy environment for the fish.

  • Keep the water clean and well-filtered.
  • Avoid overfeeding the fish, as excess food can lead to poor water quality and bacterial infections.
  • Quarantine new fish before adding them to your tank to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Monitor your fish regularly for signs of illness or disease.

By following these tips and providing your Pictus catfish with a healthy environment, you can help prevent diseases and ensure that your fish live long and healthy lives.


Breeding these catfish is a challenging task, and it’s not recommended for beginners.

These fish are bottom dwellers and require a lot of space to breed.

They are also difficult to breed in a home aquarium due to their size requirements and specific breeding conditions.

If you are considering breeding Pictus Catfish, you should start with a large tank of at least 200 gallons, and it should be wide rather than tall.

Keep in mind that these fish are opportunistic, omnivorous feeders, and they may eat any smaller fish in the tank, so choose their tank mates carefully.

Gender differences in Pictus Catfish are not easy to distinguish.

However, during the breeding season, males tend to have a slightly more muscular and bulky appearance than females.

They also tend to be more active and aggressive towards other males in the tank.

Breeding Pictus Catfish requires specific water conditions.

The water temperature should be between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pH should be set around 5.5-7.0.

The water should also be well-filtered and well-aerated.

Please note that breeding these catfish in a home aquarium is almost impossible.

Commercial breeding has not been successful either, as little is known about their spawning behavior or the conditions needed to encourage breeding.

Why You Should Consider The Pictus Catfish

I love the unique look of this fish.

Sometimes you just want a stand out for your tank and the Pictus Catfish certainly foots the bill.

Add to that their peaceful nature and active lifestyle and they are definitely well worth considering for your tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pictus Catfish Good Community Fish?

Yes, Pictus Catfish are generally considered good community fish. They are peaceful and do well with other non-aggressive fish. However, they can be quite active and may chase smaller fish, so it’s important to provide enough space for all your fish to swim comfortably.

Will a Pictus Catfish Eat My Shrimp?

Pictus Catfish are carnivorous and will eat small fish and invertebrates, including shrimp. If you have shrimp in your tank, it’s best not to keep them with larger, more aggressive fish.

Are Pictus Catfish Aggressive?

No, Pictus Catfish are not aggressive. They are peaceful and do well in community tanks. However, they can be quite active and may chase smaller fish, so it’s important to provide enough space for all your fish to swim comfortably.

Do Pictus Catfish Need Sand?

Pictus Catfish prefer a soft substrate, such as sand, in their tank. Sand allows them to sift through the substrate in search of food and also provides a more natural environment for them.

Do Pictus Catfish Make Noise?

Pictus Catfish are not known to make noise. They are generally quiet fish that spend most of their time swimming and foraging for food.

Will a Pictus Catfish Eat Snails?

Yes, Pictus Catfish are known to eat snails. So, rather do not add any to their tank unless you actually do want them to eat them.

Photo of 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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