Glass catfish, also known as phantom catfish or ghost catfish, are a popular freshwater fish species among aquarium enthusiasts. These fascinating fish are native to the rivers and streams of Southeast Asia and are known for their transparent bodies, forked tails, and peaceful demeanor.
One of the most unique features of glass catfish is their see-through appearance, which allows you to see their internal organs, skeleton, and even the food they have recently consumed. They have no scales, making their delicate body visible, and they have long barbels or whiskers near their mouth.
In addition to their striking appearance, glass catfish are also known for their peaceful temperament. They are social and enjoy swimming in schools with their own kind or other peaceful species. Due to their peaceful nature, they make an excellent addition to community aquariums.
|Origin / Distribution
|3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm)
|20 gallons (75.7 liters) or more
|Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C); pH: 6.0-7.5; Hardness: 2-10 dGH
|Once or twice daily
|Peaceful community fish
|Unique Features / Appearance
|Transparent body, no scales, and a forked tail
|Glass catfish are nocturnal and prefer a dimly lit aquarium with plenty of hiding places. They are also sensitive to water quality, so frequent partial water changes are necessary to keep them healthy.
Glass catfish belong to the following taxonomic classification:
- Common Name: Glass Catfish
- Scientific Name: Kryptopterus bicirrhis
- Family: Siluridae
- Order: Siluriformes
Siluriformes is the order of catfish, which includes more than 3,000 species worldwide. Siluridae is the family of true freshwater catfish, which includes more than 100 species distributed throughout Asia and Africa. Glass catfish are one of the most popular species of the Siluridae family, admired for their unique appearance and peaceful temperament.
Natural Habitat & Distribution
Glass catfish are native to the freshwater rivers and streams of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia. They are found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including slow-moving rivers, creeks, and ponds.
In the wild, glass catfish typically inhabit areas with dense vegetation and plenty of hiding places, such as submerged roots and fallen branches. They are often found in the lower levels of the water column, close to the riverbed, and are known to be sensitive to changes in water quality.
Due to their popularity in the aquarium trade, glass catfish have been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America and Europe, where they are also bred in captivity. However, it is important to note that introducing non-native species can have a negative impact on the local ecosystem and biodiversity.
Glass catfish are known for their unique and striking appearance, which sets them apart from other freshwater fish species. Here are some of the key physical characteristics of glass catfish:
Glass catfish can grow up to 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) in length.
Coloration and patterns
Glass catfish have a transparent body, which makes their internal organs and skeleton visible. They do not have any scales, making their delicate and unique features visible. Their eyes are usually bright and can reflect the light, giving them a ghostly appearance. Some glass catfish may have a slight yellow or green tint to their transparent body.
Body shape and fin structures
Glass catfish have a slender, elongated body shape with a forked tail. They have long barbels or whiskers near their mouth, which they use to sense their environment and locate food. Glass catfish have a single dorsal fin and an anal fin, both of which are transparent and extend along their entire body.
It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female glass catfish as they have a similar appearance. However, females may appear slightly rounder and fuller-bodied during the breeding season.
Behavior & Temperament
Glass catfish are known for their peaceful and social behavior, making them an excellent addition to community aquariums. Here are some key aspects of their behavior and temperament:
Glass catfish are a peaceful species that prefer to swim in schools with their own kind or other peaceful species. They are not aggressive or territorial and are generally considered a non-threatening presence in the aquarium.
Social interactions with other fish
Glass catfish are social fish and do best when kept in groups of at least five or more. They can be shy and may take some time to adjust to their new environment, but once they feel comfortable, they will swim around the aquarium and interact with other fish.
Glass catfish can be kept with a variety of peaceful community fish, including tetras, guppies, rasboras, and corydoras. Avoid keeping them with aggressive or territorial fish, as this can cause stress and lead to health issues.
Setting up an appropriate aquarium is crucial for the health and well-being of your glass catfish. Here are the key requirements to consider:
Minimum Tank Size
Glass catfish require a spacious aquarium to swim freely. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons (75.7 liters) or more is recommended for a small group of 5-6 fish.
Maintaining optimal water quality is vital to the health of glass catfish. Here are the recommended water parameters:
- Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
- pH: 6.0-7.5
- Hardness: 2-10 dGH
Regular partial water changes are necessary to keep the water quality in check.
Filtration and Aeration Needs
Good water circulation and oxygenation are essential for the health of your fish. A hang-on-back filter or canister filter with a flow rate of 5-10 times the tank volume per hour is recommended. You may also need an air pump and air stone to provide adequate aeration.
Glass catfish do not have any specific substrate preferences, but they prefer a fine-grained substrate that will not harm their delicate barbels or fins.
Glass catfish are nocturnal and prefer a dimly lit aquarium. Low to moderate lighting is recommended to create a natural and comfortable environment for the fish.
Decorations and Hiding Places
Glass catfish are shy and prefer a well-decorated aquarium with plenty of hiding places. Live plants, such as Java fern and Anubias, can provide a natural environment and serve as hiding spots for your fish. Driftwood, rocks, and caves are also good hiding places.
Diet & Feeding
A balanced and varied diet is essential for the health and longevity of your glass catfish. Here are the key points to consider:
Type of Diet
Glass catfish are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods in the wild, including small crustaceans, insect larvae, and plant matter. In captivity, they will eat most commercially available fish foods, such as flakes, pellets, and frozen or live foods.
Glass catfish should be fed once or twice a day, with only as much food as they can consume within 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health issues.
Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet
To ensure your glass catfish receive a balanced and varied diet, consider the following tips:
- Offer a variety of foods, including high-quality flakes, pellets, frozen or live foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.
- Supplement their diet with vegetable matter, such as blanched spinach or zucchini slices.
- Consider using a feeding ring or feeding dish to prevent food from spreading throughout the tank and keep it in one area for your glass catfish to feed.
- Avoid feeding your glass catfish exclusively on one type of food, as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Glass catfish are peaceful and social fish that can coexist well with a variety of other species in a community aquarium. Here are some key points to consider when choosing tank mates:
Glass catfish can be kept with a variety of peaceful community fish, including tetras, guppies, rasboras, and corydoras. Other compatible species include:
- Cherry barbs
- Dwarf gouramis
- Rainbow fish
- Honey gouramis
- Otocinclus catfish
- Siamese algae eaters
Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species
Avoid keeping glass catfish with aggressive or territorial fish, as this can cause stress and lead to health issues. Some fish species that are not compatible with glass catfish include:
- Barbs (except cherry barbs)
Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank
To create a harmonious community tank with glass catfish, consider the following tips:
- Keep at least 5-6 glass catfish together in a school to prevent stress and promote natural behavior.
- Choose fish species that are similar in size and temperament to your glass catfish.
- Provide plenty of hiding places, such as plants, rocks, and driftwood, to create a natural environment and reduce stress.
- Avoid overcrowding the tank and make sure there is enough swimming space for all fish.
Breeding glass catfish can be a rewarding experience for experienced aquarists. Here are the key points to consider when breeding glass catfish:
Glass catfish are egg scatterers, meaning they lay their eggs in open water, and the eggs are left to develop and hatch on their own. Breeding is initiated by a male and female pairing off and swimming together in the tank. The female will lay eggs, and the male will fertilize them. After spawning, the adult fish should be removed from the tank to prevent them from eating the eggs or fry.
Ideal Breeding Conditions
To encourage breeding, provide your glass catfish with ideal water conditions, including a temperature of 75-80°F (24-27°C) and slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.0-6.5. You can also feed your fish high-quality foods to promote breeding behavior.
Raising Fry (Offspring) and Specific Care Requirements
After hatching, the fry should be fed a diet of newly hatched brine shrimp or finely ground flake food. It is important to provide a well-planted and adequately filtered tank for the fry, with gentle water flow to prevent them from being blown away. You may also need to use a sponge filter to prevent the fry from being sucked into the filtration system.
The fry grow quickly and will reach sexual maturity at around 6 months old. At this point, they can be introduced to a community tank or sold to other aquarium hobbyists.
Health & Disease
Keeping your glass catfish healthy is essential to ensure their longevity and well-being. Here are some key points to consider regarding the health and diseases of glass catfish:
Common Diseases and their Symptoms
Glass catfish can be susceptible to various diseases and health problems. Here are some common diseases and their symptoms:
- Ich (white spot disease): White spots appear on the body and fins of the fish, and they may become lethargic and lose their appetite.
- Fin rot: The fins of the fish become ragged or appear as if they are melting away.
- Columnaris: A bacterial infection that causes white or gray patches on the body and fins, and may lead to lethargy, loss of appetite, and death.
- Dropsy: A condition where the fish’s body swells, and its scales appear to be raised.
Prevention and Treatment Strategies
Preventing and treating diseases in your glass catfish involves several strategies, including:
- Providing a well-maintained aquarium with optimal water quality, appropriate temperature, and pH levels.
- Quarantining new fish before introducing them to the main tank to prevent the spread of diseases.
- Feeding your fish a varied and balanced diet to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients to maintain good health.
- Treating diseases promptly with appropriate medications and following the recommended dosage and treatment course.
Glass catfish are generally considered to be a beginner to intermediate level fish, as they are easy to care for and have straightforward requirements. However, some special considerations and requirements should be taken into account:
Difficulty of Care
Glass catfish are relatively hardy fish that can tolerate a range of water conditions. They are not particularly demanding in terms of diet and can eat most commercially available fish foods. However, providing a suitable environment with adequate hiding places and appropriate tank mates is essential for their well-being.
Special Considerations or Requirements
Here are some special considerations and requirements to keep in mind when caring for glass catfish:
- Glass catfish are sensitive to water quality, and regular water changes and proper filtration are essential to maintain good water quality.
- They are a schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least 5-6 fish to prevent stress and promote natural behavior.
- Glass catfish are shy and prefer a dimly lit aquarium with plenty of hiding places, such as plants, rocks, and driftwood.
- They are prone to jumping out of the tank, so a tight-fitting lid or cover is necessary to prevent escapes.
The glass catfish is not currently listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and its population is considered to be stable. However, habitat loss due to deforestation, pollution, and dam construction in its native range could potentially impact its population in the future.
There are no legal restrictions on keeping glass catfish in captivity, and they are commonly bred and sold in the aquarium trade. However, it is important to source your fish from reputable breeders or suppliers to ensure that they have not been collected from the wild illegally.
As responsible aquarium hobbyists, it is essential to support sustainable and ethical practices and avoid contributing to the depletion of wild populations of glass catfish or any other species.
Additional Information & Fun Facts
Here are some interesting facts and fun trivia about glass catfish:
- Glass catfish are also known as phantom catfish due to their transparent appearance.
- Their transparent body allows you to see their internal organs, including their spine and digestive system.
- They are a peaceful and social fish that do best when kept in groups of at least 5-6 individuals.
- Glass catfish are a popular choice for aquascaping enthusiasts, as their transparent body can add a unique and ethereal touch to planted aquariums.
- They are a popular target for parasitic infections and can be sensitive to poor water quality, so it is important to maintain optimal conditions in the aquarium.
- Glass catfish have been bred in captivity for over 50 years and are readily available in the aquarium trade.
Personal experiences and anecdotes from hobbyists can be a great source of information and entertainment for fellow aquarium enthusiasts. If you have any personal experiences or fun facts about glass catfish, share them with other hobbyists in online forums or local aquarium clubs.