Pictus Catfish Care Guide

pictus catfish


The Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus) is a popular species of freshwater catfish that is native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America. They are known for their unique appearance, which includes a silver-gray body covered in black spots and long barbels. Pictus catfish are a peaceful species and are relatively easy to care for, making them a great choice for beginner aquarists. However, they are also known to jump, so a tightly-fitting lid is recommended for their aquarium. In this guide, we will explore the Pictus Catfish in more detail and provide information on their care requirements, behavior, and unique features.

Summary Table

Common NamePictus Catfish
Scientific NamePimelodus pictus
Origin / DistributionAmazon and Orinoco river basins in South America
SizeUp to 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length
Aquarium SizeMinimum of 30 gallons (113.6 L)
Water ParametersTemperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C), pH: 6.5-7.5, Hardness: 5-19 dGH
DietCarnivorous – will eat flakes, pellets, frozen and live foods
Feeding FrequencyOnce or twice daily
TankmatesOther peaceful fish of similar size
BreedingDifficult to breed in captivity
Lifespan8-10 years
Care LevelBeginner
Unique Features / AppearanceBlack spots on silver-gray body with long barbels
Conservation StatusNot Evaluated (NE)
Additional NotesPictus catfish are nocturnal and will appreciate hiding spots in the aquarium, such as caves or plants. They are also known to jump, so a tightly-fitting lid is recommended.


  • Common Name: Pictus Catfish
  • Scientific Name: Pimelodus pictus
  • Family: Pimelodidae
  • Order: Siluriformes

The Pictus Catfish belongs to the family Pimelodidae, which is a family of catfishes found throughout South America. It belongs to the order Siluriformes, which includes catfishes and their relatives.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

Geographical Range

The Pictus Catfish is native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America. They can be found in several countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.

Types of Environments

In the wild, Pictus Catfish inhabit slow-moving or still bodies of water, such as rivers, streams, and ponds. They prefer areas with sandy or muddy substrates, and are often found near submerged vegetation or fallen logs. Pictus Catfish are nocturnal, which means they are most active during the night and spend their days hiding in crevices or other shaded areas.

Physical Appearance


The Pictus Catfish can grow up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length.

Coloration and Patterns

The Pictus Catfish has a silver-gray body covered in numerous small, black spots. Their fins are also black, and their barbels are white. The black spots are more concentrated near the head and tail, and become smaller and more spread out towards the middle of the body.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

The body of the Pictus Catfish is elongated and streamlined, with a slightly curved belly. They have a forked tail fin, and two pairs of barbels that protrude from their face. Their dorsal fin is located near the head and is tall, while their adipose fin is located closer to the tail and is small.

Sexual Dimorphism

There are no significant differences in appearance between male and female Pictus Catfish. However, females tend to be slightly larger and rounder-bodied than males.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

The Pictus Catfish is generally peaceful and sociable. They are active and playful fish that enjoy swimming around and exploring their environment. However, they are nocturnal and will spend much of the day hiding in crevices or other shaded areas.

Social Interactions with Other Fish

Pictus Catfish are social fish and should be kept in groups of three or more. They will interact with other fish in the aquarium, but are generally peaceful and will not harm their tankmates.

Suitable Tankmates

Pictus Catfish are compatible with a wide variety of peaceful community fish, including tetras, rasboras, gouramis, and corydoras. They should not be kept with aggressive or territorial fish, as they may become stressed or injured. Additionally, it is important to avoid keeping Pictus Catfish with very small fish, as they may see them as prey.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

The minimum recommended tank size for Pictus Catfish is 30 gallons (113.6 L).

Water Parameters

  • Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness: 5-19 dGH

It is important to maintain stable water parameters for Pictus Catfish, as they can be sensitive to fluctuations.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

Pictus Catfish require good water flow and oxygenation in the aquarium. A strong filtration system and/or aeration equipment can help to maintain healthy water conditions.

Substrate Preferences

Pictus Catfish prefer a sandy or muddy substrate in the aquarium. This allows them to sift through the substrate in search of food.

Lighting Requirements

Pictus Catfish do not have any specific lighting requirements, but a regular light cycle can help to maintain a stable environment.

Decorations and Hiding Places

Pictus Catfish are nocturnal and appreciate hiding places in the aquarium, such as caves or plants. They may also appreciate driftwood or other decorations that provide cover. It is important to ensure that any decorations or hiding places are securely anchored, as Pictus Catfish are known to jump.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

The Pictus Catfish is a carnivorous fish that primarily feeds on small fish, crustaceans, and insects in the wild. In the aquarium, they will readily accept a variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, frozen foods, and live foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp.

Feeding Frequency

Pictus Catfish should be fed once or twice a day. It is important not to overfeed them, as they are prone to obesity.

Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet

To provide a balanced and varied diet for Pictus Catfish, it is recommended to alternate between different types of food. This can include a high-quality pellet or flake food, as well as frozen or live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, or blackworms. It is also important to avoid feeding the same food every day, as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Finally, any uneaten food should be removed from the aquarium to maintain good water quality.

Tank Mates

Compatible Species

Pictus Catfish are generally compatible with a wide variety of peaceful community fish. Good tank mates for Pictus Catfish include:

  • Tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Gouramis
  • Corydoras
  • Dwarf Cichlids
  • Plecos
  • Guppies
  • Swordtails

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

Pictus Catfish should not be kept with aggressive or territorial fish, as they may become stressed or injured. Additionally, they should not be kept with very small fish, as they may see them as prey. Incompatible or potentially problematic species include:

  • Barbs
  • Angelfish
  • Large Cichlids
  • Arowanas
  • Oscars

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank with Pictus Catfish, it is important to choose peaceful species that are compatible with their requirements. It is also important to avoid overcrowding the aquarium, as this can lead to stress and aggression. Finally, providing plenty of hiding places and visual barriers, such as plants and decorations, can help to create a more natural and less stressful environment for all the fish in the tank.


Breeding Behavior

Breeding Pictus Catfish in captivity is difficult, and it is not common for them to breed in home aquariums. When they do breed, it usually happens in groups with multiple males and females. The males will chase the females around the aquarium and try to nudge them towards the nesting site.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

To encourage breeding, the ideal conditions include a temperature of around 75°F (24°C), and a pH level of around 6.5-7.0. The aquarium should have plenty of hiding places, such as caves or plants, for the females to lay their eggs. It is recommended to perform a large water change and adjust the water chemistry before breeding.

Raising Fry (Offspring) and Specific Care Requirements

If successful, the Pictus Catfish eggs will hatch in about 2-3 days. The fry will be very small and will require specific care requirements, including frequent feedings of small, live foods such as microworms or brine shrimp. It is important to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated during the rearing process. The fry will also benefit from having plenty of hiding places, such as plants or a spawning mop, to avoid being eaten by other fish.

Health & Disease

Common Diseases and their Symptoms

Pictus Catfish are generally hardy and not prone to many diseases if kept in optimal conditions. However, like all fish, they can still be susceptible to diseases such as:

  • Ich (white spot disease): small white spots on the body and fins, flashing, rubbing against objects
  • Fin rot: frayed fins and tail, discoloration
  • Dropsy: bloated belly, raised scales, lethargy

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

Prevention is the best strategy for keeping Pictus Catfish healthy. Maintaining good water quality, avoiding overfeeding, and providing a varied and balanced diet can all help to prevent disease. If a disease is detected, it is important to take immediate action to prevent it from spreading to other fish in the aquarium. This can include quarantine and treatment with appropriate medication or water changes to reduce stress on the fish. It is important to follow the instructions on any medication carefully and to monitor the fish closely during treatment.

Care Level

Difficulty of Care

The Pictus Catfish is considered an intermediate-level fish in terms of care difficulty. While they are hardy and not prone to many diseases, they do have specific requirements for their tank setup and diet. Additionally, they require good water quality and appropriate tank mates to thrive.

Special Considerations or Requirements

One special consideration for Pictus Catfish is their nocturnal behavior. They are most active at night, which means they may not eat much during the day. It is important to provide hiding places in the aquarium, such as caves or plants, for them to rest in during the day. Pictus Catfish are also social fish and should be kept in groups of three or more. Finally, it is important to avoid overcrowding the aquarium, as this can lead to stress and aggression.

Conservation Status

The Pictus Catfish is not currently listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and is considered to have a stable population in the wild.

However, it is important to note that many fish populations around the world are declining due to overfishing, habitat destruction, and other human activities. As responsible fish keepers, it is important to support sustainable fishing practices and to avoid purchasing fish that have been harvested unsustainably.

There are no legal restrictions on keeping Pictus Catfish in captivity, but it is important to ensure that they are obtained from a reputable source and not taken from the wild. It is also important to provide appropriate care for them in the aquarium to promote their health and well-being.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

  • The Pictus Catfish is also known as the Angel Catfish or Polka Dot Catfish due to its distinctive coloration.
  • Pictus Catfish are often kept in aquariums to help control snail populations, as they will eat small snails.
  • In the wild, Pictus Catfish are often found in fast-moving rivers and streams in South America.
  • Pictus Catfish are known for their ability to jump out of aquariums, so it is important to provide a tight-fitting lid on the tank.
  • Pictus Catfish are sometimes known to “sing” when they are happy, creating a low humming sound that can be heard by humans.
  • Some hobbyists have reported that Pictus Catfish have a friendly and curious personality, and will often interact with their owners.

Overall, the Pictus Catfish is a fascinating and enjoyable species to keep in the aquarium, and can make a great addition to any peaceful community tank.

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