The Top 10 Catfish for Your Aquarium
Catfish are undoubtedly one of the most popular kinds of freshwater fish for aquarists to keep.
With many different types of catfish, which one benefits your aquarium most?

With so many varying species of catfish, we have compiled a list of our favorites, outlining the advantages each one plays in your aquarium.

 


1. Cory Catfish

Also referred to as Corydoras, Cory Catfish are a large Genus of fish with more than 150 described species as well as an estimated few hundred variations of these. The name Corydoras is a general term that refers to this type of catfish. Each species of Corydora is unique and comes with its own appearance and personality. 
Most Cory species are easy to care for and don't get too large. This makes them one of the best choice catfish for new and experienced aquarists.

Appearance, Colour and Size varies between different species of Cory but most range between 2.5cm & 10cm long (1 & 5 inches). Pygmy Corys being the smallest at 2.5cm and The Banded Cory being the largest at 10cm.

These catfish come in a wide range of colours & patterns. From bright colours such as the Gold Laser Cory (pictured), to patterns like the Sterbai Cory - patterned with spots. 

These catfish need an environment filled with plants and decor. Providing plenty of space to hide when needed. They range from 21c to 28c (70f to 83f) with majority doing well in 25c (77f).
The pH varies between species with most being from 6.0 to 8.2.

Not sure what Cory Catfish is right for you? Check out our Article showing off our Top 10 Corys!



2. Bristlenose Pleco

The Bristlenose Pleco is one of the most recognizable catfish. Sometimes referred to by the average fish keeper as a 'Sucker Fish', this fish is available in almost every Aquarium store, these are kept by many Aquarists.

The Bristlenose Pleco is a great fish that will work hard to keep algae under control. The Bristlenose will spend most of their time sucking on driftwood, rocks, glass and surfaces.

The Bristlenose has a circular, down-facing mouth. Perfect for attaching itself onto algae-covered surfaces. 
Growing from the top of their head and around the mouth area are several barbels also referred to as 'bristles' which is where the fish gets the name 'Bristlenose'. These bristles are much more pronounced in Males with females getting fewer and shorter bristles.

There are many variations of the Bristlenose Pleco which have been bred for certain colours and fin lengths. Such as the Longfin Golden Bristlenose

Bristlenose Plecos get between 7.5cm & 13cm (3 to 6 inches). Not a large Pleco but they do need plenty of space to swim. A 70L tank with plenty of wood, caves and decor should be provided for these fish.

The Bristlenose Pleco is a reasonably hardy fish adapting to a range of water parameters. They will survive in waters from 15c to 26c (60f to 80f), although the ideal temperature should be 25c. The pH can range from 5.8 to 7.8 with low 7s being the ideal pH.

Not sure what Pleco is right for you? Check out our Article showing off our Top 10 Plecos!

 


 
3. Otocinclus Catfish

Often referred to as Ottos, the Otocinclus Catfish is a very popular algae eater within the home aquarium. Reaching lengths of only 5cm (2 inches). A small fish with a big impact on keeping your aquarium looking great.

The Otocinclus Catfish will spend most of their time searching for left-over food and algae. They are some of the best algae eaters you can get for your aquarium. You will see them clinging on to the side of the tank, rocks and decor eating algae or feasting on rotting plants and food in the bottom of your aquarium.

A timid and peaceful fish, they should be kept in a group or 5 or more. The Otocinclus will do well in tanks bigger than 40L. The Otocinclus prefers warmer water with a temperature of 25c tp 26c and a pH of 7.0.

 


 
4. Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish are one really cool fish. Like Glass, this fishes body is almost completely clear. Allowing you to see all the fishes bones and organs.

When mature, these fish can reach lengths of 10cm to 15cm. A larger tank is preferred to keep them happy with 90L being the minimum an adult should be kept in. 

The Glass Catfish also known as the 'Ghost Catfish' are a schooling fish and should be kept in schools of atleast 5 fish. The bigger the school the better, with more friends alike the more confident and safe this fish feels. 

Unlike other catfish species, this fish is not a bottom dwelling fish and will spend almost all of their time in the center of the water column. 

This fish isn't difficult to care for and should be kept between 24c & 26c. The Glass Catfish is a bit more sensitive to pH and should be kept between a pH of 6.4 and 6.8.

 

 

5. Fancy Pleco

 There are many 'Fancy Pleco' available. A colour and size to suit every aquarium. You can view our Top 10 Pleco article here.

Far from cheap and not always available, the Fancy Pleco are desired by many for their amazing patterns and colours. 

If you want a 'Sucker Mouthed' fish a bit flashier looking than the common Bristlenose Pleco, a Fancy Pleco may suit you perfectly. Fancy Pleco come in a range of sizes as small as 6cm to 45cm. With majority liking warmer temperatures from 25c to 30c.

Fancy Pleco are often given an 'L-number'. You can read all about the L-Numbers here. In summary, to help keep track of Pleco being distributed under different names, L numbers began being assigned to Pleco as a way to identify the fish no matter what common name the fish was being called.


 
6. Whiptail Catfish

There are many varieties of the beautiful Whiptail Catfish. The Whiptail Catfish is popular within home aquariums due to its unique shape and appearance.

The Whiptail combines its bizarre looks with varying colours, adaptability and peaceful temperaments. Making this fish a great choice for most aquariums.

Unlike most algae eating catfish, the Whiptail is a carnivore and would much prefer a meaty based diet, worms and insect larvae. However Whiptails are a peaceful fish and won't harm even the smallest of tank mates. 

With more than 30 Whiptails described, research is needed to determine the ideal water conditions to house your particular species. The Whiptail Catfish ranges in size from 6cm right up to 30cm.

Like Pleco, Whiptails can often be referred to by their L-Number.

 



7. Chinese Algae Eater

The Chinese Algae Eater can sometimes have a bit of a negative reputation. This is because they can be known to show some aggressive behavior towards tank mates. This is due to being stressed out - tank overcrowding and lack of food being the two common reasons.

These Algae eating Catfish come in two colour variations. The standard Grey/Black variation as well as the Golden version (pictured).
These catfish can reach lengths of 25cm. The Chinese Algae Eater should be kept in tanks of 90L or more. However if keeping these fish with other fish, it is recommended you keep them in a bigger aquarium.

Chinese Algae Eaters can get territorial when overcrowding occurs in an aquarium. They are a tough fish able to protect themselves and hurt other fish when their space is encroached on. As a result, many aquarists will keep these fish with other semi-aggressive fish.

These bottom dwelling catfish should be kept in water 23c to 26c with a pH of 6.5 - 7.8. Rarely venturing to the upper water column of the tank, the Chinese Algae Eater will spend most of its time on the bottom of the tank, feeding on algae, plant matter and uneaten food.

 

 

8. Upside Down Catfish

This quirky catfish is a conversation starter for all who see your aquarium. As the name suggests, this catfish spends most of its time swimming upside down!
This unique trait helps the catfish feed on algae on the underside of plants, rocks and wood.

The Upside Down Catfish get 10cm to 12cm in size. Typically brown, tan and covered in splotches of colour. The Upside Down Catfish is a good, peaceful community fish and can be combined with many other species successfully. This fish should not be kept with other fish that may attempt to mouth it. It will erect its spines and become lodged within the predators throat. 

This catfish does well in small schools of atleast 3. Keeping them in schools increases confidence and encourages them to spend more time out in the water column. This fish is easy to care for and a well-planted tank is ideal. Having rocks, wood and decor is also appropriate as it can provide the fish a place to hide when needed.

The Upside Down Catfish should be kept in a tank of atleast 70L. A pH of 6 to 7.5 should be maintained along side a temperature of 22c to 26c (72f to 79f).

 

 


9. Chocolate Striped Catfish

The Raphael Catfish or Chocolate Striped catfish is a bigger catfish compared to some on this list. Growing to 25cm (10 inches), this fish needs a 250L or bigger aquarium. 

The Chocolate Striped Catfish is an omnivorous fish and requires a mix of plant-based and meat-based foods to thrive. High quality pellets that contain a reasonable amount of protein should be fed. Supplement food such as Bloodworms or Shrimp can also be fed and makes a great mixture.

This catfish is rather easy to care for and despite its large size, it is a peaceful species that will thrive in both community tanks as well as predatory or cichlid tanks. This makes the Chocolate Catfish a great species for most aquariums.

 Water temperature should be kept between 24c and 26c with a pH of between 6.5 & 7.5.

 

 

10. Pictus Catfish

The Pictus Catfish is a popular species of catfish, due to their long antennas and beautiful spotted pattern. Although a reasonably peaceful community species, Pictus Catfish should not be kept with fish small enough to become prey. Such as small Tetra.

Pictus Catfish will generally eat any type of food offered. The Pictus Catfish is an omnivorous fish and should be fed a mixture of plant-based and meat-based foods.

High quality pellets that contain a reasonable amount of protein should be fed. Supplement food such as Bloodworms or Shrimp can also be fed and makes a great mixture.

Pictus Catfish grow to 14cm and prefer to be kept in schools of 4 or more fish. A school of Pictus should be kept in an aquarium of 250L or more with a temperature of 24c to 28c.


 

Honorable Mention
Although this fish is a loach, it has very similar characteristics to that of a bottom dwelling catfish. You can find this fish in our Top 10 Loaches article.


Borneo Hillstream Loach
We have included Hillstream Loaches on to this list due to the similar look so many find amazing. Offering a streamlined, stingray like body with a powerful sucking-mouth.

The Borneo Hillstream Loach are often found clinging onto your glass, rocks and other decor within the aquarium. 

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