Catfish are not the most colorful or beautiful fish in the aquarium, but they do serve an important function. Catfish help keep the tank clean by sucking up old food and decaying plant matter, a process which helps keep the water clean and the other fish in the tank healthy. Generally good tempered and mellow, catfish can be introduced into almost any aquarium environment as they tend to get along well with almost any fish that are already living there. This list of common large aquarium catfish will help you decide which is best for your existing tank.
Native to the Amazon River, Oxyodoras niger, or ripsaw catfish, prefers warm water and lots of swimming space. Though it can grow to 36 inches in length, most that are being kept in captivity don’t achieve this size. Regardless, the ripsaw catfish requires at least 1500 gallons of water for swimming. They prefer to live in mating pairs or small social groups, and are quite gentle. Include some plants and rock formations in their living space and keep lighting dim to encourage the catfish to come out of hiding.
The Auchenoglanis occidentalis is also known as the giraffe catfish due to its mottled brown spots. Their adult size is about 24 inches in length, which means they need to be housed in a very large aquarium. Since the giraffe catfish ranges over a large habitat in the wild, it can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and pH levels as long as its living space is well filtered to ensure cleanliness. As an omnivore, the giraffe catfish should be fed a combination of meat protein such as bloodworms and fresh fruits or vegetables.
The Phractocephalus hemioliopterus, or red-tailed catfish, is one of the largest species that can be reasonably raised in an aquarium. Adults easily grow to three-feet in length or longer and require an aquarium of at least 10,000 liters in order to be housed comfortably. Because they require so much space to swim around, it is recommended that you keep decor in the red-tailed catfish’s aquarium at a minimum. Though they can eat fruit and vegetables, the bulk of the fish’s diet should consist of fish and invertebrates.
The unique looking Merodontotus tigrinus, also known as the zebra shovelnose, prefers moderately warm water with a slightly basic pH. It can be housed with other large species of fish, as long as they are too big for the zebra shovelnose to consider food. However, you should avoid housing this catfish with other members of its own species as this can cause it to become aggressive. Though the zebra shovelnose can be trained to accept frozen food and pellets, it prefers to eat live food.
The Pangasius Sanitwongsei or paroon shark often tops three feet in length when full grown and needs lots of room to roam. It is not recommended that these fish be kept in aquariums long term, though they can be housed in koi ponds or outdoor water features. However, the paroon shark is not a fish for inexperienced aquarium keepers.
What aquarium catfish lack in beauty and grace they make up for in usefulness.