10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (2024)

Catfish are one of the most common fish found in lakes and rivers around the world. They’re also used for sport fishing in the United States, where they’re considered one of several “game fish.” These fish are particularly popular because they’re relatively easy to catch, and are known to make a tasty meal. This article will go over the various characteristics of catfish, both behavioral and physical!

10 Characteristics of catfish

Characteristics in animals

A characteristic is a feature that something has by nature. It can be either physical or behavioral.

A physical characteristic describes how something appears to the senses in terms of how it looks, feels, sounds, smells, tastes, or otherwise appears. Color, shape, and size are examples of physical characteristics. A behavioral characteristic describes how something acts and reacts to various situations.

1. They’re freshwater fish with no scales

10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (1)

Catfish are scaleless freshwater fish that you can find all over the world. They’re also known to live in rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Some of them, however, can also be found in saltwater habitats.

Just like other species of fish, these animals also secrete mucus. This mucus protects them from predators by preventing predators from catching them with their teeth or claws. The mucus also protects the catfish from disease by supplying antimicrobial enzymes that help to defeat infectious diseases.

2. Catfish have highly developed sensory abilities

In addition to having barbels with thousands of taste buds, catfish have a keen sense of sight, sound, and vision.

Catfish have excellent sensory abilities, which help them survive in their natural habitat’s murky waters. Their eyes can see in low light because of an organ called the tapetum lucidum, which gathers light and improves their vision.

They also have highly sensitive tissue in their nostrils that allows them to smell a substance at a rate of one part 10 billion parts water. These fish also have extraordinary hearing abilities, being able to hear higher frequencies up to 13,000 cycles per second.

3. They have barbels that resemble whiskers

10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (2)

Catfish have whiskers called barbels, which are a type of sensory organ that helps them find food. These barbels are long, slender feelers extending from the corners of a catfish’s mouth. Although they appear like whiskers, their barbels are actually a special type of skin.

These barbels are covered in thousands of tiny taste buds that the catfish uses to identify prey—the catfish will use them to taste the water around them to see if there is anything edible nearby. They also assist catfish in finding food in murky waters with limited visibility, as well as in sandy or muddy areas with limited visibility.

4. Catfish have spines on their dorsal fins.

Many species of catfish use the spine as a defensive tool. It’s found on the edges of the dorsal and pectoral fins, which are used to defend against predators. Catfish prefer shallow water, making them vulnerable to predators like birds, fish, and other animals.

When threatened, these catfish will extend their spines outwards towards the predator to defend themselves. When one of these spines breaks off, venom is released, which can be as painful as a bee sting.

You may also like: 8 Characteristics of Hawks (Fun Facts)

5. Many catfish are nocturnal

10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (3)

Most of these fish are nocturnal, but some species, such as those in the Auchenipteridae, Loricariidae, and Callichthyidae families, are active during the day. Nocturnal catfish are also known for their unique way of hunting in the dark.

They track the trail of their prey and attack from behind. During this time, they use their incredible sensory abilities to locate their prey effectively.

6. They’re capable of laying up to 50,000 eggs

Catfish are a type of fish that reproduces through egg-laying. Before spawning, these fish lay their eggs in nests built by males in rocks, logs, or river beds.

Females produce eggs based on their body size, with some producing between 3,000 and 50,000 eggs. In order to safeguard them against potential predators, the parents will cover these eggs in bubbles produced by them.

When these eggs hatch, the males protect them for a week until they’re mature enough to leave the nest and begin an independent life.

7. Catfish can thrive in both cold and warm water

10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (4)

Catfish are a very adaptable species, which means they can thrive in pretty much any environment. This is why they can be found in almost all freshwaters around the world.

They can thrive in both extremely cold and extremely warm water, ranging from 68º F to nearly 100º F. However, the ideal temperature for a catfish to thrive is between 75 and 85º F.

8. Some catfish species can walk on land

Catfish are a diverse group of fish that have adapted to living in a variety of environments. Some species can walk on land for brief periods of time, but the majority of catfish species spend their entire lives in water.

One of the well-known species that can walk on land is the walking catfish that can survive up to 18 hours outside of water. This fish prefers to live in water habitats that tend to dry up. When this occurs, they use their ability to walk to move to a different water habitat.

9. They can make sounds

10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (5)

Another unique characteristic of catfish is the sounds they make. As a form of self-defense, these fish can make croaking and squeaking sounds. This is due to the catfish’s pectoral fins rubbing against the pectoral girdle whenever they feel threatened.

Their jerking movements cause their pectoral spines to vibrate. This is known as stridulation, which is the process of producing sounds by rubbing two body parts together.

10. Some male catfish species carry fertilized eggs in their mouth

Some male species are known to fertilize eggs inside their mouths, a process known as mouthbrooding. This is a species adaptation because it allows the father to protect his eggs from predators and drying out.

Among the catfish that do this is the hardhead catfish, which you can find in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This behavior is also common in catfish from the Ariidae family, which carry tiny eggs in their mouths until they hatch over a period of months.

10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (6)

Wildlife Informer

WildlifeInformer.com is your #1 source for free information about all types of wildlife and exotic pets. We also share helpful tips and guides on a variety of topics related to animals and nature.

You may also like: 10 Unique Characteristics of Leopards
10 Characteristics of Catfish - Wildlife Informer (2024)


What are the characteristics of catfish? ›

Most catfish have a cylindrical body with a flattened ventral to allow for benthic feeding (Bruton, 1996). Catfish are so-named because of their whisker-like barbels, which are located on the nose, each side of the mouth, and on the chin. Most catfish possess leading spines in their dorsal and pectoral fins.

What are 5 interesting facts about catfish? ›

Catfish are known for their whiskers, or barbels, which help them taste and smell. Most catfish are toothless omnivores and range in size from around 10 feet long to the size of a toothpick. Catfish are found mainly in freshwater and are on every continent except Antarctica.

What are the 7 classification of catfish? ›

Catfish are categorized under the Chordata phylum, Vertebrata subphylum, Actinopterygii class, Siluriformes order, and Mematognathi suborder. They also belong to the Ostariophysi superoder, which consists of the Cypriniformes, Characiformes, Gonorynchiformes, and Gymnotiformes.

What features do catfish have? ›

Eight barbels--four dorsal and four ventral--are located around a subterminal mouth. Channel catfish have soft-rayed fins; however, the pectoral and dorsal fins contain sharp spines. The anal fin, which is used to distinguish channel catfish from closely related species, is rounded and contains 24 to 30 rays.

What are 3 facts about catfishing? ›

Men are more likely to be catfishing predators and are also more likely to be a victim of catfishing. 64% of women over 40 are the most likely target of predators, while 24% of all catfishers pose as a different gender. Catfishing scams involve every age group, from 18 to 70+, with every group targeted.

What distinguishing characteristics do catfish have and how are they used? ›

Perhaps their most recognized traits are their catlike whiskers, or barbells, and their lack of visible scales. Catfish have numerous external taste buds, many of which are located on the barbels. They can taste something by simply touching it with their barbels.

Are catfish clever? ›

A number of studies have shown that fish can retain information for months or years. Anecdotally, channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) can remember the human voice call announcing food five years after last hearing that call.

What do catfish love the most? ›

Best Catfish Baits
  • #1. Nightcrawler. First on the list is the ubiquitous nightcrawler, favored food for all fish species. ...
  • #2. Gizzard Shad. ...
  • #3. White Suckers. ...
  • #4. Skipjack Herring. ...
  • #5. Stinkbait. ...
  • #7. Bluegills. ...
  • #8. Punchbait. ...
  • #9. Chicken Livers.

What is the lifespan of a catfish? ›

The channel catfish has an average life span of eight years. The average size for this fish is one to two pounds in weight and 12 to 32 inches in length. It may attain a maximum length of 50 inches. The tail is forked, and the top half of the tail fin is longer than the bottom half.

What is the nickname for catfish? ›

More than half of all catfish species can be found in the Americas. Since they're so popular here, it makes sense that we've developed more than a few nicknames for catfish over the years. You might hear catfish referred to as “mudcats,” “polliwogs,” or “chuckleheads” in the southern United States.

What are the characteristics of the catfish family? ›

Catfish Family, Ictaluridae. Members of the catfish family Ictaluridae range from very small to very large fish, do not have scales, and possess eight sensory barbels, or "whiskers", around their mouth - four on the chin, two on the snout, and one on each corner of the mouth.

What makes catfish different from other fish? ›

Answer and Explanation: The main thing that sets catfish apart from other fish is that catfish have 'whiskers,' which is where they get their name. These whiskers are actually called barbels, and the catfish can use them to smell and taste things in the water and along the ground.

What is a catfish slang? ›

A catfish isn't just a fish with whiskers. It's a term for a person who pretends to be someone else online. A catfish uses fake photos, and sometimes a false persona, to find friends or romantic partners on the internet. Reasons someone may choose to catfish include: ●Poor self-esteem.

What are catfish attracted to? ›

Best Baits for Eater Catfish
  • Worms. Worms are classic catfish bait. ...
  • Shad and Minnows. Like worms, shad and minnows have mass appeal. ...
  • Stink Bait. Unlike worms and minnows, stink bait only appeals to catfish. ...
  • Anything from the Fridge. Have some questionable chicken breasts in the fridge? ...
  • Soap.
Jul 26, 2019

What is the aggressive behavior of a catfish? ›

Aggressive behavior between dominant and subordinate individuals usually ends up with flight of the subordinate and pursuit by the dominant individual. A rivalry between strangers causes the most violent conflicts. Biting is comnon and occasionally combatants will fight to the death.

How can you tell if someone is catfishing? ›

5 signs someone might be a catfish
  1. They ask lots of questions about you but avoid answering questions about themselves.
  2. They seem a bit too… perfect.
  3. They always have a reason why they can't meet up.
  4. They're not keen on video chats.
  5. Their stories don't quite add up.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Msgr. Refugio Daniel

Last Updated:

Views: 5878

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Msgr. Refugio Daniel

Birthday: 1999-09-15

Address: 8416 Beatty Center, Derekfort, VA 72092-0500

Phone: +6838967160603

Job: Mining Executive

Hobby: Woodworking, Knitting, Fishing, Coffee roasting, Kayaking, Horseback riding, Kite flying

Introduction: My name is Msgr. Refugio Daniel, I am a fine, precious, encouraging, calm, glamorous, vivacious, friendly person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.