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FAQs on Catfish Feeding

Related Articles: Catfishes Sucker mouth Cats/Loricariids, Otocinclus, Callichthyids, Ictalurid CatfishesMochokids/Synodontis, Candirus (Trichomycterids, Cetopsids), Marine Catfishes: Plotosids, Ariids

Related Catfish FAQs: General, Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Disease, Reproduction

Many catfishes "eat" wood... Panaque L 191 poss... Thanks to Neale for the tentative ID.

Feeding bottom catfish, FW, no useful data  - 12/13/07 Help!!! I have a 50 gallon tank with guppies, 2 Pleco, a Cory and another striped bottom feeder (not sure what the name was. sorry) I'm new to this... Anyway, all my bottom feeders seem to be getting thin. I have glass gravel and I feed them shrimp pellets. <May need more... some things different... Perhaps algae-based foods, wafers> But, I never see them eating the pellets. They are all very active still and I am positive the guppies don't eat all the pellets from the bottom feeders. Whenever the food drops down by face they don't chase after it and eat it. So I put more and more until I don't want to make the water dirty. I was just wondering, do they eat it when I am not looking? <Or something else? What is your water chemistry like?> Every once in a while I will peek at them without disturbing them and the food still remains at the bottom. Are all bottom feeders nocturnal and eat the pellets quietly at night? <Some species do, not these> If so, can they see in the dark or do I have to put a nightlight on for them. Last, my bristle nose usually hangs on my Amazon sword and sometimes on the driftwood, is this normal? <Yes> He never eats the algae wafers I put in the tank. Ditto with my clown Pleco, even though I could never find him. Anyway, thanks for all your help and I appreciate your help. Thanks guys. <Please measure your alkalinity, pH, temperature, nitrates... read on the Net, WWM re the Systems of these fishes... and get back with us with this data. Bob Fenner>

15 yr old albino cat fish eating problem  11/15/07 We own an Albino catfish indoors. He's approximately 28 inches long. <... a Clarias batrachus? This is still the only illegal fish in the United States...> PH is good, water is good. He is unable to hold the food down. It comes out of his gills. I gave him larger food. He was able to keep the food down for a while. He now can't keep any size food down. Several months ago I put Mosquito dunks in pond to get rid of midges. <Yikes> I don't know if this has something to do with this. He keeps trying to eat, but he can't keep the food down. Please help ASAP... Please contact me. Steve Spinelli <You may have to force feed this animal for a while... a bolus/food ball... see the Net re "catfish bait", pushed down the gullet, into, past the restriction/constriction at the back of the throat... while holding the fish in a plain, white, wet towel... Bob Fenner>

Feeding Ghost Glass Cattish  9/6/06 Hello. I am having trouble feeding my ghost catfish. I understand that they sense food with their feelers because they're pretty much blind. The thing is I can't seem to get the food to touch their feelers or have them sense the presence of food. I have tried live blackworms and flake foods. Once in a while if I get lucky the food lands on their feelers and they'll eat. Majority of the time they are hiding behind some plants at the bottom of my aquarium. I currently have 3 of them but I plan to buy 2 more. Is there any method to feed them? I hate having to pollute the water with too much food trying to get them to eat. These have to be one of the hardest fish to feed and care for. Even my black ghost knife takes flakes happily because it smells or sense food with its electricity. Thanks in advance. Tommy < They basically wait in a slow moving area against the current and wait for food to hit their mouths before they eat. Prepare some food in a small dish or glass . Mix with a little water. Suck it up in a turkey baster or syringe and squirt the food water mixture towards the waiting mouths of the glass catfish. Eventually they will fatten up and learn to get floating foods.-Chuck>

Hungry panda Cory!   2/26/06 Hi there, <Helloooooo!> I've had my 20 litre tank (sorry, don't know US sizes - I'm in the UK!) <A liter/re is a bit more than a quart, there are four U.S. quarts in a gallon... your system is about five Yank gallons> for a month, and have 6 zebra Danios, 5 black neon tetras and two panda catfish. The zebras are doing great, but take all the food - I've tried a mix of flake food to distract them with and granulated food to sink to the bottom for the tetras and catfish, but the zebras totally take over the tank and eat it all! I've just lost a catfish, which I think was sick from when I bought it as it didn't last a week, but now the second one looks in trouble. It's incredibly listless, not responding to food even though I've sectioned it off in the tank with some food. I bought another panda today which is really active and seems fine - could it be that the listless one and the one that died were ill from the start? <A possibility, yes> There are no obvious symptoms, other than not being interested in eating and trying to swim up to the top and then falling back down, which I thought was cute until I read somewhere that this was not a good sign! Your website is great - any advice you could give me would be so appreciated, as I'm afraid as of tomorrow morning I'll be back to one panda again! Thanks, Laura <Do check your water... it may be that its quality is unsuitable... This Corydoras likes warm, soft, acidic water... no ammonia, no nitrite... Try some high/er protein sinking wafer type foods... Bob Fenner>

Getting food to the Corys and the Oto   2/22/06 Hello WWM crew, I have searched your site and I think the single tiny wiggly white worm I just saw in my tank is Planaria.  It is a very very fine   threadlike white worm of about 5mm length. I probably only saw it because I was sitting very close to the tank. Am I right in understanding these are from too much waste product and uneaten food? <Yes.> Do you have any delivery tips for the food?  I was afraid if I hid it the Oto and Corys would not find it either. I have a bit of driftwood with a plant on it that I can put food under but it seems nearly all the fish can wiggle in there to get it! I thought my tank was very very clean.  I change 25-30% of the water once a week with another bucketful or two changed halfway through the   week as I don't like to see the Corys searching around for food in droppings. Yuk. I vacuum the open area of gravel once a week and stir up the other areas with the siphon hose as the vacuum wont fit amongst the   plants.  I have quite a lot of live plants. My problem I guess is I have been overfeeding although everything gets eaten quickly. <I agree.  Your vacuuming technique sound very thorough.> I am always worried about getting enough to the Corys and the Otocinclus.  The other fish are total pigs and tend to eat everything. I feed a couple of pinches of flakes <Try backing off a bit.  Try to lure those speedy Tetras away by sprinkling a bit on one side of the tank, and then sprinkling the rest far away from them.> , two sinking Cory-food pellets <Feed just one pellet.  Break it up into a couple pieces, always drop it in the same place in the tank every day, so the Corys get into a pattern/know where to find it.  Feed the Corys about 1/2 an hour after you turn off the light tank light.>   and a half of an algae wafer once a day with a day of no food now and then. <Leave the wafer as a treat for every now and then.> Also feed a frozen bloodworm cube once a week and some cucumber every few days (the Oto loves that). <OK as long as you are subbing this for the other foods you described.> I have a 26 gallon freshwater tropical tank (AquaOne 620) with a filter and lights built into the hood Temperature about 78 degrees. Ammonia and Nitrites are zero. Tank has been set up for 10 weeks and is fully cycled. The tank is stocked with: I angelfish 3 black skirt tetras 5 Corydoras 2 dwarf Gouramis 1 Otocinclus <A bit heavily stocked for that size.  Probably contributing to the waste/food levels for Planaria and algae.  Your Angel will get quite large, produce even more waste.> I tried leaving the lights on a bit longer to grow some algae for the Oto...but instead of the brown algae I once had green algae has grown   on some of the Anubias and Oto doesn't seem to make much difference. So that might have been a mistake? Do you think if I revert to my   original 8 hours of light the Oto will eventually eat it all? <Go back to 8 hours.> Or maybe should I get an additional Oto? <Otos do prefer the company of their own kind, but you are already heavily stocked.> So much to learn.  Any advice you can give would be very much appreciated. Many thanks, Gillian  : ) <Jason N.> PS I think your site is terrific, you folk obviously love what you do although I expect if you get many more "My Betta sits at the bottom   of his bowl" questions you might implode. <Thank you!>
Re: Getting food to the Corys and the Oto
  2/22/06 Thank you Jason for your speedy response, I was very disappointed when I did my own sums and realized "no more fish for me"....well, in this tank anyway.  Everyone laughs when I talk about my next tank. <You've been bitten by the bug.  God have mercy on your pocketbook.> This one is a practice to see if I can keep up the enthusiasm before going mental on a giant tank. <I find that my largest tanks are the easiest to care for.  It is far harder to make most mistakes in 50+ gallons of water.> You know what?  I think I can! <Glad to hear it!  Now there is only the problem of what you're going to do with your current tank when you get a new one...> Thanks again from Australia, Gillian  : ) <Jason N.>

Catfish, Cat Food? - 10/19/2005 Hi.   <Good morning.> I have nine large (to two feet) channel cats in my old swimming pool.  Good use for it. I love to watch them Hoover the pool surface when I feed them catfish chow, but I wonder if it would be all right to just feed them CAT chow, instead.  Or any dry cat food?  They certainly like it, but what about long term effects?  Any thoughts? <To be quite honest, my first reaction was to think that this is not a good idea at all....  But Bob has mentioned convincingly that it's really not a bad idea - he says that in the aquaculture biz this is a common practice....  And channel cats are a catfish that is predatory, so do consume a lot of animal protein....  I think I might recommend that you try to get cat chow with primarily or only fish/aquatic meats as the meat products listed in the ingredients, and avoid poultry or land mammal ingredients.> Thanks,  -Terri <A very good question - thanks for helping me learn something, too.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Re: Three Line Cory Catfish question, feeding Hello Bob, <Teresa> I thought I follow up on this as I thank you for your reply. It seems I was not feeding the Corys enough and starts to swim high as more food is floating than hitting the bottom. <Ahh> I started throwing in some herbivore small sinking pellets and at times they nibble on these if the gluttonous angelfish don't get to them first. I know these pellets are for algae-eating fish but I never saw the Otocinclus eat anything else but algae. I guess what I really need to ask is what should I be feeding the Corys? Is the premium tropical flake food that I feed the angelfish enough you think? Thanks and have a great day. <I would augment this with a high protein sinking pellet... there are several companies that make these for bottom dwellers... One of my faves is the new Shrimp Pellets by Omega Sea. Bob Fenner>

Red-tailed Catfish Hello, I bought a baby Redtail catfish about 4 weeks ago and it doesn't seem to be eating much. My catfish is about 3 inches long and it seems to only eat earthworms and hotdogs. I have tried feeding it a number of other pellet form foods and it still will only eat the earthworms. I have tried withholding the earthworms for a couple of days and it still doesn't eat any of the other foods that I feed it. I have tried feeding it Hikari sinking pellets, Algae wafers, and a few other types of sinking pellets but they all seem to not get eaten. Is this a problem? Would there be any other types of food that you would suggest feeding my baby Redtail catfish? <Hotdogs? Let's do a few water changes to remove the grease and spice from your water. Then try some frozen fish food like Mysis Shrimp and Bloodworms. You can also try any human saltwater seafood. Small shrimp, scallops, squid and the like, cut bite size of course. No land mammal meats. Try teasing him with a worm held up to the glass. When he gets interested, remove the worm from view and throw in whatever you are tying to feed him. Right now he does not recognize unnatural foods. Soon enough he will eat anything, and anyone, in his tank. Please test your water often. He can make a mess of things very quickly. Do as many water changes as needed to keep ammonia and nitrite at zero, nitrates below 20ppm. That will become a real chore as this fish grows. But there is a bigger problem here. That is the keeping of this fish in captivity in the first place. In my personal opinion no one should keep a Redtail. They are awesome fish, striking colors with personality to boot. But there is simply no home aquarium that can house an adult. Your baby will grow to over 5 feet and will need thousands of gallons of water. Unless you have a large pond in a warm weather climate, you can't keep one into adulthood. They should therefore be left in the wild. Don>

Not enough algae My son has a fish tank, the algae is not growing & he has lost 2 of his algae eating fish. He doesn't have enough algae in the tank.  <You can feed the fish algae wafers to get them enough algae or if you don't have algae you don't need algae eaters. MacL>

Pleco Feeding Basics Good morning, Don and thanks for answering me so fast.  A stupid question, maybe, <Not!> but I need some clarification re feeding my Pleco: zucchini - I'm assuming you mean steamed and kind of squishy? <I feed mine raw veggies. Many here recommend a light blanching first. Never cook to the point of squishy> Do I chop it up in tiny little pieces, <no> or leave a small piece intact so he can suck away? <Leave it in a chunk that he can chew on. Attach it to a rock to keep it on the bottom. I spear mine on a long thin piece of slate. Rubberbands will work. Do not use metal twist ties. Remove any uneaten in the AM.> Not sure what you mean but with all the problems I'm having with water, etc I want to give these fish every opportunity for survival! Also, since he prefers to feed at night, should I just feed all the fish at night?  <No. Just the catfish> How do I ensure that when I drop in a brine shrimp pellet, my Pleco gets some of it?  <Drop it in just before you go to bed and the tank is in total darkness. The others will sleep while the Pleco feeds.> Also, re the algae tablets, do the other fish eat this as well or is that something that only the Pleco will want? <Your goldfish will nibble at them, maybe gobble them up.> Re the peas for the Pleco, my two goldies gobble it up as soon as it hits the water. How do I ensure the Pleco gets some because there seems to be nothing left of the peas at all. <Feed in the dark. If the goldies still get them, switch to a chunk of zucchini, squash, carrot etc., too big for them to swallow. Go light on this, and all feeding, until we get the tank cycled. If he comes out during the day to take flake or pellets, then I'd hold of target feeding him until that cycle is going.> Sorry if these questions are stupid <Not at all> but please remember, I'm a complete novice!  Thanks very much - Robin <Robin, have you joined us in the forum yet? Please do. There you will find many people, and get many opinions, on every aspect of the hobby. You can learn a lot from just reading the old posts. Hope to see you there. I'm "Fish Soup" in the forum. Don>    

Large FW Catfish fed feeders... I just found out you guys existed! Boy I could have used your help a long time ago. I didn't really have a question for ya, but wanted to tell you a story. I know you hear this a lot but I was also the victim of poor pet store knowledge (more than once) and ended up with a Pseudoplatystoma  corruscans (shovelnose catfish). <Cool cat, but very large with a larger mouth> The guy told me at the store that at about 6 inches the little guy was pretty much full grown. <LOL> I know now that that was completely false. Anyway we kept the little fella in our 33 gallon and he is was one of my favorites in the tank. Loved to eat and has really unique patterns. We were planning on keeping him till he got closer to a foot long. Unfortunately he never made it that far, he inherited what I think was a bacterial disease from some feeder comets, <Please, Please, PLEASE! No feeders unless your willing to QT them. Garden worms and human seafood (shrimp, mussels, etc.) is far safer for these large cats.> even though we wouldn't have had him for very long I was really mad that he died so quickly (3 months). He quit moving around and had his feelers pulled back to his side. A usually quite knowledgeable fish keeper told us to just let it ride for a couple of days, thinking he might just be shedding, <Shedding??? Catfish don't shed there skin>> since he was the only one in the tank that was sick. He died the next morning. The other fish I was misinformed about is our fire eel. He lives in the same 33 gallon tank (don't worry I've treated the tank with Pimafix because whatever the catfish had it affected our leopard leaf fish, he got some body slime and cloudy eye but everyone is healthy now) and looking at your website I found out that he may get 2-4 feet long. The pet store told me he would be max a foot and a half. Right now he is just about a foot long and happily resides under a large piece of driftwood, coming out at night and to eat out of my hand, he loves frozen shrimp!<Great, safe food. But vary it somewhat.> I was wondering how long it will take for him to get too big for the tank and have to be given away. <Not really sure.> I'll miss him but it's not fair to cage him in such a small tank. <True> Will he really get 4 feet in captivity <possible, over 3 for sure.> or could we maybe get away with keeping him in a 100 gallon or more? <Would surely allow you to keep him far longer. Min. recommended size is around 80 gallons. Upgrade your plan to a 125 or 150 and you could have him for life.> Sorry to write you a novel. Pet stores should be forced to have accurately knowledgeable staff, the losers are the poor fish and pissed off purchasers. Don't rush to write me back, Amber <Don>

Comments on Gold nuggets and such.... >Hi Marina >>Hello Wayne. >Just some notes re: the lady who lost her gold nugget and clown Plec...  First of all you're right to ask how much food made it to these Plecs - I believe that the majority of these fish (like many numbers) die of starvation due to both inadequate and incorrect diet.  Notice how so many people complain they grow so slowly, well there's a good reason.   I have a few baby Bristlenoses I kept in a tank and hammered with food, they're about 5 months old now and the largest is nearly 3 inches.  I remember keeping a bristle in with some Mbuna, and that [fish] just stopped growing when it went in there, in contrast to its brother who is now a good, fat, fully grown 4 inches.  Also, as you point out the fish, esp. the gold nugget do not feed on algae, except in utter desperation, rather they pick up worms, bugs, critters and chew on the biofilm I believe.  These fish are fussy on water quality and also water movement and dissolved oxygen content.  Notice how this lady's and so many hung on the filter outlet.  In the only good breeding report I've seen  a powerhead was pointing at the spawning cave!  30% a month is thoroughly inadequate, and that LFS was pretty stupid to say so.  My fish respond well to 10, 15 percent 3 times a week.  I only gravel hoover every 2 or 3 weeks though to maintain a biofilm of mulm for continual chewing.  I don't think these fish are too fussy about pH within reasonable limits, but I'm pretty sure nuggets at least are from acidic blackwater rivers (Lower Xingu, but I need to check that).  There is a theory that these low pH rivers are not terribly bacteria friendly, so fish from these areas are all prone to bacterial infection as they simply don' have a 'bacteria unfriendly' immune system - (examples wild caught Apistos, discus, L no.s).  Again, another reason for those frequent water changes.  So my bet here is a slight slip in water quality, plus a minimal diet caused a bacterial infection and pop.  You might not even need the bacterial bit to kill a slowly weakening fish.  So I would say if you're going to keep these fish be prepared to overfeed the tank and counter it with frequent small water changes.   >>Agreed. >I truly wish I could help with the questions but I simply don't have an hour a day (small children = zero time at home) Regards,  Wayne Oxborough >>Much to my chagrin (and others on the crew who know how much we truly need knowledgeable help), I do understand.  Thank you for your input, though.  Marina

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