Catfish can be found in freshwater habitats and along the coast, in every continent with the exception of Antarctica, they are bottom feeders and have flattened broad heads with long whiskers (barbels) that protrude from their mouth resembling that of a cat.
The catfish tastes its food through the long barbels and are often also used for smelling and sensing its environment and what there is to eat and hide from. There are however some species of catfish that doesn’t have these long whisker-like barbels.
A lot of catfish can be found in eareas where there is little to no humans present, therefore, while it is thought that there are around 3000 species, the numbers are more likely to be as high as 4500. Catfish in general will be found in faster-flowing rivers and streams, but some species have adapted quite well over the years to living in shallow salt water, while others live out their lives in caves underground.
Catfish, depending on the species, is normally about a meter long but there are catfish that can be as small as just one centimetre, and some as big as two meters. The Mekong catfish is the largest catfish species, it is found in the Mekong river that flows through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and boast with a record catfish of nearly three meters long.
The diet of the catfish is normally very carnivorous, though it has been found that the smaller species also eats small aquatic plants. Catfish’s diet mostly consist of fish, insects and worms that can be found close to the river bed, they also enjoy frogs and newts, small reptiles and mammals.
No matter the species, all of them can consume aquatic plants and other fish, decaying vegetation, crayfish, snails and fish eggs. The catfish’s diet varies as they tend to eat a lot, resulting in bigger sizes depending on where they live.
Carrion and crayfish
Catfish can also be classified as garbage eaters, they feed on dead things that washes into the rivers or ponds. The will eat decomposed fish, bugs or anything that is dead. These feeding habits gives the catfish quite the advantage to being “bottom feeders”.
Worms and leeches
The catfish has an excellent sense of smell and the barbell helps them to find food like leeches and worms that tend to hide quite well. The catfish enjoys to feed at night as most predators aren’t present then, and they can then also prey on sleeping or dormant animals.
The catfish’s main diet consists of small fish, vegetation and insects but the adults tend to eat a lot more fish, especially species like the flathead catfish. The flathead can eat other catfish as well as bass. The diet of the catfish is very dependant on their environment and the different species, some will always have more food than others.
The catfish, due to its diversity and range, has quite a large amount of predators like larger fish, reptiles, mammals and even some birds.
The females will lay their eggs close to the surface in order to keep them safe from bottom-dwellers, the female can lay between ten and ninety eggs at a time and it will take about a week before they hatch.
If you are an avid fisherman and looking to catch one of the giants like the Mekong catfish or just a big enough one to flaunt with your fishing buddies then you will need the right tackle. Stronger hooks, high breaking strain line and even steel traces might be needed for the bigger guys. Have a look at this South African based website. They have a wide range of tackle and baits available.