Most catfish have no scales, but some are covered with heavy scales. They are characterised by a single dorsal and adipose fin, strong, pointed spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins, and whisker-like sensory barbs on the upper and lower jaws. The head and mouth are usually wide and the eyes small. Members of Ictalurus punctatus have scaleless skin and a rigid, sharp spine on the front edge of the dorsal and pectoral fins. Just in front of the tail, on the dorsal surface, is a fleshy fat fin. Its eight barbs are sensory structures that help the catfish find food. Most catfish have taste glands over most of their body, although these glands are concentrated in their long sensory whiskers. North American catfish can be recognised by their unique fat fin. In non-native catfish, the fleshy fin protrudes from the back just before the tail fin. In North American catfish, the fat fin is not separated from the caudal fin.
Members of the Ictaluridae family, North American freshwater catfish are found from Canada to Guatemala and number about 50 species.
Most catfish prefer slow-moving spots in lakes and rivers, although some do best in fairly fast water. They are clinging fish and can live out of water for long periods, especially if kept wet. Ictalurus punctatus are bottom dwellers. Almost all North American catfish live in slow moving streams or in the still waters of lakes and ponds.
Catfish range in size from tiny specimens popular for aquariums, the smallest of which grow to no more than 1⁄2 inch, to huge specimens, the largest of which have been reported to weigh over 600 pounds. All North American catfish are small, most not exceeding 5 inches in length.
Life history and Behavior
Catfish spawn in spring and early summer, nesting in sand or mud. One or both parents keep watch until the eggs hatch and then herd the young until they are big enough to fend for themselves.
Food and feeding habits
Catfish feed on the bottom, taking both live and dead food. They are usually active at night - although some are more active than others during the day - and on dark, overcast days or in murky, muddy water. North American catfish are not fussy about what they eat. They will take just about anything offered as bait. Biologists have found strange accumulations of debris in the stomachs of catfish.
|Conservation status||Least Concern|
|Life span, years||No information|
|Maximum body weight, kg||23|
|Maximum length, cm||61|
|Sailing speed, m/s||No information|
|Threat to people||Edible|
|Way of eating||Predator|
Catfish: Channel Catfish
Tags: Catfish: Channel Catfish