Pictus Catfish: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding, & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Pictus Catfish are among the most popular species of freshwater catfish, and they are also at the top of our list. They have a strikingly attractive appearance, and they are also easygoing. Plus, caring for them is a breeze, so you will have no trouble there.

Plus, you will love noticing their long barbels float around as they swim inside your tank. If you are looking for a species of fish to keep in your home aquarium, we put our money on Pictus Catfish.

Nearly every aquarium owner and expert have stated that they have had a wonderful experience with these catfish, and they also recommend them to others looking to keep their first fish or add a new one to the aquarium.

If you are trying to ascertain how well you can take care of Pictus catfish, this guide is for you. We have outlined the basic and advanced care guidelines that you need to know about before you can bring them to your aquarium.

You can also find out everything about their habitat, water requirements, diet, tank mates, breeding, and much more.

Species Summary

Pictus Catfish are known by the scientific name Pimeloduspictus, and they belong to the Pimelodidae family. They are among the most popular species of catfish you will ever see, and they are a regular feature among the aquarium community. This is mostly due to their beautiful appearance, as well as the ease of care that they provide.

Life Span8-10 years
Color FormBlack and silver
Care levelEasy
CompatibilityNot applicable
SizeUp to 5 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with caves and driftwood
Minimum Tank Size55 Gallons

These fish have their natural habitat in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America, similar to most of the other catfish that you can find. Moreover, these species are known to swim away from this region and thus are also found in Peru.

Once they were discovered and named, it wasn’t long before they became an addition to aquariums.

Another interesting fact about Pictus Catfish is that they are active swimmers, as compared to other species of catfish. People who think that all catfish are quite mellow and nocturnal are often surprised to see them moving excitedly around the tank.


The average lifespan for these freshwater creatures is between 8 and 10 years, which is relatively longer than other catfish species. However, you need to provide them with quality care and ideal tank conditions in order to make them live as long as possible.

Just as the right tank conditions can prolong their lifespan, a poor diet, poor water conditions, and futile attempts to make them breed will all result in a shortened lifespan for them. Therefore, you need to take very good care of the Pictus Catfish.

You should be able to understand that since you are removing an animal from its natural habitat and into captivity, then it is your responsibility to ensure that they are able to live healthily and happily.


When you take a first look at Pictus Catfish, the first thing that stands out is their long barbels, which stretch all the way from their mouth towards their tail. These barbels also help characterize and identify them, and as these catfish continue to grow, their barbels also grow longer with time.

When they are swimming around in their tank, you will be delighted to watch their barbels or whiskers sway in the water.

Their bodies have a shiny and light silver coloration that is consistent all over their body. Their underbelly is slightly lighter in color, and they don’t have any scales on their bodies.

Another striking feature of their bodies is the dark dots that are evenly scattered all over them. Plus, the black spots are also present on their caudal and dorsal fins.

The caudal and dorsal fins on these catfish are semi-transparent, with the latter being clearer than the former. Apart from these, they have a sharp pectoral fin and forked tail, which means that they should be handled with caution. Otherwise, they may injure your hand or even other fish.


On average, Pictus Catfish have a size of 5 inches in length, and they don’t grow any longer than that. However, it is possible to make them grow even longer by providing them with a quality diet and care. Moreover, the condition and health of the fish when you bring them to your aquarium also plays a role in how big they get when they grow up.

Pictus Catfish Care

Caring for your Pictus Catfish isn’t difficult at all, especially if you know the care guidelines that you need to follow regularly. These catfish are peaceful and easygoing, which makes them perfect for beginners, as well as busy people who don’t have a lot of time on their hands to look after them all time.

With that said, let’s get down to the specifics and see how you can take care of Pictus Catfish when you add them to your aquarium.

Tank Size

First and foremost, the tank size plays an integral role in the health and growth of Pictus Catfish. Ideally, the minimum tank size for them should be 50-55 gallons because they require a lot of room to move around freely.

Moreover, if you want to add extra Pictus Catfish to the tank, you will have to extend the tank size by 40-50 gallons. You may need a lot of space if you want to do this in your home aquarium. Even though they are small fish, they are incredibly active and swim at high speed. Therefore, you should give them enough room to feel at home.

If you place them in a smaller tank, they will feel incredibly stressed and also be undernourished. Therefore, it would stunt their growth and make them prone to diseases.

Water Parameters

While other aspects of caring for Pictus Catfish are relatively easy, you will have to pay extra attention to the water parameters. If you don’t maintain the proper water conditions, you will have to deal with stressed and sick fish, which isn’t something you would want.

First and foremost, the water temperature has to be maintained between 70°F and 80°F, but try to keep it in the upper half of the range. Moreover, you should aim for a pH level between 7.0 and 7.5, but even if it goes slightly lower, that won’t be an issue. Lastly, water hardness has to be kept between 5 and 15 dH.

Another thing that you need to take care of is maintaining the water quality regularly. For this purpose, you will have to monitor the water with the help of a water testing kit, which will make life easier for you.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Just like other catfish species, you should maintain the natural environment for Pictus Catfish in order to keep them healthy and happy. This would ensure that they are comfortable in captivity, and it also keeps them free from stress and diseases.

First and foremost, you should add some plants to the aquarium, because these fish are used to swimming around a lot of vegetation in the wild. Therefore, you can choose plants like Hornwort in their aquarium.

Apart from this, their tank also needs a lot of rocks and driftwood. These catfish require places to hide when they need to rest or they are intimidated. In the wild, they tend to hide behind rocks and near the riverbed.

Although plants, rocks, and driftwood are essential for their tank, you shouldn’t overfill the tank with them. The catfish need some room to stretch their fins and relax, so a lot of rocks and vegetation would deprive them of the opportunity.

Plus, they are also very fast swimmers, which is why their motion shouldn’t be hindered by any obstacles.

Common Diseases

Luckily, Pictus Catfish don’t have any specific diseases that they are prone to, but they can be infected with the common diseases that other tropical freshwater catfish are prone to. The best way to avoid them getting infected is to maintain the water quality at all times.

One of the most common diseases that these catfish are prone to be called Ich, or white spot disease. It is easier to spot the white and grainy spots on their bodies, so you would be able to diagnose Ich quickly.

Moreover, you can treat Ich in your fish with the help of over-the-counter medication, and partial water changes will also help in doing so.

Let us reiterate that you should maintain the water and tank conditions in order to prevent your catfish from getting infected. This is something that doesn’t apply only to the Pictus Catfish. Make sure you test the water at least once every week, and also provide them with a large enough tank for them to roam around freely.

What do Pictus Catfish Eat?

Pictus Catfish are easygoing fish, and it is even easier to feed them. This also involves a thorough understanding of their nutritional requirements, as well as their ideal diet. Therefore, you should fulfill their nutritional requirements to the letter.

In their natural habitat, they are omnivores and scavenge the entire river for anything they can find to eat. This may include plant matter, algae, meat, or sources of protein. Therefore, you won’t have any trouble getting them to eat. You just have to determine what they would eat to fulfill their nutritional requirements.

However, you also need to know that Pictus Catfish can feast on smaller fish, which is why most of the potential tank mates need to be taken out of consideration. Moreover, these fish spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank.

Therefore, you need to provide them with food that will sink to the bottom. This can include sinking pellets so that your fish actually feed instead of the food floating at the surface. Apart from this, you can also provide them with bloodworms, Daphnia, and brine shrimp.

Plus, you can give them a mix of live and frozen food so that they are well-nourished. Moreover, the right diet will help them stay active and move around freely in the tank.

Behavior & Temperament

When it comes to the behavior and temperament of Pictus Catfish, they have the best and most peaceful temperament among fish. They are quite mellow, so they don’t like to invite trouble. This is why aquarists prefer them over several other fish.

Thanks to their peaceful temperament, they spend a lot of time at the bottom of the tank, hiding among the rocks and caves that you place for them. Due to this, you might not be able to spot them inside the aquarium for the entire day even. So, don’t be afraid, and also don’t knock on the aquarium walls, as this might startle them.

This behavior also helps in keeping them comfortable and stress-free, which is why you should give them ample hiding spaces and rocks.

They are one of the very few species that are both peaceful and active, and this makes them quite interesting and fun to watch as well.

Often, they may be hidden among rocks and plants, but when they notice food in the tank, they will dart out to feed themselves. Once they are full, they will return to their hiding places.

So, you will see a lot of variation in their activity levels, and this adds to the experience of keeping them in your aquarium.

Pictus Catfish Tank Mates

There is a wide range of tank mates that are suitable for your Pictus Catfish, thanks to their peaceful and easygoing temperament. Size is the number one consideration that comes into play when you are choosing tank mates.

As you know already, they tend to feast on smaller fish and creatures in the wild. They are more likely to do so when they are hungry, but you can’t take this risk.

Moreover, you should avoid any fish that have an aggressive temperament and might attack your catfish. Some of these species include African Cichlids and the Jack Dempsey fish. Some of the best tank mates for your Pictus Catfish include:

Another thing you need to be careful about is that Pictus Catfish have sharp spines on their fins and a forked tail that can accidentally injure other fish. Therefore, you should regularly monitor the tank to see if all the fish are dandy.

Generally, the best mates for your catfish are their own kind, provided that you give them a tank that is spacious enough.


Although every other aspect of Pictus Catfish care is easier, breeding them is practically impossible. This is why several other aquatic experts and we would tell you not to waste your time in trying this.

First off, there is hardly any difference between the male and female species, so it is already difficult for you to choose a pair for breeding.

Another hurdle in the process is that they need to spend most of their lives in open water in order to reach sexual maturity, which makes them ready for breeding.

Therefore, even if you provide them with a mammoth-sized tank, the chances are that they might not reproduce at all. So, it is better that you save your time, efforts, and energy in breeding them.

Another reason why you shouldn’t try to breed your Pictus Catfish is that they are peaceful and easygoing species, and if you keep trying to make them breed, they will ultimately get stressed. This would expose them to a host of diseases, and it would also shorten their lifespan.

Final Thoughts

So, are you ready to keep Pictus Catfish in your home aquarium? You can very well do that, provided that you place them in a large enough tank and allow them to move around freely. Moreover, there are certain care guidelines and restrictions that you will have to take care of.

Thanks to our helpful guide, you will be able to ensure that your Pictus Catfish are healthy and happy and also that they live a sufficient life. Just refer to it whenever you need any help with their care.