What You Need To Know About the Pictus Catfish

  • SumoMe

The other day, I was watching a wildlife documentary on fish that are commonly kept as pets. Several catfish species were featured and one in particular caught my eye, the Pictus catfish. I had previously seen them in aquariums but didn’t take much notice as I thought them just another catfish species. However, the documentary sparked my interest in this catfish species. I did some research on these and I’m currently waiting for my group of 5 Pictus cats to arrive sometime next week. Before placing my order, I had to make sure they were ideal for my home aquarium. I did conduct some research which revealed the following.


The Pictus traces its origins in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins and can be found in Peru, Columbia and Brazil. These cats favor freshwater streams and live in shoals.


This catfish has a silvery body that’s covered with black spots. Two subspecies are identifiable, the large spotted subspecies which is more common in aquariums and is smaller than the small spotted subspecies. Their bodies are slimy and aren’t covered with scales. An adult Pictus grows to about 5 inches in length. Females are generally larger than the males.

Other distinct features include the extremely long barbells which can grow as far as the caudal fin. Their dorsal and pectoral find have sharp spines which makes netting these fish difficult. The spines on the dorsal fin have mild venom which can cause irritation and inflammation if you get pricked by mistake. They also feature a forked tail and downturned mouth which makes foraging for food easy.


Like most catfish, Pictus cats are omnivorous. They will feed on anything including live catfish bait like worms and invertebrates. Sinking fish food is recommended for cats that are held in aquariums as they are bottom feeders. Being an omnivore, this catfish will feed on smaller fish if provided with the opportunity. It’s therefore recommended that you place it in the same aquarium with same size or larger peaceful fish.


The Pictus cat is a highly active fish. Having a large enough aquarium is necessary as this fish loves swimming fast. It’s a social fish and prefers living in schools. A group of up to 8 fish can work well for a large aquarium. However, the Pictus can live on its own with other fish. It however tends to be shy and hide away when it’s the only Pictus in the aquarium. This is a nocturnal fish and tends to keep hidden during the day.

Best aquarium conditions

This catfish thrives in freshwater conditions with a good supply of oxygen. The aquarium can be planted with driftwood and some rocks which provide hiding spaces for the Pictus. A layer of fine sand at the bottom is a good substrate as it will not damage the delicate barbels. The water pH should be between 7.0 and 7.5. Being a freshwater fish, avoid adding salt or using medicines that contain copper as these can harm its skin and barbells.

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