How Big Do Redtail Catfish Get? (Tips to Enhance Growth)

Fully grown redtail catfish

The redtail catfish is a large freshwater fish species. And it isn’t easy to take care of this fish because of its large size.

So, how big do redtail catfish get?

How Big Do Redtail Catfish Get in Captivity?

The typical length of a redtail catfish living in captivity is between 3 and 4 feet.

In captivity, these fish depend on you for their overall upkeep and well-being.

So, you need to provide them with suitable tank conditions, proper hygiene, and a nutritious diet.

Initially, you can keep young redtail catfish in a small tank.

However, you must move them to a large tank later on for their optimal growth.

Like other fish species, poor water quality, inadequate nutrition, and lack of space can stunt a redtail’s growth.

How Big Do Redtail Catfish Get in The Wild?

The redtail catfish are native to South America and can be found in the Amazonian freshwater river basins, streams, and lakes.

These big fish can grow up to 5 feet long in their natural habitat.

However, not all redtails grow to 5 feet in the wild. The average size of these fish is between 3.6 feet to 4.6 feet in length.

In the wild, these omnivores feed on small fish, insects, crustaceans, fallen fruits, and vegetation.

How Fast Do Redtail Catfish Grow?

The redtail catfish is a large-sized fish that is known to grow up to 3 to 4 feet long in a captive environment.

Most redtail catfish found in pet stores are young ones. So they can be as small as 2 inches in length.

These fish can grow at a rate of one inch per week, which is more than most fish species in the aquarium hobby.

However, it’s essential to understand that these fish require stable conditions to achieve optimal growth.

In addition to offering a balanced diet and an appropriate habitat, redtail catfish need large aquariums for their proper growth.

Tips to Enhance the Growth of Redtail Catfish in Captivity

Redtail catfish grow to a massive size compared to other fish in home aquariums.

However, poor water quality, unsuitable conditions, and inadequate living space can stunt their growth in captivity.

Given below are various ways to improve their growth in captivity.

Get a large tank.

A tank of at least 1500 to 2000 gallons should be used for an adult redtail catfish.

It will allow the retail catfish to swim around and stay active without feeling uncomfortable or cramped.

However, this recommended tank size is too large for many aquarists.

You can keep young redtail catfish in small tanks. However, they will need a large tank once they grow up.

Keeping fully grown retail catfish in a small tank can be fatal.

Maintain stable water parameters.

Redtail catfish in stable water parameters

The water parameters of the aquarium must be similar to that of the natural environment of redtail catfish.

The ideal water temperature for these fish is between 68°F to 80°F (20°C to 26.6°C). The ph level should be between 6.0 to 7.5.

It’s not easy to maintain these ideal water conditions in large tanks that these fish require.

Provide a balanced diet.

Redtail catfish are omnivores that eat worms, small fish, insects, and vegetation in their natural habitat.

So to increase their longevity, it’s vital that they receive a well-balanced diet and adequate nutrition.

Feeding them pellets and a frozen meat-based diet can ensure that they receive the required proteins to stimulate their growth.

Make sure that the pellets sink to the bottom of the tank since redtail catfish are bottom-dwellers.

Keep compatible tankmates.

Finding suitable tankmates for redtail catfish can be challenging because of their size and temperament.

You can keep young redtail catfish with similar-sized fish such as angelfish, gouramis, silver dollars, and tiger barbs.

However, once the redtail catfish reach maturity, they will probably be too large to live alongside these fish species.

You can keep adult redtail catfish with arowanas, adult plecos, pacu, peacock bass, and other large fish.

Maintain proper hygiene.

Redtail catfish are hardy fish. However, they are also susceptible to diseases like other aquarium fish.

Poor water quality due to high nitrate levels can cause infection on their barbels.

This can make it difficult for the redtail catfish to navigate and eat properly.

So it’s essential to maintain the nitrate levels of the tank water at 20 ppm or below by changing the water regularly.

Proper maintenance can keep these hardy fish healthy and help to improve their lifespan.


Redtail catfish grow closer to 5 feet long in their natural habitat. However, these fish grow only up to 3 to 4 feet long in a captive environment. For optimum growth in captivity, retail catfish need large tanks, a nutritious diet, compatible tankmates, proper hygiene, and stable water parameters.

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