Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus): Care, Tankmates, Breeding…

Pictus catfish

Pictus catfish are widely popular amongst aquarists because they add a distinct touch to any tank.

They are excellent pets since their energetic behavior can keep you captivated for hours.

Let’s learn about these fish in more detail.

Pictus Catfish Species Overview

Pictus Catfish (Scientific name: Pimelodus pictus) are freshwater species from the Pimelodidae family.

These fish are endemic to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.

They inhabit the shallow, swift-flowing rivers throughout Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Peru.

In 1871, Franz Steindachner, an Austrian zoologist and ichthyologist, was the first to document this breed.

These little creatures are fast swimmers and are an exciting addition to any aquarium.


Pictus catfish can be distinguished by their long barbels that extend to their caudal fin.

Wild catfish rely on their barbels for navigation in murky waters.

These fish have silver-colored bodies with black spots and stripes.

They have a downturned mouth and a forked tail similar to other catfish species.

Pictus catfish possess sharp spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins.

This makes it challenging to ship these fish due to the possibility of their spines piercing the plastic bags and getting tangled in nets.

The morphological characteristics of this species are difficult to distinguish, but females tend to be larger than males.


The average lifespan of pictus catfish in captivity is around 4 to 8 years. In the wild, these fish live a little longer.

However, poor diet, unconducive living conditions, aggressive tankmates, and other factors can significantly reduce their lifespan.

Hence, it’s essential to provide a stress-free environment and nutritious diet to pictus catfish.

Average Size

Pictus catfish don’t grow very large, unlike other freshwater species.

The average size of these fish varies between 3 to 5 inches in length.

In the wild, pictus catfish can grow up to 4.3 inches in length due to the abundance of food and ample space to swim freely.

Pictus Catfish Tank Setup

Pictus catfish don’t need a specialized tank setup to thrive.

The ideal tank setup for pictus catfish is the one that closely resembles their natural habitat.

So let’s understand how to set up a pictus catfish tank in more detail.

Tank Size

Even if pictus catfish aren’t very large, they need a relatively big tank to thrive.

An aquarium of at least 55 gallons is needed for a single pictus catfish. The larger the tank, the better.

These fish are agile and fast swimmers. So they need ample space to roam freely in the tank.

Moreover, they are often found in large shoals in their natural habitat.

Hence, most aquarists prefer to keep a group of pictus catfish in captivity.

You can increase the tank size depending on the number of pictus catfish and other fish that you plan to keep in your aquarium.

Small tanks can cause stunted growth, stress, and aggression in these fish.

So it’s best to provide them with a spacious tank for optimal growth.

Tank Equipment and Decorations

Pictus catfish are extremely energetic fish, unlike other catfish species.

Hence, a spacious tank with open spaces to swim freely is a must for these fish.

The tank should also have plenty of hiding spots and resting areas.

You can use rocks, driftwood, caves, or other decorations to create a natural-looking environment in the aquarium.

These decorations will also provide hiding places for the fish to feel safe and secure.

Pictus catfish also prefer a densely planted tank with subdued lighting.

A good filtration system is also required to keep the tank water clean and healthy.

Given below are the items needed in a pictus catfish tank:

Pictus Catfish Care

Pictus catfish are an ideal choice for aquarists as these fish are easy to handle and have low maintenance requirements.

However, like any fish species, it’s essential to take proper care of them.


Pictus catfish aren’t fussy eaters. They are easy to feed since many food options are available for them.

Being omnivores, a balanced diet of plant and animal matter is ideal for these fish.

Sinking pellets are the staple food for pictus catfish in captivity.

You can also feed them various live and frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, mysis shrimp, tubifex worms, and other meaty foods.

Other than that, you can feed them flakes, freeze-dried food, and blanched vegetables.

Vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, peas, and broccoli can boost their immune system.

These fish are nocturnal.

Dawn and early morning is the best time to feed pictus catfish since they are active and searching for food during this time.

Water Parameters

Pictus catfish in ideal water parameters

Pictus catfish are hardy and can survive a wide variety of water conditions.

However, continuous exposure to water parameters outside the desired range can cause serious health issues in pictus catfish.

Hence, replicating the water conditions of their natural environment as closely as possible is vital for their well-being.

The ideal water parameters for pictus catfish are:

Water Temperature: 72°F to 77°F (22°C to 25°C),

Water pH: 6.0 to 8.0,

Water Hardness: 5 to 19 dH.

Tank Maintenance

Tank maintenance is crucial for keeping pictus catfish healthy and happy.

Regularly checking and maintaining the tank environment is necessary for their well-being.

A partial water change should be done every 2 weeks to remove the accumulated waste and toxins.

Tank substrate and decorations should also be cleaned regularly to avoid the buildup of harmful bacteria.

Ensuring regular maintenance of the filter and heater is also vital to maximizing their performance.

Similarly, frequent testing is needed to ensure that the water quality stays good.

Common Diseases

Although hardy, pictus catfish aren’t immune to diseases.

Being scaleless, pictus catfish are more susceptible to bacterial infections.

Given below are some of the common diseases that can affect pictus catfish:

  • Ich,
  • Bacterial infection,
  • Parasitic infection,
  • Swim bladder diseases, etc.

Maintaining the water quality through frequent water changes, keeping stable and desired water parameters, and providing a stress-free environment can help pictus catfish keep diseases at bay.

Pictus Catfish Behavior and Temperament

Pictus catfish are popular for their peaceful nature and dynamic behavior.

Although active, these fish are shy to new environments.

Hence, you may find them hiding most of the time until they get accustomed to their surroundings.

Pictus catfish are also social fish. So it’s best to keep them in a large group.

Being nocturnal, these fish are most active during the night.

However, you can also see them swimming during the day if there is shade in the tank or if you keep them in a dimly lit tank.

Pictus Catfish Tankmates

Pictus catfish are docile and social in behavior. So they are compatible with several fish of similar size and temperament.

However, they can get aggressive if housed in a small or overcrowded tank.

So you must house them with other peaceful fish and in an adequately large tank to maintain harmony.

Some of the compatible tankmates that you can keep with your pictus catfish are:

  • Opaline gouramis,
  • Giant danios,
  • Loaches,
  • Silver dollars,
  • Rainbow sharks,
  • Tiger barbs,
  • Rubber plecos,
  • Angelfish,
  • Discus fish, and
  • Other catfish species like Striped Raphael, Doradidae, etc.

While pictus catfish are peaceful, they will eat small-sized fish if they are starving.

So you should avoid keeping any fish that can easily fit into a pictus catfish’s mouth.

Similarly, slow-moving fish should also be avoided since pictus catfish are very active and can get irritated if the slow-moving fish block their path.

Given below are some fish species that you should avoid housing with pictus catfish:

Pictus Catfish Breeding

Caring for pictus catfish is relatively easy.

However, breeding them in an aquarium is challenging, even for experienced aquarists.

Moreover, determining the gender of a pictus catfish can be difficult since there are no visible differences between male and female pictus catfish.

And they also need open-water habitats to reach maturity.

To breed pictus catfish, you need a separate breeding or spawning tank to control the water chemistry and provide a safe environment for their offspring.

You also need to modify the water temperature and pH to induce spawning in pictus catfish.

Aquarists usually don’t breed pictus catfish in captivity since the chances of successfully breeding are slim.

Pictus catfish available for sale in aquarium stores or pet shops are usually sourced as eggs or fry from their natural habitat and reared in tanks until they reach a size that is suitable for shipping.

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