Pictus Catfish Care Guide | Diet, Tank Mates and More

Last updated on December 24th, 2022 at 11:06 am

Pictus catfish is one of our most popular freshwater fish for several reasons.

They are cute, easy to care for, not intrusive, and we love their long chins! There is something about this fish that gives your aquarium a playful yet natural feel.

We have spoken to many Pictus cat owners, and they all give the same glowing rating. It won’t be long before you fall in love with this fish.

This guide highlights the basics of maintaining Pictus Catfish and other information that will be useful to you. By the time you finish reading, you will be an expert and ready to have one of your own.

Pictus Catfish

Species Overview

The Pictus Catfish (scientific name: Pimelodus Pictus) has been a trendy freshwater fish with aquarists for some time. This is mainly due to the ease of maintenance and the distinctive “catfish” look that your tank receives.

This fish comes from the Pimelodidae family and is native to the Orinoco and Amazon basins in South America. However, it has also been found in Peru.

Pictus catfish are fairly active swimmers, especially when compared to their softer catfish relatives. However, many new owners do not expect this and are surprised to see the speed these fish regularly display.

Life expectancy

The average life expectancy of the Pictus catfish is between 8 and 10 years. This is quite long compared to other popular aquarium catfish species like Otocinclus.

Although the Pictus catfish can live for a while, it is assumed that they will provide you with some care. Unfortunately, poor nutrition, unsuitable water conditions, and even breeding trials can drastically shorten their lifespan.

This is what makes the Pictus catfish so crucial in caring for itself. When you keep an animal in captivity, we believe it is your responsibility to go the extra mile to ensure that it thrives.


If this is your first time looking at a Pictus catfish, the barbel will jump first. Some people also call them whiskers, but we will refer to them by their real names in this guide.

These quills give them a distinctive “catfish” look and make them stand out in almost any aquarium. It is not uncommon for them to grow longer to fit your body length. They are also fun to watch them sway as the fish circle the aquarium!

The purpose of these spikes is to help them navigate and orient themselves in dirty water. While it’s not something they need to use frequently in their aquarium (as long as you’re doing their job), it does give them additional spatial awareness.

The bodies of the Pictus catfish are brilliant silver that is spread evenly throughout their body. Your stomach is a little lighter, but not much. These fish do not have scales either.

There are dark spots that are fairly distributed throughout the body, although they are less common on the stomach as well. You can also find these black spots on their dorsal and tail fins.

The caudal and dorsal fins of a Pictus catfish are semi-transparent, with the dorsal fins being slightly paler than its caudal fins. It looks pretty good from the right angle!

Pictus catfish’s pectoral fins and forked tail are quite pointed. You can cut your hand or other fish if you don’t brush well.

Pictus catfish size

The average size of the Pictus catfish is around 5 inches (maximum). It is very unusual for these fish to exceed this size in adulthood, but it is possible.

The quality of care and nutrition play an essential role in its size. The condition of the fish when you buy it also has a significant impact on its size.

Pictus Catfish size

Pictus catfish care

Caring for Pictus catfish is not that difficult once you know the basic guidelines to follow. These fish are simple and low maintenance, which is ideal for aquarists who do not want trouble.

Tank size

The ideal size for Pictus Catfish aquariums is 50 to 55 gallons. However, we prefer at least 55 as these fish will definitely appreciate the extra space! Plan to add an additional 40-50 gallons for each additional Pictus cat you wish to have.

The reason the recommended tank size is a bit large, even though they are small fish, is simple: they need room to roam. Pictus catfish is a speedy, active, and busy fish (more on this later).

Keeping them in too small a tank will lead to stress and a lack of enrichment. Both can have a substantial negative impact on their overall health.

Water parameters

The ideal size for Pictus Catfish aquariums is 50 to 55 gallons. However, we prefer at least 55 as these fish will definitely appreciate the extra space! Plan to add an additional 40-50 gallons for each additional Pictus cat you wish to have.

The reason the recommended tank size is a bit large, even though they are small fish, is simple: they need room to roam. Pictus catfish is a speedy, active, and busy fish (more on this later).

Keeping them in too small a tank will lead to stress and a lack of enrichment. Both can have a substantial negative impact on their overall health.

Related Also: 5 Best Protein Skimmer

Pictus Catfish tank

What to put in the tank

These freshwater aquarium catfish’s habitat should mimic their natural environment to keep them comfortable, stress-free, and healthy.

First of all, we recommend adding plants to your aquarium. In their natural habitat, Pictus catfish navigate and swim regularly through a reasonable amount of vegetation. Like hornwort, adding some plants will go a long way in making your aquarium feel right at home!

Other additives like stones and driftwood are also a good idea. These fish need hiding places that they can feel safe in, and these mimic the river beds in which they spend their time in the wild.

These fish love to swim and are very fast. If you overfill your tank with plants, rocks, and driftwood, they won’t have enough room to swim comfortably.

Possible diseases to watch out for

The top potential diseases that could affect your Pictus catfish are the usual suspects that all aquarists fear. Fortunately, the chances of them attacking your fish are minimal if you maintain the water quality.

I am the most common disease that can affect the Pictus Catfish. This is why you should look for it in the first place. Since there are so many helpful resources out there on dealing with this, we won’t go into the details here.

Our biggest tip for disease prevention is to stay consistent by keeping it simple. Of course, this applies to the care of Pictus Catfish as it does to any other fish.

For example, make sure that water quality and parameters are under control through frequent water tests. Also, make sure they live in a spacious and stress-free environment. These things are easy to control and reduce the risk of your fish getting sick in the future.

Pictus Catfish Diet

Pictus catfish are pretty easy to feed, but understanding their ideal natural diet is important to ensure they get the nutrition they need.

In the wild, Pictus catfish are omnivores and scavengers and spend their time looking for various snacks in the water. These can be plants and algae or multiple sources of meat and protein.

Because of this, your job is more to make sure they have a balanced diet than to encourage them to eat. But, as long as it’s edible, they’ll likely try!

Note: It is important to note that this will prevent them from being tankmates with certain fish such as neon tetras or small fish that they may mistake for food. You don’t want a conflict in your hands!

Since these fish spend most of their time at the bottom of the aquarium, you must feed them food that reaches their level. Unfortunately, this means the pellets need to sink for them to eat.

Along with the pellets, you also want to provide them with high-quality protein sources. Some standard options are:

✔️ Blood worms

✔️ Artemia

✔️ Daphnia

You can give them a mix of live and frozen foods for a change. Frozen foods are more convenient, but live foods tend to be more fulfilling and encourage additional activity.

Behavior and Temperament

The Pictus Catfish is a highly soft fish that does not want to cause any problems. This is one of the reasons why they are so popular with freshwater aquarists. You can put them anywhere!

Due to their peaceful nature, you will find that these fish spend a lot of time hiding in the lower half of the tank. As a result, you may not see all of them for a few days! This behavior makes them feel comfortable and safe, so you need to provide enough hiding places for them to have some privacy.

The funny thing about Pictus catfish is that it is shy and peaceful but also quite active. It may seem not very clear at first, but this is the best way to explain it.

Yes, there may be times when your fish will hide and don’t want to leave. However, when it’s mealtime or something interesting happens in the tank, you can see them whistle in an instant! Then they will go back camping.

It’s a very bottom-up thing when it comes to your business, and we think it’s fun. If you see him during a swimming session, it is very exciting.

Pictus catfish tankmates

Pictus Catfish Tank’s list of potential partners is quite long due to its peaceful nature. Unfortunately, it cannot be easy to find teammates who are not doing well.

This probability increases considerably when they are (obviously) hungry. However, in our opinion, it is better to stay away from much smaller teammates in general.

You also want to avoid fish that are too aggressive and could haunt your image. Species like African cichlids or Jack Dempsey fish are examples of tank mates that don’t do well.

Some examples of good tankmates are:

✔️Huge danios

✔️Opal Gourami

✔️Rainbow sharks

✔️Larger plates (size matters)

✔️Catfish of similar or larger size

You should also be aware that their fins’ sharp tips can cause them to cut other fish accidentally. This is unusual but has been reported. As always, be sure to check all the fish in your aquarium.

Note: Some of the best Pictus Catfish tank mates are theirs. These fish enjoy the company and are generally most active when swarmed. If you have space, we recommend buying a few instead of just one.

If you have specific questions about the Pictus Catfish Tank friends, feel free to ask them. We are here to help you!

Pictus Catfish Breeding

Compared to the other items in the Pictus Catfish Care, breeding is notoriously challenging. Our position is that you shouldn’t waste time trying.

If you can do this, there will be another bump in the road that will be worse. For these fish to truly reach sexual maturity, they must spend their lives in a significant amount of open water. We don’t know why, but there is a proven link.

This means that your Pictus catfish is unlikely to breed unless the aquarium you are using is well above the minimum tank size.

You have to think far ahead and have room for a massive tank build even to attempt this. Assuming you don’t, you’re almost out of luck.


Anyone can take care of Pictus catfish. As long as you have the right tank size, suitable tankmates, and the right water conditions, you’ll be fine.

These fish are a delight and one of our favorite freshwater creatures. They are so cute, they have that distinctive catfish look, they won’t cause problems in your aquarium, and they can be a lot of fun to watch.

We’ve heard from countless homeowners that they can’t get enough of it and would have even more if they had enough space. If you don’t dare to get one, we recommend it!

If you have any stories about your Pictus catfish or questions about caring for it, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We love to socialize and learn what other aquarists are doing!

1 thought on “Pictus Catfish Care Guide | Diet, Tank Mates and More”

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