The Pictus Catfish, scientifically known as pimelodus pictus, is a popular freshwater fish that belongs to the family Pimelodidae. This fish is a native of the Orinoco and Amazon River Basin in South America. This fish species has been popular among aquarists for a very long period of time, and this is mainly due to the ease of care and the unique catfish appearance it brings to your aquarium.

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Pictus Catfish is a good-looking fish that is peaceful with no aggressive behavior and also has a long barbel. It is also the aquarist’s favorite due to its popping and vibrant colors and energetic personality. It can be a bit challenging for beginners to keep this fish, but its pleasing and likable personality is worth the challenge.

This species has an unmistakably white body highlighted with black spots and huge that reach all the way down to their caudal fins. It is a very fast and active fish that thrives best in large aquariums of at least 55 gallons and above. You should be very careful as you move this fish since their pectoral fins are very sharp. You should not use the normal net since their fins might get stuck and cause big damage.

Before bringing this fish into your aquarium, you need to do thorough research on the needs of this fish, and therefore this guide will give you all the necessary information you need about the care and maintenance of the fish.


Scientific Namepimelodus pictus
Size5 inches
ColorBlack and White
TemperamentSemi aggressive
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan8 to 10 years
Tank Size55 Gallons and above
Temperature70 to 80 degrees F
Freshwater or saltwaterFreshwater
CompatibilityMedium-sized fast-moving fish


As stated earlier, this fish is a favorite to many aquarists due to the fact that they are non-territorial and non-aggressive towards other species. This species likes maintaining peace and uniformity in the fish tank family, and this explains why it travels with a school of other fish. There are a few things that you need to know before keeping this species with other fish;

  • This fish can eat small fish like Neon Tetras and Guppies, and therefore you should have that in mind always and avoid keeping them in the same tank.
  • This fish species is an active swimmer, and therefore you should avoid keeping them in the same tank with slow swimmers such as cichlids since the Pictus Catfish might be disappointed swimming with such fish. Also, remember this fish has a sharp barbel that might harm other fish.
  • You should provide these fish with tank mates of the same size and those from the same group because they love swimming in a school.

Whenever you are moving this species in the container, it is advisable to use a plastic tank of some sort or something with smooth, hard edges that are hard to break. It is not advisable to use plastic bags, which is common since the bag will easily split with one prick.

You should ensure that you put the above factors into consideration before setting up a tank or choosing a tank mate, and there will be no issues in your tank. Below are some of the ideal tank mates that are compatible with Pictus Catfish;

  • Giant Danios
  • Striped Raphael Catfish
  • Doradidae
  • Opaline Gourami
  • Loricariid
  • Other Catfish


Despite the fact that these fish are community fish, some people choose to keep them alone, and there is no problem with that. However, those who keep them do so in shoal since they are shoaling species in nature. The advantage of keeping this species in a shoal is that they will be more active and outgoing. 

They thrive most in a group of 3 to 4, but in general, you can keep up to 6 in one tank. However, you should ensure that your tank is big enough to accommodate them comfortably without feeling overcrowded. The recommended tank size of such a group is at least 150 gallons tank.


When you look at this species at first glance, the thing that jumps into your mind is their barbels. Some aquarists refer to them as whiskers. These barbels give them a unique look, and they make them stand out in every tank. It is very normal for them to grow and match the length of their body. Also, it can be fun and interesting to watch them sway as your fish zips around your tank.

The main function of these barbels is to help the Pictus Catfish to navigate and feel their way around dirty water. The body of this fish is shiny with a light silver coloration that extends uniformly all over its body. The body of this fish is lighter but not as much. The Pictus Catfish does not have any scales in its body. There are dark dots that scatter all over their body with fairly even spacing, although those dots are less in their stomach. These dots can also be found in the dorsal and caudal fins.

The caudal and dorsal fins of this fish are semi-translucent, with the dorsal fins being a bit clearer than their caudal fins. This fish looks pretty neat from a right angle.


The average size of the Pictus Catfish is 5 inches in length. These fish can outgrow this size in adulthood, but it occurs in rare cases. The size of the fish is determined by the quality of care and diet that you feed them. It is also determined by the fish condition as you buy it. It is therefore important to ensure that you buy your pet from a pet store or a reputable breeder.

For this species, both the male and female have similar size during every stage of growth. However, the females will look fuller when they are carrying eggs.


The Pictus Catfish originates from the Amazon River basin and the Orinoco in South America. They are specifically found in Peru, Brazil, Columbia, and Venezuela. This fish is mostly confused with the synodontis Angelicus Catfish that originates from Africa. They have matching features, but they require very different conditions to survive.

 In the wild, this species prefers living in shallow yet warm waters. It dominates river bottoms with muddy and sandy soils. They are schooling fish that live in large groups. Just as the rest of the catfish, this species is a freshwater fish, and they are not only found in the Amazon River basin, but with time they have spread to other parts of the world.

The perfect hiding for this fish is in the river rocks, caves, and driftwoods, and they are able to maneuver in the muddy and murky waters with the help of the barbels.


The Pictus Catfish can live for between 8 to 10 years under proper care. The wild varieties usually outlive their limit, but they are exposed to threats more than the captive ones. However, this species has a long lifespan compared to the rest of the Catfish species. Just like in the case of the size, the lifespan is greatly affected by the quality of water and the kind of diet you are feeding these fish. To enable your fish to live long, you must ensure they receive the optimum care, and also, you should ensure they are healthy before buying them.

Another factor that determines the lifespan of this species is the disease management method that you will use on them. However, the problem of the diseases can be reduced greatly by providing the right diet and the right tank conditions. A Pictus Catfish that has been brought well under optimal conditions should be able to live for up to ten years and above.


The Pictus Catfish is a peaceful, non-territorial, and non-aggressive bottom-dwelling freshwater fish. However, this fish can turn to be aggressive if it is stressed, hungry or distracted, and this explains why it should only be kept with equal-sized tank mates. Just as stated earlier, these species are active swimmers compared to other fish of the same category.

They spend most of their time hiding, and they mostly swim in the lower half of the aquarium. It would be very helpful if you provided them with sufficient hiding places since they sometimes hide there for the whole day. This will help them have some privacy. Despite the fact that this species can live alone with no problems, it is advisable to keep them in groups since they are more active and happy in groups.

 This species is a scavenger, and they tend to be more active when they are feeding. If you feed them with something they love eating during campouts, they will get out of their hiding spots with a mind-blowing speed. What amazes most aquarists is how peaceful and calm they are, yet they are very active and energetic in the aquarium. Every owner finds this being an amazing characteristic.


As an aquarist, if you want to keep your Pictus Catfish happy and healthy, you should provide a good habitat for them. A good habitat should have mimic the natural habitat, which is the wild river. As mentioned, this species, while they are in the wild, live in sandy riverbeds of the Amazon River basin, and therefore you should try as much as possible to arrange the bottom of the aquarium to match the natural habitat.


The ideal tank size for one Pictus Catfish should be between 50 to 55 gallons, and therefore if you want to house them in a group of about 4, you should provide a tank of 200 gallons and above to ensure they can live comfortably without feeling suffocated. Remember they are active swimmers and they need a spacious room to swim.

It is crucial to note that the large tank requirements may limit the number of fish you are going to keep in your home. Remember that if you keep these fish in a small tank, the congested environment will end up stressing them and will eventually affect their health.


This fish is a freshwater fish from a large water body, and this means that they require a river water flow. If you cannot be able to emulate this in captivity, it will be very hard to grow to their full potential. In order to best replicate the natural habitat, it is advisable to integrate a hang-on back filter. They create a consistent flow of water and keep the fish healthy and in the best living condition.

 In order to reduce the bio-waste that these fish produce, you also need a high-power filter. You need this filter to reduce the excess waste and reduce the ammonia and nitrate levels in the water. You can go for the hang-on filter since it offers a good flow of water and also keeps the nitrates concentration in the tank to a minimum. This fish species is very sensitive to nitrates.


In South American forests, this species is found under the deep water surrounded by many plants, and therefore, it is ideal for keeping some plants such as java moss and hornwort in the aquarium. Also, we mentioned that these species love hiding for the better part of the day, and therefore it is important to ensure that you provide the hiding spots such as river rocks, caves, and driftwoods. This makes the place look natural and comfortable for your fish. Ensure that all the decorations have no sharp edges or rough surfaces to protect the fish from getting hurt.


This fish is generally nocturnal, and this implies that it likes darkness. Therefore, you must fix dim light on the top most part of the fish tank for their ease.


The ideal substrate should be dark-colored since the fish is white and lighter. Also, the most recommended substrate is the sandy texture instead of the roughened rocks and big chunks that take up the entirety of the tank.


The aquarium water for this species needs to be warm with an average temperature of 70 to 80 degrees F. Also, in their natural habitat of the Amazon River, the climate is hot and humid. Therefore you will need a 5-watt heater for every one galloon, and therefore, for the 55 gallons tank, you need a 275-watt heater. You should ensure the water is within the range and be careful not to overheat water since it will cause them stress. Also, the higher the temperatures, the less oxygenated the water will be. You should regularly monitor the temperature.


The tank, gravel, and other decorations and objects in the tank need to be cleaned regularly. However, cleaning should be done using lukewarm water and a piece of cloth. You should not use soap-based or chemical products since they may harm the fish. After washing them, you can wipe the water droplets using a cloth.


 The quality of water that you provide in the aquarium greatly determines the health and lifespan of your fish. Therefore there are some conditions that water should meet before being added to the aquarium. The conditions should be maintained throughout. Below are some of the parameters;


The tank water should be kept mild-warm with an average temperature of 70 to 80 degrees F. You can use a thermometer to keep monitoring the temperature, and in case of a drop, you can use a heater to warm the water.


The average ph. levels should be maintained at between 7.0 to 7.5.


The water hardness for the Pictus Catfish should range from 4 to 25 dgh.


The water in the tank needs to be replaced on a regular basis so as to get rid of the dirty water and bring in freshwater. However, you should ensure that as you replace it, the freshly added water maintains the required parameters. The water should never be replaced in entirety but in intervals. 

You can choose to replace water on a weekly basis, and in this case, you only replace 10 percent, and you can replace on a monthly basis, and in this case, you need to replace 25 percent. Irrespective of the interval you will choose you should maintain it throughout. Replacing water in its entirety will tamper with the beneficial bacterial in the tank.


Naturally, the Pictus Catfish are omnivores and scavengers. They are not picky, and they will feed on anything that they find. This is convenient in captivity, but this depends on the choice you make. They will feed on anything that you put in the aquarium, and this eases the process of feeding them. However, this also poses a great danger to them since they can easily eat something that is dangerous and ensure up getting affected.

Before deciding on what food to feed this species, you should remember that they are bottom dwellers, and therefore you should not feed them on the lightweight food that will float on the tank. The ideal food for such species is the sinking pellets that have been manufactured specifically for catfish. You can visit a pet store and buy some quality sinking pellets, and your fish will be okay.

Also, you can change their diet by feeding them on brine shrimps and beef heart which they will nibble on to their heart content for hours. You can also feed them on frozen worms or an array of vegetables. Below are some of the different things you can feed this species;

  • Insect Larvae
  • Peas
  • Algae
  • Spinach
  • Moina
  • Daphnia
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae tablets
  • Bloodworms
  • Lettuce
  • Beef
  • Detritus
  • Cucumbers 

You should remove any leftovers and uneaten food from the tank to prevent the chance of bacteria growth. Being scavengers, it will be very advantageous since they will feed on any naturally growing algae that grow out of the substrate. This saves you the burden of cleaning it every now and then.

The Pictus Catfish are very active, and this means that they have a very large appetite. If the brand of fish food that you are feeding to your fish has arranged an appropriate amount of food to give to catfish, it is better off to err on the larger side of the spectrum; otherwise, the high natural activity of this fish will turn into high levels of aggression. The disadvantage of this high appetite and activity of your fish is that it will also be producing a lot of waste.

Therefore you need to invest in a high-quality water filter, and it will go a long way in helping you take care of the tank and ensure it is always clean. The water should be tested periodically to monitor the levels of these nitrates and ammonia.


Despite the fact that this fish species is a very popular freshwater fish in the aquarium world, it is very difficult to breed in the aquarium. In order for this fish to reach its sexual maturity, it needs a lot of room. In captivity, they are in many cases not able to grow to the size that they are ready for reproduction.

However, if you are looking to breed this species, you will need a very large tank of about 200 gallons. This is a bit challenging, but if you are determined to have your fish reproduce, it will be necessary. You should be aware that even after investing in a large tank, there is also a high chance that the breeding might fail. Among the many aquarists, there are only a few who are able even to observe the signs of breeding maturity, let alone the process of breeding.

However, we know that in the wild, this process involves the female laying eggs and the male coming along to fertilize them. Therefore as an aquarist who is determined to breed your Pictus Catfish, just be aware that the success chances are very low and start by having a big tank in your home for this process. Also, you can contact professional breeders and other community breeders so as to get advice on what you need to do in order to breed them successfully.

During the breeding season, the female Pictus Catfish lays eggs on warm water, and the male fertilizes them and proceeds to protect them. During this period, the water temperature should be maintained constant by the aquarist. The females grow fatter during the egg-laying period. Also, the fish prefers the soft water environment during this period.


These fish species do not have scales in their body, and they are prone to freshwater fish diseases just like the rest of the species. Due to lack of scales, this fish has a high sensitivity to ammonia and nitrates, and therefore you should ensure that the water quality is always high. This fish is prone to sickness easily, and therefore, as an aquarist, you need to ensure your fish is always in the optimal conditions, and in case of any sickness, it should be attended to as quickly as possible since they might suffer a rapid death.

One of the reasons why this fish species gets sick easily is because the bacterial infection damages its heart and blood vessels, and other body tissues. Some of the signs that you will observe from this fish include;  white patches that resembles fungus on the skin, ragged-resembling fins, open ulcers, loss of appetite, and change in color of gills. If you notice any of the above signs, it is important to ensure the fish is treated immediately before they can spread the disease to others.

Some of the things to do in order to prevent the Pictus Catfish from diseases include maintaining the quality of water and making sure you do the tank clean-up on a regular basis. Also, avoid overcrowding your tank since this fish needs a lot of room to swim. Also, when introducing new fish in the tank, it is important to quarantine them in a separate tank for a few days to ensure they do not have any diseases and infections with them. After confirming they are safe, they can then be added to the tank.

You should also ensure that any decoration or equipment that is added into the tank is cleaned first to remove any v bacteria.


Are the Pictus Catfish freshwater fish?

Yes, the Pictus Catfish is a freshwater fish that originates from Orinoco and Amazon River Basin in South America. The fish prefers living in warm rivers and streams in sand riverbeds.

Can a Pictus Catfish live in a 10-gallon tank?

Despite the fact that this fish species is small and grows to a maximum length of 5 inches, they still need a bigger space. Therefore this space will not be enough. Putting them in such a tank will suffocate them and put them at risk of premature death.

Can Pictus Catfish live with Guppies?

 This species is not compatible with the Guppies. This is due to their small size, and therefore they will end up being eaten by the Pictus Catfish.

Can I just keep one Pictus Catfish?

 It is very rare to find this fish living alone in the tank. Therefore it is advisable to keep them in a group of 3 to 4. This will make them happy and more active.


Pictus Catfish is a peaceful, energetic, and active fish and will easily get along with another fish of similar characteristics. They also have charming and appealing looks that every aquarist would want in their aquarium. They are very sensitive to changes in water parameters, and therefore you need to be very keen. This fish is not difficult to maintain, and therefore there is nothing to worry you. You just need to maintain the tank and monitor the water to ensure everything is up to standards.

If you want to acquire this fish, you need to visit a reputable breeder or a pet store around you. You should do thorough background research about the fish before taking them home. Seek clarification about anything you are not sure about.

It is our hope that this guide has been helpful to you and has provided extensive information about the care and maintenance of the Pictus Catfish. If so, you should consider adding this species to your aquarium.

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