Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus
Channel Catfish


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Channel Catfish

Scientific name: Ictalurus punctatus

Common names for Channel Catfish includes: River Catfish, Spotted Cat and Blue Channel catfish. (this species is often confused with the Blue Catfish which is another species.)

Channel catfish which are known for their tender and well tasting meat are not only a culinary treat and popular sport fish but also an appreciate aquarium fish among those who have the facilities to be able to keep them (I will talk more about keeping Channel Catfish in aquariums later) . Channel Catfish are very similar to Blue Catfish but they can be easily distinguished from each other by looking at their anal fins. If the anal fin is rounded than your fish is a Channel catfish. You can also make an educated guess of the species depending on where you caught your catfish. Blue catfish are primarily found in rapidly moving water and if you catch one of these catfish in a lake or a reservoir it’s most likely a Channel catfish.

Channel catfish can grow to be 4 ft/ 130 cm long and weigh up to 58lb / 26 kg. The average specimen of Channel catfish is however much smaller then that and 2-3 lb / 1,5 kg is the average size of by fisherman caught Channel catfish. They can live to be at least 40 years old.

Channel Catfish is the commercially single most important cultivated fish in the US. This has led to the fact that channel catfish has been introduced to many areas of the US as well as other parts of the world after originally primarily have been found in the gulf states. All catfish found in the east coast states have been introduced at one time or another.
Channel catfish can cross breed with a number of the other domestic American catfish species like the Blue Catfish and the Bullhead catfish. This has led to the fact that there now exist a large number of hybrid strains which different characteristics that for different reasons are considered beneficial.

Channel catfish can be found in both “lakes and reservoirs” and in more fast moving waters such as rivers and streams. They are however more numerous in lakes and streams. They prefer clear water with sandy to rocky bottom. Channel catfish are seldom found in areas with dense vegetation. They are normally found in freshwater but do very well in brackish water.
To keep channel catfish in aquariums you will need a very large aquarium or a pond to host the adult fish. However a smaller aquarium might be acceptable if you want to raise a fry and later release it back into the water it was caught in. Never release fish into other waters then the water they were caught in and never release tropical fish into any body of water what so ever.

Decorate the aquarium with sand or gravel as bottom substrate and provide the fish with a number of large rocks which they can hide around or perhaps even under. A few plants are beneficial but avoid planting your aquarium to densely. Use a large filter to circulate the water and keep it clean. Channel fish are best kept in water with pH 6-8 and a temperature of 77-82°F / 25-28°C but Channel Catfish can accept a wide variety of temperatures without taking damage. Their growth rate are highly dependent on water temperature and maximal growth are achieved in 85° F/ 29.5° C although this hardly is a goal for most aquarium owners.

Picture of albino channel catfish - ictalurus punctatus
Albino Channel Catfish - Ictalurus punctatus.

Channel catfish are very easy to feed in aquariums and will accept most meaty food that is offered for them. They eat primarily at night and will accept food in all waters levels. In the wild they feed on aquatic insects, crayfish, molluscs, crustaceans and other fish. Young fish might refuse to eat fish until they grow older and can then be given a diet of shrimp, crabs and molluscs.

Little is known about breeding this species in aquariums however Channel Catfish are breed in large quantities in ponds on catfish farms. Spawning can perhaps be triggered in aquarium by lowering the temperature and then raising it again slowly.

In the wild Channel catfish spawn during the spring and early summer when the water temperature is raising. They spawn in a nest built by the male. The nest can be anything from a cave that he has cleared out to a crater he has dug in the bottom. The Channel catfish spawn in the nest and the male then guard the egg and fry to keep them save from other predators. A single spawning can result in over 20 000 eggs which hatch after about 10 days. The fry leave their fathers protection after about a week.

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Channel Catfish