What Do Catfish Eat?

What Do Catfish Eat?
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What Do Catfish Eat? Catfish are unique looking fish notable for their barbells which give the impression of a cat’s whiskers. This kind of fish species is commonly found in freshwater.

Some catfishes inhabit marine waters. Catfish can be found in every continent except Antarctica. When it comes to their diet, catfish are opportunistic feeders.

Catfish are mostly omnivores, feeding on a plant material and animal flesh. Some species are strictly carnivores.

Suggested Reading: Did you know Catfish have 175,000 taste sensitive cells? Check out top 11 animals with extraordinary sensors.

What Do Catfish Eat?

Type of Catfish Diet
Flathead Catfish Fish, insects, and crustaceans.
Channel Catfish Fish, clams, snails, insects, small mammals, crustaceans, small birds such pigeons, and vegetation.
Blue Catfish Fish and large invertebrates.
North African Catfish Planktons, shrimp, fish, snails, birds, dead animals, seeds, nuts, grains, and fruit.

Catfish Diet by Types

Over 3,000 catfish species exists with others waiting to be described. These many organisms are divided into 36 families. The exciting bit is that catfish account for 1 out of every 20 vertebrate animals that have been described.

This section will sample out examples of catfish species. Insight into their habitats will also be provided.

What Do Flathead Catfish Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Siluriformes Ictaluridae Pylodictis Pylodictis olivaris

Flathead catfish diet mostly constitutes of fish, insects, and crustaceans.

What do Flathead Catfish Eat?

  • This catfish species is also referred to as the Mississippi cat, yellow cat, mudcat, or the shovelhead cat.
  • As its name suggests, this catfish has a flat head. Aside from this, it looks like a typical catfish with barbells around its mouth and smooth scale-less skin.
  • This species inhabits lakes, rivers, canals, and streams, especially those with cloudy waters and slow currents.

What Do Channel Catfish Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Siluriformes Ictaluridae Ictalurus Ictalurus punctatus

Channel catfish are opportunistic feeders whose diet includes fish, clams, snails, insects, small mammals, and crustaceans. There are reports of some species consuming small birds. They also eat vegetation.

What Do Channel Catfish Eat?

  • The channel catfish is also known as the speckled catfish, spotted catfish, fork-tailed catfish, or the silver catfish.
  • This species is notable for its forked tail and its upper jaw which is longer and overlaps the lower jaw.
  • They inhabit lakes, larger rivers, and streams especially on mudflats, clean sand, gravel or stone bottoms. They can also be found below dams.

What Do Blue Catfish Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Siluriformes Ictaluridae Ictalurus Ictalurus furcatus

Blue catfish’s broad palate includes mostly fish and large invertebrates.

What do Blue Catfish Eat?

  • As its name suggests, the blue catfish is predominantly pale blue, but it can also have olive hue on their backs and sides and are white on the lower parts.
  • Blue catfish are mostly found in rivers, especially over sand, gravel, and mud.

What Do North African Catfish Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Siluriformes Clariidae Clarias Clarias gariepinus

North African catfish diet includes planktons, shrimp, fish, snails, birds, dead animals, seeds, nuts, grains, and fruit.

What Do African Catfish Eat?

  • The North African catfish is commonly found in Africa, some parts of Asia and Europe.
  • This species inhabits a plethora of freshwater environs which include lakes, pools, and ponds.

How Do Catfish Hunt?

Catfish use a wide array of hunting techniques to find their prey.

How Do Catfish Hunt?

  • Predation has been noted to be successful when slow benthic organisms are targeted.
  • One strategy some species use is the pack-hunting technique where there is a collaboration of several catfish.
  • Herding is mostly used where their preferred prey is trapped and later ambushed. Catfish can also hunt prey individually by targeting prey and capturing it.

When Do Catfish Eat?

Different catfish species are active during different times of the day.

  • Some species are nocturnal, preferring to come out at night to feed.
  • An excellent example of a nocturnal feeder is the African catfish.
  • Some species display diurnal or crepuscular activity.

How Often Do Catfish Eat?

How often catfish eat depends on many factors, one being age.

  • Younger catfish need more energy to grow compared to the already mature species.
  • As such, they will tend to eat as often and more compared to mature catfish.

What Eats Catfish?

Thanks to their abundance and their poor motility in land and water, catfish are preyed upon quite easily by a vast range of organisms.

What Eats Catfish? Crocodile

  • Examples of organisms that predate on catfish include crocodiles, some Bird Species, Storks, Fish Eagles, leopards, and of course, humans!
  • Some catfish species are eaten by other catfish (cannibalism).

Where do Catfish fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Catfish play an instrumental role in the animal food chain.

  • They feed on a large number of smaller organisms (mollusks, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish).
  • Because of this role, they help keep the local population of these organisms under check.
  • Catfish, especially the channel catfish species, are preyed upon by organisms like humans thus providing them with vital nutrients necessary for survival.
  • Catfish also feed on carrion from dead organisms. In this role, they help rid the ecosystem of dead organic matter, thus providing a clean ecosystem for other organisms to thrive.

In a nutshell, the existence of catfish confirms the presence of a thriving ecosystem.

Cite this article as: "What Do Catfish Eat?," in Bio Explorer, May 8, 2021, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-catfish-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “How many catfish species are there? – Practical Fishkeeping”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Flathead Catfish | Chesapeake Bay Program”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis
    . Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Channel catfish”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Ryan Somma | Flickr”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Channel Catfish” – Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “Fish Collection – Blue Catfish – Ictalurus furcatus” – Florida Museum. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.
  • “FAO: Natural food and feeding habits”. Accessed August 25, 2019. Link.

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