Freshwater catfish are found on every continent except Antarctica, and are generally hardy, easygoing fish. As aquarium pets, they offer an added bonus of scavenging, eating bits of food that have fallen to the bottom of the tank. Most are peaceful fish who get along well with other species of tropical fish, but there are some exceptions. It's important to understand each type of catfish when choosing one to complete your aquarium habitat so that it can coexist peacefully with existing community members.
Corydoras Catfish Companions
Corys or corydoras catfish are some of the most popular aquarium catfish available at pet stores. Albino, skunk and striped elegans are inexpensive and remain on the smaller size. They are good for small aquariums and tanks filled with schooling fish, such as guppies, platys and mollies. They can also coexist peacefully with goldfish, but may compete for food; extra food may be required.
Banjo catfish get their name from their unique shape that mimics the musical instrument; the head is large and round, tapering to a thin body and tail. Banjo catfish burrow in the sand and prefer a diet of worms and live insects, so supplemental feeding may be necessary. They do well with smaller fish such as tetras and dwarf cichlids.
Flat-nosed and Antenna Catfish
Be careful when introducing the flat-nosed and antenna catfish into a freshwater aquarium. Their large mouths can easily capture smaller fish accidentally as they forage for food at night. They tend to eat small fish and should only be paired with large, active fish such as tetras, barbs and gouramis. Do not pair them with angel fish; the sharp barbels of the flat-nosed catfish can injure or kill angelfish.
The featherfin or upside-down catfish needs to be kept in a 50-gallon or larger aquarium. You can keep one or a small group of these unique fish together as long as they have individual rocks placed on the bottom of the aquarium to use as resting places. They get along well with most freshwater aquarium fish and are generally placid.
Some catfish are omnivorous and occasionally prey on other fish in the aquarium. They're best kept in larger aquariums or with large tropical fish. These include sea, naked, air-breathing, pangasius and long-whiskered catfish. They may be kept with other fish as long as there is plenty of room and hiding places for fish such as rocks and plants.
Jeanne Grunert has been a writer since 1990. Covering business, marketing, gardening and health topics, her work has appeared in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, "Horse Illustrated" and many national publications. Grunert earned her Master of Arts in writing from Queens College and a Master of Science in direct and interactive marketing from New York University.