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Pictus catfish - Pimelodus pictus

Pictus catfish - Pimelodus pictus

Scientific name: Pimelodus pictus

Common name: Pictus catfish

Family: Pimelodidae

Usual size in fish tanks: 10 - 12 cm (3.94 - 4.72 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 6.5 - 7.5

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 4 - 18°N (71.43 - 321.43ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 23 - 27 °C (73.4 - 80.6°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: South America

Temperament to its own species: peaceful

Temperament toward other fish species: aggressive to smaller

Usual place in the tank: Bottom levels


Pictus catfish will eat anything that drops onto the bottom, just make sure other fish leave enough food for it. They will love live or frozen food, even clean and chopped earthworms, and sinking pellets for catfish will ensure their health, but avoid overfeeding. They will try to eat everything until they are on the brink of explosion.


This catfish might be found in two rivers in the wild. One is the Rio Orinoco in Colombia and Venezuela, and the second is the Amazon river in Peru and Brazil. It prefers shallow water with steady stream.


A female pictus catfish should be bigger and bulkier than a male.


They lay eggs, but in a home aquarium it is very difficult to get them to breed.


With proper care, it can live about 8 years. Since their skin is sensitive, they easily catch skin diseases and parasites. Pictus catfish is very sensitive to chemicals, even medications, so be very careful and add only small amounts if you really need to.

Tank requirements

Choose dimmer lighting, or you won’t see them often because they will hide a lot. The bottom should have lots of caves and hiding places, then the catfish will be peaceful and content. You might also use rocks, driftwood and plants which do not require a lot of light. But also leave some free space where they can freely search for food. You will need at least 40 gallons or 150 litres per every catfish you house, since they grow quite large, are very active (they might get aggressive in small spaces) and they produce a lot of waste. So invest into a good filtration system too. If the water quality drops, they might lose their barbels. When you fix the water, they will grow back. And because of their soft barbels, choose a sandy substrate or gravel without sharp edges.


Best tankmates are other soft water requiring fish. They can be even more aggressive cichlids, since the pictus has spines on the dorsal fin which will protect it. However it is not recommended to add small fish to the tank, because if they fit into a pictus’ mouth, they will be eaten. Especially if you want to add young cory catfishes to an old pictus. They will also eat small tetras, guppies and similar fish. Also avoid any slow moving fish, because there is a big chance that it will be bothered by the pictus, therefore choose only active fish. They like shoaling, but since one fish needs quite lot of space, it is not often possible. One fish in a tank should be fine too, even if they love to be in a shoal of 6 or more.


Don’t use nets if you want to move the fish, because its spiky dorsal fin can get caught in it and you might harm the fish. Use some glass bowl instead, or better yet cut off the top of a large plastic bottle with a handle, like those one gallon milk bottles, and use that. Of course avoid bottles which stored chemicals. Those spines are also covered in a toxin causing pain and swelling for few hours, so be careful not to get pricked.

Short description

They can be found in two colour forms. The ones from Colombia have smaller black dots, while the Peruvian’s dots are much larger.


Due to merging with related pages, the following question and answer were added here on March 25th 2011.

Why does my pictus catfish have spots?

Answer: If the spots on the catfish are white then it will be a case of Ich (white spot), adding aquarium salt, raising the tank temperature slightly and treating with a suitable white spot treatment should clear it up.


Bought by from catfish, image 1 Pictus catfish, image 2 Pictus catfish, image 3 Pictus catfish, image 4 Pictus catfish, image 5 Pictus catfish, image 6

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