Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus Pictus): Ultimate Care Guide


Common Name(s)Pictus Catfish
Scientific NamePimelodus Pictus
OriginSouth America
Temperature74F – 78F
Sizeup to 5 inches
Minimum Tank Size50-55 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous
Lifespan8 to 10 years
Water pH7.0 – 7.5
Tank MatesDanios, Angelfish, Rummy Nose Tetra, and Gouramis
BreedingEgg spawner that are known to be difficult to breed in captivity.
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Ich.

Pictus Catfish Facts

  • Pictus Catfish are omnivorous, scavenging fish. They use their long, wispy barbels to help them seek out food in murky water.
  • It can be extremely difficult to determine the difference between male and female Pictus Catfish by just looking at them. At full maturity, female Pictus Catfish tend to be more rounded in their bellies when they are full of eggs.
  • Pictus Catfish are native to South America, particularly the Amazon River where their natural environment is ever shrinking due to human interference.
Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus)
Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus)

Pictus Catfish Care

Pictus Catfish have long, thin bodies that have a silvery skin that lacks scales and is covered in black spots. These spots are fairly evenly spaced along the body of the Pictus Catfish with less spotting on their bellies.They have large mouths, flat bodies, and barbels on their mouths. Barbels are whisker-like protrusions that come off of the mouth of the fish. Pictus Catfish use their barbels to help them find food in murky waters when visibility is low.

Food and Diet

In the wild, Pictus Catfish are scavengers. They are opportunistic, predatory, omnivorous feeders that will readily eat up whatever they can get. This means that they will eat both plant and animal matter. Pictus Catfish will eat fish that are smaller than them. If they can fit the smaller fish in their mouth, they will be dinner for the Pictus Catfish if caught. Most of the food they eat is composed of dead insects, larvae, and decaying plant matter. Pictus Catfish are bottom feeding fish, so you will want to make sure that you are offering them sinking pellets. Normal flaked foods will not quite fill out the diet that Pictus Catfish need. It is essential that they are fed a varied diet of high quality foods to ensure that they remain healthy. Pictus Catfish can eat brine shrimp, algae tablets, vegetable matter, and even finely chopped meaty foods.

Do Pictus Catfish Eat Algae?

Pictus Catfish are opportunistic scavengers that will eat algae if given to them in flake or pellet form. There are much better fish to choose if you need algae control in your aquarium.

Size and Lifespan

The Pictus Catfish can grow up to 5 inches at full maturity. Though it is rare for Pictus Catfish to exceed this size. Pictus Catfish can live 8 to 10 years in captivity. The longevity of the Pictus Catfish in the home aquarium is largely dependent on how well the Pictus Catfish are being cared for. If they are kept in inadequate setups it can affect their health, lifespan, and maximum growth negatively.

Are Pictus Catfish Hardy?

Pictus Catfish are considered a hardy fish to keep, but they are not recommended for beginners to the fish keeping hobby due to their needs. The health and lifespan of Pictus Catfish in the home aquarium is directly related to how well they are cared for. It is important to establish a regular cleaning routine, and to monitor the water parameters carefully so that you can correct them quickly if any problems arise.

Pictus Catfish Disease

Pictus Catfish are prone to the same diseases as other freshwater fish. They do not have scales, but they can get surface ailments and bacterial infections like Ich. Most of the ailments that Pictus Catfish are susceptible to are caused by improper care and poor water quality. Typically, once Pictus Catfish are exhibiting sickness, they tend to go downhill quickly and can die as a result.

It is important to monitor your Pictus Catfish regularly so that you are aware of any behavioral changes in your fish. These behavioral changes such as loss of appetite, or lethargy are good indicators that something is wrong with your fish.

In the case of Pictus Catfish care, it is better to prevent problems from occurring than it is to correct them once they arise. You can do this by establishing routine water changes, and by monitoring the aquarium water parameters frequently.

Pictus Catfish Tank Requirements

Pictus Catfish require 50 to 55 gallon tanks to house per fish, and since they are a shoaling fish you will need to house them in an aquarium that is considerably larger.

Pictus Catfish are a small fish that spends most of its time at the bottom of the tank searching for food or shoaling with other Pictus Catfish. It is for this reason that you would want to choose a tank that is wider opposed to tall. This will give them more area to swim and explore. This seems like quite a lot of space for just a few small fish, but they would enjoy even more space if you have the room to accommodate. Pictus Catfish are an active species of fish that will often be seen darting around your aquarium, and when provided with adequate space they will be able to display their shoaling behaviors more comfortably.

The larger space requirement of the Pictus Catfish is one of the main reasons that most beginners to the fish keeping hobby do not choose Pictus Catfish for their home aquarium setup in favor of a fish with a much smaller space requirement.

If you are considering purchasing more than one Pictus Catfish, it is important to keep in mind their larger space requirement. Keeping Pictus Catfish in a smaller environment will most likely cause them stress, and stress affects fish negatively, often causing sickness.

Pictus Catfish are scaleless, and this makes them more susceptible to illness if there are large changes in their water parameters. They should be kept at 74F to 78F, and 7.0 to 7.5pH with frequent monitoring to make sure that the water parameters stay where they are needed.

Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus)
Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus)

Pictus Catfish Tank Setup

When setting up an aquarium to house Pictus Catfish, it is important for their health and happiness that it be built and maintained correctly. You can achieve this by trying to create a habitat for your Pictus Catfish that closely resembles their habitat in the wild.

In the wild, Pictus Catfish spend a lot of their time on the bottom searching for food in the murky waters by using their barbels, but they will inhabit the middle water column as well. Choose a soft, dark substrate so that it minimizes the risk of injury to the sensitive belly skin of the Pictus Catfish.

Pictus Catfish prefer heavily planted aquariums with lots of places to explore. You can choose smooth, river stones and driftwood to make them many small caves and interesting places for them to visit or hide. When it comes to currents, the Pictus Catfish is not picky, and any stream of water flow is acceptable.

Setting up a Pictus Catfish Habitat with these simple things may seem fairly straightforward, but you will want to keep in mind that Pictus Catfish are busy fish that still require plenty of space for swimming. It can be difficult to balance it all out just right on your first try. Pictus Catfish are mostly a nocturnal species, and low lighting is preferred for their aquarium setup.

Pictus Catfish Breeding

It becomes much easier to tell the difference between male and female Pictus Catfish when they have reached full maturity, but that is still not saying much about being able to tell the difference between the two by just looking. The female Pictus Catfish is more rounded in the belly area, especially when she is full of eggs and nearing ready to spawn. Females can also be slightly larger than males. Owners of Pictus Catfish report that even after owning a Pictus Catfish for years they still haven’t been able to determine if they have a male or a female.

Are Pictus Catfish Easy to Breed?

Pictus Catfish are not considered an easy fish to breed in the home aquarium due to their large space requirement. Unless you are working with an aquarium that is over a few hundred gallons, the chances of your Pictus Catfish breeding in a home aquarium are slim to none. Another factor that makes Pictus Catfish extremely tough to breed in captivity is the fact that they are difficult to determine the sex. It becomes easier to tell the difference between the male and female Pictus Catfish at full maturity. When the females are ready to spawn, they will be noticeably rounder as they are full of eggs.

How to Breed Pictus Catfish

It is very difficult to breed Pictus Catfish in captivity due to their need for large amounts of space per fish. If you are considering breeding Pictus Catfish, you will want to start with a tank that is at least 200 gallons, and wide opposed to tall. This will give your Pictus Catfish the required space for the amount of Pictus Catfish you will have to house to be able to trigger them to spawn. They will not spawn if the right conditions are not met.

It can be tough to tell the difference between male and female Pictus Catfish, and you will have the greatest success in breeding if you keep one male Pictus Catfish with up to 3 females. In captivity, Pictus Catfish will not grow to full maturity if they are not being housed in the appropriate amount of space, and this matters if you are planning on breeding them. It is said that to have the most success in breeding Pictus Catfish, you will want to start off with the right amount of space for a small group of them to mature into.

When the Pictus Catfish is ready to spawn, the female lays her eggs and then the male comes along and fertilizes them.

Do Pictus Catfish Lay Eggs?

Pictus Catfish are egg laying fish. This means that when the female is ready to spawn, she will find a place to lay her eggs for the male to come along and fertilize them.

Pictus Catfish Tank Mates

Due to their peaceful nature, Pictus Catfish are great tank mates for lots of different species of fish. Pictus Catfish will not actively go after other fish unless they mistake them for food. A good rule to follow when choosing other fish to add to a community tank setup that also houses Pictus Catfish is to choose fish that are not significantly smaller than they are so that they are not mistaken for a meal.

You will also want to avoid placing Pictus Catfish into a tank that houses territorial or aggressive fish as they could go after your Pictus Catfish and cause injury. Examples of overly aggressive fish are African Cichlids or Dempseys. Examples of ideal tank mates for Pictus Catfish are Danios, Angelfish, Rummy Nose Tetra, and Gouramis.

Do Pictus Catfish Need to be in Groups?

Pictus Catfish are a shoaling species, and in the wild they stick together in large groups. In captivity, it is difficult to keep Pictus Catfish due to their large tank requirement. This is especially true when keeping Pictus Catfish as they require a minimum of a 200 gallon tank to house a small shoal of 4 to 6.

Are Pictus Catfish Aggressive?

Pictus Catfish are a mostly peaceful fish species that get along with most other fish species but there are few things to keep in mind if you are planning on housing them in a community setup. Even though Pictus Catfish are opportunistic, omnivorous feeders they will still go after any fish that are smaller than them as they consider the smaller fish to be dinner. Slow moving fish should be avoided as well so that Pictus Catfish are not tempted to nip at them. You will be able to see the fin damage on your fish if this is happening in your aquarium. Slow moving fish should also be avoided as tank mates for the fast moving Pictus Catfish so that they do not damage other fish with their barbels as they dart around and past them.

Pictus Catfish and Goldfish

Pictus Catfish and Goldfish do not make for compatible tank mates for many different reasons. The first reason being that they do not require the same water parameters and neither fish would have their needs perfectly met which could spell out potential disaster for both fish. Another major reason for not being able to house these two species together in a community setup is their very different behaviors. The fast moving Pictus Catfish will stress out the slower moving Goldfish. Both of these species max out at roughly the same size, but if at any point the Goldfish is smaller than the Pictus Catfish, it could be in danger of being seen as a potential meal for the Pictus Catfish.

Pictus Catfish and Oscars

It is not a good idea to try to house an Oscar with a Pictus Catfish even though both enjoy similar water parameters and diet. Both fish are predatory if given the chance. The Pictus Catfish will eat fish that are smaller than it is, but the Oscar will eat fish that are smaller and larger.

Pictus Catfish and Corydoras

Pictus Catfish and Corydoras both enjoy similar water parameters, temperaments, and diets, but Corydoras and Pictus Catfish both require a lot of space. Both species are shoaling fish that occupy the middle and bottom of the water column in the aquarium, so if you place them in a small aquarium they will not only not have enough room, but they will get into each other’s way. If you place the two species together there will most likely be issues that arise.

Pictus Catfish and Red Tail Shark

Red Tail Sharks are not ideal tank mates for Pictus Catfish even though they enjoy similar water parameters. Red Tail Sharks occupy the bottom of the water column in an aquarium, and they will most likely harass Pictus Catfish while they are trying to scavenge for food along the bottom.

Pictus Catfish and Guppies

Pictus Catfish do not make for great tank mates with Guppies. Guppies are small fish, and that is a problem when housing with a predatory species like the Pictus Catfish. Most likely the Pictus Catfish will see the Guppies as food and try to go after them. If the Guppies are smaller than the Pictus Catfish, they will be hunted down and eaten.

Where Can I Find Pictus Catfish For Sale?

If you are looking to purchase Pictus Catfish for your home aquarium, you will be able to find them for sale in local pet stores and online. It is important to make sure that you are purchasing from a reputable breeder to ensure that you are getting a quality healthy fish. You can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $15 per Pictus Catfish.

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With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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