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 spawners that are known to be difficult to breed in captivity.
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Ich.
Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus)
Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus)

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 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 Care

Pictus Catfish have long, thin bodies with 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 who 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 their food comprises dead insects, larvae, and decaying plant matter.

Pictus Catfish are bottom-feeding fish, so you will want to ensure that you offer 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. However, 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 largely depends 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 are 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 are prone to the same diseases as other freshwater fish. They do not have scales but can get surface ailments and bacterial infections like Ich. Most Pictus Catfish ailments are susceptible are caused by improper care and poor water quality. Typically, once Pictus Catfish exhibit sickness, they tend to go downhill quickly and can die as a result.

Monitoring your Pictus Catfish regularly is important to be aware of any behavioral changes in your fish. These behavioral changes, such as loss of appetite or lethargy, indicate 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 monitoring the aquarium water parameters frequently.

Tank Requirements

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

Pictus Catfish are a small fish that spends most of its time searching for food or shoaling with other Pictus Catfish at the bottom of the tank. For this reason, you would want to choose a tank that is wider instead of 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 could accommodate them.

Pictus Catfish are an active species of fish that will often be seen darting around your aquarium. They can display their shoaling behaviors more comfortably when provided with adequate space.

The larger space requirement of the Pictus Catfish is one of the main reasons that most beginners of 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 consider their larger space requirement. Keeping Pictus Catfish in a smaller environment will most likely cause them stress, affecting fish negatively, and often causing sickness.

Pictus Catfish are scaleless, making 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 ensure that the water parameters stay where they are needed.

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

Tank Setup

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

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 to minimize 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. Regarding 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 out on your first try. Pictus Catfish are mostly a nocturnal species, and low lighting is preferred for their aquarium setup.


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 easy to breed in the home aquarium due to their large space requirement. Unless you work with an aquarium over a few hundred gallons, the chances of your Pictus Catfish breeding in a home aquarium are slim. Another factor that makes Pictus Catfish extremely tough to breed in captivity is that it is 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 instead of 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. Pictus Catfish in captivity will not grow to full maturity if they are not 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 with the right amount of space for a small group 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.

Tank Mates

Due to their peaceful nature, Pictus Catfish are great tank mates for many different fish species. 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 they stick together in large groups in the wild. It is difficult to keep Pictus Catfish in captivity 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 a few things to keep in mind if you plan on housing them in a community setup. Even though Pictus Catfish are opportunistic, omnivorous feeders will still go after any smaller fish as they consider the smaller fish to be dinner. Slow-moving fish should also be avoided so that Pictus Catfish are not tempted to nip at them.

You can see the fin damage on your fish if this happens 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 is 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 the Goldfish is smaller than the Pictus Catfish at any point, 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 a 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 enjoy similar water parameters, temperaments, and diets, but Corydoras and Pictus Catfish 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, issues will most likely 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, which is problematic when housing with a predatory species like the Pictus Catfish. The Pictus Catfish will most likely 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 want to purchase Pictus Catfish for your home aquarium, you can find them for sale in local pet stores and online. It is important to ensure you purchase from a reputable breeder to get quality healthy fish. You can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $15 per Pictus Catfish.

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