Complete Guide to Take Care of Pictus Catfish in a Tank

A lot of people seem to be interested in having pictus catfish these days. Since this fish lives in freshwater, it is easier for you to take care. Furthermore, they are not aggressive fish. In fact, they are very cute, which makes people love to look at them.

This fish has long barbels which also makes it interesting to see them while they swim with the barbels moving around their body. If that still does not interest you, then you might want to see some information that we give here. No doubt, this information will make you fall in love with this cute fish.


Pictus Catfish Habits, Species and Other Detailed Information

Pimelodus pictus is the name used by aquarist for this catfish. It always been popular type of catfish among aquarist because it is easy to take care. Furthermore, it also has very unique appearance that makes it easier to distinct them among other catfishes. 

This catfish can be taken from South America in the ever-famous Amazon river and also from Orinoco river. In several cases, it can also be taken from Peru when since this fish love to swim and drifted further from their home.

Swimming has always been one of their unique characteristics since usually catfishes are on the mellow side. If you have Pictus catfish in your freshwater tank, you should expect them swim around and about in high speed every day.


For those that are not very familiar with Pictus catfish species, the first thing that caught their attention is the size of their barbels. The size of this whiskers often as long as their whole length which is why it stand out a lot.

Because of this barbels, even those that does not know the name of this fish will know that it is a catfish. The whiskers will sway around the catfish body which makes them mesmerizing to watch. 

The reason why Pictus catfish need to have this long barbels is because their natural habitat consists of dirty water. Thus, they will use the whiskers to feel everything around them and help them navigate their way. 

Of course, the barbels would not have much use when they live in the tank since the water around them is clean. However, these whiskers still give them better awareness of their surrounding which is why they are still needed. 

Pictus catfish fish tank

You can distinct this fish from other catfish by the silver lights that spread evenly around the side of their body. The belly of this catfish is a little bit lighter and like other catfish you will not find any scales on their body. 

What you will find are dots of dark color which scatters around the body of Pictus catfish evenly. They are also present in the caudal as well as dorsal fins. However, these dots are less prominent around the stomach area. 

When you see the caudal as well as dorsal fins, they are more translucent in color. But you can clearly see the dorsal fins compared to the caudal fins. You can see this if you angled your view a bit. 

However, you need to be careful with their forked tail as well as pectoral fins since they are a bit sharp. It can cut open the other fish or even your hands if you hold them in the wrong angle. 


Compared to the other catfish in the same class, the lifespan of Pictus catfish is quite long. They can live up to 10years long when you take good care of them. Of course, the number can get shortened significantly with poor water condition and diet. 

Breeding attempts will also affect their lifespan. This is why, you need to take good care of this catfish if you have them in the tank. Since now they live in a limited area inside the tank, then you have to be responsible in making sure everything is good for their wellbeing.


Even though they can live very long, turns out their size is not as big as you thought it would be. Their maximum size is around 5inches on the fully-grown adult fish. It is very rare, however there are some Pictus catfish that can exceed this number.

Their size will heavily be affected by diet and their life quality. If you want to grow them to be bigger, then you need to pay attention to their condition when you bought it since it will highly affect the result.

How to Take Care of Pictus to Get the Best Result

The way you took care of Pictus catfish will highly affect their life quality. Of course, this will also affect their appearance and attitude. That is why, you want to take a good care of them as best as you could. 

But do not worry as this catfish is consider easy to take care as long as you follow the right guideline. It is also a low maintenance fish which is why it is suitable for aquarist that does not like to be troubled with maintenance.

The Size of Tank

If you want to take care of Pictus catfish then you need to prepare 55 gallons size tank. This fish is very active so they really need to have a good space to move around. They also very fast swimmer thus they will be able to reach the end of the tank fast.

If you use small size tank, they would not be able to swim comfortably and this will cause them to stress. As other creature, this will affect their health negatively. This is why, the size of the tank is a big thing that you need to prepare. Do not forget that you also need to add equal amount of tank size for every Pictus catfish you add on the tank.

Parameters to Pay Attention

Other parameters you need to pay attention when taking care of Pictus is on the water. This catfish is very sensitive so you need to make sure that the water has the right parameters for them to grow well. 

If the parameters do not match then it will give negative impact to the fish. Here are the values that are recommended for Pictus catfish:

  • Temperature: The range that people commonly uses for this fish is around 70°Fto80°F, but it is more recommended to use 70°Fto80°F range instead.
  • pH level: The level of pH of the water should be around 7 to 7.5. However, some people manage to use a little bit lower pH level as this fish love soft water. But those are more recommended for expert so beginner should stick to the normal level.
  • Hardness: The hardness of the water should be around 5 to 15dH

To make sure that the parameters of the water inside the tank always match these values, do not forget to do the test regularly. It is important for you to catch even the slightest changes since it can be dangerous for the Pictus catfish.

Pictus catfish breeding

Decoration to Put Inside the Tank

Besides to make the tank appear pretty to your eyes, the purpose of the decoration is to make the tank mimic the catfish’s natural habitat. That way, it will become more comfortable for them to live in. It can also help them to be healthy since it will make them free from stress.

When it comes to decorating the tank, you should add some plants inside the aquarium. Although, Pictus catfish is a fast swimmer they still love to swim in between the plants. They are able to navigate very well around it, which is why you need to add some plants.

The type of plants that you want to use is hornwort which also have great appearance. This plant is very easy to take care of, so you shouldn’t worry too much about maintenance. You can get it in any stores that you always visit since this plant is easy to find.

For the items that you can add to the tank, you can try to use driftwood as well as some rocks. The riverbanks in Pictus catfish natural habitat is covered with rocks as well as driftwoods so having them around will make the catfish feels at home. 

These items will also give them a place to hide so they will feel safe. However, do not use too much items inside the tank that can overload it. Even though Pictus catfish love to feel at home but they also need space so they can roam around freely. This fast swimmer needs the right amount of space where they can freely speed up when they feel like it.

Diseases That Can Potentially Attack the Pictus

As other fishes that are put inside a tank, the Pictus catfish is also threatened by common diseases that often attack the tank. However, this should not be a problem when you take a good care of the tank and maintain the quality of the water well.

The most common diseases that often affect the Pictus catfish is white spot so you need to pay attention on this disease carefully. This disease is carried by parasite which often come from outside the tank. 

When affected the Pictus will have white spots all over their body especially on the gills and the skin area. This is a common disease that often attack freshwater tank. Usually, you can easily spot the disease even without any equipment so you need to treat them right away when you found it.

When the Pictus catfish is affected by this disease, they might scratch their bodies with some items in the tank. So, you need to pay attention to this behavior. It can help you to distinct this disease from other diseases that often have similar appearance.

Once, you identify the disease, you can get some prescription from the fish store or veterinarian to treat the condition. Remember that you need to pay attention to the water temperature so the disturbing parasite can be eliminated completely. 

Besides treating the disease when it happens, the most important thing that you need to do is to prevent them to happen. It is a common thing that you need to do to any type of fish that you take care of. 

Usually it can be done by simply doing a good maintenance to the tank. You need to make sure that the water quality is great by controlling their parameters. When it comes to the Pictus catfish itself, the key is to have the right amount of space for each fish so they would not be stressed. 

Another thing that you can do to make sure that there is no parasite that can enter the tank is to quarantine everything that you want to put into the tank. This includes the plants, other fishes, as well as other invertebrates. As you done all of those things, the chances of them to get sick will be lowered significantly.

Pictus catfish food

The Right Diet for Pictus to Be Healthy

The food that you can give to Pictus catfish is very easy to find as you can give them their natural food. But what important for you is to know the right amount of nutrition that the catfish needed. 

As other catfish, Pictus is also omnivores, thus they will scavenge for their food most of the time. They can eat various items that they find in the wild such as algae and other plant life. They can also find some protein and meats that came from various sources.

Of course, these things could not be found naturally in a man-made aquarium. That is why, it is your job to provide these things for them. Do not worry about encouraging them since most of the time, if it is an edible thing, then the Pictus catfish will most likely eat it.

However, because of this habits that they have, you should be careful with the type of fishes you put in the same tank. You do not want to put them in the same tank with other fishes that can be considered as food. 

Usually they will eat fishes that are smaller in size for example neon tetra. Thus, you need to make sure that you do not have this fish in the same tank. The point is to not have other fishes that are smaller size than the Pictus catfish.

Pictus usually scavenge their food near the bottom, thus the food that you provide should be able to sunk in to the bottom. If you use pellets, then you should choose one that can sink in so the catfish will eat it. 

Do not forget that you also need to give them the right protein sources that is good for their diet. The most common things that aquarist usually gives are daphnia, brine shrimp and bloodworm. 

To give the food some variety, you can give the protein in the form of live food as well as frozen one. Of course, the last will be more convenient for you to provide. However, having live food will add some activity and they usually have richer nutrient.

Pictus Unique Temperament and Behavior

If you are the type of aquarist that does not like trouble, then Pictus catfish is the one for you. This fish is quite mellow so usually it can be put anywhere. Because of that, most of the time you will find it hiding near the bottom of the tank. 

Sometimes, you can’t even find them at all for the whole day since they love to hide the most. That is why, you need to make sure there are a lot of spots where they can lurk and hide. It might be weird but even catfish need some privacy.

Pictus catfish is a funny fish, they will be peaceful and shy most of the time. However, when something happened in the tank, then they can suddenly be very active. This might be confusing for people that have them the first time, but soon you will get used to this behavior.

When they are not in the mood, they can hide all day long without even any sign of coming out form their hideout. However, as the feeding time near or when there is something interest them, then they will quickly dash out from their hideout. It will happen so fast so you might miss it and find them hiding again in another spot.

The Type of Fishes that Can Share Tank with Pictus

As we mention before, you need to be careful when putting other fish in the same tank as Pictus catfish. Since this catfish have behavior to eat fishes that are smaller in size than them then some fishes might not be a good tank mate for them. 

When Pictus hungry they can hunt and eat whatever they found, which includes other fishes in the tank. So, size is the number one thing that you need to pay attention when you want to put any fish in the same tank.

But do not worry as Pictus catfish is usually very peaceful type of fish, so there are a lot of fishes that you can actually put in the same tank. However, you need to be very careful as you do not want to put in fishes that are aggressive which can kill the catfish. Jack Dempsey and African Cichlid are the types that you need to avoid. 

Of course, it is easier to just put several catfishes in the same tank as they will love the company of their own species. But make sure you have the right tank size to be able to fit them all. Besides that, the type of fishes that you can put in the same tank are Platies that are larger in size, rainbow shark, other catfish species, opaline gourami, as well as giant danio. 

One thing that is important to pay attention is that Pictus catfish spines are sharp which can cut the other fishes. This is rare occurrence but accident sometimes happens, so make sure to check on the other fishes when you have time.

pictus catfish behaviour

Breeding Possibility

When it comes to breeding, we suggest to just leave that one to the professional. Pictus catfish is the type that is very hard to breed since you will find many challenges along the process. This is why, it is better to not waste any time and let the professional do their job.

One of the biggest challenges that can potentially block your road to breeding is the sexing. It is actually very difficult to know the sex of the Pictus which make it ridiculous but you can’t really do anything about it. Of course, it will make it even more difficult to breed them if you do not even know the sexes of the Pictus catfish that you try to breed.

If you are working hard enough to conquer that obstacle then you will be facing another obstacle that might be even bigger than before. Pictus can only be mature sexual if they spend some amount of their live in the open water. 

There is no exact explanation to why this thing is needed, however it is already proven. Thus, if you really want to overcome this obstacle, that means you need to have a tank that is significantly bigger than what usually used. Only then the Pictus catfish can reproduce, else it won’t ever happen. That is why, it is better to not even try to breed them from the start. 


After you read everything, you can decide whether this fish is the one for you. Generally speaking, Pictus catfish is very easy to maintain, so most people would not find any difficulties in taking care of it. 

The only thing that you need to pay attention is their tank mate, the size of the tank and the quality of the water. Once you nail everything down, then it will be a smooth sail from then on so you should not worry too much.Pictus catfish is very pretty fish to look at, that is why it will be very pleasing for your eyes. If you are the type that likes to spend a lot of time staring at your aquarium, then this catfish can be a nice addition to have.

Hi, I'm Millie a passionate fish enthusiast and blogger. I loves learning about all kinds of aquatic creatures, from tropical fish to stingrays.

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