What to Feed Catfish In An Aquarium?

What to Feed Catfish In An Aquarium

The inconspicuous bottom feeder fish you’ll see in any aquarium is none other than the catfish!

Part of an extremely diverse category of fish, catfish are highly adaptable animals that have feline-looking whiskers and a mouth at the bottom.

Mostly found in brackish water and stagnant streams, catfish dwell at the bottom because of how their mouth is positioned on their body – right at the bottom.

They’re able to sustain intense temperatures up to 100 Fahrenheit and contrary to popular belief, they’re actually omnivores!

In aquariums, they can grow up to 4 inches and live in tanks that can hold 5 gallons of water or even 30 gallons, depending on the size of the catfish.

Their tank should also have minimal light and lesser access to sunlight because they’re not fans of direct lighting.

Usually, three catfish in an aquarium is an ideal number and also a great way to see whether they’ll get along or not.

They’re also avid scavengers and love hunting for their food, so your catfish’s aquarium should have plenty of rocks, gravel, plants, and other stones at the bottom, which will trap food for them.

Their mouths are not designed to eat floating pellets or floating freeze-dried worms unless these foods get soggy and sink to the bottom.

So it’s a great idea to find food that sinks and has meat, too.

What to Feed Your Catfish In An Aquarium?

Now that you know what your catfish requires, here are some ideas on what to feed your catfish in an aquarium.

The Usual Aquarium Feed

The typical aquarium feed consists of pellets or other store-bought food that’s specifically made for catfish.

Pellets and flakes can get soggy and eventually float down, but they can be pretty messy.

Pellets and feed alike also disintegrate into the water and can compromise water quality.

Most of it might not even reach the bottom before it breaks down! But either way, they’re soft enough for a catfish to feed on, so having them around is pretty handy.

Frozen Dried Food

Catfish also enjoy frozen foods like shrimp, blood worms, and even brine shrimp.

Keepers can break off little bits of this and throw it into the aquarium and wait for it to sink.

In fact, on a steady diet of meats like these, some catfish can grow up to an inch longer every month! This feed contains enough nutrients to help catfish grow and are especially great for smaller catfish or young ones.

However, be careful when working with bloodworms— some keepers actually have allergies, so it’s best to wear gloves when tossing these in!

Small Crustaceans

Small crustaceans that are softer than their mature counterparts can be fed to a catfish in an aquarium.

A popular way to get your catfish to eat small crayfish or small shrimp is to drop some live ones in the aquariums.

In fact, these small crustaceans also remain at the bottom or close to aquarium plants so they’re easy to hunt and eat because of their small size.

Small Worms

Small live worms can also be fed to catfish.

Blood worms and other bait worms can be bought at bait shops or feed stores and can be dropped into the tank for the catfish to eat up.

Luckily, these worms sink to the bottom and are easily scavenged by catfish.

They also come pretty cheap and you can freeze them when you want to store them – or feed them live if your catfish is a feisty one.

Feeder Guppies

Some keepers have also suggested that catfish in aquariums be fed feeder guppies because of their omnivorous nature.

Some feed shops even suggest that feeding catfish feeder guppies every now and then is a good idea!

You can get some from your local pet store or bait shop and drop a few right in for your catfish to hunt and eat up.

Rotten Cheese

This may come as a rotten surprise, but it turns out, catfish eat rotten cheese!

In the wild, catfish feed on food that’s found at the bottom or any debris that’s stuck to the stones.

So if you’re feeling particularly experimental, take a tiny block of smelly cheese and drop it into the aquarium for your catfish to devour.

They are herbivores, after all!


Keepers also feed their catfish sardines in an aquarium. This small fish can be bought from bait shops, and larger catfish are actually quite fond of it.

However, don’t take a chance with the small catfish – sardines are a good option for catfish that are large and reside in pool aquariums.

In fact, it’s one of the most commonly used baits for catching catfish in the wild.


Catfish can also eat small snails found in aquariums.

Usually, that’s a good thing because these snails are like pests – every keeper wants to be rid of them!

By consuming snails, catfish are able to keep the population of these pesky snails on the low.

Besides, snails usually remain at the bottom, too, so they’re easy to find and accessible enough to eat.

What Else Do Catfish Eat?

As emphasized before, catfish are bottom feeders. So whatever they find at the bottom of the tank, they’ll eat.

In fact, keepers keep catfish in their aquarium to keep it clean.

This is possible because catfish eat the leftovers and waste that remains in the tank!

In some aquariums, catfish even stick to the sides of the glass because they’re feeding on algae or other waste material that may be there!

So in other words, they end up supplementing their diet with stuff they forage for here and there – this is all the more reason to remove excess food from the tank to prevent overfeeding!

Nutritional and Food Guidelines For Feeding Catfish In Aquariums

Catfish have certain dietary needs that need attention.

Because the species is a shy one and stays behind the scenes, it has different needs.

Nutrients for Catfish in an Aquarium

The top ingredient that catfish in aquariums need is protein.

However, not all proteins are good – for example, you can’t feed catfish chicken or red meat!

However, protein can be found in the fish feed that you can buy at pet stores or bait shops.

Prioritize crude proteins and keep an eye on the ingredient list for unnecessary ingredients or sketchy sources of protein.

Buy Sinking Food for Catfish

This is important – catfish have their mouths located at the bottom of their bodies, which means they cannot feed like other fish.

They can’t swim up to and eat pellets or other floating food.

They also cannot chase their prey around the tank, either.

Their mouths are also not equipped to chew hard foods so essentially, food that is soft, mushy, and can sink is the best kind.

Watch Them Eat to Understand Their Behavior

Catfish also have different personalities, and depending on their tank mates, they either actively hunt or remain docile.

Watch whether other tank mates are consuming your catfish’s food or if the catfish is avenging for it.

Don’t dump excess food; rather, watch their behavior and how long their feeding lasts.

Taking Care of Your Catfish

Catfish are actually quite chill members in a chaotic tank.

They gel with most of the other aquatic animals and don’t get preyed on or threatened.

However, they do feed on smaller fish if not fed well!

What Catfish Species to Keep in Your Aquarium

There are various types of catfish that can be added to an aquarium with other fish or on their own.

Some grow to be quite large and need more space while some remain small.

Some popular catfish for aquariums are:

  • Cory Catfish
  • Glass Catfish
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Upside Down Catfish
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Clown Pleco
  • Striped Raphael Catfish
  • Bumblebee Catfish
  • Chinese Algae Eater

The following catfish species aren’t bad options for an aquarium but because they’re picky eaters, partially aggressive, and can grow up to 2 and 5 feet, they’re better avoided in an aquarium:

  • Common Pleco
  • Red-Tailed Catfish

Aquarium Plants for Catfish

Popular aquarium pant choices for catfish are java ferns, anubias, and even bogwood.

Catfish are bottom dwellers, so plants that are heavily rooted and dense at the bottom provide great hiding places and also keep catfish away from light.

Aquarium Tank Mates for Catfish

Some great species to pair with your catfish in the tank are the energetic ones.

For example, the Giant Danios, Opaline Gourami, and even other catfish like the Striped Raphael catfish.

Substrate for Catfish (Bottom Of Your Tank):

Your tank should also have a sandy substrate with a few pebbles and rocks.

Catfish also like their privacy, so some broad and long aquarium plants are a great way to give them some hiding place and shelter them from the sunlight.

Feed Volume for Catfish

Remember not to overfeed your catfish; they usually only eat for a few seconds and overfeeding can actually be quite bad for them.

Catfish anyway end up feeding on the remnants of their feed that may have settled at the bottom of the tank, so feed them what they can consume within the first 10 seconds or so.

Other than that, they’re really fun to have in an aquarium! They’re pretty interesting and you can find them stuck in various places inside the aquarium, which provides quite a laugh.

Especially the smaller catfish, they’re great additions to a large tank.

Happy Catfishing!

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