Fun Smoky Madtom Facts For Kids

Aashita Dhingra
Oct 20, 2022 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Smoky Madtom Fact File

The smoky madtom is a species of the catfish group endemic to North America, specifically Tennessee in the USA. In Tennessee, the species used to be native to the Abrams Creek but was accidentally extirpated when an ichthyocide was introduced to enhance trout fishing.

During the 1980s the Citico Creek was found to have the smoky madtom fish too, which were then reintroduced to Abrams Creek again. The average life expectancy for this rare catfish species is only four years, meaning it can breed and spawn only twice in its lifetime.

This is a very low rate of reproduction.

It is a mostly olive-brown fish with white to yellow undersides. It is small, only about 2 in (5 cm) long and feeds on aquatic insects and invertebrates during the night.

The species itself get preyed upon by the smallmouth bass. The smoky madtom, as of today is considered to be a Vulnerable species (not an endangered species) by the IUCN, but its populations in the Abrams Creek as well as the Citico Creek are believed to be stable.

For more relatable content, check out these requiem shark facts and severum facts for kids.

Smoky Madtom Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a smoky madtom?

The smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) is a catfish.

What class of animal does a smoky madtom belong to?

The smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) species belongs to the Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish) class of animals.

How many smoky madtoms are there in the world?

It is unclear how many smoky madtom fish are currently present in the world. This is because the species was presumed extinct at one point in the 1980s and there have been reintroductions and conservation efforts in its three subpopulations.

It may also be abundant in a local habitat range and also tedious to collect and count. The species also has uncertain but relatively stable trends.

Where does a smoky madtom live?

The smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) catfish species happens to be endemic to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, specifically the Abrams Creek. In 1957, an attempt was made to improve the trout fishery in its Abrams Creek range.

This was done by closing the Chilhowee Dam and introducing an ichthyocide, which actually resulted in the extirpation of smoky madtom populations from this habitat.

Until 1980, the species was presumed extinct, but a population cropped up in the Monroe County of Tennesse, specifically in the Citico Creek, Cherokee National Forest. The smoky madtom catfish distribution was expanded to its former Abrams Creek from Citico Creek around 1987.

What is a smoky madtom's habitat?

The smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) catfish happens to be a secretive fish species. It buries itself behind gravel during daytime. Being nocturnal, it comes out to feed during the nighttime. Places of transition like riffles and pools are favored by this species.

During summer spawning, it prefers flat and large rocks. It is usually found near depths of 10 in (25.4 cm). It prefers pools and riffles with a gentler water flow in the winter and spring. It hides behind large boulders.

Clear waters with cool to cold temperatures are preferred. The smoky madtom species also favors streams with a width of 13-32 ft (4-9.8 m).

Who do smoky madtoms live with?

The smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) is most probably a solitary fish. It is not very territorial but does display defensive features when guarding nests. It may also be seen with mates during breeding time.

How long does a smoky madtom live?

The smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) lives for about four years.

How do they reproduce?

Smoky madtom fish reproduce via spawning. The time taken by the females to reach maturity is two years. Spawning takes place only once a year.

With the average lifespan being four years, this means there are only two years of reproduction available to the smoky madtom catfishes. Spawning takes place during the months of June and July. Females with distended abdomens were found between 13 May and 7 July in the year 1982.

The average number of eggs laid is 30, and anywhere between 24-36 eggs may be laid. The nests are usually under flat and large rocks.

The males are known to display protective behavior to guard the nests. Siltation is known to play a role in the reproduction process. If there is too much silt, the eggs may get smothered.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature is Vulnerable. It is considered to be an endangered species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife service.

Smoky Madtom Fun Facts

What do smoky madtoms look like?

The body of the smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) is slender and the head is flat. The deepest point of this fish is below the dorsal fin.

The color of the back and the sides can be said to be light brown or olive-brown. The color underneath is white or yellow. The smoky madtom also has four saddles in the middle of its back.

The saddles are pale yellow in color but barely visible. The fins of the smoky madtom may be clear, dusky brown, or yellow.

The adipose fin is yellow or clear and has a dusky band extending to its edge. The caudal fin is straight-edged and rounded and joins with the adipose fin to form a shallow notch. The number of rays on the anal fin is 12-14.

The smoke madtom can be said to have an overall bow shape. Also, its eyes are small and it has venomous spines near its mouth.

*Please note that this is an image of a tadpole madtom, not a smoky madtom. If you have an image of a smoky madtom, please let us know at

The smoky madtom has 12-14 rays on the anal fin.

How cute are they?

Smoky madtom catfishes aren't particularly cute animals. These rare, aquatic animals are rarely observed, they're very secretive. These catfish have unappealing spines or barbels near their mouths and they are overall brown in color. Their small bodies lend some cuteness to their appearance.

How do they communicate?

Since they are from the catfish group, the barbels or spines near their mouths may act as feelers for the smoky madtom fish. These spines come in handy for touching, tasting, and reception of chemicals. Smoky madtom fish are also capable of hearing and vision.

How big is a smoky madtom?

Smoky madtom fish are 2-2.8 in (5-7 cm) long, which makes them four to six times smaller than spotted catfish, six to nine times smaller than channel catfish, 16-20 times smaller than blue catfish, and 17-23 times smaller than redtail catfish.

How fast can a smoky madtom swim?

Since it is a catfish, the smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi) may be able to swim close to 2.6 mph (4.2 kph).

How much does a smoky madtom weigh?

The Noturus baileyi (smoky madtom) weighs less than 0.02 oz (o.5 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The females and males of the Noturus baileyi (smoky madtom) species aren't really known by specific names.

What would you call a baby smoky madtom?

A baby smoky madtom may be called a fry.

What do they eat?

Smoky madtoms feed on aquatic insects, invertebrates, and other small fish.

One of the known predators of the Noturus baileyi (smoky madtom) species is the smallmouth bass.

Are they dangerous?

Smoky madtom fish are relatively dangerous. They have venomous spines near their mouths which are mostly used as a defense against predators. These spines, however, can only deliver a painful bee-like sting to people. It is generally harmless and non-aggressive however.

Would they make a good pet?

Smoky madtom fish are a Vulnerable species, so they cannot be taken as pets or be disturbed in their natural habitat.

Did you know...

The smoky madtom is considered to be an endangered species by the U.S Fish and Wildlife service. It is considered an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service because of its low reproduction rate and tiny geographic range.

Smoky madtoms belong to the Ictaluridae family of fish endemic to North America.

The smoky madtom belongs to the genus Notorus. This genus consists of about 29 madtoms that have distribution in various parts of North America.

How many eggs do smoky madtom lay?

Smoky madtom fish lay about 30 eggs in general. Spawning happens only once a year and only twice in their four-year lifespan since they mature at two years of age. So, they lay a total of about 60 eggs during their lifetimes.

Is the smoky madtom endemic?

Yes, the smoky madtom is endemic to the Abrams Creek and the Citico Creek in North America. The Abrams Creek is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, and the Citico Creek is in the Cherokee National Forest in Monroe County of Tennessee. The smoky madtom was once extinct in its Abrams Creek range.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our salmon interesting facts and shark surprising facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Smoky Madtom coloring pages.

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

Aashita Dhingra picture

Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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