Fun Redtail Catfish Facts For Kids | Kidadl


Fun Redtail Catfish Facts For Kids

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The Redtail Catfish is one of the fast-growing and attractive freshwater fish. It's the only living fish member of the genus Phractocephalus. The genus has a history dating back to 13.5 million years ago in the Miocene era. South American Redtail Catfish and Asian Redtail Catfish are two of the species under Redtail Catfishes. They are found in the river basins of the Amazon, Essequibo, and Orinoco rivers. Their food in the wild includes crayfish, shrimps, worms, plant matter, and fruits.

These fish have long slender bodies tapering toward the red tail. A gray or black body with white on the ventral side is a distinguishing feature. This freshwater fish is prevalent in the aquarium trade and angling is a favorite game fish. Their behavior and temperament are aggressive. These fish would need a minimum tank size of 1000 gallons. Still, the optimal tank size would be 2500 gallons with suitable tank mates in these aquariums like Stingrays, Gars, and Datnoids.

Do you wish to discover more about the catfish family? We bring you more exciting facts about the catfish and blue catfish.

Fun Redtail Catfish Facts For Kids

What do they prey on?

Crayfish, shrimps, worms, plant matter, fruits

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

Up to 21000 eggs

How much do they weigh?

Up to 180 lb (82 kg)

How long are they?

3.5–4.5 ft (1.1–1.4 m)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Dark gray/brown

Skin Type

Leptoid scales

What were their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Not Evaluated

Where you'll find them?

River Basins Of Amazon And Orinoco


South America









Redtail Catfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a redtail catfish?

The Redtail Catfish is a freshwater fish from the Pimelodidae family of catfishes. They are trendy aquarium fish for the sheer big size they grow into. They are a big subject of interest to angling enthusiasts as they are a favorite game fish.

There are two species of these catfishes, namely Asian Redtail Catfish and South American Redtail Catfish. The distinction is in the region from which they are obtained in the wild. Other common names of these fish include Banana catfish, RTC, and Antenna catfish.

What class of animal does a redtail catfish belong to?

The Phractocephalus hemioliopterus belongs to the class Actinopterygii. Actinopterygii is the dominant class amongst vertebrates, including 99% of fish species. The characteristics of these Actinopterygii fish include ray fins, rigid skeletons, and leptoid scales.

How many redtail catfish are there in the world?

There is no specific study directed toward evaluating the world population of these catfishes. However, based on an independent study done in Brazil in 2007, it was found that these fish species gave an annual yield of 900 tonnes in the Amazon region. It is indicative that these catfishes have healthy population counts worldwide, given their wide geographic distribution.

Where does a redtail catfish live?

Phractocephalus hemioliopterus are found in the river basins of Amazon, Orinoco, and Essequibo. The South American Redtail Catfish population is distributed across the South American countries of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil. The Asian Redtail Catfish is widely found in Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, Java, and Sumatra.

What is a redtail catfish habitat?

Their native habitat is in South America, and these fishes are habituated to tropical environments. The water conditions should be warm between 68-79°F and ph around 6-7.5. They are found only in freshwater and are bottom dwellers in rivers, estuaries, and lagoons.

Who does Redtail catfish live with?

In the natural environment, they are solitary, and they get territorial even with members of their kind. They are aggressive and care to defend their range. They fare well with fishes of their size or larger fishes in the aquarium setup. These catfishes are highly predatory towards small fishes living around them; hence it's prudent to avoid smaller fishes in the same aquarium tank.

How long does a redtail catfish live?

The average lifespan of these catfishes is 20 years. Their long viability makes them a tough choice for aquarists to look out for. They demand dedicated care and attention for a very long duration. High nitrate levels of aquarium water can infect their barrels affecting their navigation and feeding habits. These fishes are susceptible to medications; hence, preventing any disease is the best way to care for and ensure a long healthy life for these vibrant catfishes.

How do they reproduce?

The reproduction in these fishes happens through external fertilization. The female prepares a nesting ground amongst vegetation and rocks for safe incubation. Water temperatures need to be between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit for conducive breeding. The female lays eggs up to 21000 in number on which the male fish will spray his sperm. The eggs take around 10 days to hatch. The juveniles are independent in 30 days and primarily measure around 42 mm in length.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN Red List classification places these catfishes in the Not Evaluated category. This indicates that the IUCN has not currently assessed this fish. The Not Evaluated status does not specify that the listed animals are not under any threat of extinction. Still, it simply suggests that there is no detailed study done to explore these animals yet.

Redtail Catfish Fun Facts

What do redtail catfish look like?

These catfish species have a large, slender body with a very large mouth. Long whiskers on the upper jaw are very prominent, and there are two smaller whiskers on the lower jaw. Eyes are eminent on either side of the head. The dorsal side is generally grayish, with the ventral side being white or yellow. The caudal and dorsal fins are red or orangish in color. The tail is compressed laterally. The red tail is what gives these fishes their unique name.

Underwater view of a blue catfish.

*Please note that this is an image of a Blue Catfish, not a Redtail Catfish specifically. If you have a royalty-free image of a Redtail Catfish, then please let us know at [email protected]

How cute are they?

The general peaceful nature and the size of the fish make them a delight to watch. The shades of red, and yellow against the dark body make them a colorful cute companion in the tank or the pond.

How do they communicate?

These wild fishes have unique ways to communicate with other species members. They make a clicking noise to ward off any threat and raise the alarm to others of its kind. The chemical receptor cells on their barbels or the whiskers help them smell better. The cells on these barbels detect the chemoreceptors left by another catfish for finding food.

How big is a redtail catfish?

The Redtail Catfish size can go up to 4.5 ft in length. They are one of the largest fishes in the aquarium trade. This fish can be kept along with tank mates like Gars, which grows more considerably than these catfishes, up to 6.5 ft in length.

How fast can a Redtail catfish swim?

There is no comprehensive study done to ascertain the swimming speed of these fish species. These catfishes are observed to be slow swimmers. Being large fish, they tend to remain at the bottom of the aquarium tanks, ponds, and river bases. They are ambush hunters, pouncing on their prey when the prey is within reach. Being ambush hunters does not require them to be fast swimmers.

How much does a Redtail catfish weigh?

This large fish species can weigh up to 180 lb, and they are pretty heavy as an aquarium fish. Compared to the Blue Catfish, which weighs around 82 lb, these catfishes are enormous.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no specific term designated for the male and female species of the Redtail Catfish. They are referred to as male fish or female fish. It isn't easy to distinguish between the male and female by external examination.

What would you call a baby Redtail catfish?

The baby of the Redtail Catfish does not have a specific term. Based on the stage of development, the baby fish carries various names. They are called larvae when they have freshly hatched from the egg. The yolk sac provided nutrition to the larvae. The larvae develop into fry, a stage at which they are independent of feeding themselves. The fry develops fins and scales and turns into a fingerling which sizes like a finger of an adult human. The fingerling becomes an adult fish when they reach reproductive maturity.

What do they eat?

The Redtail Catfish diet requirements comprise crayfish, shrimps, worms, plant matter, and fruits. These giant fishes prefer a live fish diet, and they can gobble up anything that reaches their mouth. Redtail Catfish feeding behavior is in the evening and night; they prefer to lay still at the bottom of the aquarium tank or the river basins in their wild abode during the day. The diet needs of these fish are met by opportunistic feeding in the wild.

Are they aggressive?

The Phractocephalus hemioliopterus is an aquarium fish that has an aggressive temperament and is known to cram down any smaller fish introduced in its territory or aquarium tank. They are also considered invasive fishes, i.e. when introduced artificially to a new environment, they can cause damage to the ecology of that environment.

Many aquarists tend to irresponsibly release these fishes into lakes and ponds in their surroundings without the proper understanding that these catfishes may be affecting the food chain of that ecosystem. Due to the absence of suitable predators, these catfishes may alter the smaller fish population.

Would they make a good pet?

Given that they grow into enormous sizes, they are not suitable for home aquariums. They dwell better in large tanks or ponds. They are very messy eaters and tend to spit the eaten food. The water needs to be changed frequently for Redtail Catfish care as they are sensitive to the levels of ammonia and nitrates in the water. Suitable tank mates help provide a peaceful co-existence amongst all the tank mates. Their long lifespan also requires Redtail Catfish care to be dedicated for 20 long years. Domestication of these fishes is best avoided for any novice owners.

Other parameters to keep in mind to provide an optimum thriving environment in the fish tank for these fishes include maintaining ideal water conditions with temperatures between 68-79° F. The water ph should be around 5.5-7.2. Since they are bottom-dwelling fishes, low lighting in the tank is ideal.

Did you know...

The South American fisheries have achieved hormones-based breeding in these species of fish.

The Redtail Catfish growth rate is recorded to be at a pace of one inch every week.

The Redtail Shovelnose Catfish is a Redtail Catfish hybrid between Redtail Catfish and Tiger Shovelnose fishes, explicitly designed for aquariums.

According to the International Game Fish Association (IFGA), the current world record weight goes to Mr. Gilberto Fernandes for the Redtail catfish caught by him at 123 lb 7 oz (56 kg).

Can you eat Redtail catfish?

Though these fish species, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus, are meaty and huge, they are not eaten by the locals. The dark coloration of its flesh makes it an avoided food by locals. The hybrid variety Tiger Redtail Catfish was developed to get white and edible meat.

However, it is noted that the Asian Redtail Catfish finds its way into the local cuisines of the area it's caught from. The meat is considered nutritious, soft, and delicious. Redtail Catfish food is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Having your own Redtail catfish

The interesting facts about this beautiful giant fish might make anyone want to have one for their own. So, where to get started? These fishes are available to be bought online or at any local pet store with aquarists. The cost of these fishes may vary from $17-$500 based on the size and development stage.

The Redtail catfish aquarium size should be no less than 1000 gallons. They also require an industrial water filtration system and a minimum tank size. Water needs to be changed weekly once with a minimum of 30% water turnover. Redtail catfish care requires knowledgeable caretakers to understand their needs.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish, including Cory catfish or channel catfish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our redtail catfish coloring pages.

Written By
Kidadl Team

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