Yellow Bullhead Catfish

Ameiurus Natalis

Last updated: February 1, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Yellow bullhead catfish are slightly venomous with 2 stingers located on each of their pectoral fins


Yellow Bullhead Catfish Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Ameiurus Natalis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Conservation Status

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Locations

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Locations

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Facts

Anything in their habitat
Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Yellow bullhead catfish are slightly venomous with 2 stingers located on each of their pectoral fins
Biggest Threat
Incubation Period
5 to 7 days
Average Spawn Size
300 to 700
Largemouth bass, catfish, birds, crayfish
  • Nocturnal
  • Solitary
Bottom dwelling scavenger fish

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Yellow
Skin Type
7 to 12 years
2 to 6 pounds
6 to 14 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
2 to 3 years

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Native to North America, yellow bullhead catfish have a super keen sense of smell, which they use to find food and navigate their surroundings.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Summary

These catfish can be found in streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the United States. They are considered to be a hardy species with a substantial population and are not currently facing any threats. These catfish are a popular choice for recreational fishing. They are known for their adaptability and ability to thrive in various environments.

5 Incredible Yellow Bullhead Catfish Facts

  1. Yellow bullhead catfish use their sense of smell as a primary way to communicate and recognize other members of their own species.
  2. A young bullhead is referred to as a fry.
  3. These fish are known for the painful sting that can be inflicted by their pectoral spines.
  4. Like most catfish, yellow bullheads do not have scales.
  5. Yellow bullheads are scavengers who eat almost anything they come across on the ocean floor.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Scientific Name

The scientific name for the yellow bullhead catfish is Ameiurus Natalis. It is a member of the family Ictaluridae, which includes a number of other catfish species native to North America. The word Ameiurus is Greek for “privative curtailed”, which refers to the lack of a notch on the caudal fin. And the word Natalis means “of birth”.

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Yellow Bullhead Catfish Appearance

The yellow bullhead is a species of catfish. It shares physical similarities with the brown bullhead, such as a round or square-shaped tail and a sturdy body. It is typically colored yellow-olive to slate-black on its upper side and lighter shades of yellow-olive on its sides with a little spotting. Its belly can be yellow, white, or cream-colored.

A way to tell the yellow bullhead apart from the brown bullhead is to look at the barbels, the whisker-like appendages found under its chin. The yellow bullhead’s chin barbels are usually pale pink or yellow to buff, while the upper barbels are dark to light brown. Another identifying feature is the yellow bullhead’s straight-edged anal fin, which has 23 to 27 rays.

One interesting aspect of their appearance is that they lack scales – instead, their outer body is covered in leathery skin.

Yellow bullheads typically only grow up to 2 pounds but have been known to reach up to 6.375 pounds. They range in size from 6 to 14 inches.

Yellow bullhead catfish can weigh over six pounds and be as long as 6-14 inches.


Yellow Bullhead Catfish Evolution And History

The yellow bullhead catfish is a species of catfish, as suggested by its name. Fossils of catfish similar to the yellow bullhead have been found in sedimentary deposits dating back to the Eocene period.

The yellow bullhead belongs to the family Ictaluridae, which includes other species of bullhead catfish as well as channel catfish and blue catfish.

One notable adaptation of the yellow bullhead is its ability to tolerate a wide range of water conditions. It can be found in both freshwater and brackish water environments. It is able to survive in low oxygen levels and muddy or silty conditions that may be inhospitable to other fish species. 

The yellow bullhead is also adapted for foraging on the bottom of streams and rivers, with a flattened head and sensitive barbels that it uses to locate food.

Catfish have evolved into an impressive 34 different families. These fish can be found in almost every freshwater ecosystem on the planet. This biodiversity makes them a fascinating subject of study for scientists, as their distribution can provide insight into the movement of land masses over time.

It’s worth noting that the majority of catfish species are only found in freshwater, which adds to their value as indicators of historical geography.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Behavior

The yellow bullhead is a solitary fish commonly found in rivers and lakes. These fish are not particularly aggressive, but they will defend themselves if necessary. 

When not looking for food, yellow bullheads can often be seen resting in a specific spot in their habitat. These fish are not particularly social and prefer to live and hunt alone.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Habitat

Yellow bullhead is a type of freshwater fish found in various slow-moving waterways, including rivers, streams, and brooks. These fish are also known to inhabit shallow ponds, lakes, and even the shallow ends of larger bays.

They tend to prefer backwater areas where the water is calm and has plenty of cover to hide in. While yellow bullheads are typically found in slower-moving murky waters, they are also able to thrive in swift-flowing, oxygen-rich environments as long as they are not too polluted.

These fish are bottom-dwellers and can often be found near the bottom of the water body, where they search for food amongst the mud, rocks, sand, and other debris. Overall, yellow bullheads are adaptable creatures that are able to survive in a range of freshwater habitats.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Diet

Yellow bullhead catfish eat almost anything, whether it is living or dead. These fishes are known to feed and hunt at night time. 

What Eats Yellow Bullhead Catfish?

Some larger fish that prey on this fish include largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, and other catfish. Adult bullheads may also be eaten by large wading birds and certain turtles.

However, when younger, these catfish can also fall prey to smaller predators, such as crayfish and dragonfly larvae.

In order to protect themselves from predation, these fish can inflict a venomous sting using the spines on their sides.

What Does The Yellow Bullhead Catfish Eat?

Yellow bullheads, similar to other catfish, are known for their diverse diet, which includes scavenging for food. They are nocturnal feeders and have been observed consuming worms, minnows, insects, crayfish, their larvae, aquatic invertebrates, and even aquatic vegetation. 

The young yellow bullheads primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates.

These fish are not picky eaters and will consume almost anything they can find.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Predators And Threats

Yellow bullheads do not face many threats in their environment. Despite being preyed upon by larger fish, their population is large, as indicated by their “least concern” conservation status. These fish can be easily found in their natural habitat and do not have any significant threats from humans or other sources.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Reproduction

Yellow bullheads typically breed between April and June. The male builds a nest on the banks of streams, which may be shallow or deep, and both males and females prefer a nest that is well-protected by plants and rocks.

The optimal water temperature for egg-laying is between 73.4-77 degrees Fahrenheit during the breeding season. The female yellow bullhead can lay around 300-700 eggs per clutch and may spawn multiple times, resulting in a total of 1700-4300 eggs.

The average time it takes for the eggs to hatch is 5-7 days.

Both parents guard the eggs, and once they hatch, the male gathers the babies into a ball-like herd for protection until they reach a length of about 2 inches.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Babies

A baby yellow bullhead is also known as a fry. These small catfish typically measure up to 3 inches in length and feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates. As they mature, they become increasingly omnivorous. These fish grow to around 3 inches at one year of age, and they become sexually mature at 2-3 years when they are about 5 and a half inches long.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Lifespan

These fish have a relatively short lifespan compared to other freshwater fish, with an average lifespan of 7-8 years, although some individual yellow bullheads have been known to live up to 10-12 years.

There is generally no significant difference in the lifespan of male and female yellow bullhead catfish. However, certain factors can affect their lifespan and overall health. Water quality, diet, and disease are all important factors that can impact the lifespan of yellow bullhead catfish.

Poor water quality and a lack of proper nutrition can lead to a shorter lifespan and a higher susceptibility to disease.

Habitat degradation, pollution, and overfishing are major threats that can shorten the lifespan of yellow bullhead catfish. These fish are often found in streams, rivers, and other bodies of water that are affected by human activities, such as agricultural runoff, industrial pollution, and urbanization.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Population

As suggested by its conservation status, there is plenty of yellow bullheads in their habitats. Unfortunately, there is not enough data to show their exact population, but it is safe to say that they are not decreasing in numbers as of today.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish In Cooking

Yellow bullhead catfish are known for their mild, delicate flavor and semi-firm texture. Their white flesh is versatile and can be prepared in various ways, such as baking, grilling, and frying. 

Despite its widespread appeal, it is believed that the flavor of bullhead catfish can be affected by the quality of the water they inhabit. Some anglers claim that bullhead catfish caught in muddy or polluted waters may have a muddy flavor, leading to regional nicknames such as “mud cat” or “mud pout.”

However, bullhead catfish from clean lakes, streams, or ponds are generally considered to be delicious. In fact, even those who don’t normally enjoy fish may find that a bullhead cooked over a campfire is enjoyable.

The meat of yellow bullhead catfish is not as “white and flakey” as black crappie, but it is thicker and more robust, with a larger fillet profile.

Venom Of Yellow Bullhead Catfish

Catfishes, including yellow bullheads, are unique because they have spines on their fins, located on their backs and near their heads. These spines can be dangerous for anglers, as they can easily puncture the skin and cause a painful injury. 

It’s important to handle catfish with care, as their spines contain a mild venom that, while not deadly, can still cause discomfort.

Similar Animals

  • Brown bullhead catfish: Yellow bullhead catfish are often mistaken for the brown bullhead catfish. They look incredibly similar, with very minor differences.
  • Flounder: Another bottom-dwelling fish, the flounder lies on the ocean floor to ambush its prey.
  • Salmon: Like the catfish, the salmon is heavily farmed freshwater fish and is a popular food source for humans.
  • Sturgeon: These fish have catfish-like barbels and elongated bodies.

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About the Author

Lev is a writer at AZ Animals who primarily covers topics on animals, geography, and plants. He has been writing for more than 4 years and loves researching topics and learning new things. His three biggest loves in the world are music, travel, and animals. He has his diving license and loves sea creatures. His favorite animal in the world is the manta ray.

Yellow Bullhead Catfish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are yellow bullhead catfish carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores?

Yellow bullheads are omnivorous, eating an incredibly varied diet, including worms, insects, crayfish, aquatic invertebrates, and aquatic vegetation.

Can I keep yellow bullhead catfish?

Yes, you can keep yellow bullhead catfish as pets. They are adaptable and generally easy to care for, but you should research their specific care needs and ensure you have the right equipment and setup. It’s also important to feed them a varied diet.

Are yellow bullhead catfishes cute?

Despite their name, yellow bullheads are not cute in appearance. In fact, some may find them rather unsightly. They have a head shape similar to a bull, and their big, flat mouths and whisker-like barbels under their chin may not be appealing to most people.

What is the swimming speed of a yellow bullhead catfish?

The swimming speed of these fish has not been accurately measured, but it is generally considered to be moderate.

How big are yellow bullhead catfish?

Yellow bullhead catfish are medium-sized catfish, growing up to 6 to 14 inches long and weighing an average of 2 pounds.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. USDA, Available here:
  2. Fish Base, Available here:
  3. Moumita Dutta, Available here:
  4. Research at the University of Florida, Available here:
  5. Animal Diversity Web- Gabe Jenkins, Available here:

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