10 Crazy-Cool Catfish Facts

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: October 8, 2021


Chucklehead, Shovelhead, Poliwog! Is someone throwing insults? Not really, they are probably referring to the biggest catfish they ever caught that just barely got away. Catfish go by many names and are located all over the world. They can be found in freshwater and saltwater and are very adaptable. The most common name of catfish comes from the long cat-like whiskers they have coming out of the sides of their face. They are not whiskers but barbels that are used to help find food. Let’s look at the 10 craziest catfish facts!

1. Too hot, too cold or just right? Catfish can thrive in really cold and really hot water.

What do catfish eat - catfish feeding
Catfish adapt to a wide variety of habitats

One of the reasons catfish can be found all over the world is because they can adapt to a wide variety of habitats. Catfish can be found in areas where the temperature is 95 degrees and they can also survive at temperatures just above freezing. Typically when the water temperatures gets below 65 degrees catfish will slow down, conserve energy and may halt feeding, but hey have been known to be active year round even in cold temps

2. A walking fish? The Asian catfish can “walk” from pool to pool.

“I’m outta here!” If an Asian catfish gets fed up with its lake, pond it can up and leave! Walking catfish have pectoral fins that they use to scoot across the land with an odd wile like a snake. They don’t have to hold their breath to do it either; they have a unique set of gills that can breathe air too. Walking catfish are not just found in Asia but have been introduced to areas like Florida as well.

3. No need to turn up the bass, catfish have a built in amplifier.

Walking catfish or clarias batrachus isolated on white background.
Walking catfish or clarias batrachus isolated on white background.

Catfish have amazing hearing. They have what is called a Weberian apparatus which serves as an amplifier to underwater sounds. There are four bones that link the inner ear to the swim bladder. When sound waves bounce off the bladder, the signal is sent to the ear and the sound is amplified.

4. 3,000 channel catfish were released at an Air Force Base in Florida.

The In an effort to balance out the ecosystem and to provide fishing opportunities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services partnered with the MacDill Air Force Base to raise and release 3,000 channel catfish into Lewin Lake on the base. The fish will help keep the aquatic vegetation from becoming overgrown. The Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida provides fishing opportunities in several freshwater ponds as well as saltwater fishing in the Gulf.

5. The largest catfish ever caught was 646 pounds! It was a Mekong giant catfish.

Mekong Giant Catfish - Underwater View
A view of a Mekong giant catfish from underneath

The Mekong giant catfish is the largest catfish species. It can be found in the Mekong River in Thailand. The largest one ever caught weighed in at 646 pounds! That’s about the size of a medium dolphin. That’s a lot of fish sticks! There actually is a problem of the Mekong being overfished and are now nearing extinction. Officials are working to regulate the fishing of these giants and to reintroduce captive-bred Mekongs.

6. Can you imagine a tiny catfish? The Asian stone mini catfish is only an inch long!

The Asian stone mini catfish is a popular fish for freshwater aquariums. These little fish have all the same details as a larger catfish, including tiny little “whiskers”. Their coloration is yellowish-gold with a molted brown pattern. They are a peaceful little fish that is more active at night but even then will often stay in the same spot. The Asian stone or sometimes called the Moth catfish comes from the rivers in India and Bangladesh.

7. What if your body was covered in taste buds? The catfish has 100,000 taste buds!

Clarias batrachus or black walking catfish in natural background.
A close-up of the whiskers – or barbels – of a catfish

If I were covered in taste buds I would swim through a river of melted chocolate fudge! Catfish have over 100,000 taste buds with some species having closer to 175,000. The taste buds are located all over their bodies to help them sense where food is. Most of the taste buds are on their “whiskers” or barbels and can sense food for miles around. Many catfish are bottom-dwellers and often swim in murky water so their sense of taste serves as tool to find food when they can’t see well.

8. Teenage Mutant Catfish? A rare piebald blue catfish was caught in Tennessee.

Piebald is a mutation that causes the pigment of animals to be a mix of pigmented and unpigmented coloration. The Tennessee fishermen were quite surprised when they saw the white on the fish first and then proceeded to see its mix of coloration with a dark back and tail fin. Piebaldism is similar to Albinisms where animals are lacking any coloration and often appear white with pink eyes. Another fisherman in Missouri is on record for recently catching an albino blue catfish. Because a fish that is all white would stand out in the wild and attract prey it is unusual to see one that makes it to adulthood.

9. Where are the babies? The male sea catfish carries the fertilized eggs in their mouth!

Incredible catfish facts - Channel catfish
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

With a large variety of catfish species there is also a large variety in how catfish reproduce. The most common, channel catfish, lays eggs in a large mass in crevices of rock or vegetation. After the eggs have been laid the male catfish takes over guarding the eggs. Once the catfish hatch the male remains and keeps watch over them for a few weeks. Another catfish, the sea catfish is a mouthbreeder. It can hold up to 50 eggs in its mouth. I guess that is one way to guard the eggs! Even after the eggs hatch the little fish remain in their father’s mouth for two weeks or more!

10. Catfish vs. Dogfish

Is there such a thing as a Dogfish? Yes, but it is not a fish, it is actually a shark. The dogfish is a bottom-dwelling shark that is 3-4ft long. Let’s see how catfish and dogfish compare:

Catfish

  • Fish
  • Lives in freshwater (a couple species live in saltwater)
  • No scales
  • Solitary hunter

Dogfish

  • Shark
  • Lives in saltwater
  • Covered in scales called denticles
  • Hunts in schools

Do to the fact that one is a fish and the other is a shark it makes sense that there are many differences between these species. We will have to keep the cat vs. dog debate to our furry land animals.

There have it, our complete list of catfish facts. If you’re looking for more catfish reading, check out ‘What Do Catfish Eat? 13 Foods in Their Diet!’