Did you know that there are some key differences between a bullhead vs catfish? While bullheads are a type of catfish, there are many features that you can use to distinguish them from other catfish varieties- but what should you look out for when trying to tell the differences between these two fish?
In this article, we will compare and contrast the bullhead and the catfish so that you can glean a true understanding for each of these animals. We will also go over each of their preferred habitats, behaviors, and lifespans, as well as their physical appearances.
Let’s get started!
Comparing Bullhead vs Catfish
|8-14 inches; 1-5 pounds
|12-24 inches; 15-40 pounds
|Compact appearance with square tail; yellow or brown color and spiny fins
|Olive or gray in color and the younger fish have spots on them; small dorsal fin and notched tail
|Location and Habitat
|Enjoys a wide variety of bait; often the most common catfish caught, and migrates
|North America; found in still or slow-moving locations and muddy waters
|Nocturnal and non-migratory; enjoys living in a large group of bullheads
|Enjoys a wide variety of bait; often the most common catfish caught and migrates
Key Differences Between Bullhead vs Catfish
There are many differences between a bullhead and a catfish. The average catfish grows larger in both length and weight than the average bullhead. Bullheads also have distinctly square tails, while many catfish varieties have deeply notched tails. Finally, bullheads prefer still and muddy waters compared to the average catfish, which prefers moderate to fast-moving rivers.
Let’s discuss all of these differences in more detail now.
Bullhead vs Catfish: Size and Weight
There are some major size and weight differences between a bullhead and a catfish. The average bullhead only reaches 1-5 pounds, while catfish grow anywhere from 15-40 pounds, if not far larger depending on the species. Bullheads are much smaller than catfish, especially if you consider the fact that catfish never stop growing- they grow as they age, for the entirety of their lives.
The average catfish also grows longer in length compared to bullheads. You may find bullheads that grow anywhere from 8-14 inches in length, while catfish reach 12-24 inches, if not larger. Some species of catfish grow quite large, so these size differences only get more extreme!
Bullhead vs Catfish: Location and Habitat Preferences
While both bullheads and catfish live in North America, you can find catfish around the world in a variety of different habitats. This is one key difference when comparing catfish and bullheads- bullheads are only found in North America, particularly the eastern United States, while catfish species are found worldwide.
These two fish also prefer very different habitats from one another as well. The majority of catfish enjoy moderate to swift moving currents or rivers, while bullheads thrive in still and muddy waters. This is likely due to their hunting skills and the nutritional components of both of these types of waters.
Bullhead vs Catfish: Appearance
It doesn’t take an expert angler to be able to tell the difference between a bullhead and a catfish, despite them both belonging to the catfish family. You may not pick up on their differences right off the bat, but let’s go over some of their key differences now so that you can tell them apart in the future.
The average catfish is gray or olive in appearance, spotted and whiskered. Bullheads are yellow or brown in coloration, often with a yellow underbelly and a brown upper body. The primary difference between these two fish is that bullheads have spiny fins, while not all species of catfish have this feature.
You can tell the difference between a bullhead and a catfish by looking at their tails as well. Catfish have deeply notched and triangular shaped tails, while bullheads have square tails. This is one of the easiest ways to tell these two fish apart using a single glance.
Bullhead vs Catfish: Behavior
There are some behavioral and lifestyle differences between bullheads and catfish. Many different species of catfish migrate to spawn, swimming upstream in order to do so, while bullheads are considered a non-migratory species of fish. There are some other behavioral differences as well- let’s address them now.
Many bullheads are nocturnal fish, which is somewhat rare compared to the diurnal catfish. Bullheads also enjoy the company of many other bullhead fish, while catfish enjoy life in groups or on their own, depending on the season or time of year. Catfish are also not very particular about the type of bait used when fishing, while bullheads have a slightly pickier palette.
Bullhead vs Catfish: Lifespan
A final key difference between catfish and bullheads is their lifespan. The average catfish lives anywhere from 10-20 years, while bullheads live 5-10 years on average. This is likely due to the smaller size of the bullhead compared to the larger size of many catfish varieties. Bullheads are more likely to be eaten or hunted as prey, while larger catfish are not often eaten by predators. However, both of these fish are frequently caught by anglers, so there’s no telling how long their lifespans are in captivity versus in the wild!
Are Bullhead Fish Good to Eat?
Bullhead catfish, like other catfish species, are among the finest options for a delectable meal when properly cleaned and prepared.
Their meat is characterized by a lighter and slightly sweeter flavor compared to other catfish, making them an excellent choice for a variety of your favorite catfish recipes.
You can start by soaking them in a mixture of milk and egg, and add a touch of mustard and hot sauce if desired. Afterward, coat them in flour with a hint of pepper (and cayenne pepper if you have it).
Dip the coated pieces back in milk and then give them a final dredge in Italian bread crumbs, which are even better when combined with Parmesan cheese. Finally, pan-fry them in hot oil for a truly delicious result.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Renars2014
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.