Minimum Tank Size: 45 Gallons (205 Liters)
Care Level: Moderately Hard
Water Conditions: 5.5-7.0 pH and Soft Water
Temperature: 72-77 °F (22-25 °C)
Maximum Size: 5 inches (20 cm)
The Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus) is a small catfish that is native to the Orinico and Amazon rivers and can be found in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. It is occasionally confused with Synodontis Angelicus catfish, but these two catfish require very different conditions, as the Synodontis Angelicus catfish is native to Africa.
In the wild, the pictus catfish mainly inhabits shallow waters, and can usually be found in areas with a steady flow of water over a muddy or sandy bottom. It is a shoaling species, and they will often be found in large groups in the wild. Their aquarium should mimic these conditions as closely as possible, and they generally do best when kept in groups, with a low level of illumination and a sandy substrate.
In the home aquarium, they generally grow to a maximum size of 5 inches, though there is a rarely seen small spotted variant that can grow even larger. Most of the commonly available pictus catfish in the aquarium hobby are the large spotted variant.
The pictus catfish is an active fish, that requires a tank that can provide them with a large swimming area. At the bare minimum, they should be provided with at least a 45 gallon (205 liters) aquarium, though larger tanks are preferable. With that being said, even a 45 gallon (205 liter) aquarium can accommodate several pictus catfish, since this species is non-territorial and a handful can co-exist peacefully if given sufficient space.
Any tank containing pictus catfish should be dimly lit, or at the very least have a very heavy aquatic plant canopy to dim the bottom of the tank. This fish will stay in hiding for much of the day if they are kept in an overly bright tank, but will be relatively active in a dimly lit aquarium. Their aquarium should also contain numerous hiding places, and if at all possible, the hiding places should allow enough room for the fish to turn around inside. Claypots on their side make excellent hiding places for pictus catfish.
Pictus catfish generally do best when kept in a riverine biope aquarium, and plants, driftwood and river rocks can be added to simulate a river in their tank. Because of their low light requirements, you can add Java moss, moss balls, hornwort or any other low light plant that is available in your area.
When choosing a filter for a pictus catfish tank, it’s best to over filter the aquarium and provide a strong flow of current to their tank. One of the best choices for this is a hang on back filter, since it provides excellent filtration and a decent amount of flow to a tank. It’s very important that you keep to a regular cleaning schedule in their tank, since pictus catfish are very sensitive to nitrates. It might be best to pair a hang on back filter with a sponge filter, just to ensure maximum filtration for the tank.
If you are looking for a hang on back filter, one of the best filters on the market is the Aquaclear Power Filter. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
Feeding a pictus catfish is a not a difficult task, and like many other catfish, they will eat nearly anything that they can fit into their mouths. This becomes dangerous if you have any small fish in the aquarium, and fish like neon tetras should be avoided in pictus catfish tanks.
In the wild they are omnivores, and consume invertebrates, plant matter and algae. This diet can be recreated in the home aquarium through feeding them a diet that includes a high quality sinking pellet, and frozen foods, including frozen bloodworms, daphnia, blackworms and brine shrimp. If you are looking for a good sinking pellet, one of the best is Hikari Sinking Wafers, which I use for many of the catfish that I keep.
They can also be fed live foods, and two of their favorite foods are blackworms and thoroughly cleaned earthworms (always be careful offering earthworms if they could have come in contact with pesticides). They tend to ignore top dwelling live food, but you can always try out staples like mosquito larvae and bloodworms to see if your fish will accept them.
There have been no confirmed reports of pictus catfish breeding in aquariums, and few people have even reported anything than can be considered breeding behaviors. They are difficult to sex, though it is believed that the females tend to be slightly larger than the males.
Transporting these catfish can be difficult, since they come equipped with venomous spines that can pierce bags, and give painful, sting like wounds to anyone unlucky enough to touch one. Though the venom is harmless, it will leave you in great deal of pain for several hours, and may cause swelling.
Nets should also be avoided with pictus catfish, since the spines can become entangled in the nets and injure the fish. It’s best to use a cup, or something else with smooth sides if you have to catch and move one of these fish.