I am an Affilate!

I sincerely hope you love any product or service that I recommend. :) Just to clarify, I may take a share of any sales or other compensation from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you use my links, great, I appreciate your support.

Red Tail Catfish Care Guide – Food, Behaviour, Teeth & Tankmates

The red tail catfish are an amazing species of fish; they add an outstanding view to your home aquarium. They are pleasant to watch. They are well known for their size and red tail beauty colour. The red tail catfish is one of the most attractive species of the catfish family.

For those lovers of fish that would love to have the red tail catfish as a pet, we need to understand what type of fish they are, how they live, so we can provide the perfect environment for them to live in. This article seeks to help us understand what it entails to house a red tail catfish. This article will also serve as our Redtail Catfish Guide.

Where Is The Redtail Catfish From?

The Redtail Catfish is a very unique species of pet fish. In the wild, it is known to live in freshwater bodies. It has not been reportedly found in saline water. Generally, catfish are freshwater fish and they thrive very well in this environment.

Most often, freshwater fish doesn’t have a scale, but most saline water fish do. This is one distinguishing factor between a freshwater fish and a saline water fish.

Although there are some saline water fish without a scale, you can hardly find a freshwater fish with scale. Redtail catfish don’t possess scales; this makes their body smooth and nice to feel.

It is native of the Orinoco as well as the Essequibo and Amazon River basins of South America. It can be found in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Guyana, Brazil and Bolivia.

This is not to say that it may not be located in freshwater river bodies in other regions of the world, but it has been known to thrive well in these regions. They live generally in large lakes, streams and rivers.

Oceans and seas are composed of saline water and as such, they can’t grow in such area.

What Is Its Scientific Name?

The scientific classification of the Redtail Catfish is as follow. It belongs to the kingdom, Animalia and to the Phylum, Chordata. It is a member of the Class, Actinopterygii and to the order, Siluriformes.

The family is Pimelodidae while the Genus is Phractocephalus (Agassiz, 1829). And finally, it belongs to the Species, P.hemioliopterus. The binomial name for the Redtail Catfish is therefore Phractocephalushemioliopterus (Bloch & Schneider -1801).

It can also be referred to as the Silurushemioliopterus, the Pimelodusgrunniens, the Rhamdiagrunniens or the Phractocephalus bicolor.

The Redtail Catfish is known to be the only available living representative of the genus Phractocephalus. There are quite a number of other members of the Phractocephalus genus that can be dated back to the upper Miocene (about 23 to 5.3 millions of years ago in geologic time).

No human lived at this time. The extinct member of this genus we recognized from their fossil remains that have been preserved over the years. The Redtail Catfish as we have it today may have probably evolved from one of this ancient aquatic fish. Thanks that nature has preserved this breed for us.

What Other Name is It known As?

The Redtail Catfish is known by different names in the various regions around the world where they have been found to occur.

For example, in Brazil, it is popularly known as pirarara, and in Venezuela, it is generally called Cajaro. All these different names are local names, and when it comes to the international market, they are not recognized by that name.

So you may not want to bother yourself too much on cramming all the names that have been given to the species in each locality where the Redtail Catfish is found. Most at times, names are given based on the behaviour or how the locals perceive the fish to be.

But, if you are really a fan of keeping fishes as a pet, then you can decide to learn one or two of the local names it is called, should you want to relate it with a local in that region.

Most important is that you know what the Redtail Catfish is called in your own region. Other general names include Banana catfish, Antenna catfish, Red-tailed catfish, and, Flat-nosed Catfish, according to animal-world.

How Long Do Redtail Catfish Live For?

The Redtail Catfish is known to grow very large at a fast rate. Even at that they still have a very long life span of twenty years. Not all fish have a lifespan that is this long.

Although for your Redtail Catfish to live this long, there are quite a number of intricate factors that need to be put in place. If the basic care condition required for the fish is not maintained, then it might die below its life expectancy age.

A fully grown Redtail Catfish is a marvellous sight to behold. This is why they are kept as one of the key side attraction fishes in large aquarium centre.

At old age, it is very difficult to meet up with the Redtail Catfish required attention. The tank size it will need then is massive. And also at that stage, its appetite will have grown really big.

And if not well feed, it might start to pick rocks and other aquarium decorations. As much as it is important not to underfeed, you shouldn’t overfeed your Redtail Catfish also. For long life, the Redtail Catfish need to be handled by an experienced aquarist.

What Do They Look Like?

The Red-tailed Catfish is a special species of catfish; it has a narrow down cylindrical body shape. It has a flat red tail and a flat belly. The retail catfish grows very big and colourful.

It has a flat and curvy mouth; which is encompassed by long whiskers or barbells. They are customarily dark grey or brown across the top side of their body spotted with black dots.

They have a wavy white stripe on both sides of their body that extends across the midline of the mouth towards the caudal fin. The belly and the lower part of the mouth are white.

The edges of the dorsal, anal, pelvic, and caudal fin are pinkish red in colour. It has three pairs of long whiskers; two on the lower jaw and the other one on the upper jaw.

They are a very slow moving bottom fish; they ambush their prey with their slow swimming habits. The red tail catfish grows very fast. It grows up to about 1.8m in length and weighs up 80kg, according to aquaticmag. The retail catfish mostly swim around the deep part of the river.

How Big Are They Typically?

The red tail catfish is a very special species of fish. It is one of the biggest fish in the aquatic world. The catfish is known for many things, one of which is its big size.

If you considering having a red tail catfish fish in your home aquarium, you must be fully aware of how large it grows and fast it grows. The red tail catfish is one of the fish that increases in size in a very little time.

When imported, your catfish is about 2 to 5cm long. The catfish as an adult can grow up to 53 to 134cm. This means they grow up to 26 times longer than they were when they were imported.

Your red tail catfish easily grow up an inch in a week, when they are young most of them can reach up to two feet in a year. In your home aquarium, they can grow up to 4 feet in length.

When left in the wild, it can grow even bigger. For you to successful house a red tail catfish, you must be ready to provide the amount of space required.

What Do The Red Tail Catfish Eat?

The red tail catfish are an amazing set of fish. They save you from going through the stress of finding the suitable food for your fish. They eat almost anything that fits into their mouth.

These fish are omnivorous and their food majorly consists of fish, crab as well as crustaceans, and fruits in the water. In the wild, they feed on smaller fishes, insects, worms, and other tiny animals. So, you can feed them with a different variety of live foods. But they prefer meaty type freshwater foods, crayfish or even large pellets. As a juvenile, it generally feeds on all kinds of live, fresh and flake foods.

For you to maintain a proper healthy body for your catfish, we recommend frozen foods and pellets. They have the same nutrients as live foods. With frozen food and pellet, you won’t need about diseases being carried over. Live foods sometimes carry diseases.

You can also make your own food; just ensure they are getting the best diets that include the nutrient they need. As they will turn out in looks depends on the way you feed them. You can also train your red tail catfish to hand feed from a very young age.

What Is Their Behaviour Like?

The red tail batfish are omnivorous, as a juvenile, they can be very shy. But when they grow up they can be partially aggressive, as they feed on other smaller fishes.

They can eat anything half their size. They move very slowly but can increase their speed very fast to catch something. They have a good attribute of relating well with you if you spend enough time with them.

Practically, you should keep your red tail batfish on their own, as they do better when they relate with the same species or fishes of the same size. As said earlier, you can train them to feed from your hands.

They are very big fishes and they grow very fast. They are strong fishes and they can break aquarium glass when grown to a big size. The fishes should be kept in a Plexiglas tank.

They are more active at night, according to anythingfish, and sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between the male red tail catfish and the female. There is no determinant factor to differentiate them. Your red tail catfish should be kept in a tank big enough to allow free movement as they will not do well in small tanks.

Can you mix Redtail Catfish With Other Fish (Tank Mates)?

Before considering adding a tank mate to your catfish, you need to understand its behaviour towards other fish and species. Red Tail Catfish are natural predators and they will feed on anything half their size including tank mates.

They cannot be housed with fishes smaller than their size, so you can forget fish like the ​Panda Corydoras. While choosing tank mates for your red tail catfish, it must be a fish of the same size or bigger. The red tail catfish are mostly advised to be housed on their own. They can become a good tank mate with fishes that are raised together from a very young age.

Also, the redtail catfish are a fast-growing species and they increase in size more than their tank mate, gradually their tank mate become their prey. Make sure your catfish is not as twice as its tank mate before you do something about it.

If not, it will end up eating the rest of the fishes in the tank sooner or later. These fishes are peaceful species but they are territorial with their own species and other catfish of the Pimelodidae family. Ensure to maintain a good tank environment and proper water filtration to keep your catfish healthy for a long time.

What Is The Best Tank Size?

The red tail catfish is one the largest and fastest growing species of the aquarium fishes. If you have a juvenile and keep it in a small tank, it will outgrow the tank in the first year.

Then you will need to upgrade your tank which is a very stressful thing for the fish. So before you consider having a red tail catfish as a pet, you will need a minimum tank of 1000 – 1500 gallons for an adult depending on how far it grows. For you to keep a group of them, you will need a minimum of 2500 gallons.

They are big fishes and for them to do well, you will need to provide enough swimming and hiding space for them. Due to their size, they require a moderate level of maintenance and care. So, ensure that you have a large sump filter system to the aquarium clean, for they are good consumer and they also produce more biological waste.

The red tail catfish dwell at the bottom level of water with low lighting, so their tank condition must be kept to match their natural habitat. Water temperature should be kept at 20 – 28 degrees, according to fishtanksetups.

What Are Their Best Water Conditions?

Just like any other fish that you seek to keep as a pet, the Redtail Catfish also has some special requirement when it comes to the parameters of the water it is kept in.

They do very well in a large enough sump filtering system. This is so as to ensure that the water is kept clean and it is circulating. One way to know that you need to check your water parameters is when you see your Redtail Catfish swimming to the top so as to gulp air and then it swims back down into the water.

This shows that the water quality has deteriorated and it needs to be changed. At least a minimum of 30% of the water should be changed on weekly bases.

At adult size, a water tank of between 1000 to 1500 gallons will be needed depending on the specimen. Any substrate type can be used in the tank. The lightening in the tank should be moderate. The temperature should range from 68.0 to 79.00F.

The pH range should be between 5.5 and 7.2 while the required hardness of water ranges from 3 to 12 dGH. The water movement should also be moderate in the aquarium.

Can You Breed Red Tail Catfish In a Home Aquarium?

This is one of the major questions to be considered. Can I breed a red tail catfish in my home aquarium? Being fully aware of the requirement to keep the catfish as a pet, most individuals can only meet up to the requirement for the juvenile red tail catfish.

It is difficult to breed a catfish in an aquarium because the tank size required cannot be found in most homes. When the fish outgrow your tank, there won’t be anywhere else for you to keep it. Most people plan on getting a bigger tank as the fish get bigger, only to realise that they can’t in the long run. The red tail catfish is good for public aquariums.

Only expert aquarist can meet up to the minimum requirement to house an adult red tail catfish. However, you can house a red tail catfish if you can provide a large enough tank or a pound and the time to feed and ensure a convenient environment for the fish to live in. The red tail catfish is always a good pet to have around.

Are There Any Diseases That They Might Get?

One of the responsibilities of keeping a red tail catfish to ensure that its environment is clean and also it’s feeding is free from disease. As we know, the catfish feeds on live food which may carry some diseases that can affect the catfish.

The red tail catfish can develop infected whisker if there is a high level of nitrate in the aquarium water. This makes it difficult for them to move around or eat normally. Nitrate level should be below 20 pm through consistent water changes.

The catfish can be treated, but all medications must be used carefully as they are scaleless fish. Too much medicine might kill the fish. The best way to prevent diseases is to provide the fish with a proper environment and feed them with a balanced diet.

The tank should be set up to be as their natural habitat. The closer they are to their natural habitat, the healthier they will be. A fish living in an environment that is not conducive for it will get stressed out. And a stressed fish is likely to contact disease.

Are They Difficult To Look After?

The Redtail Catfish is one of the most difficult fish to keep. On fish-keeping difficulty scale - it is rated as being somewhere between difficult to impossible when it comes to keeping.

The aquarist experience level needs to be advanced before he thinks of keeping a Redtail Catfish to maturity. This is why it is recommended that only highly experienced aquarists should keep them. The aquarist will be able to meet their tank requirement and the financial responsibility that is required all through the lifetime of the fish (about 20 years).

They sometimes eat anything that is used to decorate the tank where they are kept. So, extra caution is required to ensure that they do not start eating the substrate or the decoration in the tank. This implies that they need serious attention.

Although they are resistant to diseases, when the nitrate level in the tank is high, they can have infected whiskers. This will affect their eating habit and navigation in the water.

Therefore, it is advised that the nitrate level is maintained below 20 pm, and this can be achieved by changing the water regularly.

Is The Redtail Catfish A Good Pet To Keep?

It is generally said that the Redtail Catfish is not suitable for your home aquarium. This is due to the large size of the tank it requires. The juvenile Redtail Catfish grow large very fast.

They soon outgrow any small tank they are kept in quickly and will require a very large tank which is majorly found in public aquariums. The cost of keeping the Redtail Catfish is also quite high. They are financially demanding.

The fishes that should be kept as a pet should not be as demanding as the Redtail Catfish is. Though they are quite resistant to disease, underfeeding or overfeeding can lead to mortality.

If you really one to keep one as a pet, you can keep it while it is still in its early years. But, even at this stage, the tank size it still requires is large when you compare it to other pet fish who require smaller tanks.

When it outgrows the largest tank size you have available, you can then donate it to a local aquarium around you for proper upbringing. It is important you keep your Redtail Catfish happy by giving it sufficient swimming space if you want it to live long.


The Redtail Catfish is available in the market at a relatively expensive price. As you seek to keep this wonderful creature as a pet, it is important that you take into consideration the well-being of the fish.

If you know you may not be able to provide it with all that it needs for survival, in terms of good water quality, dietary requirements, tank size, and so on, it is advisable you don’t get one.

But if you have all that is required, you will really enjoy keeping this marvelous creature. Its uniqueness will put a nice touch of beauty to your aquarium.


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.