Introduction

The redtail catfish is one of the most colorful and popular freshwater ray finned aquarium fish which is also known as the South American Red Tailed Catfish, Banana Catfish, Flat nosed Catfish and Antenna Catfish. It is distributed in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is originated from South America in the Amazon, Orinoco and Essequibo river basins. It inhabits broad ranges of freshwater including rivers, sloughs, streams, lagoons, lakes and estuaries. During high water it enters flooded forest but prefers deep pools in rivers.

Redtail Catfish’s Overview

The Red-tailed Catfish has cylindrical arrow shaped body with a flattened belly and a laterally compressed tail. The mouth is shovel like and moderately depressed which is surrounded by long whiskers or barbels.  A wide white stripe is present on the body that extends along the midline from the mouth to the caudal fin. Top of the body is dark gray to black in color while the underbelly and lower part of the mouth is white. The dorsal, pelvic, anal and the caudal fin are slightly pinkish red in color. In nature, its food mainly consists of other fish, crabs, crustaceans, fruits and seeds that fall into the waters. It is a good eater and in captive condition, they prefer meaty type freshwater foods or catfish sticks or the larger pellets.  As juveniles, they generally eat all kinds of live, fresh and flake foods. To keep a healthy body, give them a high quality flake food or pellet every day. They are known to be very slow moving bottom fish that ambush their prey with their slow swimming habits.  It prefers waters with pH range of 5.8 – 6.8, a temperature of 68-790 F and the water hardness between 2 and 10 dGH.  It grows up to 1.8 m in length and 80 kg in weight. It can live up to 20 years.

Scientific Name: Phractocephalus hemioliopterus

Common Name: South American Red Tailed Catfish, Banana Catfish, Flat nosed Catfish and Antenna Catfish

Origin: Brazil, Rio Negro, Venezuela

Adult Size: 120 cm

Behavior: Aggressive

Tank Level: Bottom

Minimum Tank Size:  300 gallons

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Egg layer

Care level: Moderate

Water pH: 5.8 – 6.8

Water Hardness: 2 to 10 dGH

Water Temperature: 68-790 F

Water Movement: Moderate

Lighting:  Moderate – normal lighting

Lifespan:  20 years

Background of Red tail Catfish

The Red-tailed Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) was described by Bloch and Schneider in 1801. It belongs to the family Pimelodidae under order Siluriformes of class Actinopterygii. The caudal fin is red or orange that gives the fish its common name ‘red tail catfish’. They are not listed on the UCN Red List of Endangered species.

Housing red tail catfish

The red tail catfish has overall popularity among the aquarium enthusiast due to its unique appearance and active disposition within the aquarium. Red tail Catfish is active swimmer and it needs a very large aquarium (300 gallons or plus) with plenty of swimming room. The tank should have large sump filter system to keep the water clean and circulating. The tank should be decorated with some driftwood, rock formations and a few plants to make aquarium environment similar to their native environment. The tank should have water chemistry with a pH of 5.8 – 6.8, a temperature of 68-790 F and the water hardness between 2 and 10 dGH.  The tank should always be covered with lid to prevent escape the fish from the tank because they are well known for their ability to escape an open top aquarium.  To keep this fish happy and healthy 30% water should be changed weekly basis. The Red tailed Catfish is generally a good community fish and it can be kept with their own sized tank mates. They can be successfully mixed with other large Pimelodids, Doradids, Cichlids and Characins. During the day the Red tail catfish remains motionless but when evening comes, it searches the tank for prey. It prefers a more subdued light and alongside caves or branches to feel more comfortable.

Recommended Plants

Check out recommended plants for Redtail Catfish

Feeding red tail catfish

In nature, its food mainly consists of other fish, crabs, crustaceans, fruits and seeds that fall into the waters. It is a good eater and in captive condition, they prefer meaty type freshwater foods or catfish sticks or the larger pellets.  As juveniles, they generally eat all kinds of live, fresh and flake foods. To keep a healthy body, give them a high quality flake food or pellet every day.

Breeding red tail catfish

There is no available information about the breeding of red tail catfish in home aquarium. If you have any successful experience with redtail catfish breeding in captivity, please inform us.

Sexing red tail catfish

It is very difficult to make differences visually between male and female. Although the males have more slender shaped bodies with a brighter red color tail than the females.

Redtail Catfish for sale and where to buy

The Redtail Catfish is one of the most popular and recognizable large freshwater bottom dwelling fish. It is suitable only for the largest home aquarium.  Smaller juvenile is available from time to time and is moderately expensive. Look below for online vendor to buy your redtail catfish.