Catfish, one of a large group of scaleless fish. It is a bottom-feeder and uses its sensitive feelers, or barbels, to locate food such as crayfish. There are many species of catfish worldwide and they inhabit both salt water and freshwater. North American freshwater species include the channel catfish, blue catfish, bullhead, madtom, and stonecat. These fish can cause painful wounds with their sharp quills, or spines, located in front of their fins.

The catfishThe catfish uses its feelers to locate food.

The flesh of freshwater catfish is white or reddish and has an excellent flavor. The channel catfish is blue with a light belly. Its average weight is 2 to 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.3 kg) but it may reach 50 pounds (23 kg) or more. Freshwater catfish are raised in ponds for commerce. Such catfish farms are found primarily in the south-central United States.

The European catfish, or wels, is found in rivers and lakes in central and eastern Europe. It is the largest freshwater fish in the world, often reaching 10 feet (3 m) in length and weighing up to 450 pounds (200 kg).

Most oceanic catfish occur in tropical or subtropical waters and are edible. A species found in the coastal waters of the southern United States is the sea catfish, or hardhead. It is about one foot (30 cm) long and weighs three pounds (1.4 kg).

Are Catfish Related to Cats?

No, but a catfish has whiskers that look like those of a cat. The whiskers are called barbels. Catfish, like the bluespotted corydoras (kuh RIH duh ruhs), use their barbels to find food and feel their way around.

Most catfish live in freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams. Some kinds of catfish live in the ocean. Catfish usually eat insects, frogs, and other water animals. Larger catfish eat other fish.

Catfish vary in size. The largest is the European catfish or wels. It may grow to more than 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh 400 pounds (180 kilograms). It belongs to the same family as the glass catfish. This bony fish is only 4 inches (10 centimeters) long.

The most unusual catfish is the walking catfish, found in Asia. It can crawl on land from one lake or pond to another by raising itself up with its front fins and pushing with its tail. It’s a good thing that a walking catfish can breathe out of water as a lungfish does.

North American freshwater catfish belong to the family Ictaluridae. The channel catfish is Ictalurus punctatus. The European catfish is Siluris glanis of the family Siluridae. The sea catfish is Arius felis of the family Ariidae.