Ghost Catfish Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

Caring for ghost catfish can be challenging! This complete guide for beginners will help you learn everything you need to successfully keep these unique, translucent fish. Dive in as we cover identification, tank setup, water requirements, diet, and more to ensure your ghost catfish thrive in their new home.

Glass Catfish (Ghost Fish)

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Ghost Catfish Species Profile and Identification

Ghost Catfish, scientifically known as Kryptopterus vitreolus, are a fascinating species of fish native to Southeast Asia. These small and unique-looking fish are a popular choice among freshwater aquarium enthusiasts thanks to their transparent bodies, which give them the ghostly appearance that inspired their name.

Physical Characteristics:

  • Length: Typically grows up to 3 inches (8 cm) in captivity.
  • Body: Transparent and laterally compressed, making internal organs visible.
  • Fins: Most have fused pectoral and pelvic fins forming a single, continuous fin.
  • Eyes: Possess relatively large, reflective eyes.

Behavior and Social Dynamics:

  • Ghost Catfish are a shoaling species, meaning they prefer to live and swim in groups.
  • They are generally peaceful, but may be shy and stressed if kept alone or in groups smaller than 6.
  • They are best kept in groups of 10 or more to create a natural environment and allow them to feel secure.

When adding Ghost Catfish to your aquarium, be sure of their proper identification. Ghost Catfish are often confused with the Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus bicirrhis), which is a much larger species. Here are some key differences to look for:

  • Size: Glass Catfish grow much bigger – up to 6 inches.
  • Fins: Glass Catfish have separate pectoral and pelvic fins, unlike the fused fins of Ghost Catfish.
  • Distribution: Glass Catfish are found throughout Thailand, whereas Ghost Catfish are found in Indonesia and Malaysia.

In conclusion, identifying Ghost Catfish correctly is essential to ensure they are compatible with your aquarium setup and to provide them with the best possible care. Understanding their physical characteristics and social dynamics will help you create a comfortable and natural environment for these intriguing fish.

Ghost Catfish Supplies

Before getting started, you need to gather some essential supplies to provide the best environment for your Ghost Catfish. These supplies include:

  • Aquarium: Purchase a minimum 20-gallon tank. Ghost Catfish like to swim in schools, so having ample space for them to move around is necessary.
  • Filtration System: A high-quality filtration system is crucial in maintaining clear water. The system should be capable of handling the tank size and have adjustable flow settings to tailor to your Ghost Catfish’s needs.
  • Heater and Thermometer: Ghost Catfish require stable water temperatures between 72°F and 82°F. A reliable heater and thermometer will help maintain these temperatures consistently.
  • Aquarium Substrate: Use a darker substrate, like black sand or gravel, which helps create an ideal environment and brings out their natural translucent coloration.
  • Aquarium Decor and Plants: Provide plenty of hiding spots and shelter for your Ghost Catfish using driftwood, rock caves, and dense vegetation. Ghost catfish thrive in densely planted environments, so consider live plants such as Java moss, Anubias, or Java fern.
  • Lighting: Ghost Catfish prefer dimly lit environments. Invest in an aquarium light with adjustable settings or use floating plants to diffuse the light.
  • Water Test Kit: Regular water testing is crucial to ensure the water parameters stay within the acceptable range. Purchase a reliable water test kit that measures pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.
  • Ghost Catfish Food: Offer a varied diet that consists of high-quality, small-sized pellets, flakes, and live or frozen foods like Daphnia or bloodworms.

By gathering these essential supplies, you will be able to create a healthy, comfortable environment for your new Ghost Catfish to thrive.

Ghost Catfish Tank Setup

Setting up the ideal tank for ghost catfish ensures their comfort and longevity, providing them an environment that mimics their natural habitat. Start by selecting a suitable tank size, preferably at least 20 gallons for a small school of ghost catfish, as they are shoaling fish and thrive in groups.

To create a comfortable home, cover the aquarium floor with dark sand or fine gravel substrate. This choice offers several advantages:

  • Mimics their natural environment of slow-moving rivers
  • Enhances their colors, making them more visible
  • Provides a good foundation for live plants

Next, create hiding spots and peaceful areas with driftwood, rocks, and live plants such as Java moss, Anubias, or Amazon swords. Use a combination of:

  • Driftwood pieces to create tunnels
  • Rocks to form caves
  • Live plants to provide shelter and improve water quality

For lighting, ghost catfish prefer dimmer environments. Opt for subdued lighting with LED lights and use floating plants to maintain low light levels.

Maintain a constant water temperature between 72 and 82°F (22 to 28°C), using a reliable heater and thermometer in the aquarium. Ghost catfish also require a gentle water flow that replicates their natural river habitats. Choose an effective but gentle filter, possibly an adjustable flow or sponge filter.

Finally, add a lid to the tank to prevent ghost catfish from jumping out. With these steps, your ghost catfish will feel comfortable and secure in their new aquatic home, allowing them to thrive and display their unique behaviors.

Ghost Catfish Water Requirements

To ensure a healthy environment for your ghost catfish, it’s crucial to meet their specific water requirements. Always maintain optimal water conditions by closely monitoring water parameters and initiating necessary adjustments.

  • Temperature: Ghost catfish thrive in water temperatures ranging from 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C). Use a reliable aquarium heater and thermometer to maintain a stable temperature within this range.
  • pH Level: The ideal pH range for ghost catfish is 6.0 to 7.0. To maintain this, you can use a pH test kit and make necessary adjustments using conditioners, additives, or incorporating natural elements like driftwood.
  • Water Hardness: These fish prefer soft water with a hardness level between 2-12 dGH. You can use a water hardness test kit to regularly check the hardness levels and adjust accordingly.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate Levels: Like any other fish, ghost catfish are sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Maintain ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm and nitrates between 5-20 ppm. Your go-to tool for this task is a water testing kit.

Regular water changes (around 20-30% every two weeks) will help maintain these water parameters and keep your ghost catfish healthy. Additionally, introducing live plants into your tank will not only make it more visually appealing, but it will also help stabilize water parameters and maintain water quality.

Ghost Catfish Diet and Feeding

Ghost Catfish are omnivorous creatures and thrive on a diverse diet. Since they are shy in nature, it is important for you to meticulously plan their diet to keep them healthy and happy.

Here’s a list of suitable food options for your ghost catfish:

  • Live foods: As their natural diet consists of live foods, opt for daphnia, bloodworms, or brine shrimp.
  • Frozen foods: You can also provide them with frozen substitutes in case live food is not available.
  • Flake or pellet food: Supplement their diet with high-quality flake or pellet food to ensure complete nutrition.
  • Veggie treats: Ghost Catfish also enjoy a nibble on blanched vegetables like spinach or zucchini occasionally.

Here are some crucial points to remember while feeding your ghost catfish:

  • Feeding Time: Create a fixed feeding schedule and stick to it. Typically, feed them twice a day – a morning and an evening meal.
  • Avoid Overfeeding: Offer what they can consume within 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding leads to poor water quality and may cause stress and health problems.
  • Meal Variation: Rotate between their food choices to ensure a diverse diet.

As a beginner, it’s essential to monitor their feeding habits and make any necessary adjustments. Understanding their preferences and adapting their feeding plan accordingly keeps your ghost catfish healthy, active, and thriving in your aquarium.

Ghost Catfish Care Schedule

A well-structured care schedule is essential for maintaining a healthy and thriving environment for your ghost catfish. Following this routine can help you become a successful ghost catfish owner.

Daily Tasks:

  • Check and maintain water temperature between 72-82°F (22-28°C) by monitoring with a reliable aquarium thermometer.
  • Observe your fish for any signs of stress, illness, or unusual behavior, ensuring their well-being.
  • Feed your ghost catfish once or twice a day with a suitable diet that comprises small pellets, flakes, live, or frozen foods.

Weekly Tasks:

  • Perform a 10-20% partial water change to maintain water quality and reduce the buildup of harmful compounds.
  • Check and clean the filter properly to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria and ensure efficient filtration.
  • Test water parameters (pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels) to maintain a stable environment; optimal pH range should be between 6.0 and 7.0.

Monthly Tasks:

  • Inspect and maintain all aquarium equipment such as heaters, filters, and lights to avoid malfunctions.
  • Thoroughly clean your tank, including decorations, substrate, and glass, using appropriate aquarium-safe cleaning products.

Remember that consistency in following the care schedule is imperative. Adjusting your routine as per the specific needs of your ghost catfish can help them thrive and live a long, happy life in their aquatic home.

Ghost Catfish Health Problems

Ghost catfish, like any other fish species, can have their share of health problems. However, most of these issues can be prevented or treated with proper care and attention. Here are some common health issues you might encounter with your ghost catfish:

  • Ich (Ichthyophthirius): This parasitic infection causes white spots to appear on a fish’s body. To treat ich, raise the tank temperature to 86°F (30°C) for a few days and use an ich treatment product available at pet stores.
  • Fungal Infections: Ghost catfish may develop fungal infections that manifest as fuzzy, white patches on their bodies. These can be treated with antifungal medications found at pet stores.
  • Bacterial Infections: These infections can lead to issues like bloating, pop-eye, and ulcers. They can often be treated with antibacterial medications or aquarium salt, but always consult a veterinarian for the proper course of action.

To minimize health problems in your ghost catfish, follow these preventative measures:

  1. Maintain Optimum Water Quality: Keeping the tank clean and ensuring proper water parameters will prevent most health issues. Regular water changes and tank maintenance are crucial for preventing bacterial and fungal growth.
  2. Avoid Overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and contribute to bacterial and fungal infections. Only feed your ghost catfish an appropriate amount of food twice a day.
  3. Quarantine New Tank Mates: Before introducing new tank mates, keep them in a separate quarantine tank for around 3 weeks. This gives you time to observe them for any signs of illness and allows them to adjust to your tank conditions.
  4. Monitor Your Fish’s Behavior: If you notice any abnormal behavior such as lethargy, rapid breathing, or loss of appetite, this could indicate a health issue. Addressing these problems early on can help prevent them from escalating.

By staying attentive and providing your ghost catfish with proper care, you can minimize their risk of encountering health issues and ensure they live a long and healthy life.

Ghost Catfish Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates for your ghost catfish is crucial to ensure a harmonious and stress-free environment. Remember that these fish are shy, relatively slow swimmers, and need tank mates that will not cause them stress or out-compete them for food.

glass catfish tank mates

Consider the following tank mates for your ghost catfish:

  • Peaceful Community Fish: Look for non-aggressive, smaller fish that share similar water requirements, such as rasboras, tetras, danios, and endlers. Avoid larger and aggressive fish that might pose a threat to your ghost catfish.
  • Bottom Dwellers: Ghost catfish tend to swim in the middle to upper parts of the tank, so it can be useful to have tank mates that occupy the lower parts of the tank. Consider small species of catfish like Corydoras, Otocinclus, and loaches such as the Kuhli loach.
  • Algae Eaters: Ghost catfish will not help with controlling algae growth, so consider adding fish like hillstream loaches, siamese algae eaters, or even snails and shrimps to help maintain a clean environment.
  • Gouramis and Bettas: These fish can be suitable tank mates for ghost catfish, but ensure the individual’s temperament will not be an issue. Bettas, especially, have varying levels of aggression and may need to be kept separately if there is a problem.

The ideal tank mates for ghost catfish should be non-aggressive, smaller fish such as tetras, rasboras, and Corydoras. Ghost catfish are compatible with algae eaters like hillstream loaches or snails and shrimps, and certain gouramis and bettas with compatible temperament.

Always be cautious when introducing new tank mates and be prepared to separate if there are any issues.

Ghost Catfish Breeding

Breeding Ghost Catfish can be quite challenging, especially for beginners. However, with the right knowledge and approach, you can successfully breed these fascinating creatures in your aquarium.

First, it is essential to determine the sex of your Ghost Catfish. Males tend to have a slimmer body, while females are often rounder and larger, especially when carrying eggs. To encourage breeding, you need to provide a stress-free environment by maintaining clean water and ensuring there is plenty of hiding space for the catfish.

Create the breeding area by:

  • Adding dense plants, spawning mops, or clean mesh material for the catfish to lay eggs.
  • Mirroring the natural breeding conditions by lowering the water temperature to around 75°F (24°C), and keeping the tank lightly illuminated.
  • Gradually lowering the water hardness.

Feeding your Ghost Catfish a nutrient-rich diet can also increase the chances of them breeding. Incorporate live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms, in addition to their usual diet.

Observe closely for signs of breeding behavior. If successful, females will lay translucent eggs on the plants or spawning materials in the tank. Once the eggs are laid, remove the adult catfish to prevent them from eating the eggs, as they have no interest in caring for their offspring.

Hatching typically takes 2 to 5 days, during which you should maintain the water conditions. Once the fry hatch, feed them infusoria, liquid fry food, and baby brine shrimp as they grow.

Keep in mind that breeding Ghost Catfish is not easy, and it may take several attempts before you experience success. However, following these guidelines will help you increase the chances of breeding these captivating fish in your aquarium.


Caring for ghost catfish can be a rewarding experience for both beginner and experienced aquarists alike. With the right supplies, tank setup, and attention to their dietary and water needs, your ghost catfish will thrive in their aquatic environment. If you have any questions or experiences you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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