Ghost Catfish – Care, Requirements, Feeding, Tank Mates, Breeding & More

Ghost catfish are majorly known as Kryptopterus virtreolus. Initially, these types of fish were confused with krptopterus bicirrhis, which are large and more aggressive.

The latter are no longer available in the aquarium trade.  Ghost catfish got their name from their appearance.

They have a transparent body that allows you to see their bones and internal body organs. They are also known as glass catfish or phantom catfish.

Ghost Catfish Care Guide

Ghost Catfish Care Guide

All along their body, you can see through their transparent skin, their ribs vertically and a central spinal cord. Their dorsal fin is located at the back, which looks like a somewhat raised portion. Their tail and ventral fins, that allows them to swim upwards and downwards in water, are also almost invisible.

The ghost catfish appearance is not only pleasing and fascinating, but also a protection for the fish against predators. Their clear colour means they are not easily identified and a bit camouflaged from their predators.

Apart from the clear colour, just like any other catfish, ghost catfish also have the barbels on their head, that outspread past their face, out from their nose.

The barbels make ghost catfish and many other types of catfish very sensitive to fluctuations in the setting. The barbels allow some catfish to even sense electromagnetic waves.

Ghost catfish are considered relatively small fish. A mature ghost catfish grows to a maximum of around 5 inches long. They have long and slender bodies.

Unlike other types of catfish that prefer to live hidden in the rocks at the bottom of the water, ghost catfish are social fish that enjoy to swim together in a group of at least 4 fish.

Ghost Catfish Aquarium Requirements

Glass Catfish Aquarium Requirements

Glass Catfish Aquarium Requirements

In their natural habitat, ghost catfish live in slow flowing streams and rivers. They mostly enjoy swimming at the middle of the river but not too far away from the river beds for safety.

While setting up an aquarium for your ghost catfish, it is important to consider their natural habitat, and try to replicate the conditions. Ghost catfish are active swimmers; therefore, they will need a big aquarium to allow them swim freely.

They also enjoy living in groups and swimming together. The average aquarium size for your ghost catfish should be at least 5 gallons of water for each ghost catfish.

Therefore, if you intend to keep six ghost catfish, then you should set up a minimum aquarium of 30 gallons of water.

Ghost catfish are considered to be very shy, to ensure they are comfortable and feeling safe in the aquarium, consider a bigger fish tank and keep them in a group.

A bigger fish tank will also ensure there is no overcrowding in the tank. Too many fish in a limited space can cause stress, which will lower their immunity system and put them at a risk of contracting diseases easily.

Glass Catfish Water Parameters

Glass Catfish Water Parameters

Glass Catfish Water Parameters

Water parameters for a glass catfish are very critical. In the same way you cannot survive living in an environment with low or poor air quality, the same way you should be mindful about the water parameters for your glass catfish.

Abrupt water condition changes, temperature, chemical changes and PH level, can affect your glass catfish negatively.

Water temperature should be maintained at approximately 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, PH should be slightly acidic, at the level of between 6.5 and 7.0, water hardness should be kept not lower than KH 8 and not above KH 12. In addition, to replicate their natural habitat, the water flow should be maintained at a moderate level.

To keep the water clean and maintain stable chemical levels, you can add plants in the aquarium, such as Java Fern or Java Hoss.

These plants will not only help to keep the water clean, but also act as hiding spots for the glass catfish.

You can add water gravel at the bottom of the tank, however, consider smaller substrate or sand. Bigger and sharper gravel can cause damage to the injury to the glass catfish’s barbels.

Due to the strict water parameters, it makes it harder for beginners to keep the glass catfish.

Ghost Catfish Tank Mates

Ghost catfish thrive in a group of at least 4 fish. Ghost catfish are social fish, while in the wild, they form tight social groups. It is important to mimic this trait even in aquariums.

Keeping a ghost catfish alone in an aquarium can lead to stress and premature death.

Ghost catfish are peaceful types of fish. They can live well in a community tank of other peaceful fish that will not try to compete with them.

Fish such as swordtails, neon tetras or peaceful tetras, guppies and mollies are perfect fish tank mates for your ghost catfish.

While choosing tank mates for your ghost catfish, consider fish that are less aggressive. Aggressive and big fish such as tiger barbs, sharks, some types of Cichlid and Oscars may attack slower and smaller fish such as your ghost catfish causing physical injuries, damages and stress.

The ghost catfish may also end up hurt while struggling for food, or starve to death in an attempt to avoid confrontation.

Feeding the Glass Catfish

Glass catfish are selective with what they eat and also not very good feeders. While in the wild, they eat zooplankton, mosquito larvae, other small sized fish the size of new born guppy, small invertebrates and Daphnia.

In the aquarium, you can feed your ghost catfish both frozen and live food. Food such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, Daphnia, Moina, grindal worm, flakes, pellets or vegetables are healthy for your ghost catfish.

While selecting what your ghost cat fish will eat, consider having a balanced diet so that they are healthy and comfortable.

During feeding, observe your ghost catfish to ensure they are actually eating the food you are offering them. In addition, observe them while feeding to ensure they are not bullied or denied food by other larger and more active fish in the aquarium.

Food should be offered two to three times in a day. Make sure you feed them a small pinch of food that they will finish within two or three minutes.

Left-over food will cause pollution in the tank, which can alter water parameters causing stress to your ghost catfish.

Ghost Catfish Common Diseases

Ghost catfish are very sensitive to changes in water parameters. An abrupt change in water temperature, chemical changes or PH level can cause stress.

Stress reduces the immune system of fish, making them susceptible to contract any type of fungal bacteria or parasitic disease.

To ensure your catfish is healthy, conduct regular water changes, ensure the water parameters are always at optimum level, avoid over-feeding your fish and quarantine new fish and aquarium ornaments before introducing them to the common fish tank.

Ghost catfish do not have a different kind of diseases that can affect them, only what is normal in a general fish tank. Some of the diseases that they can suffer from include;


Ich also know as ick or white spots, is a common disease in most aquariums. It is caused by bacteria that causes white grainy salt like particles on the skin of the fish. Fish may be seen gasping for air and floating on the surface of the aquarium.


Lice are a group of parasites that attach on the skin of both freshwater and salty water fish. If your ghost catfish are infested with lice, they will become restless, and continually rub against any available surface or object in the aquarium. This can cause injury and damage to their fins and scales.


Dropsy is a diseases caused by fluid build-up inside the tissues and body cavity of a fish. Dropsy can be a symptom of other underlying diseases caused by bacteria, parasitic infections and liver dysfunction. Dropsy causes the fish to have bloated and protruding scales.


Fungus causes a grey or whitish cotton like growth on the skin, eyes and fins of the fish. If not treated early, fungus will eat way the skin’s body, which will finally lead to death.

Breeding Ghost Catfish in Aquariums

Although ghost catfish breed in their natural habitat, it is not easy to breed them in captivity.

Determining the gender of the ghost catfish is also a challenge. However, female ghost catfish are a little larger and have a slightly bigger stomach to store eggs. This differences are marginal and cannot be identified easily.

While in the wild, ghost catfish breed during the rainy season. To help them breed in the aquarium, you can lower the water temperature to around 73 degrees Fahrenheit and continually add small amounts of fresh water into the tank daily.

This will mimic rainy season in the wild and encourage your ghost catfish to mate. You should also feed them lots of fresh and live food, which it is abundant during the rainy season in the wild.

If you are successful to create a conducive environment for the ghost catfish to mate, the female will lay eggs on different surfaces in the tank. 3 to 4 days later, the eggs will hatch into very small fry. To keep them healthy, feed them baby brine shrimp or very small food particles.

Can Ghost Catfish Jump Out From the Tank?

Ghost catfish are not aggressive fish. However, they are active swimmers that love swimming in a group of at least four fish. While swimming, ghost catfish can jump out from the tank.

This can be caused by either escaping a perceived threat or jumping up for food. To ensure your ghost catfish is safe in the tank, consider having a lid for the aquarium.

This will protect your fish from jumping out of the tank which can cause injury or death.

Are Ghost Catfish Aggressive?

Ghost catfish are shy, timid and non-aggressive in nature. To ensure they are comfortable, they should be kept in a small group of at least five ghost catfish.

They can peacefully live with other smaller and peaceful fish in a community tank. Due to their non-aggressive nature, ghost catfish can easily be bullied and denied food by other aggressive and larger fish.

What is the Lifespan of Ghost Catfish?

A healthy ghost catfish will live to up to 8 years. Premature death can be caused by diseases, stress, sudden water parameter changes and physical injury caused by accidents or other aggressive fish.

Feed your fish a healthy balanced diet, ensure the aquarium water has the right conditions and the tank mates are peaceful for your ghost fish to enjoy a long peaceful life.

Do Ghost Catfish Eat Algae?

Aquarists dread at the mention of algae. However, did you know algae plays an important role in an aquarium? Algae helps to minimize the level of toxics, such as nitrogen in an aquarium.

Additionally, since they are plants, they help to increase oxygen level in a fish tank as they undergo the process of photosynthesis.

Algae can also be a source of food for some fish such as ghost catfish, grass carp, Siamese algae eater.

However, they may end up making the pond look dirty. Algae is important and can be healthy for your aquarium, however, too much algae are every aquarist’ worst nightmare.

Are Ghost Catfish Suitable for Beginners?

Ghost catfish are interesting and unique for every aquarium. However, do not let their simple appearance fool you that they are easy to maintain.

Ghost catfish require the tank conditions to be always maintained within their preferred range. Regulating the water parameters can be a challenge for beginner aquarists.

Ghost catfish sensitivity to changes in their environment make it harder for beginner aquarists to keep this pet friend, compared to other beginner fish such as tetras.

Wrapping Up

Ghost catfish clear color appearance is what draws many aquarists. Their virtually see through body is their main attraction. They are unique and make an aquarium look fascinating and interesting.

They are not complicated to take care for, however, they are very sensitive to environmental changes, which makes it a challenge for beginner aquarists to keep them.

Catfish   Updated: October 29, 2019
avatar Hello, my name is Fabian, and I am the Chief Editor at Aquarium Nexus. I have over 20 years of experience in keeping and breeding fish. The aquarium hobby brings me immense joy, and I take great pleasure in sharing my experiences with others.

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