Walking Catfish Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

Want to learn how to care for Walking Catfish? This guide will provide all the essential information you need, from tank setups to diet, breeding, and health. You’ll soon have everything necessary to keep your Walking Catfish happy and healthy.

walking catfish

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Walking Catfish Species Profile and Identification

Walking catfish are known for their adaptability. They’re found in many countries, from tropical parts of Asia like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and others – all the way to the USA. They’re accustomed to various water bodies, inhabiting everything from river systems and ponds, to swamps and rice paddies.

These fascinating creatures are known for their unique ability to effectively ‘walk’ on land. Distinguished by their elongated body shape, whisker-like barbels, and fins which are perfect for land movements, these nocturnal fish are worth identifying.

They can grow quite large, attaining a maximum standard length of up to 40 inches (100 cm). However, in captivity, they rarely reach this maximum size. A size of 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) is considered good for captive walking catfish.

They exhibit sexual dimorphism. In wild males, you will observe spotting in the dorsal fin. However, no such distinction is noticeable in aquarium varieties. To tell genders apart, inspect the elongated, pointed genital papillae in males, and shorter, blunted ones in females. The females also have a more rounded belly.

So, keep these features in mind. An understanding of Walking catfish’s unique species profile, physiological traits, and identification features are key to caring for them properly.

Walking Catfish Supplies

When setting up for your walking catfish, it is crucial to ensure you have all the supplies needed to create a conducive environment. First and foremost, a large aquarium is compulsory. This fish can grow up to 40 inches in length, so a minimum tank size of 600 gallons is recommended.

  • Aquarium: Recommended size is 600 gallons for an adult, but a smaller sized one can be used for juveniles. Remember, the larger the better.
  • Substrate: Use a soft substrate for the bottom of the tank. This creates a comfortable environment for the fish.
  • Hiding Places: Driftwood, smooth rocks, and plastic piping sections can create ideal hiding places.
  • Water: Conditioner and Test Kit: Necessary for maintaining appropriate water conditions. Ensure you have a pH test kit and a water conditioner on hand.
  • Food: A good quantity of dried pellets, frozen meats, and vegetation is needed. Walking catfish are omnivorous and enjoy a varied diet.

Remember to also prepare a tight-fitting cover for your aquarium. Walking catfish are renowned escape artists and could easily find their way out of open tanks. Also, focus more on providing substantial floor space rather than depth, as this species favors breadth.

Lastly, although not essential, you can enhance the aesthetics of your tank with aquatic plants which could also provide hiding spots for the fish.

Walking Catfish Tank Setup

Firstly, the dimensions of your tank are absolutely vital. A fully grown adult specimen requires a tank with a capacity of around 600 gallons (2271 liters). A smaller tank is appropriate for juveniles, but they grow at an incredible rate, so upgrading their environment timeously is key.

Your next focus is on the floor space, which is more critical than depth for this species. Aim for a soft substrate bed adorned with various pieces of driftwood, smooth rocks, or plastic piping to provide hiding spaces.

walking catfish tank setup

Ideal tank setup:

  • Driftwood pieces arranged across the bottom
  • Rocks and pipes to provide shelters
  • A very tight-fitting lid (to prevent escape)

These aquatic artists are excellent at escaping, so ensure your aquarium has a secure cover. While walking catfish can adapt to various environments, they don’t necessarily demand a heavily planted tank, which gives you a little creative freedom in your design.

Remember, these aren’t your average fish. With the potential to grow up to 40 inches or around 100 centimeters, preparing adequately for their size in your tank setup is non-negotiable.

Walking Catfish Water Requirements

Water conditions are vital for walking catfish. Your walking catfish requires a comfortable water temperature range. This is between 68-78°F (20-26°C). Maintain these temperature levels to prevent stress-induced health problems.

Having a consistent pH level within your tank is also crucial. Ideally, the pH level should be within the range of 5.5 to 8.0. Maintaining this balance offers a favorable environment for your catfish.

Hardness of the water is another factor to consider. The recommended hardness for walking catfish water is 2-25°H. A water test kit can help you monitor these parameters regularly.

Concerning the water filtration, they prefer calm waters with minimal currents. While a filter is necessary to keep the water clean, be sure to adjust the output flow to make it gentle.

Also, regular water changes are essential. A routine of 10-15% of water change weekly can be a good practice. This helps to control the build-up of nitrates and other harmful chemicals.

Lastly, often found in stagnant waters, these catfish can tolerate slightly dirty water. However, don’t take this trait as an excuse to maintain poor water hygiene. A clean, well-kept aquarium is always beneficial for your walking catfish health. You should remove any uneaten food and waste promptly, as it can quickly turn perfectly good water foul.

By taking care of these water conditions, your walking catfish will thrive and live a healthy life.

Walking Catfish Diet and Feeding

Walking catfish are greedy eaters and are known to be omnivorous. This indicates that they can ingest a wide variety of foods. Your walking catfish will happily gobble up almost anything you offer, so it’s up to you to guarantee a balanced diet.

  • Dried Pellets: A mainstay in the walking catfish diet can be store-bought dried pellets. They’re readily available and provide a good nutrition baseline.
  • Meaty Frozen Foods: The variety can be brought in with juicy, meaty frozen foods. They add a much-needed protein punch that mimics their natural diet.
  • Vegetable Matter: Contrary to its carnivorous look, walking catfish also need vegetables in their diet. Including some greens adds nutritional distinction and promotes better digestion.

Remember, adult specimens do not need to be fed every day. Feed them every alternate day or as per their consumption rate to avoid overfeeding. Be careful during feeding time, as these fish have an insatiable appetite and often don’t know when to stop eating.

A well-rounded diet fosters the vibrant health of your walking catfish, enabling them to thrive in their artificial habitat. Balance, variety, and moderation are the keys. Always observe your pet’s eating behaviors and make necessary adjustments to their feeding routine accordingly.

Walking Catfish Care Schedule

Your walking catfish care schedule should be balanced. Consistency is key when it comes to your catfish’s well-being.

Daily Care

Every day, check the temperature of the fish tank to ensure it stays between 68-78°F (20-26°C). Monitor the pH balance, which should be within the range of 5.5-8.0. Make sure the hardness of the water is within 2-25°H.

Observing your fish daily for healthy locomotion and coloration is important.

Weekly Care

On a weekly basis, feed adult walking catfish. They do not need daily feeding, unlike juveniles. Novice owners make the mistake of overfeeding as these fish don’t know when to stop eating.

They are greedy and omnivorous species that eat almost anything offered, so a varied mix of dried pellets, meaty frozen foods and vegetable matter is suggested.

Monthly Care

Every month, carry out a partial water change. Replace about 25-30% of the tank’s water to maintain healthy water conditions. Do not forget to maintain the smooth rocks and pieces of driftwood that serve as the hiding places in the tank.

Lastly, monitor your fish’s growth. Its standard length could reach up to 40″ (100cm), but in captivity, achieving a size of 18-24″ (45-60cm) is considered good.

Following this care schedule will help ensure your walking catfish leads a healthy and happy life.

Walking Catfish Health Problems

Walking Catfish can experience a few common health problems. These include parasitic infestationsbacterial infections, and overfeeding-related issues.

Parasitic Infestations: Walking Catfish are prone to numerous parasites common in the fish world. Watch for symptoms such as erratic swimming, a swollen body, or a change in eating habits. A fish antiparasitic medication is usually required to clear this up.

Bacterial Infections: These often occur due to poor water conditions. Keep an eye for fin rot, ulcers, or a faded color. Treat water with a broad-spectrum antibacterial fish medication as soon as possible.

Overfeeding Issues: As these fish are greedy and do not know when to stop eating, overfeeding can become a significant problem leading to obesity and unhealthy growth. Feed in measured amounts and be strict with feeding schedules.

Preventive Measures:

  • Maintain optimal water conditions, as this is the first line of defense against disease.
  • Do a regular (weekly) water quality check to ensure pH, temperature, and hardness are at recommended levels.
  • Avoid overcrowding. Overcrowding increases stress and disease susceptibility.
  • Use quarantine tanks for new fish addition to stop the possible spread of disease.

Remember, prevention is better than cure. Aim to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place with good hygiene, proper feeding, and regular water testing. Consult your local aquarist or vet immediately if you observe any signs of these or other unusual behaviors. Prompt action can save your fish’s life.

Walking Catfish Tank Mates

When it comes to selecting tank mates for your walking catfish, be wise and selective. Remember, Clarias batrachus is a highly predatory fish. It can devour smaller species as it is known to swallow anything that fits into its large mouth.

Some suitable tank mates could include:

  • Large Barbs: Barbus species
  • Loricariids: Sucker-mouthed catfishes and armored catfishes from the family Loricariidae
  • Cichlids: Cichlidae species

Ensure that any selected tank mates are introduced at a larger size than the Clarias. This is crucial, as the young walking catfish have an exceptional growth rate. Tank mates should be similarly-sized and robust, with the ability to defend themselves and hold their own in the tank.

Definitely refrain from adding any delicate, smaller fish into the tank to ensure their safety. The Walking Catfish is definitely not for a general community tank. The aggressive and predatory nature of this species makes it ill-suited for a peaceful community aquarium.

Walking Catfish Breeding

Walking Catfish breeding is not a common spectacle in home aquariums, but it’s achievable with the right conditions. Crucial to this process is owning a large enough tank. Ensure you have at least 600 gallons of space, as an adult male and female will need room to move and breed comfortably.

Obtain a young group of catfish early on, aiming for a variety of sexes. As they mature, pairs will naturally form, becoming territorial and distinguishing themselves from the rest. One easy way to identify your breeding pair’s sex is through their genital papillae. Males have elongated and pointed papillae, while females’ are shorter and more blunted.

  • Male gaze: Males usually show spotting in the dorsal fin, but this is not a reliable method in aquarium varieties.
  • Female form: Females are often more rounded in the belly area than males.

Breeding behaviours to look for include increased body contact and instances of swimming side-by-side. Spawning often commences with the digging of a pit within the substrate, where the female would deposit her eggs. The process might last up to 20 hours, with the pair returning to the pit repeatedly. A pair can lay thousands of eggs, which sink and adhere to the substrate.

After spawning comes an interesting role-play:

  1. The male becomes a guard, protecting the brood and swimming tirelessly over the nest.
  2. The female retreats, only to return when the eggs hatch, guarding the territory’s perimeters.

Following hatching, within 72 hours, the young become free swimming. At this point, consider removing the fry if large numbers are intended for raising. Provide an initial diet of brine shrimp nauplii, rapidly escalating to bigger foods as they grow.


Caring for the Walking Catfish can be a rewarding and enthralling experience for any aquarium enthusiast. Remember, it’s all about creating a comfortable and enriching environment for these fascinating creatures. Do you have any experiences or thoughts about keeping Walking Catfish? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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