There are about 3000 different species of catfish globally, with extremely stunning looks and fascinating personalities.
Catfish derive their name from their cat-like appearance, whereby they have barbels around their mouth resembling car whiskers.
These diverse species are found all around the globe except for Antarctica. The majority of its kind live in freshwater environments like mountain streams, rivers, lakes, and bays, while a few species are also found in marine water, mostly dwelling near the seashore.
This article will walk you through various types of catfish ranging from just 1 foot long to a whopping 10 feet in length and more than 660 lbs in weight. So keep reading to find out more about these fantastic creatures!
Types of Catfish
- Blue Catfish
- Flathead Catfish
- Channel Catfish
- Bullhead Catfish
- Wels Catfish
- Mekong Giant Catfish
- White Catfish
- Plecostomus Catfish
- Hardhead Catfish
- Gafftopsail Catfish
As their name suggests, the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) is light or dark blue with a white underside.
They have a forked tail with a straight anal fin consisting of around 32-36 rays. These are relatively large fishes primarily found in the river’s main channel and tributaries.
The blue catfish are pretty easy to spot, as they do not have any marks on their bodies, unlike other catfish with prominent white bellies. Their size ranges from 30 to 40 lbs and can exceed 150 pounds in some species.
These catfish natively dwell in Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers and serve as an excellent food source.
They are also powerful due to their heavy body structure and can put up a great fight with their opponent. Accordingly, they are a popular game fish for anglers.
The flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivares) are mottled brown, black, and pale yellow, with beige bellies. Unlike blue catfish, flatheads do not consist of a forked tail but have a short, round anal fin with less than 30 rays.
As their name suggests, the flathead catfish have flattened heads, with their jaws often protruding outwards. They mostly have smooth bodies with no fins and cat-like whiskers near the mouth.
These types of catfish commonly dwell on deep surfaces with slow and steady currents and muddy waters where people will go noodling to catch them.
Native to the river basins of Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri, the flatheads’ size typically ranges from 3 to 4 feet in length and can weigh up to 100 lbs.
Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) have an elongated, slender body and are primarily brown or dark olive with gray and bluish hues and white bellies.
Like blue catfish, these fish also have a forked tail but 20-29 rays on the anal fin. However, the most distinguishing of the channel catfish distinctive is the presence of black spots along their entire length.
They live on hunting plants, insects, mussels, fish, and crustaceans. Channel fish are the most active at night when they come out to hunt in the dark because of their extreme sense of smell.
They are mostly found in freshwater environments like rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and large streams.
Being immensely popular in the US as an excellent food source, the channel catfish’s size ranges from 4 to 6 lbs heavy and is 1.5 feet long.
The bullheads (Ameiurus melas) abundantly inhabit the native freshwaters across the United States and Canada, from Texas to Ontario.
They have squared tailfins and are also widely known as mud pout, horned pout, or mud catfish.
They are one of the most commonly occurring catfish, with the distinctive feature of having whiskers or barbels near the mouth and no forked tails.
There are three common types of bullheads, black, brown, and yellow bullheads. Like channel catfish, the bullhead catfish also dwell in fresh river and lake waters.
They make an excellent source of food and have an average size of 3 lbs and less than 1 foot.
The largest freshwater fish, wels catfish (Silurus glanis), are natively found in southern, eastern, and central Europe, in the Black Sea and Capsian basins. It is easy to spot wels catfish, as they have a large, spotless body, a broad flat head, with a big mouth.
These catfish have small teeth inside their mouths, with two whiskers on the upper jaw and four on the lower jaws.
They also possess excellent night vision because of a particular tissue in their eyes, which increases their vision in the dark.
The wels catfish can grow up to 13 feet long, weighing more than 880 lbs. They can also change their color in the water. For instance, they turn black in clear water and brownish-green in cloudy waters.
Mekong Giant Catfish
Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) are among the most endangered fish of their species because of environmental changes and overfishing. Grayish white in color, their unique features include having no teeth and no barbels or whiskers.
Their shades range from grey to white, with a spotless body. Due to being toothless, the Mekong giant catfish primarily feed on algae, zooplankton, and larvae.
These catfish are among the largest catfishes dwelling in freshwater environments, with their size growing up to 661 lbs and about 10 feet long. The Mekong Giant Catfish is native to the Mekong River in East and Southeast Asia.
The white catfish (Ameiurus catus) is the smallest in size among all catfish species native to North America. Their distinctive features are four white barbels around their mouth with a muscular body and a giant flathead.
Belonging to the bullhead catfish family, white catfish have a bluish-gray upper body with white bellies.
The tails are slightly forked, with a short round anal fin. These catfish types are omnivorous in nature and feed on small fishes, crustaceans, marine plants, and small insects.
Although they have a less powerful night vision, the white catfish mostly hunt in the dark.
White catfish are tiny in size with an average of 1 foot long, weighing not more than 7 lbs.
Also known as suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus), the plecotomus catfish’s colors typically depend on its environment ranging from black to dusky or dark brown with prominent blackish-brown marking.
Their distinctive features include large bony plates covering their entire bodies, with a large anal fin and two barbels.
They are known as suckermouth catfish because of their suction cup-like mouths beneath their heads.
The plecostomus catfish is native to South America and mostly dwells in freshwater environments, gushing streams, and pebbly rivers. These scaly catfishes can grow up to 1.5 to 2 feet long.
The hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis) is named because of the bony plate on their skulls.
Sifting along the sea bed, the hardhead catfish are omnivorous in nature, feeding on small insects, fishes, and marine plants.
They have the most incredible features, like having sharp, needle-like fins, which they use to pierce their prey’s skin.
Their spines also consist of lethal toxins, with an elongated body with bony plates, a flat head, and three pairs of barbels around the mouth area.
The size of hardhead catfish typically ranges from 1 to 1.5 feet, weighing up to 3 lbs. They are mainly found in abundance on the southern coast of the USA and the Gulf of Mexico where they are frequently caught and eaten.
The gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus) are typically greenish-blue in color with fading silver bellies.
They consist of three prominent spines with long, fleshy filaments and very long and flattened barbels under the mouth area.
Their name suggests the presence of a sail-like dorsal fin arising from the back. These fish feed on small crabs, pinfish, and shrimps, often found hunting near the bottom of the sea.
Their average size ranges from 2.5 feet long and 3 lbs heavy, and they are abundantly found in Texas waters from Panama to Cape Cod.
Most types of catfish are safe to consume, with high vitamin B12 and vitamin D and low calories. The most common catfish for food sources in the United States are the blue and the channel catfish.
However, people often use catfish to fill in their aquariums because of their radiant and colorful hues, whereas larger catfish are used for recreational fishing purposes.