Pimelodus Pictus is a member of the catfish family native to the Amazon and Orinoco basins and makes a great pet when kept in a freshwater aquarium. This is a small catfish only about 4.3 inches long, making it an entertaining pet due to its active swimming habits.
The fish is silver-colored with black spots and stripes, with sharp spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins. They have extremely long barbels, and the female is slightly larger than the male. It has a comical downturned mouth and a spiked tail.
Appearance and Lifespan
They are cute fish, and the first thing that you will notice is the long whiskers, and these are the barbels. Barbels define a catfish, giving it the look that the species is known for and helping to navigate its way through the water. When you take it home you will be surprised at how quickly it swims up and down in its tank.
You can expect it to live from 8-10 years, quite a long time for an aquarium fish. However, they do require the right care and it is important that your Pictus Catfish is correctly fed and remains in optimal health.
The black spots extend to the dorsal and caudal fins, which are semi-translucent, almost clear, giving a streamlined appearance. Some of the colors vary a bit as well. The forked tail is quite sharp, so handle it carefully to avoid cuts. They don’t have any scales, unusual in a fish.
Expert Tip: When you want a hardy little fish they make great pets as long as you have the space in the aquarium.
Barbel Function and Anatomy
A barbel is a slender whiskey organ near the mouth of the fish, and not all fish have them. Other fish with barbels include carp, goatfish, and sturgeon. The barbels house the taste buds enabling the fish to navigate along the bottom of a river and hunt for food in often murky water.
In rivers and streams visibility can be extremely low. due to low light and this enables the Pictus Catfish to find what he wants to eat in the wild. The other function of the barbel is to alert the fish to danger. In some species of fish, barbels are only developed when they are needed to help the fish to find the right food source.
The barbel develops in the embryonic stage or juvenile stage of the species and is linked to a specific genetic family.
Feeding and Habits
They like to feed at night and are typically bottom feeders, going along the bottom of their tank or aquarium where they like to eat bloodworms, beef hearts, and insects. They will also eat very small fish and prepared fish foods. If they see a Neon Tetra, they may eat it but are generally non-aggressive.
They prefer soft water in their aquarium, and normally a larger tank is required, due to their quick swimming. Interestingly they are not territorial and can co-exist with other fish. The taste receptors in the barbels are able to detect enzymes in the water and enable the fish to identify various food sources.
The dorsal fin has a mildly venomous sting, but the Pictus Catfish is usually harmless to humans and remain not aggressive, just be careful how you pick them up and move them in a shallow plastic container.
Caring for Your Pictus Catfish
As mentioned, you will need quite a big tank, between 55-60 gallons of water especially if you plan to keep two catfish. They definitely need the space to roam around and will become stressed in a smaller space.
The water temperature should be kept at between 75 and F-80 F when possible. The water hardness is 5-15 DH. PH levels 7 to 7.5. keeping the water as soft as possible.
Expert Tip: When you keep fish in an aquarium you do need to keep testing the water, as things change quite quickly. If there is a power cut overnight while you sleep, this could be risky to your fish, as the temperature in the aquarium drops quickly in cold weather.
Maintaining Your Aquarium
Purchase some aquarium test stripes, and test the water at least twice a week. This will give you a baseline to work with and record the tests so that you can compare what is happening. If the nitrate levels in your aquarium become too high then you will get a growth of algae, and you will need to get the nitrate levels down.
Maintaining your aquarium for the safety of your fish is quite scientific, but with advice and guidance from the local experts, you will get proficient quite quickly. Once your aquarium is well established, every now and then test for calcium levels. However, for your Pictus Catfish, the three main things are:
- Water temperature
- PH levels
- Water hardness
So continue to test twice a week or more to keep your fish safe.
You will need a filter that ensures a strong water flow. A moderate flow is not enough, as in the wild the Pictus Catfish is used to a strong current. The strong filter also gets rid of nitrates from the water and makes your aquarium a bit easier to keep clean.
Creating a Natural Environment
We are working to create the natural environment that the Pictus Catfish would have when living in the Amazon basins. This means adding rocks and pieces of wood, but not too many. Buy an aquarium rock with a natural cave in it for them to explore. However, the main thing with these fish is that they have the length to swim up and down fast.
It is better not to put any really small fish in the tank with them as your Pictus Catfish could think they were food. Unfortunately, they are not able to differentiate between what you feed them and what is alive. They are good-natured non-territorial fish and normally don’t look for trouble.
So don’t just get one, if you have a big tank they can be good company for one another, get two or three as they will be very happy with one another.
Illness and Diseases
The lifespan of your fish is dependent on how well you look after them, and as 8-10 years is a long life span, it is most important to keep their aquarium thoroughly clean. The Pictus Catfish does not have scales and is prone to a bacterial infection known as itch a common disorder in freshwater fish.
If you notice changes in behavior, like lethargy you need to consult an expert fish vet. to get the right treatment. They are a shoaling fish and do like plenty of room to race up and down, and if they are not active it could mean that something is wrong. If you only have a small space at home for your aquarium this is not the fish for you.
Do Pictus Catfish Sleep?
Yes, all fish sleep with their eyes open because they don’t have eyelids. They also keep moving while sleeping to keep a flow of oxygen moving past their gills. So when you look into your tank and your fish is not moving much he may just be asleep. Small fish may occasionally move their fins while sleeping.
How Often Should the Aquarium be Cleaned?
To avoid your fish getting fungal infections you need to clean their tank 3-4 times a week. Any objects like rocks and wood in their water should also be thoroughly cleaned, as dirty rocks can poison their water. This is quite a lot of cleaning but it will keep them healthy, so plan to do it every second day.
Use a vacuum gravel cleaner to clean the gravel rocks and cave, and other objects in the fish tank. You may also use some soft liquid soap and a sponge on the tank walls, rinsing thoroughly afterward.
While you are cleaning out their tank, place them in a bucket of fresh water and get them back in their tank as soon as possible, to minimize stress, and they will soon adjust to the cleaning. There is nothing worse than seeing a cloudy, dirty aquarium where the fish are no longer visible.
Choose a soft dark substrate to minimize the risk of injury to their sensitive belly skins, and if you have a few plants in the aquarium, it will give the Pictus Catfish something to explore.
Expert Tip: They are mainly a nocturnal fish, as this is when they feed, so keep low light over the aquarium or no light at all and then they can race up and down feeding all night and resting during the day.
Benefits of Aquarium Plants
It is a good idea to add some live plants to your freshwater aquarium to offer many benefits. The oxygen that the plants generate will reduce the need for aeration in the tank. Plants also remove nitrate from the water. It gives your aquarium a pleasant natural green look, providing more interest for your Pictus Catfish.
Some plants are suitable for the substrate at the bottom of the tank, giving a type of carpeting effect and a lush forest for the fish to hide in. in turn bringing them a sense of security. You may also want to have some floating plants to provide shade and darkness for your fish.
Your plants through photosynthesis remove the carbon dioxide in the water and turn it into oxygen making it easy for your fish to breathe.
Male and Female Pictus Catfish
If you are wondering how to tell the difference between the male and female, this can be quite tricky. Once they are fully grown the female will be more rounded in the belly, especially when eggs are about to spawn.
When you have them in the home aquarium they may or may not breed, because they only feel really comfortable with a large amount of space. The other reason that you can’t always breed them is. it is almost impossible to tell if you have two males or two females.
They are egg-laying fish, and when they are ready to spawn, the female looks for a place to lay her eggs, where the male can fertilize them. If you can get them to breed in their aquarium, this is not common and will be an exciting event for you to watch out for babies.
Goldfish are not compatible with Pictus Catfish for many reasons. They have different water requirements, and neither fish would have their needs met.
They also have totally different patterns of behavior and your fast-moving catfish will stress out the slow Goldfish, and also a small Goldfish could be seen as a potential meal for the Pictus Catfish.
Expert Tip: Keep your catfish with other catfish, just to be safe, as it is upsetting to everyone when a pet fish disappears presumed eaten.
Talking of being eaten, try to keep the cat out of the room where your Catfish are housed. The cat is a natural predator and may try to catch a fish.
Pictus Catfish Conclusion
Given the right-sized aquarium and clean conditions, your Pictus Catfish can live a long and happy life. Research shows that they like to have a companion and may even race one another up the tank. Of course, the proper diet is also extremely important for them to thrive and grow.
This can be sourced from the aquarium shop, and if not they will know where to get what you need to feed them. You will enjoy their active antics, and sitting and observing them is somehow quite relaxing to humans.
The aquarium supplier will probably provide you with some fact sheets about caring for your fish, but often reading the blog will give you more relevant information. You may even end up with more than one fish tank to separate incompatible species into another aquarium.
Your 3 or 4 catfish will be very happy in their own tank, and if you are lucky they may even breed.