Allotment Articles 2.
Catfish derive their name from the fact that they have feelers that look like whiskers. They use them for searching the bottoms of the waters they inhabit for a tasty morsel such as an insect. They come in many varieties both tropical and coldwater. The tropical are for the most part fairly harmless scavengers, but the coldwater are not as they will become ferocious hunters when they get bigger.
The most infamous variety of coldwater catfish is the European Wels Catfish. In the Giant Russian rivers there are tales of them reaching 15 foot in length and weighing 1000 pounds. Their diet is varied and they will eat almost anything that they can get into their enormous mouths including water creatures such as rats and even ducks. There are tales in Russia that small boys swimming in the rivers have been swallowed and eaten by large catfish. Catfish are said to be able to swallow a fish their own size so perhaps these tales aren't so fanciful. Movement and importation of the Wels Catfish is banned in this country and it is illegal to release them into open Waterways such as canals and rivers. There are some in a large lake at Woburn Abbey that are said to be quite big.
There are several American varieties that are freely available from aquatic retailers such as the Channel catfish and the Bullhead. The Black Bullhead is the smaller variety growing up to about 2 foot in length. As its name suggests it has a very large head and extremely large mouth. This variety is very popular with little boys who like its ugliness and many are sold to be kept in goldfish bowls, or small tanks.
What people do with them when they get too big is a mystery because as its not a native species it is illegal to release them into the wild.
The Channel Catfish comes in 2 varieties, the gold and blue. The blue channel catfish is more of silvery grey but the go1d is much more attractive and is very popular with little girls who think it looks cute and sweet. However both channel catfish can grow to 3, or 4 fee,t or more than 1 meter in length in good conditions and weigh 30, or 40 pounds. They are bred at fish farms in America the same way we rear trout as a food fish and catfish pie is a very popular dish in many states.
You can't really keep catfish with other fish in a fish tank but there is no reason why you can't keep 2, or 3 catfish of different varieties in one large tank for added colour as they won’t attack each other. They can be fed a variety of foods, but pellets are perhaps the best to fill their large stomachs. They also love live food such as maggots and washed earthworms, but care must be taken to keep the tank clean and with their prodigious appetites this means having a good filter.
Care must be taken with medicines as catfish can be sensitive to them and also chemicals such as chlorine and lime. Catfish make good scavengers for a deep fishpond where they will stay at the bottom in the dark murky water and not bother the other fish. However be warned that there will come a time as they get bigger, when they will become more aggressive and they will go hunting. One morning you will get up and find your prized goldfish missing and the catfish with a large swollen tummy. Also be warned that a catfish has a bony lip that it can use to bite pieces out of a fish too big for it to swallow.
If you don't want to keep piranha because they are too dangerous, but you fancy something a little bit different with a bit of a reputation then perhaps the catfish is for you. It won't bite you but it needs careful handling because when it is scared its fins stick out from its body at right angles and they are needle sharp.
Most aquatic retailers have some coldwater catfish in stock from time to time and if you shop around you are bound to find a suitable specimen for you.