What Do Catfish Eat? Five Amazing Facts To Know

Catfish are interesting-looking creatures. As I’m sure you know by now, these bottom-dwelling fish is known for its appendages that look like cats’ whiskers.

However, for fishing enthusiasts, this fish can be an awesome catch with its weight that can go up to over 100 pounds! With that said, you must be wondering what do catfish eat?

Most catfish species are opportunistic feeders, while others are omnivores. They hunt their food from the surface down to the deep.

They hunt their food from the surface down to the deep. They have special taste buds and organs that can detect food despite low visibility.


To learn more about catfish diet, here are five amazing facts to know about this species.

1. Male catfish watch over the eggs and young fry, but they eat them as well

The parental skills of a male catfish depend on whether they are starving or not. Males are in charge of guarding the eggs and young fry until they are old enough to survive on their own.

Before growing into a full adult, the young fry feeds on anything they can get their mouths on. Small invertebrates like hellgrammites, dragonfly nymphs, caddis fly larvae, and worms are among their favorites at this stage.

2. Their diets become more specific as they age

Different species of catfish have different preferences as they grow older. For example, flathead catfish do not eat anything other than live smaller fish.

Whereas channel cats and bullheads eat live fish, but they are carrion eaters as well. This means they won’t say no to dead fish at the bottom of the stream either. Aside from this, they also love to feast on clams, frogs, and crayfish.

Certain species like flatheads do not eat anything but meat. Channel catfish, on the other hand, eat plant material to supplement their diet in the absence of other fish.

3. Their whiskers help them to find their food

Aside from giving them their unique look, a catfish’s whiskers have biological functions as well. They navigate their way to find the food especially at night when there are fewer predators roaming about.

At the same time, nighttime feeding also allows them to ambush their prey easily. Next time you see a catfish, notice how the whiskers touch the ground when they swim deep. This method helps them find leeches and worms that are hiding under the sand or dirt.

4. Farmed catfish get nutrition from specially formulated feeds or pellets

For catfish grown in ponds, nutrition comes from manmade feeds. Protein concentration that ranges from 28% – 32% is the ideal nutritional requirement for farmed catfish.

In accordance with their feeding pattern, farmers are recommended to use pellets that float or sink depending on the temperature of the water. Specifically, the ideal pellets should float when the water temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it drops to 60-65 degrees, slow sinking pellets are recommended. Finally, sinking pellets are more preferred when the water temperature goes below 60 degrees.

5. Catfish can remain undetected by their preys

A study published in 2001 showed that before being eaten, preys that have been stalked by catfish did not exhibit any avoidance at all. This means that aside from their high sense of taste, feel, and smell, catfish also has the ability to trail their prey without being detected.

Additional Information about CatfishNow that you know their feeding habits, this additional information about catfish will show how amazing they are.

  • There are about 2,900 living species of catfish. This makes them one of the most species-rich vertebrate orders on the planet. In fact, catfish species comprise about one of every four freshwater fish. More interestingly, some species of catfish is one out of twenty vertebrates in the world.
  • Since catfish species are richly diverse, their size varies greatly. For example, the mature banjo catfish can only grow up to an inch long. On the other hand, there are enormous species that can grow to as big as 15 feet such as the giant European wels.
  • Anglers who wish to catch catfish use baits with unbearable odor. Because of their pronounced sense of smell, they are easily hooked with stink baits, dough balls, or any animal livers. Some species are more attracted to live baits like crayfish or nightcrawlers.

Final thoughts about what do catfish eat if you’re an angler, you know now that the bait should stink – the smellier the better. On the other hand, if you are here to learn about these magnificent creatures, now you know that there is absolutely more to them than having cat-like whiskers.

Hope you find these amazing facts useful for whatever purpose it may serve you. If there is any information that you wish to ask about the feeding patterns of this glorious species, feel free to write them in the comment section.

John Morris

Hi, I?m John Morris. I?m an avid outdoorsman and fisherman, blessed with an awesome wife and 2 kids. Fishing is not my passion, it is my lifestyle. I fished before I knew how to walk! I?m obsessed with all things related to fishing, even the fishy smell. I?m always willing to extend a hand to novice anglers looking for fishing tips and tricks thus I created this blog. This blog is a collection of my experiences, knowledge, and also research from other blogs.

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