All About Freshwater Catfish

This Majestic Fish

The wide diversity of Catfish around the world, in terms of size and behaviour, makes it possible for Catfish to have numerous predators around the world. Be it birds, amphibians or more prominently the large fishes, all of them prey on large variety of catfish.

Talking about the reproduction process of the Catfish, the female partner lays somewhere between 10 to 100 eggs at a time usually. These eggs generally hatch in about a week or even lesser time in certain circumstances. Most of the species of Catfish are egg-laying only. The parental care though varies from species to species. For example, brown bullhead catfish generally builds nests and guard their young ones.

Catfish are found to be carnivorous. Although, by the virtue of existing in large number of varieties, it is quite evident that some of these species actually ingest small aquatic plants as well. In the flesh category, Catfish feeds on other small fishes, insects, and worms that normally close to the river bed. Amphibians such as frogs, newts, some reptiles and mammals are also preyed upon.

A lot has been talked about certain species of Catfish becoming endangered in last few years. Talk about the Mekong Giant catfish which generally grows upto 2 metres in length and almost 650 pounds in weight, its population has reduced by as much as 95% in the past century. Their natural habitat has been Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, but now due to overfishing, dam building and habitat destruction, their numbers have come down steeply.

Within US, the three most important Catfish species are the Blue Cat, Channel and Flathead. The bluecat catfish is the biggest of all followed by Flathead closely. Channel catfish on the other hand is the most common catfish in the United States.

One most important trend with Catfish around the world is that these fishes are known by their local names in different areas. As much as, sometimes just a difference of one hundred kilometres and you’ll find the same species being called by a different name.

The Role of Catfish (Siluriformes) in Our Society

We often look around & find a million ways to be awestruck by the ways of nature. Be it the mountain ranges like the Himalayas, the massive flowing waters of rivers like the Amazon, or the dense forests of Africa, everything is being strongly talked about. Because all this is quite clearly visible to our eyes, probably what we never get a chance to be astonished about is the life under the waters. How many of us know that there are as many as more than 32000 fishes on the planet Earth. One of these is the Catfish. If you go to the etymology of such names, the sheer reason of naming in most of the cases because of some physical resemblance to the key words. Catfish is no exception. The clear protruding barbels (tactile processes on the jaw of fish) resemble a lot to a cat and hence it is named that way. Although there are a few species of catfish that do not carry these protruding barbels. As is with most species of fish, they range in size and other physical characteristics. Right now, around 2900 species of Catfish are found living and they are being divided into about 35 families.

Many catfish species, especially the larger ones, have chemoreceptors across their entire bodies. So, the taste and smell of every chemical that touches their body is being analysed by them. This basically means that the body provides a good way to identify food in the surroundings. Coupling this body with barbels that can also be strong receptors, needless to say the job of an eye is being taken out positively by the body & the barbels. Hence, generally catfish has small eyes.

Talking about the size of the catfish, the smallest size can go down to as low as 1 cm. These are the species of Aspredinidae and Trichomycteridae. On the contrary, the largest sizes are of a few metres. The average size of wels catfish, the reference of which is also found is Greece mythology, is 1.2-1.6 metres. The largest catfish found till date is 2.5 metres.

The communication is done through sounds by the catfish. They generally create sounds of different intensity & are also capable to understand the direction of the sound as well. The sounds can be classified into two types – drumming sounds & stridulation (chirping) sounds.

The Catfish have exceptional economic importance. Catfish form a part of seafood around the world. Channel catfish forms as much as $450 million per year industry. Most of the farm-raised catfish in the United States is grown nearby Belzoni, Mississippi. Several catfish like walking catfish and shark catfish are being used as food in Asia as well. Catfish is found to be a rich source of Vitamin D. Catfish in Central Europe was historically being considered as the food for the celebrated occasions. Channel catfish and blue catfish are the two most eaten varieties of catfish in the united states.

The farm-raised catfish became so popular and staple in the United States that 25 June, 1987 was declared by President Ronald Reagan as National Catfish Day. Across the world, Catfish is eaten in a variety of ways. In US for instance, it is coupled with cornmeal and fried while in the Europe it is cooked as carp is. In Indonesia, it is served as the fried or grilled and is a very popular streets food. In Thailand, Catfish is fried and served with Thai gravies and also enjoyed with steamed rice. In Bangladesh and Indian Subcontinent (States like West Bengal, Odisha, Assam), Catfish is a feast of monsoons. Hungary’s paprika sauce is not away from the catfish as well. Catfish is cooked with it and served with pasta often. No matter where your travels take you, catfish is sure to be enjoyed all around the world.

Catfish have been found both in inland waters and the seas around all the continents except the Antarctica. The most diverse proliferation of catfish is found in South America, Asia and Africa. As many as more than half of the species of Catfish live in the Americas.