Caring for Your New Pictus Catfish
Info from Aqualand Pets Plus on Pimelodus pictus
 
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Pictus Factoids

Origin

South America

Sexual Differences

None discernible. Females probably chubbier.

Temperature

75 to 80

Attitude

Eager eater.  Good scavenger.

Schedule

Nocturnal but quickly adjusts to day shift

Security

Prefers to live in groups.  Not a hider.

Foods

Loves all foods

Water

Demands very clean water

Breeding Comments

Unlikely

LA
At two inches, these little pictus catfish mix well with same-size South American cichlids.

LA
Here's some little pictus catfish (two-inches), just arrived.

LA
Lots of times you'll find these look-a-likes sold as pictus.

Origins:  Since no one breeds these cute little catfishes, we still import them (wild) from South America.  Even though they come in as wild fish, these little guys quickly adapt to captivity.  Many catfishes (especially corydoras catfishes) poke each other with their sharp fins when shipped in crowded plastic bags.  Pictus seem to relax these sharp little fins when kept together.  In other words, they ship very well.

LA
Pictus catfish ship well but don't net well.  Catch them in a plastic cup.

LA
Once pictus fins catch in your net, you can even rip their fin(s) off.     

Warning:  Always catch your pictus catfish in a plastic container.  Pictus “stickers” – their dorsal and pectoral fins – nearly always catch in a regular net.  These fins catch – and will not come out --  because they have several times more barbs than a fish hook.  We even saw one individual (who said “I can catch these guys in a net”) deeply imbed a pictus pectoral fin in his finger while trying to free it from a net.  Painful, but we couldn't help but laugh.  You often wind up destroying your net and your pictus.  Watch your fingers, too.  You may need them later.

 

LA
Four-line pictus (stunt double) showing the body-length whiskers.  Not quite as cute.

Appeal:  Long a staple in the aquarium hobby, pictus catfish are cute.  A school of pictus with their whiskers as long as their bodies instantly catches your eye.  Attractive black spots on their white-silvery bodies complete the attractive picture.  And they never stop moving.

LA
Another four-inch four-line pictus.  Keep away from neon tetras.

LA
Some look better than others.

Size:  Pictus catfish start out in our tanks as cute little two-inch, speedy, spotted, be-whiskered, eating machines on wheels.  Beware.  They grow to six inches and can cause problems as their mouths continue to enlarge right along with their bodies.

LA
In a 55, this four-line pictus has plenty of room to patrol for food.  Whiskers mean predator.

LA
Lotsa different species -- all with similar needs.

LA
Many people buy  these at 1.5' and find they grow into fish eaters.

Housing:  Pictus look great in a 10-gallon tank, where they also start out just fine.  However, because they grow to six inches, pictus catfish work best when kept in larger tanks (and with larger fish).

Scavengers?  Many people add pictus to catfish their tanks because they think of all catfishes as scavengers – cleaner-uppers of the leftovers.  Sure, they clean up any food that hits the bottom.  However, you’ll notice it only takes them two seconds to smell food in the water and zip to the top where they power-graze whatever you feed your other fishes.  Think of pictus catfish as pre-scavengers.

LA
Even larger pimelodus exhibit the same behaviors.  Not quite as cute, tho.

Foods:  Pictus eat whatever you feed them (as well as any small fishes that will fit into their smallish mouths).  They love ALL foods.  Do not, however, expect them to eat moldy old food layering the bottom.  Do not overfeed.  Keep your pictus catfish just a bit hungry.

Temperature:  Keep your pictus catfish at tropical temperatures – 75o to 80o.  They do not do well in cool water.

LA
This larger version eats pretty well, also.  Whiskers mean predator.

Temperament:  Unlike the armored catfishes, pictus rarely hide.  They constantly patrol their tanks in search of edible morsels.  Pictus catfish swarm about even more when kept in groups.
 

Shawn Charton, September 2, 2009
Hey, I just read your page on pictus cats and you neglected to mention their ability to go kamakazi if there's a hole in the lid or the water level is too high.  Last week I bought 2 pictus' for my 40 gallon tank.  They were VERY excited and I enjoyed watching them very much.  (Constant motion doesn't even begin to describe it.)  Then one day I walked by the tank and noticed that the constant motion had calmed to a random pacing along the back wall.  Turns out one of the cats had gotten so excited in making loops that he came straight out the back of the aquarium through a hole cut for the filter system and dried up on my carpet.  I lowered my water level and bought a new buddy for the other pictus which, if I didn't know better, was MOPING around the back of the tank looking for his friend.  (I'm not someone who normally attributes human behaviors to fish but this was such a drastic change it really seems to be appropriate.)  Anyway, love the site.  Thanks for all the good info and bazillion hours it takes to create such a comprehensive site.

A:  Consider it mentioned now.  I added your comments to my pictus page.  LA

Decor:  You can aquascape their quarters just like any other community fish.  They neither knock things about nor dig holes.
 

David Faline Seattle WA
Ok, let me state first of all that you, sir, have one of the most sadistic websites I have ever visited. It's completely mesmerising. I just discovered it. On the first day I was up til' 4 AM.... 4 AAAAMMM!!! And very late and tired to work. Nazi! So that's my version of a huge compliment. I want to add an observation about pictus cats. When adorning and furnishing your tank, leave an open "track" in the front. This will keep them out of their hideouts. And thus less agressive. As well as in good view. They run with one whisker tracing along the glass then cruize through a hole. Then back out. Yes, I have a limited social life. If they hit a solid object with their whisker they will follow almost the exact same route back to their hideout. Really it's a barrel of monkeys to observe. Again no social life is to blame. I hope this is helpful to anyone, with an evil hermit cat.

A:  I'm adding your info to our pictus page.  LA

Plants:  Feel free to add live plants to their tank.  Pictus catfish do not destroy vegetation.

Water:  Pictus catfish demand very clean water.  Dirty water causes stress and eventual death.  Always use a water conditioner.  Some of the chemicals in tap water will severely stress them.

 

Medications:  If medicating for ich, use your cure at half-strength.  Most medications severely stress pictus catfish.  Use medications only as a last resort.  Too much malachite green will yield a tank of dead pictus with their mouths wide open.

LA
Pictus catfish swarm in schools in their tank.

LA
You rarely catch pictus catfish at rest.

LA
The darned things rarely stop long enough to pose.

LA
Pictus catfish eat like little piggies.

LA
Several variations pop up in the "pictus" category.

LA
Pictus show up very well over white sand.
 

Aaron Davis, Sacramento, CA, January 23, 2007
Hey, I'm a big fan of your website. I love the pics and the information has been helpful to me for researching potential new fish. However, I would like to point out one thing about the social nature of pictus catfish that isn't mentioned on your site.
A few months ago, I began stocking a nearly empty 120 in my bedroom. Based on information I found on your site and elsewhere, I decided to get a small school of pictus cats. I went to the store, (sure enough, their tag had "best in groups of 3 or more" written on it) and I bought 7 ranging from 2.5-3".
When I introduced the fish to the tank, they continued schooling as they had in the store's tank. But after a couple of days, they started to disappear one by one. I was worried they were dying or getting eaten by other fish, but after moving some rocks around I found no bodies, just hiding pictus. A little disappointing, but no big deal. After a week or so, all the pictus cats had become hiders.
Things got really interesting awhile later when I rearranged my tank. Since all my pictus were displaced from their hideouts, they naturally went to find new ones. But what I hadn't noticed before was that the cats would no longer tolerate other pictus in their caves. They began to quarrel over the best spots, facing each other head-to-tail, displaying erect fins, and thrashing their bodies in an attempt to stab each other with their pectoral spines, often making buzzing noises. Eventually they formed a stable (almost African cichlid-like) power structure with a couple larger dominant fish occupying large caves and patrolling nearby open space, and weaker fish crammed into smaller caves and hiding more of the time.
I did some further research and found out that pictus cats will only school when small and become increasingly aggressive and territorial toward each other with age. Mine mostly ignore other fish in the tank, and even each other at feeding time, and none of them has been injured by their territorial disputes. However I believe this is partly due to the large footprint of my tank and the fact that there are plenty of pictus for even distribution of aggression. It might prove problematic if someone were to keep only two pictus in a small tank. Just a heads up. Thanks,
 
A:  Excellent and informative report.  Thanks.  I'm adding it to my pictus catfish page.  LA

Last Word:  Never catch your pictus catfish in a net and always use medications very carefully.  LA.

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