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Redtail Catfish

(Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Aggressive   • Maximum Size: 48"
• Minimum Tank Size: 300 gallons   • Water Conditions: 70-78° F, KH 9-10, pH 5.5-6.8
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: South America   • Family: Pimelodidae
• Species: Large Catfish   • Aquarium Type: Large-Bottom-Dweller

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Species Information

Redtail Catfish native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Redtail Catfish is arguably one of the most popular and recognizable species of large freshwater bottom dwelling species found within the aquarium trade. Despite their very large adult size, Redtail Cats have been imported from South America into the aquarium trade for some time and have reached an almost iconic position among "monster fish keeping" aquarists. The overall popularity of the Redtail Catfish is due to a combination of its unique appearance and active disposition within the aquarium.

Redtail Catfish have a broad head that gracefully tapers back towards its brightly colored red tail. Their body is a dark gray / black coloration with a white underbelly and white stripe on the middle and rear portions of its body. Redtail Catfish also buck the trend of many aquarium catfish species in that they are active swimmers that will patrol the aquarium looking for a meal or just investigating their surroundings.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Redtail Catfish in the home aquarium.

The first thing to consider when keeping a Redtail Catfish in an aquarium is the ultimate size of the fish. That cute little catfish is going to grow into a monster 4 foot long catfish that is both an active swimmer and feeder. Secondly, the Redtail Catfish is an aggressive species and it is important to keep it with appropriate tank mates. Redtail Cats should be kept with other large (1 foot or more) fish species that can hold their own sharing a tank with a large aggressive catfish.

Keep in mind that Redtail Catfish see other fish that can fit into their mouth as food and not a tank mate. It is also important to remember that Redtail Catfish are active swimmers and will need a very large aquarium with plenty of swimming room.

While a 300 gallon aquarium is an absolute minimum for this species, they will do much better in an aquarium that has a 4 foot width and 8 foot plus length, usually around 450+ gallons. Redtail Cats will appreciate the presence of some driftwood, some rock formations and a few plants within the aquarium decor in order to provide them with an aquarium setup that is similar to their native environment.

Lastly, Redtail Catfish should always be housed in tightly covered aquariums as they are well known for their ability to escape an open top aquarium or an aquarium with a loose or partial cover.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Redtail Catfish and provide a healthy diet.

Redtail Catfish are not picky eaters and will essentially consume any meaty food that fits in their mouths. However, not all foods contain the same level of nutrition, thus it is important to feed the Redtail Cat a balanced diet of nutritional foods. Redtail Catfish living in the wild will make up the vast majority of their diet from eating fish and crustaceans. In the home aquarium they can be live fish & crustaceans, worms, meaty based frozen or pellet foods ranging from krill and fish flesh to pellets specifically made for large Catfish and other large freshwater carnivores.

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