Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus Pictus)

Order: Siluriformes
Family: Pimelodidae
Genus & Species: Pimelodus Pictus
Common Names: Pictus Catfish, Pictus Cat, Large-Spotted Pictus, Spotted Pim, Pim Pictus, Angelicus Catfish
Temperature: 72 – 77ºF (22 – 25ºC)
pH: 5.8 – 6.8
GH: 1.0 – 15 dGH
Max Size: 11 – 12.5 cm (4.3 – 5 inches) in length
Lifespan: 10 years
Depth Preference: Bottom dweller
Tank Size: 50 gallons

Out of the 29 species within the Pimelodus genus, pictus catfish are the most popular species found in the aquarium hobby due to their smaller size and appealing display of colors. But don’t be fooled; they are extremely active during low-light conditions, requiring a large enough tank to comfortably accommodate them.

Origin & Habitat

Pictus catfish are a freshwater species of fish endemic to the Rio Orinoco and Amazon basins in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Brazil.

Their natural environment is made up of dense vegetation in shallow, dimly lit rivers that have a moderate rate of flow over sandy and muddy sediments.

Pictus Catfish Care

The pictus catfish, like most other catfish, is a nocturnal bottom feeder that may experience adverse effects in stagnant waters with minimal flow, which frequently results in poor water quality at lower depths. Make sure there is enough water movement by installing underwater filtration, wave generators, or air stones that can create a gentle underwater current.

An aquarium light fixture that simulates day and night cycles will likely increase their activity since they tend to hide in brightly-lit environments. Providing plenty of hiding places with driftwood, rocks, plants, or decor will give them numerous places to retreat to during the day.

They communicate with each other via frequencies that they emit through vibrations. While they thrive in cooler temperatures, higher temperatures of 78º Fahrenheit (25.5º Celsius) or above have been observed to significantly interfere with their ability of acoustic signaling.

Being a scaleless fish, its susceptibility to various diseases and parasitic infections is greater than those with scales. Quarantining new tank mates is highly recommended to prevent illnesses from rapidly spreading to the pictus catfish. However, if any signs of illness or parasitic infections are found, either consult an expert or ensure that any medication used is suitable for highly sensitive fish. Soft, sandy substrates without sharp rocks will also protect their sensitive skin and long barbels.

Their dorsal spine is sharp and their fin ray is a mildly venomous, stimulus-evoked spike defense mechanism that will react to as little as 0.5 grams of pressure. It also doubles as a sensory organ, capable of detecting motion and pressure, similar to that of their long barbels. Although generally harmless to humans, the sensation would be comparable to a sting or bite from an insect.

Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus Pictus) dorsal spine

As a result, the transportation and handling of this catfish can present a few challenges. Its bony spines and long barbels can easily become tangled in fish nets or puncture plastic bags. Instead, plastic bags should be doubled during transportation and fish nets should not be used to handle them.

Pictus Catfish Diet & Feeding

The omnivorous pictus catfish are a predatory species often found foraging for food primarily at night. Its regular diet in the wild includes preying upon insect larvae, invertebrates, snails, small fish, and plant detritus.

Since they rarely surface for food, experimenting with a variety of different feeding methods may be necessary for larger community tanks that may not leave any leftovers for your pictus catfish. For soft, palatable foods that do not sink quickly, simply roll up your sleeve and carefully place the food near the bottom of the tank.

It is necessary to take extra precautions to prevent overfeeding because of this species’ tendency toward insatiable greed, it will continue to consume food as long as it is accessible.

Despite being omnivorous, their diet should include a higher proportion of animal protein because they tend to be carnivorous and only turn to plant-based foods when they are starving.

Live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, fish, mussels, prawns, beef heart, tubifex, insect larvae, or small earthworms are all readily accepted by pictus catfish. Additionally, sinking pellets specifically made for carnivores will also be well received.

Tank Mates & Temperament

Despite being predators, pictus catfish are a rather peaceful species. They will only eat fish that are capable of fitting in their mouth, thus tank mates should be a minimum of 3 inches in size.

Neons, rasboras, guppies, and smaller danios are some examples of what may fall prey to the pictus catfish. Fish that are actively spawning or any newly hatched fish fry present will need to be relocated to a secondary home.

They are a highly sociable species of fish that prefer to shoal in large groups, often displaying unique and more active behavior in larger numbers. With that being said, a healthy shoal will contain a minimum of 4 to 6 fish or more.

Fast-moving species of loaches, gouramis, giant danios, barbs, rainbowfish, plecos, and larger species of tetras and catfish make excellent tank mates for the pictus catfish. Cichlids and other territorial bottom dwellers should be avoided because of their slow movement and potential contact with the dorsal spine of the pictus catfish.

Male & Female Differences

There are little to no visible signs of sexual dimorphism between a male and female pictus catfish. Since spawning conditions are rarely met in a home aquarium, females do not produce enough eggs to make them appear larger than males.

School of Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus Pictus)

Breeding & Spawning

There is currently insufficient data or any known factors that encourage pictus catfish to spawn in home aquariums. There are many different factors to take into account with fish species that do not breed in captivity such as lack of room, water parameters, nourishment, etc.

Recent research has shown that hormone inducers such as CPE or Ovaprim, can induce breeding in P. Pictus, with CPE being the preferred option.

The doses totaled 0.5 and 1 ml/kg and 5.5 and 7.7 mg/kg, respectively. The total dose was split into two doses and administered 12 hours apart (first dose: 10%; second dose: 90%). Within six hours following the first dose, 50% of females showed a response to all treatments.

More Information

Pimelodidae, a family of catfish, has 94 species and 29 genera that are only found in the Neotropical Region, from Panama to Argentina.

There are two varieties of P. Pictus; a large-spotted and a small-spotted kind. Only the large-spotted variant, which does not grow as large as the small-spotted variant, is frequently observed in the aquarium trade.

Furthermore, pictus catfish are occasionally misidentified as angelicus cats, which refers to an unrelated species of African catfish, the Mochiko Synodontis Angelicus.

The pectoral fin’s sensory system in P. Pictus is capable of proprioception, pressure detection, and the sensation of surface touch, just like in human limbs. It also detects object motion.

They also create high-frequency stridulation sounds by rubbing the spines of their pectoral fins against their pectoral girdle, and they also make low-frequency harmonic sounds by drumming their swimbladder muscles.

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