with Your New Channel Catfish
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Biggest Drawback. Channel cats grow huge. Our state record runs somewhere around 35 pounds. In your tank, they grow into lunker-size predators – not a problem with big fish like cichlids. By the way, anytime you see long whiskers on a catfish, you can expect it to grow into a night-feeding predator. They use those “cat whiskers” to find food in the dark.
Fast Growers. Because channel cats grow rapidly and can convert cheap grains into meat economically, they’re a favorite among fish farmers. Seems like they told us at one Aquaculture Seminar it takes less than a pound of food to grow a one-pound channel cat. Farm-raised catfish rate fairly high on the taste scale -- if you like fish. Unlike most fishes, farm-raised channel cats taste better than their wild caught cousins. By the way, the little one-pounders taste better than the big honkers. My uncles nailed the big honkers to a catalpa tree in the back yard and peeled them with a pair of pliers. We all preferred the flatheads, which grow even larger but taste much better.
Crepuscular (but Flexible). In the wild, you’d find these guys looking for food at dusk and dawn. You catch them on short ditty poles affixed to overhanging branches. You “run these lines” all night while feeding the mosquitoes. In your aquarium, channel cats quickly adapt to your schedule. They start looking for food as soon as they smell it.
The “Horns.” If you pick up a channel catfish bare-handed, it will try to stab you with its side fins or top fin. In addition to the painful stab, their serrated “horns” emit an irritating substance that makes the wound hurt more and longer. If you ever stepped on a channel cat bare-footed, you will never forget the experience.
Water. Hardness and pH make little difference as long as you keep their water clean. Don’t overfeed your channel cats.
Space. The more room the better. Small tanks stunt their growth (not necessarily bad), but small tanks encourage disease because of poor water quality. In smaller tanks, channel cats tend to “slime up.” Frequent water changes always help.
Diseases. Since they often get
dropped into cool water, channel cats can suffer from ich.
Any standard ich remedy (at half strength) works fine.
Fish farmers cannot legally use the same medications on fish raised as
Temperature. Feel free to put channel catfish in unheated tanks. They do not need heaters. In fact, they require a fairly cool period to trigger their spawning behavior.
Foods. Not picky. Channel cats love worms and smaller fishes. They also greedily devour any frozen food. They never turn up their nose at any flakes or pelleted foods. In the wild, people catch them on “stink baits” made from blue cheese, “meld” made from dried blood, chicken guts, and even corn meal “doughballs” and pieces of bread. We personally caught a three-footer while fishing for goldfish with rolled up bits of white bread.
Spawning. Channel catfishes normally dig holes into the bank to lay their eggs in. Fish farmers provide large drain tiles as spawning sites. Since they breed at such a large size, no one really wants to spawn them for fun.
Hand-Fishing. Brave souls can reach into their breeding tubes and pull them out by hand. They call it “noodling” -- not to be confused with what they call “kanoodling.” We left this aspect of fishing to our weird uncles. They grab their bottom lip and haul ‘em on out. Do not attempt this at home. We recommend you use a net in your aquarium.
Tank Mates. Channel cats mix with North, Central, and South American cichlids (but not African cichlids) too large to swallow and vice versa. They also mix great with koi and with goldfishes without fancy fins. You will raise no baby fishes in a tank or pond containing channel catfishes.
None needed. If you put
your channel cats in newly set up tanks, they do appreciate a teaspoon of salt per gallon of
water. In a mature tank, the salt
makes little difference. LA
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