to Keep Your New Electric Catfish
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Origins: Electric catfish come from the Nile river basin – at least the ones we’ve always seen. There are other species. No one breeds them on fish farms. They all come from the wild. Little electric catfish look cute. Large guys take a couple giant steps over the ugly line.
Appeal: You gotta love a fish that makes you tingle. And the little guys really are cute. Little electric catfish just make you jump back when they give you a zap. The big ones can knock you off your feet.
Common Name: Their name comes from their one best talent – kicking out ‘lectricity.
Size: Over and over we've seen references (mostly zoos) reporting a 39-inch maximum size. We’ve never seen an electric catfish remotely approaching this length. Foot longers were the biggest we’ve encountered.
Foods: Electric catfish are not picky eaters. Gluttons describes them better. Theoretically, electric catfish sidle up to other fish, slip them enough amps to make them upchuck, then eat the results. In our tanks they gorge on feeder fish, nightcrawlers, and beef heart. They like frozen foods, of course.
Housing: Commercially available at three to four inches, you can house your young electric catfish in a 10-gallon tank. Realize that you will need a 55 or bigger to keep this growing critter happy.
Keep Covered: Not considered jumpers, you still want to avoid picking electric catfish up off the floor barehanded. Not a fun job.
Sport Fish: When caught on a hook and line along the Nile, most fishermen cut their line. Taking a large electric catfish off the hook is not fun. They are considered a hard to unhook food fish.
Tank Mates: Since electric catfish like to argue and strongly protect their territories, you usually cannot mix many fish with them. If you do, give their competitors lots of room.
Temperature: Their Nile River origin means electric catfish need 75o or better.
Décor: Electric catfish locate caves, burrows, and overhangs to while away their daytime hours. Small sections of PVC pipe make instant home sweet homes. At night, they come out looking for food and trouble.
Plants: Immaterial. Plants make your tank look better, but your electric catfish couldn’t care less.
Water: Put your chemistry set away. Electric catfish adapt to nearly any clean water. Since they eat like pigs, you will need to make large water changes on a weekly basis.
Breeding: Won’t happen. Electric catfish would probably spawn at 12” but you’ll need a minimum three-foot section of PVC pipe with nesting room at the end. Try it.
Disadvantages: Electric catfish pester or kill other fishes. They’re illegal in many states, kinda ugly, hard to hand feed, and hard to breed. They also need a larger and larger tank as they grow.
Last Word: Electric catfish make a great “extra” to add to African cichlid aquaria. They teach those ol’ African cichlids how to “dance.” Most people should not own this fish. LA.
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