Do Catfish Eat Other Fish? Shocking Truth You Need to Know!

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If you are a fish owner or just love learning about different aquatic creatures, you might be curious about whether catfish eat other fish. Catfish come in many shapes and sizes, but the question remains: do they consume their fellow fish?

The answer is not as simple as a yes or no. While some species of catfish are known for being herbivores or scavengers, others are opportunistic predators who will gladly feast on whatever small underwater creature comes their way.

For example, the popular channel catfish can certainly eat other fish along with crayfish, insects, and even small mammals that accidentally take a dip in their habitat. Some larger catfish, like the flathead, may also prey on smaller fish as part of their diet.

In fact, a 2014 study found that one particular type of catfish – the European wels – had started to develop “hunters’ eyes,” indicating a shift towards more predatory behavior.

So if you’ve got a catfish sharing a tank with other fish, it’s important to understand what type of catfish you’re dealing with and how to keep everyone fed without turning your aquarium into a survival-of-the-fittest battleground.

Read on to learn more about the amazing diversity of catfish species and their eating habits. It’s time to dive in!

Types of Catfish That Eat Other Fish

Catfish are a type of fish that eat many different types of food, including other fish. While not all catfish species will prey on their fellow aquatic creatures, some catfish species have earned the reputation for being fierce predators in the water. Below are three examples of catfish species known to regularly consume other fish:

Blue Catfish

The Blue Catfish is one of North America’s largest freshwater fish and has an impressive hunting ability. They primarily feed on live or dead fish but also eat frogs, crayfish, and insects-anything they can find that fits in their large maw.

Invasive in nature, Blue Catfish consumes native fishes such as minnows, sunfish, perch, shad, and brim with ease and at any age.

“The blue catfish consumes lots of small fish when it’s young and then shifts to larger prey—other fish like bass and walleye—as it grows,” says Wes Porak.

The predatory behavior of Blue Catfish often leads commercial fishermen and biologists to label them “a nuisance fish.”

Flathead Catfish

The Flathead Catfish can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh well over 100 pounds! This makes them the fourth-largest catfish species globally, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they aren’t afraid of dining on smaller fish. However, because they prefer living in deep pools and hiding spaces, catching flathead catfishes requires skill.

Likewise, the Predatory Fish Research Group revealed that Flathead Catfish predator activity increases significantly at night in the summer season. Most notably, they actively target slow-moving and inactive fish for quick consumption.

“It is important to note that flatheads can and will eat just about anything they can catch, including fish as large or larger than themselves,” warns Mark Rausch.”

Channel Catfish

The Channel Catfish thrives in freshwater rivers and streams. They are native to central US waterways but have since spread across the United States. Although they are well-known bottom feeders, they also enjoy eating smaller, live fish.

A study conducted by Joseph Dillard shows that small juvenile White Bass remains a dietary staple for these catfishes. Besides, there isn’t much restriction on what channel catfish eat; their diet keeps out competitors such as minnows, yellow perch, shad, and carp fishes.

“Despite being known primarily as bottom-feeders for worms and other natural prey items, they can certainly take advantage of algal blooms to consume small fishes more easily,” says Eric Billingseen.

Some catfish species do eat other fish, making them a crucial part of aquatic ecosystems. Fishermen consider these species nuisances because they threaten commercial fishing and decimate native fish populations. However, it’s essential to remember that like any animal, catfish serve a purpose in nature: Maintaining ecological balance.

What Fish Do Catfish Prefer to Eat?

Catfish are known for their omnivorous eating habits, which means they will eat both plants and animals. However, the majority of a catfish’s diet consists of other aquatic animals.

Small-Sized Fish

Catfish have a particular appetite for small-sized fish, such as minnows, shad, and bluegill. These types of fish are often found in shallow waters where catfish usually feed.

According to Dr. Richard Fuller, professor of fisheries at Auburn University, “Catfish tend to prey on smaller fish because it’s easier to catch them.”

If you’re planning on targeting catfish, using live or cut baitfish is always a safe bet. Small minnows and shad can be easily caught with a cast net or a minnow trap.


Sunfish are another common food source for catfish. These fish are smaller in size but make up for it in numbers. They’re commonly found in lakes and drainage systems that contain slow-moving water.

“Sunfish like bluegill, redear, and pumpkinseed are all important parts of catfish diets,” says Tim Bonvechio, regional fisheries biologist for Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

You can use live sunfish rigged with a hook to target catfish. A slip bobber rig can be used to keep the sunfish suspended at the desired depth while fishing.


Crayfish are one of the best baits to use when targeting catfish, particularly during spring and summer months when they’re most active. Crayfish resemble lobsters and can range from dull brown to bright red in color.

“Crayfish are a top food source for channel catfish,” says Bill Dance, professional angler and television host. “They’re high in protein and easy to digest.”

Using live crayfish as bait is ideal, but they can be tricky to catch. Using a minnow trap or hand-digging them from the riverbank are some of the best techniques used by anglers.

Aquatic Insects

Catfish also feed on a variety of aquatic insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and mayflies.

“Insects provide an important source of food for all fish species,” says Edward Rutherford, senior research scientist at the Department of Water Resources in California. “Catfish use their sense of smell to locate these morsels.”

You can use artificial lures that mimic aquatic insects when targeting catfish. A good option is using floating grasshopper baits fished along slow-moving waterways. Alternatively, attaching maggots or worms to your hook can also attract catfish.

Can Catfish Survive Without Eating Other Fish?

Catfish, a type of bottom-dwelling freshwater fish known for their whisker-like barbels and flat heads, are primarily carnivorous creatures. They feed on other fish, crustaceans, insect larvae and aquatic worms. However, there are instances where catfish can survive without eating other fish.

Yes, they can survive on algae and plant matter

Catfishes, just like most other freshwater fishes, also need to consume some amount of vegetation in their diet. Some species of catfish have adapted to eat algae that grows over logs, rocks, or other submerged substrates. A diet rich in plant matter provides the necessary roughage and fiber needed by these fish for proper digestion. In captivity, catfish can be fed both commercial fish pellets as well as vegetables such as kale, spinach, peas, cucumber, zucchini, etc.

Catfish that survive exclusively on plants or algae tend to grow and reproduce more slowly than those who have fish in their diet.

They can also eat dead animals and organic matter

Catfish are scavengers by nature and will scavenge from the riverbed as well as feeder streams. Dead fish, decaying vegetation and animal carcasses lying on the river bed provide easy meals for catfish to consume.

In many farms, it is common practice to include slaughterhouse waste products into catfish feeds due to its protein content, which helps supplementing the fish’s nutritional needs. This includes digestive tracts of cows, pigs and chickens amongst others, bone meal, meat scraps and blood meal leftover from butchery.

However, they grow and reproduce better on a diet of fish

Catfish are one of the most economically important fish species in the United States, Africa and Asia due to their large size and high demand. In commercial farms, catfish meal, which is made by grinding up whole catfish carcasses including meat, bones, skin and fins has become a common ingredient for feeding young fish.

For optimum growth and reproduction, catfish require a diet rich in protein. Younger catfish grow rapidly with diets consisting mostly of small live fish like minnows and shad while larger adults will feed on bigger prey such as bass or carp if available.

“Catfish have hearts that remind me of Ben Franklin’s wit: “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” Catfish hearts are low-pressure organs that function fine without adequate blood flow supplying oxygen; they do it all by diffusion.” –Mary Roach

While catfishes can survive off other non-fish food sources, they may not be able to reach their full genetic potential this way. Hence it is necessary to maintain dietary balance when attempting to sustain healthy populations of commercially raised catfish. It’s also worth nothing that those who plan on bringing home pet catfish should strive for well-balanced meals supplementing them vegetables, fruits, various types of meats besides occasional helpings of live fish especially during breeding or growing seasons.

How Do Catfish Catch Their Prey?

Catfish are a type of fish that belong to the order Siluriformes, which consists of over 3000 species. They can be found in freshwater habitats around the world and are known for their unique feeding habits. Many people wonder, do catfish eat other fish? The answer is yes, they do.

They use their sense of smell to locate prey

A common way that catfish catch their prey is by using their sense of smell. They have an excellent ability to detect scents in the water. This is thanks to their well-developed olfactory system that allows them to find food even in muddy or murky waters. When hunting, catfish will swim slowly along the bottom of the water searching for any scent that might indicate the presence of prey.

In fact, researchers at North Carolina State University found that catfish could detect a single amino acid in concentrations as small as one part per 10 billion. This means they can easily locate even the smallest traces of potential prey in the water.

They use their whiskers to feel vibrations in the water

Catfish also have another sensory organ that helps them locate prey – their whiskers, also known as barbels. These protruding skin folds contain specialized cells called neuromasts that allow catfish to feel vibrations in the water. They can sense changes in pressure caused by the movement of other fish or animals swimming nearby.

This makes it easier for catfish to identify possible prey targets, such as smaller fish or insects moving above or below them. They tend to feed primarily on live prey such as minnows, crawfish, snails, worms, and sometimes even tadpoles or frogs.

They ambush their prey and swallow it whole

Once a catfish has located its prey, it will position itself to strike. They prefer to hunt at night when potential prey is less active and easier to catch. Then they will launch themselves forward and engulf the prey with their large mouths.

Catfish have flattened teeth that are used for grinding the shells of crustaceans or other hard-bodied animals that they consume. These teeth can’t be broken by normal means, which allows the catfish to ingest bone or crunch up stingers from soft rayed fish such as bluegill.

Finally, the catfish swallows everything in one gulp without chewing. They don’t need to chew because food goes down into an expandable part of their digestive system called the stomach where gastric acids help break down the food into smaller pieces so it can be absorbed.

“Catfish often feed on live baits but also eat dead fish, fruits, nymphs and larvae, leeches, bullheads, crawfish, insects, worms and snails,” according to Live Science.

While many people may wonder do catfish eat other fish?, the answer is clear – yes, they certainly do. Using their sense of smell and whiskers, catfish can locate and trap various smaller animals in water bodies across the world, which makes them successful predators. Their unique feeding habits make them fascinating creatures to study and observe in their natural habitat.

What Happens When Catfish Overeat?

Catfish are known for their voracious appetite. They will eat almost anything, from insects to fish. But do catfish eat other fish? The answer is yes, they do. However, when catfish overeat, it can lead to various problems not only for them but also for the ecosystem as a whole.

They become obese and lethargic

A catfish that consumes more food than it needs will eventually become obese. This obesity makes them look rounder than usual. Their stomachs tend to distend out further than healthy counterparts. This bloated appearance causes their bodies to become less streamlined making swimming difficult for larger or overweight individuals.

In addition, an overweight catfish may experience difficulties in breathing because of the excess pressure on its digestive organs. An obese catfish often swims lazily due to its weakened constitution; it has little energy to swim fast. These changes in behavior affect their survival rates and reproductive abilities.

Overeating can lead to health problems such as liver disease

Just like humans, cats, dogs, and other animals, catfish don’t do well with large amounts of fatty foods. Overeating can cause health problems such as liver disease. A common sign of liver disease in catfish is yellowing of the eyes or skin. It’s believed this happens because the body can’t adequately process all the fats consumed entirely. In severe cases, liver failure occurs- these can lead to death of the organism.

Research shows that high-fat diets persistently elevate the levels of enzymes associated with liver injury in channel catfish (Ictaluruspunctatus) indicates Dr. Fangjun Cui-Texas Tech University.

It can also negatively impact the ecosystem by depleting the population of other fish species

Studies reveal that catfish have a significant impact on their environments. They consume aquatic plants and animals, including crayfish, shrimps, snails, and many types of small or juvenile fishes in rivers/lakes. Overeating causes the depletion of prey populations competing for survival resources with catfishes.

“The Pterodorasgranulosus, also known as spotted sorubim, native to South American rivers, is found mainly in warm waters, but its range has been extended beyond Peru and Ecuador to southern Florida,” says John Lyons, an associate professor of fisheries and aquaculture at Auburn University Montgomery. “This fish can consume other fish up to one-third its size,” he said.

Aquaculturists who farm fish in ponds filled with water from other bodies of water will not such habitats significantly absent of all kinds of fish after several years

Catfish overeat just like humans do and suffer health issues because of it. The environmental impacts being enormous; therefore be careful what you feed them if you rear them to prevent damage to both them and nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do catfish eat in the wild?

In the wild, catfish are omnivores and will eat a variety of food sources. Their diet can include insects, crustaceans, worms, small fish, and even plant matter. They are bottom feeders and will scavenge for food along the river or lake bed. Catfish have a keen sense of smell, which helps them locate their prey. They are also known to be opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever food source is available in their environment.

Do catfish eat other fish in captivity?

Yes, catfish will eat other fish in captivity. They are known to be opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever food source is available to them. In a captive environment, catfish are often fed pellets or other commercial fish food, but they will also eat live or frozen fish. However, it is important to ensure that the fish they are eating are appropriate for their size and species, as well as ensuring that they are receiving a balanced diet to maintain their health.

What types of fish do catfish prefer to eat?

Catfish are known to prefer fish that are slower-moving and bottom-dwelling, such as carp, sunfish, and shad. They are also known to eat smaller fish, such as minnows and guppies. However, catfish are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever food source is available to them, including insects, crustaceans, and plant matter. Their diet can vary depending on their environment and the availability of food sources.

How often do catfish eat other fish?

The frequency at which catfish eat other fish can vary depending on their size, species, and environment. In the wild, catfish may eat other fish as often as they can catch them. In captivity, they may be fed fish as a supplement to their regular diet or as a treat. However, it is important to ensure that they are not overfed, as this can lead to health problems such as obesity and poor water quality.

Are catfish aggressive towards other fish in their environment?

Catfish are generally not aggressive towards other fish in their environment. They are known to be docile and peaceful, and are often kept in aquariums with other fish species. However, some species of catfish can become territorial during breeding season and may become aggressive towards other fish that enter their territory. It is important to research the specific species of catfish you are keeping to ensure that they are compatible with other fish in your aquarium.

Do catfish eat fish that are larger than themselves?

Some species of catfish are known to eat fish that are larger than themselves. However, this is not common behavior and is usually only observed in larger catfish species such as the Mekong giant catfish. In general, catfish will eat prey that is appropriate for their size and species, and will not attempt to eat fish that are too large for them to handle. It is important to provide catfish with a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs and supports their growth and health.

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