Redtail Catfish

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Phractocephalus hemioliopterus - (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Redtail Catfish

An unmanageable behemoth when it grows out of its juvenile size.


Beautiful when small but a true "tankbuster" when it starts to grow. Maximum reported weight: 44.2 kg (97 lbs). Do not buy this fish unless you have an aquarium large enough to house it for life.

Even public aquariums will seldom accept a Redtail Catfish that outgrows a hobbyist's tank.

Family: Pimelodidae

Other common name(s):

Native range:

Habitat: River bottom.

Maximum length: 134 cm (53 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 3000 L (793 gal)

Water: Freshwater 20 °C (68 °F) - 26 °C (79 °F)

General swimming level: Bottom.


Omnivore. Eats fish, crustaceans, fruit in the wild.

Aquarium Compatibility

A menace to all other aquarium life.

Special Care

Will require extra-heavy filtration equipment to handle its waste outputy.


This species has been illegally released into Florida waters but may not have established breeding populations. Aquarists are urged never to release any fish or plants into local waters.

Reference: 101 Best Tropical Fishes
Image credit: JJ
Text credit: KW