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Tiger Shovelnose Cat

Redtail Catfish           
Arowana, Silver          
Giraffe Catfish            
Marbled Sailfin Catfish
African Lungfish
Clown Knife Fish

Redtail Catfish, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus

Region:          Amazon River Basin, Brazil, Rio Negro, Venezuela    More Redtail photos:

Desirability:   This fish gets really big fast!  Within one year it can reach 24" or more.   They make great pets and will take food from your hand.  Young Redtail Catfish are active most of the time up to about 2 years of age.  If you like big fish and have room for one or more then this is your baby.  Start with say a180 gallon tank and something larger in about a year.  

Durability:      Quite hardy, but require better water than the Tiger Shovelnose.  You will need a very large filtration system which can remove lots of particulate matter and keep the Ammonia near zero PPM.

Environment: Water temperature:     72 82f, 23-28c
                        Water quality PH:        6.0 - 7.0, mine do well in the 6.6-6.8 range.
                        Water quality, NO:      Nitrate, for Redtail Catfish keep under 100 PPM
                        Water quality NH:       Ammonia, up to .5 PPM sustained but best at zero. 
                        Tank size minimum:    180 gallon or larger aquarium, 72" by 24" by 24" tall.
                        Ted's aquarium is:       A heated 2,400 gallon outdoor tank, 12' by 8' by 4' high,

Growth rate:   Varies depending on environment and food.  The typical pet shop offering is a 3-4 inch fish which can easily grow to 24 inches or more within one year.  In 2 years these fish can reach 30" or more in length.  My oldest is about 10 and reached 30"  in 3 years.  I have a young Redtail acquired in January 2004 at 6"; in December of 2004 this Redtail Catfish was 24" and in April 2005 it was 27" long.   The Redtail Catfish  appears to continue growing throughout their life span which is at least 15 years and probably longer.  They can attain a length in excess of 4 feet at maturity.

Behavior:       Aggressive toward smaller fish which can be eaten.  You can't appreciate the size of the Redtail Catfish's mouth until it yawns.  This fish is mostly mouth.  At 26"-27" the Redtail Catfish will eat every one of your fully grown Oscars; one each week that is.  This fish is not easily agitated and appears to be somewhat slow moving but Redtail Catfish can move like lightning to catch something.  I know of several incidences where Redtail Catfish were left uncovered;  they jumped out during the night.  The Redtail antenna is vulnerable to damage, especially from young Pacu which will grab anything including air hose.  The  antenna will usually grow back in 6 - 9 months.  These fish can break aquarium glass with little effort; they should be housed in a Plexiglas tank or behind 1/2" thick glass at a minimum.  Although the Redtail Catfish can sit on the bottom of a small tank just large enough to turn around, they will not do well.  I have a 30" Redtail Catfish with a kink in its spine as a result of just such a situation.  The length of the tank should be 2 to 3 times the fishes length, the width somewhat wider than the fish is long.  The Redtail Catfish will get along in a shallow tank say 16" high.  You will often see the fish swimming along the sides with its whiskers protruding a foot or more above water.  Small children delight in watching the whiskers.  The Redtail Catfish is most  active at night however the young Redtail is active nearly all the time.  My large Redtail Catfish rest on the bottom most of the day but they like gliding back and forth in front of the window at night. 

Food:              It is best to prime the pump so to speak, get your Redtail started on  live feeders, guppies and goldfish.  Within a few days try dry pellet food, the sinking type.  I feed mine "Silver Cup" Trout Food, 1/4" sinking pellets; you can get it at the farm store in 50# bags.  Don't worry, it goes fast and almost all my tropical fish love it including the Rainbow Arowana and Clown Knife fish.  Other foods are earthworms, fresh shrimp raw or cooked, dried krill, beef heart, hot dogs and whatever else you can think of.  If the fish is healthy you can starve it for 24 hours in which case it will become ravenous for almost anything.   My Redtail Catfish have been eating hot dogs for the past 6 years;  which represents approximately 60-70% of their total food intake.  The young Redtail Catfish will eat every day while the 2 and 3 year old fish load up about  twice a week.  A 30" Redtail Catfish can swallow up to 8 hotdogs, the entire one pound package without the wrapper, in one gulp..

Disease:        The Redtail Catfish is moderately hardy.   When I have treated their tank mates for Ich among other things they tolerated a salt level of .3%, 3 pounds of rock salt per 100 gallons and a temperature of 84f for a month.  None of the 6 varieties of fish in the 2400 gallon aquarium showed any ill effects and all continued eating well.  I had to treat the Redtail Catfish and all others present for gill flukes, Gyrodactylus, following the post mortem on one of my big Redtail Catfish.  A combination of poor water conditions and gill flukes quickly killed 3  of my 6 Redtail Catfish.  Click here to read necropsy report.   I used Trichloracide in the exact dosage recommended by the manufacturer, Argent chemicals, These fish can tolerate pet store medicines containing formalin so long as there is very little or no salt in the water being treated.

Other:             The Redtail  is taken sport fishing in the Amazon River Basin but is not regarded as good eating.  Virtually all of my large fish were donated to me when they outgrew the small tanks they were housed in and or had eaten all of their tank mates.  This fish requires good clean water and a clogged filter can be enough to cause the Redtail Catfish to die while its tank mates will often survive.  You will need a big filter, the little canister types probably will not do the job.