Channel Catfish aren’t your typical, small swimmers in a standard aquarium. They can grow up to 2 feet in length or as short as a foot. They’re pretty fish, however, with either blue or yellow bodies that tend to be a little pale in appearance. Since they grow pretty long, you need to have a large enough tank to accommodate them.
A minimum tank size for Channel Catfish is going to be 700 gallons, but bigger is definitely better in this case, so they have enough room to stretch out. You can raise Channel Catfish fry in much smaller aquariums but only to release them into the wild at a certain point.
Channel Catfish grow rapidly, reaching a full pound of weight in roughly 6 months. They also prefer to be raised in large groups of five or more. That means having a tank that is far larger than anything you would ever expect to see in a standard home.
How Big of a Tank Does a Channel Catfish Need?
If you wanted to actually keep and raise a Channel Catfish in an aquarium, it would have to be enormous. Most people who raise Channel Catfish in their aquariums don’t keep anything that size. The aquarium is only used as an interim until the catfish is large enough to go in their ponds.
If you want to own Channel Catfish, you either need to be engaged in hydroponics, with extremely large drums or have a pond outside where they can go once they are too large for your tank.
Those who have hydroponics systems are typically using Channel Catfish in drums much larger than 55 gallons and spreading their gardens out over large mediums. This is a fish that just gets too big to maintain in any kind of normal aquarium environment unless you can afford an insanely large aquarium.
How Big do Channel Catfish Get in Captivity?
In your own pond, a Channel Catfish can easily reach 1 to 3 feet and reach up to 40lbs. In captivity, a Channel Catfish will reach its maturity in 1 to 3 years, so it doesn’t take that long to reach its maximum size.
How rapidly they grow largely depends on the size of their environment while in captivity. Strangely enough, a Channel Catfish in the wild can take up to 6 years to reach its full growth potential and maturity.
If you have your own pond, stocked with fish, that’s about the closest that a Channel Catfish will get to being in the wild while technically remaining in captivity and it will probably fall somewhere in between the growth rate and size of wild Channel Catfish and those that are in large aquariums or smaller ponds.
How Fast do Channel Catfish Grow in Aquariums?
Channel Catfish grow much more rapidly in captivity than they do in the wild. In fact, a Channel Catfish can reach full maturity in a single year but most fall somewhere in between a year and three years.
Even having them in an aquarium for a short period of time and then transferring them to a pond will seriously expedite their growth rate. Channel Catfish raised in an aquarium and transferred into a pond will grow at about the same rate, meaning 1 to 3 years.
These ponds have to be a certain depth and size for a Channel Catfish to reach its full growth potential as well. They should be around 4 to 5 feet in depth and have sections that are relatively shaded throughout the day.
Pond stocking should also be restricted to no more than 50 Channel Catfish for every acre of the pond area. You don’t have to apply 50 Channel Catfish to 1 acre of pond based on depth, just apply it to the real estate in terms of acres.
What Do Channel Catfish Eat in the Tank?
Channel Catfish are like most other catfish in that they are primarily bottom feeders and will eat almost anything they find around the bottom of a pond or tank. If it’s at the bottom, the Channel Catfish will likely eat it.
They will even eat other fish poop, though not on purpose. They prefer caterpillars, fruits or veggies, crustaceans, worms, other smaller fish, small reptiles or amphibians, plants like legumes and grasses, and mollusks.
The Channel Catfish is not very picky in the least. If you don’t properly clean your tank, your Channel Catfish will eat things that it probably shouldn’t eat if it ends up at the bottom of the tank or within its vicinity.
What Do They Prefer to Eat?
As voraciously omnivorous as they are, Channel Catfish will eat just about anything while still having their preferences. They like to be fed frozen foods, such as bloodworms and brine shrimp.
Like other fish, however, they will satisfy themselves with flakes and pellets, though that’s not high on their list of favorites. Channel Catfish also love live food such as feeder guppies and crayfish. They will also eat live worms and live shrimp, fed according to their size.
It’s really difficult to go wrong when it comes to feeding Channel Catfish. They are far from picky eaters so you can frequently change things up or keep them the same and your Channel Catfish will remain happy.
Will Channel Catfish Keep Your Tank or Pond Clean?
In their own way, they certainly will help. As we mentioned above, Channel Catfish are not very picky when it comes to what they ingest. In tanks, they will consume any kind of algae growth, which is always a good thing.
They will also eat any of the leftovers that other fish have decided that they don’t want to eat. Thanks to their diet, Channel Catfish are very good for helping you keep a clean tank, at least until your transport them to a pond.
All Things Considered
Channel Catfish can live in small aquariums, so long as you plan on transferring them to something larger as they grow and, eventually, to a pond. Some people keep them in very large tanks but a Channel Catfish will only be at its happiest when it is free or in a stock pond.