Redtail Catfish – The Complete Care Guide on the Infuriated Beauty

Redtail Catfish In A Fish Aquarium
By Garrison Hickles Updated

You may have seen much large freshwater fish in an aquarium, but all are not attractive and colorful; however, Redtail Catfish is an aesthetic fish that can live more than 15 years because of its high immunity and hardiness. Native to the Amazon river basin, this tropical fish breed is quite rageful and hard to be controlled in an aquarium by beginners. So, let’s know about how to take care of this water species.

Quick Details about Redtail Catfish

You can have a quick look at a few vital details about this large freshwater fish in the table below:

Scientific NamePhractocephalus Hemioliopterus
OriginSouth America
Life-Span15+ Years
ColorDark Brown and Gray
Size                15-24” (38-60 cm)
CompatibilityCompatible with a Less Water Species
Tank Size1000 Gallons
Care LevelDifficult


There are many species in the family of catfish, and this red-tailed fish is one of the members of the family, which is popular for its vividness and vibrancy. This South American fish is gorgeous and appealing, so the fish enthusiasts love to pet them, and moreover, this fish can grow from 15-24” (38-60 cm) because it has the capacity to grow every week. This is the prime reason that you need to arrange a large aquarium and a huge space for its growth and development.

Other names of this tropical fish breed are Pirarara, Flat-Nose catfish, Antenna Catfish, and Banana Catfish. These fish are known as catfish because of the cat-like moustache on the upper portion of the mouth of these fish. However, beginners are recommended not to keep this fish in their tank because of its huge size and furious behavior. Only the expert aquarists have proper knowledge about the care-guide of this fish, so if you want to pet this fish then take the suggestions from an experienced breed about this fish. If you want to get this breed then you can get it just in $32.

Origin of Redtail Catfish

The name Redtail Catfish was derived by Schneider and Bloch in 1801, and because of its highly aggressive nature, it is infamous because it’s named in the UCN Red List of Threatened Species since the 18th century. These fish breeds are not only found in the South American river but also originated in the freshwater streams of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil.

If you ask about the freshwater streams then you will find this fish from different rivers such as the Amazon river basin, Essequibo river basin, and the Orinoco. Moreover, this breed is also found in lakes, lagoons, sloughs, and estuaries.

Redtail Catfish Appearance

This huge red-tailed species is mostly found in brown and grey shades with red hues on the tail region. The dark body of this fish has scattered spots and white/yellow bands that are stretched down to both the sides of the body. The cylindrical shape of the body of this fish has a laterally compressed tail and flat belly.

If you minutely observe the fins, you will find the colors of the caudal and dorsal fins of Redtail Catfish is dual shaded with red and orange. It has three pairs of long barbells – one on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw. This fish can grow up to the height of the aquarium, so avoid keeping other fish with this breed in a small tank. In the wild stream of the Amazon River, it can grow up to 63” (160 cm) in length and weighed 123lbs.

Tank Requirements for Redtail Catfish

Not only in the residential aquariums but you will also find this type of catfish in the aquatic museums and zoos. Only purchase the fish if you have huge space in your residential and commercial place where you can keep a large-sized fish tank. Don’t make their life suffocating by keeping them in a small aquarium because it is also believed that a small place may give them stress and choking death. Therefore, learn about the perfect way to set up a tank.

Tank Size

You need to buy a minimum 1000-gallon aquarium that should be at least 12 x 4 x 3 feet which is appropriate for a fully matured RTC fish.


Redtail Catfish likes dwelling in a spacious tank without any decoration. So, you should avoid keeping gravels and decorations in the fish tank and try to keep it less clumsy. Keep live freshwater plants in the aquarium because make the ambiance of the fish home eco-friendly.


The Redtail Catfish loves to live in the dark because it’s a middle and bottom-dweller and nocturnal fish. Hence, try to keep low-lighting on the upper-most part of the aquarium.


You can arrange a normal sponge filter in the tank of Redtail Catfish to filter out the dirt and waste elements and refine the water.

Water Type for Redtail Catfish

Water condition is the major factor for the livelihood of any fish and aquatic species. So, have a look at the appropriate water temperature and hardness before you start petting Redtail Catfish:


The water temperature of this bottom-dwelling fish should be 68-79°F (20-26 °C).

pH Level

The pH level of water should be 6.0 and 7.5.


The hardness of the water should be 3-12 dGH.

Cleaning Method

It is not a very complex process to clean the aquarium or home of your favorite fish. Just collect a mild liquid soap and a soft brush to scrub the walls and corners of the aquarium. Once after washing the tank, wipe out the body with a cloth to avoid the markings of water droplets.

Replacement Procedure

If you think that replacing the water of any fish tank is unnecessary then you are completely wrong. If you keep the same water for a long time in an aquarium then it may get toxic because of the urine, poops, uneaten foods and many other waste products. So, try to change about 10% of the water every week or change 25% of the water once a month.


It is recommended not to keep rocks, gravels, and sands in the tank of Redtail Catfish because it has a bad habit of eating whatever it gets in front of it. Therefore, keep the aquarium empty and covered with greenery while petting this huge and furious breed.

Diet Plan for Redtail Catfish

These omnivorous fish are not choosy about their food, they eat anything which fits in their mouth, so you need to be very cautious about setting the tank with proper things. Moreover, you need to choose perfect foods for your colorful friend. The ideal diet of this breed should be as follows:

  • Shrimp
  • Worms
  • Crayfish
  • Crustaceans
  • Fruits Crabs
  • Sinking Carnivore Pellet

Redtail Catfish is an omnivorous fish but it prefers consuming meaty foods. However, along with the natural meats, you can also purchase some foods for them from the market such as:

  • Hikari Tropical Food Sticks Aquarium Fish Food
  • Hikari Sinking Carnivore Fish Food

You can feed both the live foods and frozen foods to this fish, but remember overfeeding may turn them sluggish and heavy. So, feed the juveniles every day but the adults should be fed in a small amount every day; just once in a week, you can feed them a large amount of meal.

Redtail Catfish Temperament

The small Redtail Catfish is shy in nature, so it is important to keep caves or hiding place for the fish in the water, but keep those things in the tank which doesn’t fit in the mouth of this fish, and prevent the fish from eating poisonous things. When the fish breed turns adult, it becomes aggressive and large in size, and because of its furiousness, the peaceful and small fish cannot survive with these breeds.

Suitable Tankmates of Redtail Catfish

As discussed above, Redtail Catfish has a shy nature and generally, it doesn’t get mixed with other water species because of its aggressive temperament. It also has a tendency to eat small and peaceful fish breeds, so it will be better not to keep non-aggressive and small breeds in a fish tank with the Redtail Catfish. There are some suitable companions that are perfect to be kept with this rageful fish. Have a look at the names of some best friends of catfish:

  • Stingrays
  • Gars
  • Datnoids
  • Black Pacu
  • Sailfin Pleco
  • Giant Gourami
  • Common Pleco
  • Iridescent Shark

As a fish keeper, this is your responsibility to keep your swimmer-companion healthy, but if you don’t keep suitable tankmates with the fish then it may get highly stressed, which is the major reason of the downfall of its health. Moreover, the downfall can decrease its lifespan, and your best buddy may not live with you for a long period because of its health issues. So, neither keep your red-tailed fish in problem nor keep other unsuitable companions with it in danger by making them its companion; just keep large breeds with this fish.   

Redtail Catfish Breeding

Redtail Catfish has no pronounced sexual dimorphism, so it is hard to differentiate between the male and female fish. This large fish needs a double-sized fish tank while spawning and laying eggs, so if you want to encourage its breeding then you have to arrange another tank for this fish so that it can lay eggs easily.

This fish is comfortable in laying eggs at wild, but while captivated a special ambiance and cold temperature water are mandatory for their mating and reproduction process. Usually, Redtail Catfish lay eggs during winter season, so cold water is necessary for their reproduction.  

Difficulties in Keeping Redtail Catfish

This colorful and active fish looks appealing but it can grow bigger day by and day, so it is not an easy task to take care of this fish. Also, this fish develops faster than the other fish, and have a bad habit of eating other tank dwellers because it likes to live alone. So, without proper knowledge about Redtail Catfish, it is hard to keep this fish.

Diseases of Redtail Catfish with Prevention

This large-sized fish is affected by several skin diseases and fungal infections like skin patches, dropsy, stress, etc. So, if you want to keep this breed healthy then try to feed it on time; stop keeping small rocks and unhygienic things in the tank because this fish has a tendency to eat everything, as mentioned earlier.

You should also try to keep the tank clean and change the water 2-3 times a week. Also, clean the objects inside the fish aquarium, to maintain the hygiene of the fish. If your pet fish is affected by vital illness then take suggestions of a good veterinary doctor for its good health and wellbeing. Remember, prevention and intervention can keep the major illness away from your finned friend.    

Types of Catfish

There are thousands of species in the family of Catfish; some are large and some are small, but more or less they are quite similar to each other. Take a look at the details of some of the Catfish below:

  1. Cory Catfish – Generally, Cory doesn’t grow larger than 2-3” (5-7 cm), it just needs a 20-gallon aquarium to dwell comfortably. This is not huge like Redtail Catfish, and moreover, it’s beginner-friendly. Cory Catfish is a familiar-natured fish, so it is necessary to keep these fish in the group. Similar to the Redtail Catfish, Cory Catfish is an omnivorous breed. You can keep six Cory fish together in a fish tank because these breeds are passive and like to live with many fish.
  2. Glass Catfish – The Glass Catfish is also known as Ghost Catfish because it likes to dwell in dark ambiance. So, try to provide a shadowy environment, plants and plenty of caves in the fish tank because of the requirement of Glass Catfish. It is necessary that the temperature of the water for this catfish should be 70°F (21 °C).
  3. Upside Down Catfish – This strange-looking fish swims in the opposite direction, and its head is faced downwards while its body is faced upwards while swimming. This 4” (10 cm) fish needs minimum 30-40-gallon aquarium to stay. Moreover, it is peaceful and easy to breed by every aquarist. This species likes floating plants with broad green leaves in the fish tank, so try to make the environment of the aquarium green. Frozen brine shrimp and freeze-dried bloodworms are the best foods for this catfish.
  4. Striped Raphael Catfish – This 7-10” (17-25 cm) catfish is the best breed for 60+ gallon, but despite its large size, it is a peaceful water species. However, this fish has the capacity to protect itself from aggressive predators. You can feed brine shrimps and bloodworms to this fish because these things are the best foods, which help in lasting and brightening the color of this fish.            

Care Guide for Redtail Catfish

If you really want to take care of your colorful friend then follow the above-mentioned suggestions, and never keep Redtail Catfish in a small fish tank. If you keep it in a small place then it will become tense which is the first reason of getting ill and weak. Therefore, get detailed idea from expert aquarist before petting this huge, rageful and colorful fish.

Interesting Facts about Redtail Catfish

  • This aggressive fish becomes peaceful while kept with other aggressive and same group breeds.
  • The male Redtail Catfish are more vibrant than females.
  • There is a secret slime or mucus in the body of the Redtail Catfish that protects this fish from parasites, and also helps it move faster in water.

More Information about Other Fish of Tropical River

You may also learn more about other fish breeds that you can keep in an aquarium that falls in the group of catfish such as: