From algae to crayfish, debris from dead animals, fresh food, stink baits, anything goes.
Many catfish species are known to eat other fish and even small mammals.
In fact, some saltwater catfish varieties will also feed on shrimp, blue crabs, and sea cucumbers.
Do not do a double-take when you read the last name on the list of what do catfish eat.
It has been seen that a mix of hot dogs, garlic, and cherry Kool-Aid has been found to their liking.
Even certain soaps are seen to be palatable to catfish.
What we decipher from above is that catfish are primarily carnivores that eat virtually anything at all.
We will now take a look at diets specific to certain catfish varieties.
Big catfish like wels catfish live in the Ebro river and are big eaters, literally.
They eat mullets, frogs, and even small birds that end up in rivers.
Channel catfish are a species of catfish that like fish, insects, snails, small birds, crustaceans, and even vegetation.
Soft crab fresh bait, squid, hot dogs and chicken liver work for them.
Flathead catfish feed well on crustaceans, which would be the best bait for them, they also eat small fish and insects.
Blue catfish eat large invertebrates as part of their natural food.
They also eat other fish in their habitat. Fresh bait in the form of chicken liver, shrimp, cut fish, and processed bait is good for them.
North African catfish find food among a variety of creatures like planktons, grains, seeds, fruits, fish, snails, plant matter, and dead animals found in their habitat.
Interestingly it is the duty of the adult male catfish to watch over eggs.
It has been seen that at times they do eat a few fish eggs as well.
As can be seen, the diets of catfish are similar yet vary from species to species.
What kind of food they eat depends not only on their habitat but also on water temperatures. It is important to know food preferences in order to find the right bait for your fishing expedition.
Only when you provide the right kind of bait will you be attracting the desired catfish variety.
Sensory Abilities of Catfish
Catfish abound in natural settings. They populate waters around all continents except Antarctica.
In addition to their physical features and characteristic habits, what sets catfish apart are their sensory abilities.
They use their extraordinary senses of hearing, taste, touch, and smell in locating food as well as navigating through waters.
Astoundingly a small catfish of around 6 inches in size packs in about a quarter-million taste buds! That is something unbelievable, but true.
Just imagine the scale of some of the biggest species of catfish! Not only the barbells but the mouth and gill rakers are rich in taste buds.
This means just touching good food will let them perceive it, even before they eat it.
There are sensory organs packing every surface of a catfish body externally as well, from whiskers to tail.
No wonder their sensory abilities are so finely tuned and evolved.
For fish that do not have external visible ears, their sense of hearing is excellent.
As for eyesight, channel catfish have the best eyesight and sense of touch among all other types.
With heightened sensory abilities, catfish are able to sense baits and lures very well.
The best sensory ability of a catfish has to be electroreception.
Even in murky waters, they do not need to necessarily ‘see’ their prey in order to feed.
There are special cells on their heads and along the lateral lines that help them sense any living organism within a certain distance.
This is the most used sensory ability in order for catfish to find their food.
How does the diet of young catfish differ from adult catfish?
One fact about the diet of catfish is that it is gender-neutral.
Extensive studies have shown that male and female catfish eat similarly.
They are big and non-fussy eaters. They eat whatever is available to their habitat.
Depending upon saltwater and freshwater climes, this availability will differ of course.
However, the same study also found that young catfish eat differently from adult catfish.
The stomachs of younger fish contained detritus and phytoplankton, showing that they were eating organisms lower down the food chain.
Water beetles and larvae are also food for younger catfish.
Alternatively, grown-up catfish had remnants of larger fish in their stomachs, meaning they can handle more evolved organisms.
As catfish grow older, their system evolves and they consume more food and comparatively larger invertebrates as compared to younger ones.
Small birds and smaller fish are more to their taste buds and requirements at this stage.
How did catfish get their name?
The most common method of naming any organism has been based on its looks.
Any similarity with a more familiar creature has led to this.
By this logic, it follows that catfish have been named thus because of their similarity to the common household creature, cats.
In fact, catfish are often abbreviated to be called ‘cats’. Let us see in what aspects a catfish’s face resemble a cat’s face.
Let us also take a look at other characteristics of its appearance.
Most catfish have cat whiskers or barbells around their mouth.
This immediately gives them the distinctive ‘whiskered’ appearance that is similar to cats.
Catfish do not have scales. In this aspect, they differ from many fishes.
They have an adipose fin and spines in the dorsal and pectoral fins.
Catfish mostly have olive-green to brown coloration with white or silvery underbelly.
There are numerous markings present in younger fish, which is notably less as they grow.
Deeply forked, moderately forked, or flat square tails help distinguish catfish species.
Who Eats Catfish?
Generally, the types of catfish that are caught for sport are big fish.
Some can weigh in at a mighty 40 pounds.
This means they are not preyed upon by too many fishes or birds of prey.
Some of the bigger predators like alligators, big birds, fishes (other bigger catfish too,) and humans.
Humans are deeply into catfish fishing because of two reasons – it is an outdoor sport as well as a food source for them.
The commonest and most popular catfish in the human diet are blue catfish.
Other varieties also enjoy a lot of popularity among humans.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do catfish like to eat most?
Most catfish are omnivores but lean towards small fish, live fish, snails, crayfish, and frogs. These constitute a favorite catfish diet.
Do catfish eat poop?
Weird as it might sound, certain catfish have been known to eat poop. This is not to say that it is a regular part of their feeding habits. Two known catfish species that do this are Corydoras and Plecostomus. As a rule, catfish partake in fresh food like small aquatic plants. They also eat vegetation and other small fish.
What do lake catfish eat?
Catfish are nocturnal and omnivorous bottom feeders. Those night crawlers with lake habitats normally eat aquatic plants, mollusks, fish, insects, and soft crab.
Can catfish eat fruits?
Catfish can partake of fruits but this is mainly true for farmed catfish. If you do not have enough algae in your water body, you can supplement the diet with bananas, apples, strawberries, and other fruits.