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What Do Catfish Eat [15+ Foods They Feed On]

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Catfish are pretty common fish found almost everywhere, with more than 3,000 types out there. 

They get their name from the whisker-like barbels around their mouths that look like cat whiskers. 

These fish belong to a group called ray-finned fish and can be easily recognized by those whisker-like barbels and the fact that they don’t have scales.

They’re some of the hardiest freshwater fish around. Catfish can live with very little oxygen and water. 

When there’s a drought, they’ve been seen digging holes under rivers to wait it out until the rain comes again. 

Plus, they’re pretty adaptable eaters, which helps them survive in tough situations. 

Knowing what catfish eat is important for people who keep them in aquariums and for those who fish for them. 

In this guide, we’ll take a close look at what different kinds of catfish like to eat and how they find their food.

What Do Catfish Eat All year round?


Catfish are flexible eaters, which means they’ll eat whatever is available depending on where they live, what food is around, and what they like. 

They mostly go for small fish such as minnows, shad, and baby fish of other kinds. 

They also munch on bugs like larvae, worms, and crayfish, as well as small shellfish like shrimp and clams

Sometimes, they’ll snack on tadpoles, frogs, and different bugs that live in the water like dragonfly larvae

Although they mostly eat meat, they might accidentally swallow some algae and bits of plants while looking for food. 

Catfish are also good at cleaning up by eating dead things lying at the bottom of lakes or rivers. 

In fish farms, they’re often fed special fish food to help them grow big and healthy. 

What they eat can change depending on things like how big they are, where they live, and what the weather is like, but they’re good at finding food all year round.

What Do Cory Catfish Eat?

Cory catfish, also known as Corydoras catfish, are small, calm freshwater fish often kept in home aquariums. 

Originating from South America, they thrive in slow-moving rivers, streams, and sandy or gravelly-bottomed areas. 

These are omnivores, meaning they enjoy both plant and animal-based meals. 

In their natural habitat, they scavenge for tiny insects, worms, algae, and other goodies at the bottom of rivers. 

In aquariums, you can treat them to sinking pellets, algae wafers, flake food, frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia, as well as blanched vegetables like zucchini and cucumber

Remember, they eat slowly, so it’s best to offer small portions multiple times a day to avoid overfeeding and keep the water quality in check.

What Do Channel Catfish Eat?

Channel catfish, well-known as one of North America’s favorite freshwater game fish, are distinctive with their forked tails and slender bodies. 

Unlike most fish, they don’t have scales and have unique barbels around their mouths to help them find food. 

When young, they’re omnivores, enjoying both plants and small invertebrates, but as they grow, they become more carnivorous, preferring meaty treats. 

These catfish are opportunistic eaters, happily going for live bait like small fish, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, minnows, and nightcrawlers, as well as cut bait, catfish pellets, and commercial catfish food. 

Occasionally, they might munch on fruits and veggies like corn and watermelon. 

If you’re looking to catch them, using strong-smelling bait and bottom-fishing is the way to go to attract these hungry catfish.

What Do Flathead Catfish Eat?

Flathead catfish, also called yellow cats, are large freshwater fish recognized for their broad mouths and flat heads. 

Their bodies typically sport a mottled brown or yellow hue with a creamy-white underside.

These catfish are serious carnivores, seeking out protein-rich meals and actively pursuing their prey. 

In their natural habitat, they feast on fish, frogs, insects, and crustaceans. 

Their top choices for food include live bait such as fish and frogs, followed by cut bait and commercial catfish food. 

To catch these powerful predators, anglers often use heavy tackle and large bait for the best chance of success.

What Do Bullhead Catfish Eat?

Bullhead catfish are part of the Ictaluridae family, and they’re known for their flat heads and spiky fins. 

You can find them in freshwater places like rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes all over North America, especially in areas with slow or still water and muddy or sandy bottoms. 

These catfish are pretty similar to Channel catfish. They can eat a variety of foods, starting as omnivores when they’re young and then mostly eating meat as they get older. 

They’re good at finding food, even if it’s just leftovers or whatever they stumble upon. 

They like to eat live bait like worms and insects, as well as cut bait, pellets, and even fruits and veggies. 

If you want to catch them, try using worms or nightcrawlers for bait and fishing at the bottom of the water where they hang out, just like with Channel catfish.

What Do Blue Catfish Eat?

Blue catfish, which go by the scientific name Ictalurus furcatus, are among the largest types of catfish in North America. 

You can spot them by their bluish-grey color and tails that split into two parts. 

They have long, thin bodies and whisker-like things near their mouths. 

These big fish have big appetites and mostly eat other fish, mussels, crayfish, and sometimes even small birds. 

People who fish for them often use live fish like catfish or carp to lure them, as well as pieces of fish and special food made for catfish. 

You need strong fishing gear with thick lines if you want to catch these powerful fish because they’re really strong and can be quite big.

Every kind of catfish has its favorite foods and habits, which are affected by where they live, what food is around, and what the environment is like.

What Do Baby Catfish Eat?

Each type of catfish has its favorite foods, even when they’re young. Knowing the exact kind of catfish you’re dealing with helps choose the right food. 

In their natural homes, young catfish eat whatever small creatures they find, like insect larvae, tiny crustaceans, and small worms. 

They might also munch on algae and other tiny things like protozoa and rotifers

Some baby catfish even scavenge for stuff at the bottom of their home. 

As they grow up, they need different kinds of food, especially when they’re just born and their mouths are really small.

If you’re raising them at home, what they eat depends on what you give them. 

Some special liquid foods made for baby catfish are full of protein and easy for them to eat. 

Crushed-up food can also be a good treat, but don’t give them too much or it might make the water dirty. 

You can also give them things like Grindal worms and vinegar eels, which are packed with important nutrients and small enough for their tiny mouths. 

Remember to feed them a little bit often and watch how they eat to make sure the water doesn’t get dirty from food they don’t finish. 

Keeping their water clean by changing it a lot and using good filters is very important for their growth and health.

How Do Catfishes Find Their Food?

catfish in group

Catfish use different methods to find their food, depending on where they live and the type of catfish they are. 

They have special parts near their mouths called barbels, which have taste buds and can feel things. 

These help catfish taste and touch their food. Catfish also have an amazing sense of smell.

They can smell chemicals released by possible food, even in dirty water, which helps them find food from far away. 

Even though they don’t rely much on seeing, they can still use their eyes to spot movement and food, especially when it’s bright outside. 

They can also feel vibrations in the water, which helps them find food, even if it’s hard to see. 

Many catfish like to look for food at the bottom of rivers, lakes, and ponds. 

They use their barbels and special parts near their mouths to search through the mud and sand to find their meals. 

Catfish are good at finding food in different places underwater because they have special ways of sensing things around them.

What Do Catfish Eat in Different Water Environments?

Catfish have varied diets depending on where they live and their type. They eat different things in various water environments:

In rivers and streams, where the water moves, catfish munch on small fish, insects, crayfish, and even tadpoles and frogs. Sometimes they eat dead things and plants.

In lakes and ponds, where the water is calm or slow, catfish continue eating small fish, insects, and crayfish. 

They also snack on tiny creatures like zooplankton and algae. Some types of catfish search for worms and mollusks at the bottom.

In reservoirs, catfish eat similar foods to those in rivers and lakes. Sometimes they nibble on baitfish and other fish used for fishing.

In fish farms and places where people raise fish, catfish usually eat special food designed just for them. 

This food has all the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong.

Overall, catfish are adaptable eaters. They change their diet based on what’s available in their environment. 

They’re important in water areas because they help control the number of small creatures and they help recycle nutrients by eating.

The Impact of Water Temperatures on the Diet of Catfish

Water temperature has a big impact on what catfish eat:

1. Metabolism

When the water gets warmer, catfish’s metabolism speeds up. 

This means they need more energy to keep going. 

So, they eat more and look for food that’s high in protein and fat to give them the energy they need.

2. Activity

Catfish are more active in warmer water. They move around more and hunt for food, which makes them more interested in different kinds of bait. 

In colder water, they’re less active and might not feel like eating as much. 

That’s when you might need bait with stronger smells or flavors to get their attention.

3. Food Availability

Water temperature affects how many prey catfish can find. When the water is warmer, there are usually more insects and small fish around for catfish to eat. 

In colder water, some prey might move deeper where it’s warmer, which changes how catfish hunt for food.

4. Digestion

Warmer water helps catfish digest their food better. Their stomach enzymes work faster, so they can get more nutrients from what they eat. 

This might mean they don’t need to eat as often or as much when the water is warmer compared to when it’s colder.

5. Species-Specific Adaptations

Different kinds of catfish like different water temperatures. 

Some are more active and eat a lot when it’s warm, while others have special ways of finding food in cold water.

It’s important to know about the habits of the catfish you’re trying to catch. 

This helps you understand how they change their eating habits as the water gets warmer or colder.

In simple terms, the effect of water temperature on what catfish eat is complicated. 

It’s influenced by many things like how different catfish adapt to temperature, what food is available, and how much energy they need. 

By understanding these connections, you can learn a lot about catfish behavior. 

This helps you decide the best ways to fish or what kind of bait to use depending on how warm or cold the water is.

What is the Best Bait to Use for Catching Catfish?

Finding the perfect bait for catching catfish can be tricky because catfish have diverse tastes and feeding habits. 

Different types of catfish prefer different foods – some like fish, while others eat a bit of everything or even scavenge for food. 

It’s essential to know what kind of catfish you’re after to choose the right bait. 

Also, consider the natural foods available where you’re fishing and the conditions like time of day and water temperature.

What works in one place might not work in another. Make sure to follow local fishing rules about bait and which catfish species you can catch.

However here are some simple tips to help you pick the right bait for catching catfish:

  • Live Bait: Catfish are attracted to live bait like minnows, shad, nightcrawlers, crickets, grasshoppers, and worms. They like the natural smells and movements of these live baits.
  • Cut Bait: Cut bait means using pieces of fish such as shad, mullet, or bluegill, as well as chicken livers, worms, or squid (if you’re fishing in saltwater). Catfish are drawn to the smell and taste of cut bait, making it a good choice for fishing.
  • Stink Bait: Stink bait is a strong-smelling dough-like substance that releases powerful odors into the water. It’s homemade or bought from stores and attracts catfish from far away.
  • Commercial Catfish Baits: Many companies make special catfish baits like dough baits, pellets, and nuggets. These baits are designed to catch catfish by appealing to their senses.

Remember, the best bait depends on things like where you’re fishing, the catfish’s behavior, and what you like to use. 

Trying out different baits and methods can help you figure out what works best for catching catfish in different situations.


To sum up, different types of catfish have different tastes when it comes to food, which can depend on their species, how big they are, and where they live. 

Knowing what catfish like to eat is super important for keeping them healthy in aquariums and for catching them while fishing. 

By making sure they get the right kind of food and using good fishing methods, people who love catfish can enjoy watching them swim in tanks or catching them for fun.


Do catfish eat every day? 

Catfish don’t necessarily eat every single day.
Their eating habits can vary based on factors like the availability of food, water temperature, and their individual preferences.
Sometimes they may eat multiple times a day, especially when food is abundant, while other times they may go without eating for a day or two.
It depends on their environment and how hungry they are.

What is the lifespan of a catfish? 

The lifespan of a catfish can vary depending on its species and the conditions it lives in.
On average, many catfish species can live for several years, with some reaching up to 15-20 years or even longer in the wild.
However, in captivity or in certain environmental conditions, their lifespan might be shorter.
Factors like water quality, availability of food, and habitat conditions all play a role in determining the lifespan of a catfish.

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