Scientifically known as the Pimelodus pictus, this tropical fish is a member of the Pimelodidae catfish family. Commonly confused with the unrelated African variant known as the Synodontis Angelica, the Pictus is native to the warm rivers and streams of South America and can mostly be found in Venezuela, Peru, Columbia and Brazil. Like most other creatures in the marine world, the females are usually bulkier and bigger than the males.
What Is A Pictus Catfish?
This catfish is popular amongst fish enthusiasts who keep them as pets in freshwater aquariums. They are generally small and do not grow more than 11 centimeters in length. Of the two types of Pictus fish available, one has large spots whereas the other has a smaller spotted formation. The former is more widely available perhaps because they do not grow as large as the small-spotted variant and make for a good space-saving bottom feeder in existing aquariums. With the proper care, this catfish can live for up to eight years in captivity. However, water conditions have to be just right as they are sensitive creatures that easily catch skin diseases and succumb to parasites.
What Is So Special About This Fish?
Like most other fish, there are certain characteristics that make the Pictus popular amongst breeders and aquarium owners. Not only do they look good, they also possess community traits that not many others within their family do. This makes them the perfect choice as an addition to an existing aquarium.
1. Special Features
This fish’s discerning feature has to be its extremely long barbels, or whiskers. From tip to tip, these barbels can sometimes be as long as the fish’s own body. Their bright silver coloration with black spots makes them a welcome addition to any tank. With reticulations on their head, fins and all over their body, they are a great addition to an aquarium as they add vibrancy to the community. Another special feature that this fish possesses is that it must have specific water conditions before it will breed. Breeders and catfish enthusiasts have attested to the fact that replicating the perfect conditions to induce breeding in the Pictus is extremely tough.
This species of catfish is generally very peaceful. Although they do exceptionally well in schools of three or four, they are fine if they are the only ones of their kind in an aquarium teeming with other fish. Although the Pictus are non-territorial, they pose a threat to smaller fish as they can get very aggressive towards them. So if you intend on adding a Pictus to your tank, ensure that it is the smallest fish of the lot.
3. Big Eaters
This catfish is known for having a large appetite. As it is an omnivore, it eats everything from pellets to smaller fish. Because it is a bottom feeder, it tends to pick on leftover food that has sunk to the bottom of the tank. If you want to ensure that your catfish has a well-balanced diet, use fast-sinking pellets instead of the type that floats. Keep in mind that because it consumes so much food, it also produces plenty of waste, so water changes should be done on a regular basis. Also consider investing in a good filtration system.
4. Specific Tank Conditions
Due to the amount of waste that this catfish produces, frequent water changes have to take place to ensure that the tank’s ecosystem is kept at its optimal level. As a gauge, the water pH for this catfish should ideally be maintained within 6.5 to 7.5. As for the water hardness, keep it between 4 to 18°N. As the Pictus is native to the warm waters of the Amazon, keep the water temperature of the tank a comfortable 23 to 27°C, or 73 to 80°F. The ideal aquarium setup for this fish should include plenty of shaded areas like decorative rock caves, driftwood and plants. A heavily planted tank with filtered light is one that most closely resembles its natural habitat. This general environment should be replicated in order to create the ideal living space for the Pictus. Additionally, ensure that your tank has a sandy bottom and moderate water currents similar to those in the rivers and streams of South America.
5. Handle With Care
Although hardy, the Pimelodus pictus is delicate in nature. If you intend to move or transport the fish, do not use a net to scoop it out of its existing tank. This is because its spiky fins can get caught in the net and you will harm the fish. Instead, use a container to scoop it out of the water. Ensure that you do not use your bare hands to handle the fish as the sharp spines on its fins emit a toxin that will cut your hand and cause it to swell and ache for several hours.
6. Choosing Tank Mates
Although the Pimelodus pictus is usually added to the tank as a bottom feeder for cleanup and generally not the center of attention, selecting its tank mates is very important to maintain the balance of the aquarium’s ecosystem. The best tank mates are fast moving fish who prefer soft water. As these fish are very active at night, they have been known to consume small fishes while they sleep. Small and slow moving fish may suffer the brunt of this catfish’s hunger wraths so only add them to a tank with larger, quick moving fish.