Pictus catfish is one of the smaller fish species kept in home aquariums. It reaches a max length of about 4-5 inches depending on how well it’s fed and maintained.
Despite their small size however, they require a large tank (at least 55 gallons) because they are active swimmers.
In this quick fishkeeping guide, we explain how big pictus catfish get, and how this affects the tank size, and the choice of tank mates.
How Big Do They Get In The Wild?
Unrestricted in its natural habitat in South American rivers, it can achieve a bigger size than what you see in an aquarium.
We couldn’t find any reliable sources documenting exactly how long it get in the wild, but we’ve seen estimates of 6 inches or even longer, with one source saying the fish can grow as long as 3 feet.
What matters is their normal size in an aquarium. Most grow to a max length of up to 5 inches, with some being slightly smaller.
How Long Does It Take A Pictus Catfish To Grow?
A fish is about 2 inches long. It takes between 8 to 12 months to grow to its full size.
But this could take longer if the aquarium conditions are not proper. Poor water quality and inadequate feeding causes stress, disease, and malnutrition, all which can slow down or even permanently limit growth.
Can A Pictus Catfish Live In A 10 Gallon Tank?
One major factor that affects the growth rate and eventual size is the size of the aquarium.
Most beginners see how small the fish is and assume it’ll be fine in a small 10-gallon tank.
But the fish doubles its size in a matter of months, quickly outgrowing the small space.
But even when it’s fully grown, it is fairly small, and you may be tempted to put it in a 20 or 30 gallon aquarium. That’s still not enough.
They are active swimmers, as you can see in the video below. They dart and zoom about the aquarium, going in and out of hiding places.
Pictus catfish thrive when they have plenty of open space to swim in. If they don’t, they may develop slowly or fail to attain their full size.
So, no, it cannot live in a 10-gallon tank, or 20 gallon, or 30 gallon. The recommended minimum size, even for a single fish, is 55 gallons.
If you plan to keep a shoal of 4-5 pictus catfish, go with a 150 gallon or bigger tank.
What Fish Can Live With Pictus Catfish?
Putting a single fish in a 55-gallon tank may feel wasteful. But it’s not if you add other fish to the tank.
Pictus catfish are peaceful, and coexist well with other fish in the aquarium.
Something else that makes it great for community fish tanks is that they are nocturnal. They hide during the day, when most other fish are awake.
Just be careful not to mix it with fish that are too aggressive. They can stress the catfish.
Also, make sure the other fish require the same water parameters (temperature, pH, water hardness etc.) as pictus catfish.
Something else to keep in mind is that pictus catfish will sometimes eat fish smaller than it. This typically happens when they are hungry.
Even if you keep the fish well fed, it can still chase smaller fish around and stress them. We recommend having the pictus catfish as the smallest fish in your community tank.
Here are the best fish that are compatible with pictus catfish: other catfish, Bristlenose Plecos, Angelfish, and Rainbow Shark. Basically, any tropical fish that grows to 5 inches or longer.
Be careful not to get just bottom dwellers. They’ll compete for swimming space, food and hiding nooks with pictus catfish, which is also a bottom dweller.
Mix up the tank with bottom, middle and upper dwellers.
Are Pictus Catfish Aggressive?
They are generally peaceful. As long as you keep them with fish of the same size or bigger, they won’t bother anyone.
The problem comes in when there are smaller fish than the pictus catfish. They’ll chase them around and if they are inadequately fed, will even eat the smaller fish.
If your pictus catfish seems to be showing unexplained aggressive behavior, it could be they are sick, or the tank is too small and they are feeling confined.