Red tail Catfish Phractocephalus hemioliopterus
Region: Amazon River Basin, Brazil, Rio Negro, Venezuela
Desirability: This fish gets really big fast! Within one year it can reach 24″ or more. They make great pets and will take food from your hand. Young Redtail Catfish are active most of the time up to about 2 years of age. If you like big fish and have room for one or more then this is your baby. Start with say a180 gallon tank and something larger in about a year.
Durability: Quite hardy, but require better water than the Tiger Shovelnose. You will need a very large filtration system which can remove lots of particulate matter and keep the Ammonia near zero PPM.
Environment: Water temperature: 72 – 82°f, 23-28°c
Water quality PH: 6.0 – 7.0, mine do well in the 6.6-6.8 range.
Water quality, NO³: Nitrate, for Redtail Catfish keep under 100 P
Water quality NH³: Ammonia, up to .5 PPM sustained but best at zero.
Tank size minimum: 180 gallon or larger aquarium, 72″ by 24″ by 24″ tall.
Growth rate: Varies depending on environment and food. The typical pet shop offering is a 3-4 inch fish which can easily grow to 24 inches or more within one year. In 2 years these fish can reach 30″ or more in length. The Redtail Catfish appears to continue growing throughout their life span which is at least 15 years and probably longer. They can attain a length in excess of 4 feet at maturity.
Behavior: Aggressive toward smaller fish which can be eaten. This fish is mostly mouth. At 26″-27″ the Redtail Catfish will eat every one of your fully grown Oscars; one each week that is. This fish is not easily agitated and appears to be somewhat slow moving but Redtail Catfish can move like lightning to catch something. There have been incidences where Redtail Catfish have been left uncovered; They jumped out during the night. The Redtail antenna is vulnerable to damage, especially from young Pacu which will grab anything including air hose. The antenna will usually grow back in 6 – 9 months. These fish can break aquarium glass with little effort; they should be housed in a Plexiglas tank or behind 1/2″ thick glass at a minimum. The length of the tank should be 2 to 3 times the fishes length, the width somewhat wider than the fish is long. The Redtail Catfish will get along in a shallow tank approximately 16″ high. You will often see the fish swimming along the sides with its whiskers protruding a foot or more above water. The Redtail Catfish is most active at night however the young Redtail is active nearly all the time.