Red Tail Catfish Tank Size – Requirements & Care Guide!

Last Updated on November 13, 2022 by Guillermina

The red tail catfish is a common freshwater fish that aquarists like to keep. To be able to do so successfully, knowing what the right red tail catfish tank size is, is crucial. Let us talk more about this topic.

Red Tail Catfish

Phractocephalus hemioliopterus, commonly known as the red tail catfish is a long whiskered catfish. It is called the “red tail catfish” because of its bright orange tail fin.

This fish is native to most South American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, and Bolivia. It is known by different names in different countries. In Venezuela it is known as carajo and known as pirarara in counties such as Brazil

The red tail fish are very common with aquarists. However, due to the fact that these fish can grow to massive sizes, they can only be kept in large aquaria.

 "how big can a red tail catfish get

How Big Can A Red Tail Catfish Get?

Red tail catfish can reach sizes of up to 5 ft 11 in in length, and about 180 lb in weight. These creatures can get massive! This is however a rare case as most do not reach this size and only average around 3 ft 6 in – 4 ft 6 in, in length. Even at their average size, they still require large aquariums to live in.

Why Are Red Tail Catfish A Popular Aquarium Fish?

The red tail catfish is a popular fish in Amazonian themed aquarium exhibits. The reason for this is its look. Some think the fish is good looking while others argue that it is not. Either way, its appearance has captivated so many aquarists, so much that they thought it deserved to be on display in public aquariums.

It is a colorful catfish with a brownish back, yellow sides and a distinct orange-red tail fin. In some cases, the dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins are also red.

Both juvenile and eventual adult-size fish are available as aquarium fish. If they are well-fed and well-taken care of, they grow quite fast!

Another reason for red tail fish’s popularity as an aquarium fish is their eating habits. They are not picky, they can eat anything. This takes away the headache of having to find specialized food for them.

They are also a long-lived fish species, meaning that they can be enjoyed for a very long time if good care is provided for them.

 how big do red tail catfish get in captivity

How Long Do Red Tail Catfish Live?

Red tail catfish have an average life span in captivity of around 15 years. They can live longer in the wild because there are better environmental conditions suited to their survival.

Red Tail Catfish Tank Size

So what is the ideal red tail catfish size? An adult red tail catfish requires a minimum tank size of at least 1500 US gallons. This will give them sufficient room to roam around freely without feeling cramped or restricted and unhappy. Anything below this will reduce the life span of your fish. Best provide them with a large enough tank or they will die. They do not do well with half measures

Red Tail Catfish Tank Care

Red tail catfish are known as a hardy fish species, however, as with most fish, water quality parameters are extremely important. So once you have established and provided the right red tail catfish tank size, keep the following in mind;

  • the water temperature of the tank should be kept at 68°F to 80°F
  • pH must be maintained at 6-6.5
  • weekly feeding is appropriate and overfeeding must be avoided at all cost
  • red tail catfish have a habit of eating everything they find, so keep the tank clear of any inedible objects
  • they do not require much light, so a standard lamp will be adequate
  • if you decide to house them with other fish, make sure the fish are of a similar size or they will get eaten
  • in the wild they feed on worms, smaller fish, insects, and vegetation that they come across. Feed them small fish, shrimp, worms, cut-up meat, or pelleted feed that you can fish. Make sure that whatever food you give them is the sinking kind that will reach the bottom, where they spend most of their time
  • if you decide to have a substrate for them, keep it to sand

How Big Do Red Tail Catfish Get In Captivity?

The average size of a red tail catfish in captivity is 3-4 feet in length. This is slightly smaller than the 5 feet they get to in the wild. But because you can not completely replicate the environmental conditions they are exposed to in the wild, they will not get as big.

Red Tail Catfish Breeding

Red tail catfish do not breed in captivity. There are no reports of this ever having happened. This could be because they are territorial in nature. They need a secure shelter to hide their young from potential predators. Because in an aquarium, there is not enough space to provide them with this kind of shelter, they will not breed.

Conclusion – Red Tail Catfish Tank Size

As you can tell, keeping red tail catfish in an aquarium is not for everyone, due to this fish’s large size and aggressive temperament. To be able to successfully keep them in captivity, you need to have a lot of experience, space, and the resources to make it happen. These are not your typical freshwater aquarium fish, so if you are not experienced or are a starting aquarist, you should pass on this one.

 how long do red tail catfish live

Although red tail catfish is a hardy and long lived species, improper care can shave a lot of years off this beautiful fish’s life and that would be doing it a disservice. You can begin learning the proper care for aquarium fish with smaller sized, low maintenance fish and build your way up to larger fish. Once you have achieved that, you can consider yourself an expert in aquarium fish care and are now ready to keep a red tail catfish.

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