Critter Corner -
DID YOU KNOW
Fifteen species of catfish can be found in Missouri, among
them the channel catfish, flathead catfish and the bullheads.
The four pairs of barbels near the mouth of these fish look like
the whiskers of a cat and are used in much the same way.
Because catfish are most active at night these barbels help them
explore their habitat and find food.
Catfish eat a variety of foods. The menu may include
insects, snails, crayfish, freshwater mussels and other fish. The taste buds of a catfish are actually outside the mouth and
on the sensitive barbels. When a tasty insect comes in contact
with the side of the fish’s mouth it is quickly gobbled up.
Taste and touch are very important senses to a catfish.
Catfish lay their egg mass (which looks like a big scoop of
tapioca pudding) in a “nest” or natural cavity. The parents will
fiercely protect these eggs from predators until after they
hatch. Some catfish dads even keep the baby catfish inside
their mouths, away from predators. The young leave the nest
about a week after hatching and are on their own. Catfish can
live up to 10 years.
Catfish can be found in rivers, lakes and streams
throughout Missouri. Natural cavities or crevices make perfect
catfish homes. During the day catfish spend time in deep pools,
Many types of catfish have sharp spines in front of their
dorsal (top) fins and pectoral (side or swimming) fins. Others
have armored scales on parts of their bodies.
One of the largest catfish caught in Missouri was a Blue
Catfish that weighed 117 pounds. But the world’s largest
catfish is found in Europe. The Wells Catfish can measure
15 feet and weigh 650 pounds!
The only vertebrate parasite of humans is a type of
catfish. The tiny, worm-like Candiru lives in South
American rivers and when people are wading the fish enters
To learn more about
(Photo credits: Portrait from
US Fish and Wildlife Service; Profile from Missouri Department
of Conservation; Catfish fry from Hawaii Department of Land and