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How to Raise the Glass Catfish in Your Freshwater Aquarium?

Looking for a way to add an element of surprise to your otherwise bland fish tank? If so, you should consider raising the Glass Catfish. These transparent fish are incredibly popular in the aquarium hobby, and offer an interesting way for you to spice up your fish tank.

The clear bodies of these fish have a way of catching the attention of passersby, and it’s no wonder that they have quickly risen to become one of the most popular species kept by fish keepers around the world.

These fish are native to the vegetated ponds of southeast Asia, and they thrive in aquarium communities that are set up in a similar fashion. If you already have a community tank and are hoping to add a bit more variety, the Glass Catfish could be the new addition you’ve been looking for.

Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish Background

Glass Catfish 1
Photo by Edu O

Hailing from southeast Asia, the Glass Catfish makes it home naturally in vegetated areas. Found frequently in Thailand, these fish tend to live in rivers and streams with moderately quick moving currents. They will usually stay in the center of the water column, rarely leaving the safety of the river bed.

In the wild, Glass Catfish rely heavily on their namesake barbels. These help the fish sense the environment around them, as the water tends to be murky and with poor visibility. The fish have clear skin which makes it impossible to distinguish them from debris in a poorly lit setting, another adaptation that has helped them survive in the wild waters of southeast Asia.

Glass Catfish 11
Photo by Toshihiro Gamo

This fish goes by many names, including the Ghost Catfish and the Phantom Catfish. While you might be confused by the many names given to this species, just know that all of these names apply to several different species of fish in the skeleton catfish category.

The most popular fish species of this family was known as the Kryptopterus bicirrhis, but now the species is known as Kryptopterus vitreolus, with the old title reserved for large, dominant Glass Catfish. These are now very rare in the aquarium trade, so you likely won’t need to worry about the differences between the species.

Kryptopterus vitreolus is the type of Glass Catfish that is best suited for beginning aquarium hobbyists, and luckily it’s also the kind that is most readily available at aquarium or pet stores. These fish get their name from their transparent bodies. You can actually see all of the organs and bones inside your Glass Catfish!

Glass Catfish Appearance And Behavior

Glass Catfish 2
Photo by Lamin Zahi

In addition to a practically transparent body, which lends itself to the Greek word kryptos, meaning hidden, the Glass Catfish also has practically invisible tail fines. When you think about catfish, you likely think about large freshwater fish that spend most of their time sucking algae off the bottom of your tank.

While this is true with the Glass Catfish, they usually are free swimming, avoiding rocks and instead preferring to school. Glass Catfish are peaceful by nature and will swim in the middle of your tank, adding great activity and a vibrant sense of energy to your tank.

Glass Catfish are extremely peaceful and will be quite shy when they are first introduced to your tank. In fact, don’t be surprised if your new fish spends most of his day hiding, at least for the first few weeks. Therefore, it’s essential that you fill your tank with lots of plants, as the Glass Catfish will use them as hiding spots. These plants will also help to block direct sunlight, which the fish tend to avoid.

As previously mentioned, Glass Catfish are schooling fish and will put on an entertaining display if you have five or six individuals living together in your tank. These fish are energetic and will swim around the tank throughout most of the day.

Glass catfish are excellent additions to peaceful community tanks, keeping to themselves or hiding only when they feel threatened. Because they have such a unique appearance, it can be a real treat to watch these fish swim around your tank. Their transparent skin makes it possible for you to see their bones and organs, so it can be quite entertaining to watch a group of skeletons in a large school, darting around the tank!

Glass catfish have vertical ribs and a central spinal column. Part of their back is slightly raised, which is where the dorsal fin is located. The tail fain is practically invisible, as is the ventral fin on the stomach of the fish. The ventral and tail fins allow the fish to swim up and down in the water column.

The disguised fins and practically completely see-through body of the Glass Catfish provides camouflage from natural predator. They are hard to see and, as a result, hard to catch to eat, in a manner that is similar to the ghost shrimp.

Glass catfish, like other catfish, have a pair of raised barbels on their head. These barbels look like whiskers and are what give these fish their characteristic names. The barbels make the fish sensitive to changes in their surroundings, with some even able to detect electromagnetic waves!

Glass catfish don’t grow very large. The largest species, when raised under the ideal circumstances, will only grow to about 5 inches. They are longer than they are wide, with slender bodies that move elegantly through the water.

Glass Catfish Tank And Water Requirements

Glass Catfish 4
Photo by Ruizhen

Glass catfish are incredibly sensitive to changes in water parameters. If your aquarium water temperature, chemicals, or pH balance fluctuates even slightly, the health of your Glass Catfish will begin to decline.

Unlike other fish, with which there is a great degree of variability surrounding the ideal conditions, Glass Catfish must be kept within exact parameters in order to stay healthy. Keep the temperature of the tank between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and maintain a water hardness of kH 8-12. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.0 and you should make sure there is moderate current.

Glass Catfish can be more challenging to take care of than other beginner species, but you don’t have to have an exorbitantly large tank. One that is 30 gallons or more will suffice. Make sure you provide them with plenty of room to swim around the center portions of the tank, as well as lots of places in which to hide in case they are spooked by other fish or by your activity outside of the tank. To do this, create a well-planted tank.

Glass Catfish 10
Photo by Hakon

A tank of 30 gallons or more is ideal, as it will give your fish plenty of room to swim as well as lots of hiding places. This will help them feel safer and more at home within your community tank. Glass Catfish are schooling fish, so having about six per 30 gallons is ideal. You can add more Glass Catfish than this if you’d like, but remember to add five gallons of space for every additional catfish.

Remember that overcrowding your tank can be a death sentence for these vulnerable fish. As long as you have a good tank environment and at least a couple of other fish with which the Glass Catfish can interact, he will feel right at home and will thrive within your aquarium.

Decorating A Glass Catfish Tank

Glass Catfish 5
Photo by Peter

Plants are an absolute must in a Glass Catfish tank. They provide the fish with necessary hiding spots and also help to clean up the water in the tank, providing a well-oxygenated environment. While Glass Catfish don’t usually eat plants, species such as Java Fern, Hornwort, and Java Moss are all good options and can provide food for other species of fish, too.

Be careful with the type of substrate you select for your Glass Catfish. You want to use something that is fine and soft, like sand or small gravel. Large-grained or sharp, abrasive substrate can damage the barbels of your Glass Catfish, so you should steer clear of anything that is too rough.

What Do Glass Catfish Eat?

Glass Catfish 6
Photo by Sameer khole

In the wild, Glass Catfish are mostly carnivores. They tend to eat small worms, invertebrates, and zooplankton. They will even eat small fish and mosquito larvae. Although they live in the center of the water column, they are still relatively selective about what they choose to eat.

In your aquarium, you should feed your Glass catfish live or frozen foods like Grindal worms, Moina, Brine Shrimp, and Daphnia. You can also feed pellets or flakes. Although some people choose to feed their Glass Catfish homemade fish food, this is not necessary. It can, however, ensure that the food you are feeding your Glass Catfish includes only the finest, highest-quality ingredients.

Make sure you monitor your Glass Catfish carefully as they eat. You need to make sure they are eating all the food that you are giving them, and you also need to watch your other fish to ensure they are not exhibiting any seemingly innocuous crowding activities or other aggressive behaviors that could prevent your Glass Catfish from being able to get enough to eat.

Try to feed your Glass Catfish small portions, but frequently. Once or twice per day is plenty often enough to keep these fish happy. Only feed your fish as much as it will eat in a couple of minutes. Overfeeding can lead to a buildup of nutrients and waste in the tank, which can lead to bacteria, parasites, and algae development.

Because Glass Catfish are so shy, it’s important that you make sure they get all the food that you give them. It is very easy for other fish to crowd out the Glass Catfish or to scare it into hiding during feeding time. Even peaceful fish may unintentionally scare away your Glass Catfish, simply because they are more active and lively during feeding times.

If you are noticing issues during feeding times with your Glass Catfish, it may be worthwhile for you to watch your fish closely during feeding. You can feed methodically to ensure that all of your fish have food. For example, try feeding just one side of the tank first, giving food to the more active fish, before adding food to the less active side of the tank.

Glass Catfish Tank Mates

Keeping Glass Catfish with other members of their species is very important. Not only will this allow them to thrive as they would in the wild, but it also reduces the likelihood that the fish will die due to being overstressed.

You can also keep Glass Catfish with other tank mates, although this is not mandatory. Glass Catfish work perfectly in community tanks filled with different species of peaceful fish. The best fish for placing with Glass Catfish include Mollies, Swordtails, and Celestial Pearl Danios. These fish are all peaceful and will neither bother nor compete with your Glass Catfish for food.

These fish should not be kept with large or aggressive fish. Aggressive fish are known to attack slower-moving or more peaceful fish – like the Glass Catfish. Even if your other fish don’t necessarily attack your Glass Catfish, this can still lead to problems as your catfish will be too afraid to seek food.

Avoid housing tiger barbs, sharks, cichlids, and oscars with your Glass Catfish. They are not only overly aggressive, but they are also likely to attack and eat your fish.

Common Glass Catfish Diseases

Glass Catfish 7
Photo by Karthik_kamaths

Glass Catfish are relatively hardy fish, but they are prone to many of the same diseases as are other aquarium inhabitants. Usually, issues related to the health of your Glass Catfish will stem from problems with water quality and cleanliness. It can be difficult to maintain strict water parameters, so make sure you only add new Glass Catfish to an established tank that has already been cycled.

There are no diseases that exclusively affect Glass Catfish. However, you should keep an eye out for the illnesses to which all freshwater species are prone. For example, ich is common among Glass Catfish. You might find your fish gasping at the top of the water column, trying to get air at the surface. You might also notice that there is a white sand-like substance or spots on the skin of your fish.

Ich is caused by poor water quality, so maintaining a clean tank through weekly or biweekly changes can help reduce the likelihood of this disease rearing its ugly head. Dropsy, too, is related to poor water quality. This disease causes excessive bloating and scales that seem to protrude out from the body.

Glass Catfish 8
Photo by Deri

Fungal growths and lice are also frequently seen among Glass Catfish, as they are among other freshwater fish species. These diseases show signs like gray or white growths on fins, restless behavior, and rubbing on surfaces of the tank to try to remove the lice or other growths.

Keeping your water within the parameters mentioned earlier in this article is the best way to reduce the likelihood of your fish getting sick. In addition, you should conduct regular water changes and avoid overfeeding your fish. Overfeeding can cause a buildup of food in the tank and can also lead to digestive issues, like bloating.

Whenever you add new fish to your tank (or if you suspect that one of them may be sick), make sure you conduct a full quarantine. This way, you can observe and check out any new or ill sick to make sure they are healthy and ready to be introduced to the community.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish 9
Photo by Chiu Kang

Glass Catfish are active breeders in the wild, but not much is known about how to breed them in captivity. As a result, there are very few reports of home aquarium hobbyists being able to breed them successfully in captivity.

Nevertheless, it’s always worth a try! To get started, try lowering your tanks water temperature to about 73 degrees Fahrenheit. If you add small amounts of fresh water every day, this will trick your Glass Catfish into thinking that it is the rainy season. In the wild, Glass Catfish are seasonal spawners, only breeding during times of heavy rain.

The lowered water temperature and the addition of fresh water will make your Glass Catfish believe that it is the rainy season and time to breed. You should also feed them large amounts of live food during this time period. This will give your fish the energy they need to spawn.

Glass Catfish are egg layers. The females will lay their eggs on the aquarium plants, and the eggs should hatch in three to five days. The young fry will be quite tiny but can eat baby brine shrimp for the first few weeks of life.

If you plan on breeding your Glass Catfish, your greatest challenge could very well be in determining whether your individuals are male or female. There are very few differences between male and female Glass Catfish. One of the only ones you will be able to spot is that females are just a bit larger and have stomachs that are somewhat more rounded. This serves the purpose of storing her eggs.

While the life spans of Glass Catfish vary, in captivity you can expect them to live for up to eight years. This varies, and of course relies on you implementing a consistent cleaning regimen and providing proper care and feeding.

Is A Glass Catfish For You?

If you’re looking for a relatively easy new species of fish to keep in your freshwater aquarium, look no further than the Glass Catfish. While there is some finesse involved in keeping these fish healthy, they are gorgeous and unique, adding a dynamic new appeal to your freshwater community.

Glass Catfish are friendly and amicable, coexisting well with other members of your aquarium. While keeping the tank clean enough to maintain your Glass Catfish’s health can be a challenge for some first-time aquarium owners, it is a challenge that is certainly worth it when you think about the years of enjoyment that this lively, peaceful fish will add to your home.

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