How do Catfish Mate?

Although there are many different species of catfish, they usually mate similarly. In most cases, the female fish releases eggs, and the male fish releases sperm, and they fertilize outside the body. The parent fish usually build a nest beforehand on a flat surface where they keep the eggs until they can fertilize them. The number of eggs can differ from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on the size of the female fish, which decides how many eggs it can hold. For new catfish to be born, the old catfish needs to mate to produce fertile offspring, and the cycle continues. Some catfish are good at mating and can produce large amounts of fry, whereas others need a more complicated environment.

However, some catfish, like the Paraiba catfish, which is the largest catfish species, often migrate somewhere else before mating. Then there is the rarest catfish, called the Piebald Blue Catfish, and we don’t know how it mates. Many more unique and not well-known catfish species cannot be generalized in this article section!

Fish eggs

Different catfish and their mating rituals

The article will never end if we start naming the different catfish found in the wild. As you already know, there are many different types of catfish. However, there are 3 catfish that everyone has heard of below.

  • Channel catfish
  • Flathead catfish
  • Blue catfish

Therefore, we will mention the way that these three catfish mate. Mind you, there are more than 300 types of channel catfish alone. There can be differences in how they mate as well. Despite all that, they are classified as catfish, so that they will have a lot of similarities as well.

Channel catfish mating

The channel catfish is cylindrical and scales less fish than most other catfish. This is the only North American catfish that has a deeply forked tail. In the wild, the channel catfish spawns from early February to late August when the temperature is between 75 F and 85 F.

The catfish is a cavity spawner, which means that it spawns in hidden places, usually to decrease the chance of its eggs being eaten by predators. Just like most catfish, you will find nests with built-in flat surfaces on banks, undercut banks, hollow logs, logjams, or rocks where the eggs will be laid.

Usually, the male fish builds the nest and attracts the female fish. They then mate in this predestined area and lay their eggs. The eggs are protected and cleaned by the father until the fries are old enough to leave the nest and survive on their own. The female fish only spawns once a year after it reaches maturity at 5 years, whereas the male fish can mate many times. The female will produce anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 eggs per pound of her body weight.

Flathead catfish mating

Funnily enough, the flathead catfish mates in the wild have not yet been observed; however, we know how they mate in captivity. The male flathead catfish attracts the female one is a little different, as he moves towards the female and rubs her with his belly and barbels.

For them to mate successfully, the temperature of the water needs to be between 75°F and 85°F. After the female is ready to lay eggs, she will either lay eggs in a depression or next to a flat surface or aquarium gravel. The male then comes and fertilizes these eggs laid by the female fish. The eggs take six to nine days to hatch, and a female fish can lay up to 100,000 eggs at a time.

After the eggs are laid, the male flathead catfish furiously defends the eggs even from the mother. Even after the fry comes out, the male fish keeps defending them until they can survive on their own. Just like channel catfish, the flathead catfish only produces eggs once a year. The fish usually reaches sexual maturity at the age of five, after which the cycle continues.

Blue catfish mating

Blue catfish is one of the catfish that reproduce at a rapid rate, although they mate once a year as well, to the point that they are becoming an invasive species. Not only that, but blue catfish are also very strong and can survive many diverse conditions of the water.

The fish mates when the water temperature is high, usually between April and May. Just like the other catfish, the male fish produces a nest on a well-hidden and flat surface where the fish can lay eggs. The nest then attracts a female, and they take part in an elaborate mating dance, after which the female releases her eggs into the nest and the male releases the sperms. The female blue catfish can lay around 8,000 eggs per 2 pounds of her body weight, and mind you; they can get pretty big.

Just like flathead catfish, after the fertilization is done, the male fish is the one that protects the eggs until they hatch and even drives the female fish away from the sight. The young, hatched fry often form a school protected by both their parents, especially the male fish. The parents keep protecting the fish until they can survive on their own.

In conclusion, now you know how the main three types of catfish mating. Of course, there are many more catfish with many different ways of producing offspring. Knowing how catfish mate helps them mate in the fish and helps us understand the behaviors of these fish. Hopefully, this article helped provide you with some information about these unique fish that are found almost everywhere in the world except the Atlantic.


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