The Surprising Diet of Catfish: Do They Really Eat Other Catfish?

The Surprising Diet of Catfish: Do They Really Eat Other Catfish?

Catfish are known to be opportunistic feeders, meaning that they will eat just about anything they come across that is edible. As bottom-dwelling fish, Catfish have adapted to feeding on various food sources.

Regarding their diet, Catfish primarily feed on other aquatic animals such as fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae. The species of Catfish will often determine which type of food they consume, as some species, like the flathead catfish, feed mainly on other fish, while others, such as the channel catfish, consume a variety of food sources.

One of the most exciting things about Catfish is the flexibility in their diet. They are known to consume a wide range of food sources, making them highly adaptable to their environment. In addition to being opportunistic feeders, Catfish are also known to be picky eaters, with some species preferring specific food sources over others.

Catfish feed on different types of food depending on their size, as smaller Catfish will mainly feed on insects and plant material. In comparison, giant Catfish will target larger animals like fish, birds, and even small mammals. Dead fish and dead animals are also familiar food sources for Catfish, as they are abundant in many bodies of water.

Aquatic plants, such as algae and various vegetation types, also make up part of the Catfish’s diet, providing a good source of nutrients. In terms of size, Catfish can range from a few inches to over 6 feet in length, and their dietary needs will vary depending on their species and size.

Catfish are also commonly found in fish farms and aquariums, where they are often provided with fresh food and various catfish-specific bait. Anglers targeting Catfish will typically use bait such as worms and small fish to lure the fish to their hooks.

Do Catfish Eat Other Fish?

Catfish are freshwater fish widely known for their flexibility in their diet. Though they primarily feed on other aquatic animals, such as fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae, the specific species of Catfish will often determine which type of food they consume. 

Do Catfish Eat Other Fish?

Do Catfish Eat Live Fish?

Catfish are known for their omnivorous diet, which includes a variety of food sources such as insects, worms, crustaceans, and even aquatic plants. However, their diet also includes live fish, which makes them a predatory species. 

Catfish are known to eat live fish, a significant part of their diet. They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat whatever food source is available. This includes other fish that are smaller in size and also some larger fish species.

Other species of Catfish prefer different types of live fish. For example, flathead catfish prefer live prey such as white bass, sunfish, and bullheads. On the other hand, Channel catfish prefer live baitfish such as shad and minnows.

Despite their predatory nature, Catfish are not solely dependent on live fish for their food source. They also consume dead fish, fish eggs, insect larvae, and plant material. Catfish living in muddy waters must rely on other food sources as their visibility is limited.

Catfish can also be picky eaters and may have their favorite food depending on the species. They may even consume dead animals, such as birds or mammals that fall into the water.

In terms of size, Catfish may consume smaller fish species, such as baby catfish. However, giant Catfish may feed on various fish species, such as game fish. Catfish are also known to prey on the eggs of other fish species.

It should be noted that Catfish are not overly aggressive when it comes to feeding. They are typically active at night and are known to be more patient predators. They may wait for their prey to come closer before attacking.

What Larger Fish Might Catfish Eat?

While larger Catfish may primarily feed on smaller fish, they have been known to prey upon larger fish species as well, so long as they are small enough for the Catfish to consume.

Some of the larger fish species that catfish commonly consume include bluegill, sunfish, yellow perch, and even smaller bass species. These fish make for a substantial food source for the Catfish, and they are easily caught due to their slower swimming speeds.

Interestingly, Catfish are also known to consume other Catfish. This is particularly common in catfish farms, where different species and sizes of Catfish are often raised together in large ponds. In such an environment, larger Catfish may see their smaller counterparts as a potential food source.

While Catfish are opportunistic feeders, they are open to consuming larger fish if the opportunity arises. Large fish can be a valuable and nutritious food source for these aquatic predators, whether in the wild or a farm setting.

What Smaller Fish Might They Prey Upon?

Catfish are known for their varied diet and ability to survive on various foods. In addition to larger fish species, Catfish also prey on smaller fish, such as bristle nose and clown plecos.

Bristlenose plecos are small catfish species that are commonly found in South America. Large catfish species often prey upon these fish, such as the channel catfish and the flathead catfish. Clown plecos, on the other hand, are usually found in freshwater aquariums and are also targeted by hungry Catfish.

The degree of aggression exhibited by Catfish while hunting for smaller fish varies depending on the species and the availability of other food sources. It is a common occurrence for Catfish to prey upon small fish species, especially in bodies of water where food sources are scarce.

Regarding fish species, Catfish are picky eaters and tend to prefer slow-moving or dead fish. They are also known to target fish that are smaller in size than they are. However, it is essential to note that Catfish can be predatory fish and sometimes consume larger fish if their preferred food sources are scarce.

Overall, Catfish will hunt and consume a variety of smaller fish species, including bristle nose plecos and clown plecos. Their degree of aggression while hunting for these species varies, and they are more likely to target slow-moving or dead fish.

Do Catfish Also Eat Dead Fish?

Catfish are known for their varied diets, which can include a variety of food sources such as insect larvae, aquatic plants, and even dead animals. When it comes to dead fish, some catfish species are more likely to consume them than others.

Species such as the blue Catfish, channel catfish, and several other catfish species are known to eat dead fish. They are attracted to the scent of decaying flesh and will actively search for it as a food source. However, there is an exception, as the flathead catfish prefers live prey and is not generally attracted to dead fish.

Dead fish are a popular bait for catfish anglers because they mimic the Catfish’s natural food source and can significantly increase your chances of catching Catfish. When using dead fish as bait, it is essential to choose native fish species for the area you are fishing in. This increases the chances of attracting the local catfish population and ensures that the bait looks natural to them.

Another helpful catfishing tip is to use freshly killed fish as bait rather than fish that have already begun to decompose. The fresher the bait, the more likely you are to attract Catfish.

How Catfish Find Their Food

Catfish are opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat whatever food source is available to them. They are scavengers and will actively search for fresh and dead food. When it comes to finding their food, Catfish rely heavily on their senses. Their whiskers, or barbels, are crucial to their sensory system and help them locate their prey.

The barbels on their face have a taste and smell function that helps Catfish identify different types of prey. The whiskers contain taste buds that can detect food up to several centimeters away. Apart from taste buds, the barbels also have sensory cells that can sense vibrations and pressure changes in the water. These features allow them to navigate through the muddy waters they typically inhabit and track down food.

In a study conducted by Kirsten Pohlmann, it was found that Catfish follow trails of chemicals and hydrodynamic stimuli to track and ambush prey. They can sense traces of food from great distances and use their barbels to pinpoint the location of the food source. Once they track down their target, they use their strong jaws and teeth to devour it.

Catfish have a diverse diet and can eat a variety of food sources. They mainly feed on clams, snails, mollusks, other fish, small mammals, and even birds. They are known to scavenge for food and will not hesitate to eat anything that they can fit in their mouths.

Types of Catfish

Catfish is the common name used for different species of fish in Siluriformes. These fish can be found in saltwater and freshwater habitats, and there are various types of Catfish, each with unique characteristics. This article will explore the different types of Catfish, their physical attributes, and their behavior as predators and prey. Read on to learn more about these fascinating fish.

Flathead Catfish

Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis Olivares) is found in freshwaters across the United States, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. These fish have a distinct flat heads with large eyes and are known for their brownish or yellow-brown coloration. The flathead catfish is the most prominent member of its family and can reach sizes of up to 60 inches in length and weigh up to 85 pounds. Flathead catfish feed on other fish, small mammals, and aquatic invertebrates as predators.

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish have a diverse range of food sources, making them one of the most popular species of Catfish among anglers and fish farmers. These fish are opportunistic feeders known to be picky eaters sometimes, yet they thrive well in muddy waters and fast-moving rivers where the food variety is plentiful.

Their diet can vary depending on their size, environment, and food availability. They primarily feed on live prey, such as fish, insects, and crustaceans, but they also consume vegetation and dead animals. Channel Catfish are known to be active feeders during the night, making them nocturnal fish.

In terms of size, Channel Catfish have been known to prey upon smaller fish such as minnows and shad, but they tend to prefer larger fish species such as carp, perch, buffalo, drum, and notably the slip jack, one of their favorite prey types.

When trying to catch trophy-sized Channel Catfish, using live fish as bait has become common among anglers. This technique involves using a slip bobber rig with a live baitfish that mimics their preferred prey. This method not only appeals to the Catfish’s feeding habits but also allows anglers to present the bait most naturally.

Blue Catfish

The Blue Catfish is one of the largest species, capable of growing up to 5 feet and weighing over 100 pounds. Known for their voracious feeding habits, Blue Catfish are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of foods.

While they primarily feed on live prey, such as other fish, they are not picky eaters and will consume crustaceans, clams, and even vegetation when necessary. However, their preference for more oversized prey items, such as other fish, stands out. They hunt prey such as shad, sunfish, and even small bass.

Researchers studying Blue Catfish have found some unusual items inside their stomachs, including cell phones, tennis shoes, and even a whole chicken. These findings demonstrate the Blue Catfish’s opportunistic feeding habits and ability to adapt to their environment.

Baby Catfish

Baby catfish have a special diet when compared to adult catfish. These young Catfish require a specific diet to grow healthy and strong and ensure survival. Baby catfish possess a unique eating habit, including feeding on small aquatic invertebrates such as mosquito larvae and other tiny insects. They prefer to eat small crustaceans and small fish larvae that they can easily digest.

As they grow older, the diet of young Catfish gradually changes. They prefer a variety of food sources, including plant material and aquatic insects. However, their desire for protein-rich foods remains strong, and they continue to feed on small invertebrates, crustaceans, and fish larvae.

Cannibalism can be pretty common among baby catfish. They eat their siblings when competing for food sources or limited resources, such as hiding spots or growing areas. Some catfish farmers even use cannibalism to control catfish populations in overcrowded farms.


In conclusion, Catfish are known to be picky eaters that prefer a variety of food sources such as plant material, aquatic insects, and crustaceans. However, Catfish are also predators and will consume smaller fish when given the opportunity. Several species of Catfish, including blue Catfish, flathead catfish, and channel catfish, are known for their predatory behavior and will hunt and consume other fish species.

Catfish rely heavily on their sense of smell and vibration detection to locate their food, and they have adapted to thrive in muddy bodies of water. They are strong survivors and have been known to consume dead animals, fish eggs, and other types of dead bait.

Catfish are also territorial creatures that will defend their home range and food sources from other Catfish. Additionally, Catfish are driven by their desire to mate and seek new food sources to ensure they are strong enough to reproduce. Catfish are fascinating creatures with unique eating habits and strong survival instincts.

FAQ: Catfish Eating Habits

Catfish are one of the most fascinating fish found in the world’s waters. They are known for their unique behavior, particularly regarding their eating habits. If you’re curious to learn what Catfish eat and how they catch their prey, this FAQ guide is for you. Here, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about catfish eating habits, their favorite foods, and what makes them such successful hunters.