Catfish are some of the most diverse freshwater fish in the world. There are more than 200 different types of catfish species found on every continent except Antarctica.
There are physical and behavioral differences, from where they live to how they catch their prey.
When it comes to fishing, there are several different kinds of fish that you can find in the wild. While some are easy to tell apart, others look similar but have different personalities and diets.
The catfish are no different in this regard; there are many different types of catfish in lakes and streams worldwide.
Catfish are hard to classify since they vary from species to species. However, you’ll find some different types of catfish in the wild.
Let’s look at 15 different types of catfish you might find in the wild and what makes them unique!
1. Bumblebee Catfish
The Bumblebee catfish is one of America’s most easily recognized catfish. It has a long, cylindrical body that can be yellow, brown, or black, with a lighter pattern resembling fur.
They have small round pectoral fins and a short dorsal fin that runs almost their entire length.
Male Bumblebee catfishes are generally smaller than females; they both have protruding barbels under their chins that look like whiskers.
These whisker-like barbels are used for hunting for food at night and in winter when waters turn dark and murky.
This fish gets its name from those whisker-like barbels because it looks like it has a tiny mustache.
In addition to eating insects, Bumblebee catfish will also eat crustaceans and other fish in their habitat. They are nocturnal hunters that live in slow-moving waters near shorelines.
Humans don’t often see them unless fishing late at night or early in the morning before dawn. This species is called a whisker cat and bumblebee fish because of its furry appearance.
2. Flathead Catfish
A large, silvery catfish with a wide flat head is one of the different types of catfish in existence.
Flatheads are hardy and thrive in any body of water; they consume various prey, including aquatic insects, crustaceans, and mollusks.
They’ve been known to grow as long as 8 feet and live more than 40 years! They’re native to North America but have also been introduced throughout Europe and Asia.
In addition to being popular game fish, they’re often raised commercially for food and bait. The meat is white and flaky, similar to cod or halibut.
3. Channel Catfish
If you are looking for a good, old-fashioned filet, channel catfish is your fish.
Channel catfish have firm white flesh that can be baked, boiled, or fried. It’s a mild-tasting fish with a fine texture and doesn’t have many bones.
Channel catfish are usually farm-raised in ponds like Alabama and Mississippi, where they are available year-round.
Farm-raised channel catfish is widely available at most supermarkets and some fish markets as filets or steaks.
Still, if you live near a larger body of water—like an ocean—you may also be able to catch them yourself (check your local regulations).
Their diet consists of crayfish, insects, and small fish. Their average lifespan is 10 years.
4. Blue Catfish
Though they may look similar, they are very different between channel catfish and blue catfish. Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) has a cylindrical body that is compressed laterally; they’re broad and flat from side to side.
They are steely gray with vertical bars running across their bodies, and the underside is paler than their backs.
Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are torpedo-shaped and have wide, flat heads and black eyes.
Their coloring ranges from olive green to dark brown; younger fish are lighter in color than adults.
They also have three distinct dorsal fins and two anal fins, while blue catfish only have one dorsal fin.
Blue catfish can grow up to eight feet long, while channel cats max out at around five feet.
These two different types of catfish are native to North America. Blue catfish live throughout much of Canada and into Mexico, while channels are found in New York and Pennsylvania.
Both species were introduced elsewhere via aquaculture operations or by accident (like when they were released into waterways after flooding).
Both species eat other fish but prefer crustaceans such as crayfish or insects such as dragonfly larvae.
5. White Catfish
Despite their name, white catfish are typically grayish, and their flesh is usually white and delicate, with a mild flavor.
They’re often sold as fancy or choice fish for baking and cooking that require long periods at low temperatures (like roasting).
White catfish weigh between one and 10 pounds, with a firm texture but not a lot of fat.
Because they have less fat than other different types of catfish, they tend to dry out quickly when cooked.
So be sure to keep them moistened during any lengthy cook times. These guys aren’t just pretty faces—they taste good too!
White catfish are native to parts of Canada and can also be found in rivers throughout North America.
Most species range from one to 10 pounds in weight. They’re great pan-fried, baked, grilled, or steamed!
6. Hybrid Striped Bass
It’s a hybrid between Striped Bass and White Bass. It lives in freshwaters. However, they’re usually much larger than White Bass and have very strong jaws that they use to destroy fish hooks.
Hybrid Striped Bass can grow up to one hundred pounds in size, though they’re usually around fifty pounds at maturity.
These fish are not endangered, but their numbers are currently declining due to human fishing practices.
Despite what most people think, Hybrid Striped Bass do not prey on young salmon. They eat insects, crustaceans, and small minnows as opposed to other different types of catfish primarily.
7. Big Head Catfishes
There are over 50 different species of big head catfish. These fish range from five inches to a whopping seven feet long, weighing up to 100 pounds.
These fish have large heads, making them so easy to identify, with the rest of their bodies silver-colored and fairly slender.
Big head catfishes spend most of their time hiding in sand or mud. They’re voracious predators who enjoy eating anything that fits into their mouths compared to other different types of catfish.
They hunt at night because that’s when smaller fish and crustaceans are the easiest to catch.
During daylight hours, these fish mostly lay around under rocks or logs, sticking only their heads out!
8. Yellow Bullhead Catfish
The yellow bullhead catfish is a freshwater fish found in North America. The yellowhead catfish prefers to live in muddy freshwaters over sandy ones.
There are few yellow bullhead catfish because they are very sensitive to pollution.
There are less than one hundred and fifty populations in North America among the population of different types of catfish species.
National legislation has listed the yellow bullhead as an endangered species since 1998.
It is protected from fishing, selling, transporting, or importing into the U.S. without a permit issued by The Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Fish and Wildlife Service establishes bag limits and possession limits on any fish taken from public land.
A two-year ban is imposed on fishing for all different types of catfish species on National Park Service-administered lands.
9. Small Head Catfishes
You should be aware of several different types of catfish that belong to the small head species. These include Corydoras elegans, Amblydoras reticulatus, and Scleromystax barbatus.
All three are very tiny catfish that can reach up to about an inch long in adulthood. These particular fish have wide mouths and long whiskers, which give them a cute appearance.
Like most catfish, they prefer calm waters with lots of vegetation and structure. They’re fairly easy to care for since they will eat just about anything you put in front of them.
10. Upside-down Catfish
This catfish is usually around 3 to 4 inches long and can be brown, black, or yellow. These fish live in clear waters and are rarely found in deep waters over 30 feet.
Upside-down catfish have a special organ on their backs compared to other different types of catfish. Their special organ attracts prey, similar to how a flashlight attracts moths at night.
This organ also helps them when there isn’t prey nearby, as they can make their food out of ammonia in water. These fish spend most of their time under ledges and rocks.
You can differentiate upside-down catfish from other types of catfish by looking at its belly. Upside-down catfish have silver bellies while other different types of catfish don’t.
11. Walking Catfish
This catfish’s ability to breathe air allows it to thrive in areas other different types of catfish species cannot. An air-breathing fish must take on enough oxygen when it comes to the surface.
The walking catfish can change its oxygen saturation levels to only absorb what it needs from each breath before diving back down.
They can also live out of water for weeks at a time without drying out or suffering ill effects.
Waterlogged skin suffocates once they are put back into the water, so be careful when handling them! Their long whiskers aid their sense of smell and help them avoid predators.
12. Snail Catfish
This catfish is one of over 250 different types found in freshwaters around all continents except for Antarctica. Most species have protruding snouts, giving them their name.
The snail catfish reaches a maximum length and weight of 25 centimeters and 1 kilogram, respectively.
The snail has a rounded body with large scales and big eyes with prominent eye ridges above them.
The caudal fin is long and thin, while paired fins (dorsal and pectoral) are short and rounded. These fins are in line with each other instead of far apart, as seen in other different types of catfish.
13. Threadfin Catfishes
The threadfin catfishes are a family, Ariidae, of ray-finned fishes closely related to bagrid catfish. They include about 67 species, most in the genera Eucinostomus and Anarius.
They live in rivers throughout tropical Africa and Asia. One species (A. laborious) is native to Brazil and Paraguay, and many are introduced elsewhere as aquariums or food fish.
The threadfin is an active bottom-dweller that eats worms, crustaceans, and insect larvae; larger species may take smaller fish.
Their bodies are elongated and covered in small scales. Like other catfishes, they have strong pectoral fins with which they can walk along the seafloor.
These characteristics make them popular for aquaria, unlike several different types of catfish. Threadfin typically grows to about 16 in, but some species can reach lengths of up to 3 ft.
14. Glass Catfish
This catfish is one of the different catfish species that ranges from Mexico up to Northern South America. The largest specimens have been found in Rio Negro, Venezuela, reaching up to 22 inches long.
Glass catfish are nocturnal bottom-feeders that utilize their specialized sensory pits (located under their eyes).
These sensory pits are used to feel around insects, crustaceans, and smaller fish as they swim along in muddy waters.
In addition, glass catfish possess powerful jaw muscles, which allow them to crush hard shells and consume snails when necessary.
Commercial fishing and sportfishing are popular in areas where glass catfish are native such as along parts of both U.S. coasts and northern South America.
15. Ictalurus Punctatus (Spotted Catfish)
If you see a catfish with big, black spots on its upper body, it’s probably an Ictalurus punctatus (spotted catfish).
It’s a different type of catfish in North America, usually brown or dark gray. It has thick fleshy lips and sharp spines along its dorsal fin.
Despite having these thorns on their fins, they don’t hurt other fish. The Spotted Catfish prefers to live in clear lakes, slow-moving streams, and rivers.
They will hide under rocks during the day and come out to hunt for food at night. Their diet consists of crayfish, insects, and small fish. Their average lifespan is 10 years.
As you can see, there are different types of catfish species. From looks to sizes to temperaments and even locations where they’re found.
Many people want to keep these fish as pets but are worried that they’ll not only be hard to look after.
While it may be true that some types of catfish are harder to care for than others. Gain knowledge about what your fish needs, so that caring for your new pet will not be very difficult.