What do catfish Eat? (9 Best Food to Feed Catfish)

catfish food - what do catfish eat

Once you enter the catfish farming business, the next question that often comes to mind is “what do catfish eat?”

Why would that be a bother?

Feeding your catfish the wrong diet will not just lead to malnutrition, it will sap your business down.

Firstly, you lose a lot of money, and secondly, you will have a heap of dead stinking fish every morning to pile away.

Whichever one you get to face, it can be seemingly avoided simply by understanding what catfish eat.

We also recommend you check out “what do chickens eat?” if you have a poultry farm as well.

Here’s a guide that will save you from imminent losses on your catfish farm.

So, what do catfish eat? Find out more below!!!

catfish food - what do catfish eat

What do catfish eat?

Catfish can eat fish, snails, frogs, clams, and mollusks in their natural habitat. They can also eat other smaller mammals like birds that they catch off the surface of their pond.

Besides the food they eat in their natural habitat, they also feed on commercial feed when in captivity.

Below is a perfect description of some of the kinds of food that catfish can eat;

1. Commercial fish food:

Commercial fish food is the ideal food to feed catfish in captivity to help them grow faster and healthier.

For the baby fries, feed them high-protein fish flakes. 

But for larger catfish, pellet commercial fish foods are perfect to keep them healthy.

2. Catfish can feed on smaller fish:

When next you think “what do catfish eat”, know that they eat fish too.

They usually eat fish that are smaller than them.

Because they are scavengers, they also nibble on the carcasses of larger fishes.

3. Insects:

Gladly, catfishes will eat insects of all types. 

This includes crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, dragonfly larvae, water beetles, fly larvae, and mosquito larvae. 

However, it’s mostly the young catfish that feed on aquatic insects.

4. Crustaceans:

Large catfishes feed on the crustaceans they find in their natural environment.  

Crustaceans include animals such as crabs, decapods, lobsters, crawfish, water flies, water fleas, etc

5. Aquatic plants:

Catfish do eat plants.  

Aquatic plants such as algae, lotus plants, water lettuce, etc are eaten by catfishes.

6. Fruits and vegetables:

Catfish farmers are often advised to offer their fishes fruits and vegetables.

This is to ensure that they get enough nutrients.  

You can offer them raw or cooked veggies. 

Catfishes prefer fruits such as apples, bananas, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, etc

7. Blood:

Blood? Are catfishes vampires?

Well not literally, but some species such as the Candiru are parasitic.

The Candiru will latch on its prey and feed on its blood.

8. Small animals:

Catfishes are good at hunting and eating small animals such as mice, lizards, small birds, frogs, and many others.  

When either of the above falls into a catfish pond, they are in for some scavenger hunt. 

9. Dead animals:

Catfish also feed on dead animals also known as carrion.

So, next time you find a dead catfish in your pond, instead of removing the carcass, you can just allow your fish to feed on it.

Also, if you run a poultry farm and you experience a lot of chicken mortality, you can dump the carcass in the pond for your catfish to feed on.

Common types of catfish and their feed

Types of catfishWhat they eat
Flathead CatfishFish
Channel CatfishFish
Small mammals
Small birds such as pigeons
Blue CatfishFish 
Large invertebrates.
North African CatfishPlanktons
Dead animals
Loricariidae catfishWood 
Common types of catfish and their feed

How do I feed my catfish?

To feed catfish, all you have to do is dunk some food in the tank. That’s all. No stress!

They can eat the food from the water’s surface.

However, you must make sure not to throw too much food into the pond so that when they are full, the leftovers will not pollute the pond water.

The Catfish appetite

Before we venture into what catfish do eat, it’s ideal you understand the catfish appetite.

Catfish eat just about anything food.

They can scavenge for their food by themselves if they live in the sea. 

They prefer fresh food but will also eat available dead animals/fish.

But now, you have them confined in a pond, you will have to feed them through a planned meal course.

And what this means is that you will have to feed them to their appetite while in the freshwater sea.

But do not worry, because they are opportunistic feeders, they will adapt to the food that is currently available.

How do catfish eat?

The mechanism by which catfish eat is quite interesting.

Unlike most other fishes, the barbells on the catfish come in handy when they eat.

When the catfish scavenge for food, their barbells are used to locate prey.

The barbels of the catfish are both taste and smell-sensitive.

It has a high odor-detecting ability that can sniff out prey where visibility is low in the water.

Generally, it helps them find food in the dark muddy waters.

Once they locate the prey, they gulp it in split seconds.

Frequently asked questions about what catfish do eat

What kind of feed do I feed my catfish in the pond?

Catfish in the pond are not used to most of the above diet because you confined them.

And because you want them to grow faster than normal, it’s ideal to feed them on catfish feeds with some of the above as supplements.

So why do I feed my catfish in the pond?

You feed your pond catfish: catfish pellets.

These pellets are specially formulated to include a protein concentration between 28 – 32%.

Do young catfish eat the same as adult catfish?


Just like in poultry farming, day-old chicks have a peculiar feed, pullets have their type of feed as well as the older chickens.

The same applies to catfish farming.

Young catfish and adult catfish have differing diets.

According to a study done in Central Italy on Chanel catfish, young and adult catfish do not have the same diet.

However, the male and males and female catfishes have similar diets.

Why’s that?

First, the stomach of a young catfish can only break down plants and phytoplankton.

Whereas the older catfish break down small fishes and red swamp crayfish. 

Based on this research, we can deduce that as the catfishes grow, their stomachs get to handle larger food sizes.

Therefore, as the catfishes grow old, they will consume more quantity of food.

When do catfish eat?

Depending on the type of catfish species, their active period will differ at different times of the day.

Some species are nocturnal, and as such prefer to come out at night to feed eg the African catfish.

On the other hand, some other species feed in the daytime.

How Often Do Catfishes Eat?

When the catfishes are young, they find all time. 

This is so because they energy to grow compared to the already mature species.

Mature catfishes on the other hand feed less. 

What do catfish eat in captivity?

In captivity, catfish eat commercial fish foods

What do baby catfish eat?

Baby catfishes are called larvae.  

When the catfish matures a bit, they are called fry. 

Baby catfishes eat algae, plant matter, detritus, crustaceans, fish larvae, and many others.  

How much do catfish eat?

A catfish needs to eat about 2.5% of its body weight per day.  

But no amount of feed is enough.

The more they eat, the bigger they grow.

And big fishes make more sales in the market.

And that means more cash for you.

Do catfish bite?

No, they do not.

Catfish do not have teeth to start with.

But their hard gums can grind foods.

What is the list of what catfishes eat?

Here’s a list of what catfishes eat;

  • Snails
  • Clams
  • Algae
  • Frogs
  • Detritus
  • Shrimp
  • Seagrass
  • Crayfish
  • Small fish
  • Blue Crabs
  • Catfish feed
  • Aquatic Insects
  • Sea Cucumbers
  • Phytoplankton


Knowing what a catfish eats is one way to have fat-looking fish when it’s time to sell them off.

The more a fish eats the more fat it becomes and that is generally good for the catfish farming business.

We’d like to hear from you, what do you feed your catfish?


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  1. Wow nice reading this.
    Thanks for keeping this here.

    1. Mbazu Chibuzor says:

      You are welcome.

  2. This is an interesting and informative article on the dietary needs of catfish, providing valuable information for those who keep or plan to keep these fish in their aquariums.

  3. threads Bay says:

    I love reading about different types of food that can be fed to different types of fish. This is a great article!

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