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Brown Bullhead

Ameiurus nebulosus

The brown bullhead has four pairs of dark, whisker-like barbels around the mouth. (James Dowling-Healey/Animal Diversity Web)
The brown bullhead has four pairs of dark, whisker-like barbels around the mouth. (James Dowling-Healey/Animal Diversity Web)

The brown bullhead is a smooth-skinned catfish with a mottled, brownish body and whisker-like barbels around the mouth. It lives in slow-moving ponds, streams and rivers throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

The brown bullhead grows to about one foot long, but can be as long as 20 inches. Its olive or yellowish-brown body is mottled with brown or black. It has a yellowish-white belly. It is smooth-skinned with a broad, flat head and four pairs of dark, whisker-like barbels around its mouth. Sharp spines appear on its dorsal and pectoral fits, and its tail fin is squared.

Habitat:

Bottom-dweller that lives in fresh and slightly brackish waters, including shallows, clear pools and deeper areas. Prefers slow-moving waters with a soft bottom and lots of vegetation.

Range:

Found in ponds, lakes, streams and rivers throughout the Bay watershed.

Feeding:

Brown bullheads are bottom-feeders that eats algae, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, crayfish and other fish, using their long barbels to taste for prey.

Predators:

Larger predatory fish may prey upon brown bullheads, especially young.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawning occurs from April through June. The parents build a nest in a dark, protected area such as under a rock or inside a hollow, submerged log. The female lays her eggs into the nest. Both parents guard the eggs and young. Brown bullheads can live as long as 7 years.

Other Facts:

  • Considered to be a delicious fish to eat
  • Catfish have poor eyesight, so they rely on their sensory barbels to find prey

Sources and Additional Information:

  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
  • Chesapeake Bay: Nature of the Estuary, A Field Guide by Christopher P. White
  • Brown Bullhead – Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Brown Bullhead – Florida Museum of Natural History



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