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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)
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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:

  • Olive or yellowish-brown body mottled with brown or black
  • Yellowish-white belly
  • Smooth-skinned
  • Broad, flat head
  • Four pairs of dark, whisker-like barbels around the mouth
  • Squared tail fin
  • Sharp spines on dorsal and pectoral fins
  • Usually grows to about one foot long, but can be as long as 20 inches

Habitat:

  • 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
  • Bottom-dweller

Range:

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

Feeding:

  • Bottom-feeder
  • Eats algae, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, crayfish and other fish
  • Uses its long barbels to taste for prey

Predators:

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

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns from April-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.
  • 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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