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 fins, and its tail fin is squared.
Brown bullheads are bottom-feeders that eat algae, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, crayfish and other fish, using their long barbels to taste for prey.
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.
Did You Know?
- The brown bullhead is 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