White Catfish

Ameiurus catus

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Size

    White catfish are the smallest of all catfish species in North America. Their size averages between 12-13 inches in length and they rarely exceed a weight of 6 pounds.

  • Habitat

    White catfish inhabit both brackish and freshwater bodies of water such as open channels, rivers, freshwater lakes and ponds. They prefer slow-moving waterways and sluggish and mud bottomed areas. Catfish can tolerate degraded environments more than other fish species and can live in areas with low oxygen levels.

  • Range

    These catfish are native to Atlantic waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. They range all the way from New York to Florida.

  • Diet

    Small fish, aquatic insects, small crustaceans, fish eggs and underwater plants.

  • Lifespan

    14 years
  • Status

    Stable

White catfish are members of the bullhead catfish family, Ictaluridae.

Appearance

The white catfish has a large head with a muscular body. Its white chin with four pairs of whisker-like barbells at the end help distinguish it from other catfish species. This fish has a body with a light bluish-gray color and a white underbelly. Its tail is moderately forked with rounded lobes at the end.

Feeding

White catfish are omnivorous and have a broad appetite. Adults favor eating other fish but also consume crustaceans, insects and aquatic plants. Although white catfish are less nocturnal than other catfish species, they are still known to feed at night.

Predators

The white catfish is a favorite food source for predators such as ospreys and eagles.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Spawning occurs nearby gravel or sand banks where the water is either still or flowing in the early summer. Ideal water temperatures range between 68-72 Fahrenheit. Fish nests are large and usually include several thousand eggs. Both parents tend to the eggs for about 6 to 7 days until the eggs finally hatch. Males have been known to remain watching the baby fish or fry until they stop schooling and separate from one another. For white catfish, it takes 3 to 4 years to reach maturity and they have a life span of about 14 years.

Did You Know?

  • Catfish have many external taste buds located on their barbells
  • Catfish do not make migrations
  • They do not have scales
  • They are often referred to as “white bullheads”
  • The white catfish is the smallest catfish in North America

Sources and Additional Information

Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Maryland Fish Facts

The Virginia Tech Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Conservation - White catfish, the original catfish of the Chesapeake Bay

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources - White Catfish

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Size

    White catfish are the smallest of all catfish species in North America. Their size averages between 12-13 inches in length and they rarely exceed a weight of 6 pounds.

  • Habitat

    White catfish inhabit both brackish and freshwater bodies of water such as open channels, rivers, freshwater lakes and ponds. They prefer slow-moving waterways and sluggish and mud bottomed areas. Catfish can tolerate degraded environments more than other fish species and can live in areas with low oxygen levels.

  • Range

    These catfish are native to Atlantic waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. They range all the way from New York to Florida.

  • Diet

    Small fish, aquatic insects, small crustaceans, fish eggs and underwater plants.

  • Lifespan

    14 years
  • Status

    Stable