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Proper Handling of Aquarium Catfish – Avoiding Painful Pricks and Punctures

PimelodusHello everyone, Craig here again. If you have read some of my previous blogs, you know that I am a catfish fan. If it is weird and ugly, has whiskers and swims, I probably think it is one of the coolest things ever! Last night I was watching River Monsters. One of the trivia questions posed during a commercial break asked the show’s host what fish had given him his most painful injury. Though answer choices ranged included piranhas, catfish and others, and it was indeed the catfish that host Jeremy Wade said had given him his most painful injury. Apparently, one of the 8 inch barbs from an African species of catfish had run through the length of his finger. Having been stuck by my fair share of catfish (though much smaller species), I can say that a catfish spine can be an extremely painful injury with long-lasting effects.

So how about the catfish you have in your home aquarium? Do you have to fear being impaled? I think that it depends on the catfish. Almost all catfish have boney spines on the leading edge of their dorsal and pectoral fins. They may be thin and needlelike or broad, serrated spines. And to be sure, some use them more than
Concalescent Cupothers. Some catfish use the spines can be used in territorial disputes or to defend against other fish stealing their foods. Other species use the spines as a passive defense against predators. Despite their intended purpose, they do have the potential of penetrating skin if handled.

Corydoras catfish, Pimelodus catfish, and Mystus cats are some of the most commonly seen catfishes available to hobbyists. Though each group has sharp spines on their fins, the most notorious, arguably, are of those of the Pimelodus genus. The spines are very sharp and serrated.  Handling these fish with a net is never a good idea, as they get tangled easily, and using your hands to move the fish can result in a nasty wound. If you do happen to find yourself stuck by a spine, clean the wound immediately and apply a topical disinfectant to avoid an infection.

So, how do you move and handle a catfish properly if you shouldn’t use a net? The main reason for avoiding the use of a net is the possibility of the spines becoming entangled. If you must to use a net, try using a very fine-meshed net (like a brine shrimp net). Though it is still likely the fish will still get stuck, it may not become as entangled as with larger mesh.  Once ensnared, it can be next to impossible to free the fish. It is even possible that the spine will be ripped off of the fish as you attempt to release it, causing permanent and probably fatal damage to the fish. We recommend using a plastic container, like the convalescent cup. This can save you (and the fish) a lot of pain. It is definitely worth the money if you need to move or inspect the fish for any reason.

Catfish have always held a special place in many hobbyists’ hearts and aquariums. There special handling requirements should not deter you from enjoying them. Just make sure that you have what it takes to keep you and your beloved catfish from being injured.  Common sense, some simple tools and plenty of patience helps keep everyone safe!

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