Bolt Catfish Care Guide: Tank Setup, Feeding, and Maintenance

bolt catfish in an observation tank
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 20, 2024
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The Bolt catfish, noted for their cool lightning bolt-like stripes, make an awesome addition to any freshwater tank. They adjust easily to aquariums and are loved for being super chill. Their striking stripes look like lightning bolts, adding some serious flair to your tank. Naturally living in wild streams, they are a joy to watch as they swim around. Beginners and experienced fish keepers alike will find these catfish thrilling. Curious? Find out how **Bolt catfish** can jazz up your aquarium and why they’re a fantastic pick.

Article Summary

  • Bolt catfish typically grow to 8-10 inches and have a slow growth rate, living for 5-10 years or longer with proper care.
  • Tank setup is crucial for their well-being, with a minimum tank size of 30 gallons, soft substrate, and hiding spots such as driftwood, caves, and plants.
  • They are nocturnal, so providing hiding places in a community tank is important.

Species Overview

The Bolt Catfish, scientifically known as Aguarunichthys torosus, belongs to the Pimelodidae family. Its common name “Bolt Catfish” reflects its torpedo-like body shape. The genus name “Aguarunichthys” pays homage to the Aguaruna people of the Peruvian jungle, while the species name “torosus” describes its muscular physique.


  • Order: Siluriformes
  • Family: Pimelodidae

Origin and Distribution

The Bolt Catfish is primarily found in the Río Marañón within the upper Amazon basin in Peru. There is a possibility that it may also inhabit certain tributaries draining into Peru from Ecuador.

Physical Characteristics of Bolt Catfish (Aguarunichthys torosus)

The Bolt Catfish boasts a distinctive torpedo-like body shape, which aids in swift movement through water. With an average length of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters), it remains relatively compact compared to other catfish species.

Size, Growth Rate, and Lifespan

Bolt Catfish are slow growers and can take several years to reach their full size potential. In captivity, they typically live for 5 to 10 years or even longer with proper care.

Amazon River
Amazon River

Habitat and Tank Conditions

To ensure the well-being of your bolt catfish, it’s crucial to provide them with an appropriate tank setup that mimics their natural habitat. Here are some key factors to consider when creating a suitable environment for your fish.

Tank Size and Set Up

A minimum of 30 gallons (approximately 113 liters) or more is recommended for bolt catfish. These fish require ample space to swim and explore. Providing enough hiding spots is essential as these catfish enjoy having large places to retreat and feel secure.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the right water parameters is vital for the health of your bolt catfish. Aim for a slightly acidic pH level between 6.5 – 7.0, which replicates their natural habitat conditions. It’s also important to keep the water temperature within the range of 75°F and 82°F (24°C – 28°C) to provide optimal comfort for your fish.

Substrate and Decor

When setting up the aquarium for your bolt catfish, consider using a soft substrate like sand or fine gravel. This helps mimic their natural riverbed environment and allows them to sift through it in search of food. Adding driftwood, caves, or plants will create plenty of hiding spots and enrich their surroundings.

In the wild, bolt catfish inhabit slow-moving rivers, streams, and flooded areas with dense vegetation. By recreating these elements in their tank setup, you can provide a stimulating environment that closely resembles their natural habitat.

Remember that maintaining good water quality is crucial for the overall health and well-being of your bolt catfish. Regular monitoring of water parameters such as ammonia levels, nitrate levels, and proper filtration are essential in ensuring a thriving aquatic ecosystem.

White Sand
White Sand

Tankmates and Temperament

Bolt catfish (Aguarunichthys torosus), known for their nocturnal nature, tend to stay hidden during the day but become more active at night when searching for food. To ensure their well-being in a community tank, it is crucial to provide them with adequate hiding places where they can feel secure.

Compatible Tank Mates

When considering tankmates for bolt catfish, it is important to choose peaceful species that won’t outcompete them for food. Small tetras or rasboras are great options as they generally have a calm temperament and won’t pose a threat to the bolt catfish.

Species to Avoid

On the other hand, it is advisable to avoid keeping bolt catfish with aggressively territorial fish species. These types of tankmates may cause stress or even physical harm to the bolt catfish. So, it’s best to steer clear of any potential conflicts by selecting compatible companions.

It’s essential to create an environment where all the fish in your aquarium can coexist peacefully. By carefully selecting compatible tankmates and providing suitable hiding spots for your bolt catfish, you can ensure a harmonious and stress-free aquatic community.

Bolt Catfish Care

To ensure the well-being of your bolt catfish (Aguarunichthys torosus), there are a few key care recommendations to keep in mind. Maintaining good water quality is essential, so it’s recommended to perform regular partial water changes of about 25% every two weeks. This helps remove any accumulated waste and keeps the water clean and healthy for your fish.

Monitoring water parameters regularly using a reliable test kit is crucial for maintaining optimal conditions in the tank. Keep an eye on factors such as pH levels, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels to ensure they remain within suitable ranges for your bolt catfish.

A man scrubbing the fish tank glass
An Aquarists Cleaning A Fish Tank

Naturally Nocturnal

Another important aspect of bolt catfish care is providing them with low lighting conditions in the aquarium. This helps mimic their natural habitat and creates a comfortable environment for them. Avoid bright, intense lighting as it can cause stress to these nocturnal predators.

Food and Diet

In terms of food and diet, bolt catfish are obligate predators that feed on other fishes in nature. To meet their nutritional needs, offer them a varied diet consisting of high-quality sinking pellets. You can also supplement their diet with frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp. Occasional live foods such as small insects or worms can be provided as a treat.

Maintaining proper tank hygiene is vital. Regularly clean the aquarium by removing any uneaten food or debris that may accumulate at the bottom. This helps prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria and reduces the risk of diseases affecting your fish.

Remember that each fish has its own unique requirements and preferences; observing your bolt catfish closely will help you understand their specific needs better.

Breeding the Bolt Catfish

Breeding bolt catfish in captivity can be quite challenging due to their specific requirements. To successfully breed these fascinating fish, it is important to create the right tank set up and follow a careful breeding process.

Recommended Tank Set Up

To encourage successful breeding, it is recommended to create a separate breeding tank for your bolt catfish. This tank should have soft, acidic water conditions similar to their natural habitat in the upper Amazon Basin. Providing suitable spawning sites such as caves or PVC pipes will give the female catfish a safe place to lay her eggs.

Breeding Process

Once the tank is set up, the female bolt catfish will lay her eggs on the chosen surface. The male catfish plays an important role in guarding and protecting the eggs until they hatch. During this time, it is crucial to ensure that water parameters remain stable and suitable for the developing embryos.

Fry Care

After hatching, the fry (baby catfish) require special care and attention. They are initially very small and delicate, so it’s important to provide them with appropriate food sources.

Feeding them small live or frozen foods like baby brine shrimp or micro worms will help them grow strong and healthy. As they mature, gradually introduce prepared foods designed for young fish.

Breeding bolt catfish can be a rewarding experience for fish enthusiasts who are up for the challenge. While it may require some extra effort and attention to detail, seeing your own fry grow into healthy adult catfish can be incredibly satisfying.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big are bolt catfish?

Bolt catfish species, also known as Aguarunichthys torosus, typically grow to be around 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters) in length. However, their size can vary depending on factors such as their environment and care.

What is the 7 classification of catfish?

Catfish are commonly classified into seven families within the order Siluriformes. These seven catfish families are Auchenipteridae, Doradidae, Ictaluridae, Loricariidae, Pimelodidae, Siluridae, and Trichomycteridae. Each family includes various catfish species with distinct characteristics and adaptations.

What fish is similar to a catfish?

Several fish species share similarities with catfish due to convergent evolution. Some fish similar to catfish include loaches, eels, and certain bottom-dwelling gobies. These fish may have analogous traits, such as bottom-feeding habits and a similar body shape, despite belonging to different families and not being closely related to true catfish.

What is the biggest giant catfish?

The Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) holds the title for being the largest catfish species in the world. These massive freshwater fish can reach lengths of up to 10 feet (3 meters) or more and weigh over 600 pounds (272 kilograms). Unfortunately, they are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and overfishing.

What is the world’s strongest catfish?

The title of the world’s strongest catfish is often attributed to the Goonch catfish (Bagarius yarrelli). These powerful predators are known for their muscular build and impressive strength, making them challenging to catch for anglers. Their robust swimming abilities and tenacity in fights make them a formidable species among catfish.

Image Reference

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