do catfish have scales and fins

Do Catfish Have Scales (and Fins)?

Catfish are a marvelous type of fish and can be beneficial to the environment in many ways. If you’ve ever seen or caught a catfish before, you’ll probably know that they are weird creatures compared to other scaly fish normally caught in lakes, rivers, and ponds. You’re probably wondering why catfish don’t have scales like other fish, and what makes them so different?

Do catfish have scales and fins? No, and yes! Catfish do not have scales, their bodies are often naked and slimy-looking, like sharks or dolphins. Catfish do have three fins though, to help them change directions and steer while swimming!

Read on to learn more about why catfish lack scales, discover the three types of catfish fins, catfish bone structure, and catfish reproduction cycles. I also go on to explain the different catfish species, random catfish facts, as well as if catfish are good to eat! Learn a little bit about catfish fishing and the requirements for catfish as pets in ponds and tanks.

Lack of Scales

does catfish have scales

The most specific reason as to why catfish have no scales is simply evolution. Their smooth, rubbery, thick skin took over in place of scales somewhere along their ancestral bloodline.

Now, some breeds of catfish do have plates of bone underneath their skin, which can create a visually bulged or hard-looking effect under the skin.

Unfortunately, most catfishes lack those bony plates and this leaves them more vulnerable to predator attacks. There are no known species of catfish that actually have scales, though.

Catfish Fins

Catfish have three main fins, the anal, adipose, and dorsal fins. The anal fin is obviously located on the underside of the fish and has a long base. The adipose fin is small and fatty, located between the dorsal fin and the tail of the catfish. The dorsal fin is on the back of the catfish and has a single sharp spine on the tip of it.

The pelvic and pectoral fins are paired sets of fins present on catfish as well. Both pectoral fins have a single sharp spine on the tips. On some breeds of catfish, these fins can have poisonous cells excreted from them. It is important to always be cautious where you are touching a catfish, the fins can be dangerous! It is a rumor that catfish “whiskers” or barbels can sting or harm you, they are only pieces of skin.

Catfish Bone Structure

Catfish are known to be a part of the “bony fish” species. Meaning, they have real bones. Catfish have their main bone that looks similar to a spine, and smaller bones off the sides of the main bone that resemble rib bones. Catfish are known for having thick and dense bones. Some catfish even have bone plates around their internal organs for protection.

The other skeletal structure for fish is cartilaginous fish species. Cartilaginous fish do not have any bones, but instead entire systems made only of soft bendable cartilage. Examples of cartilage-only fish are sharks, stingrays, and skates.

Catfish Reproduction

Catfish reproduce through spawning, which is the process of laying and fertilizing eggs. Most species of catfish reproduce relatively similarly, the female will lay her eggs in a nest and the male will fertilize. It is normal for only a few catfish eggs to actually make it to maturity. In their own special way, breeds of catfish typically rely on the male or paternal catfish to protect the eggs and fry during incubation, hatching, and development.

Saltwater catfish practice the technique of mouthbrooding during reproduction, which is when the paternal catfish carries the fertilized eggs around in its mouth until they hatch. This helps protect the eggs from outside predators or natural disasters.

Catfish Species

There are three abundant types of freshwater catfish in the United States. They are; channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. The two most abundant breeds of saltwater catfish in the United States are hardhead catfish and gafftopsail catfish. For freshwater tans, catfish you will often see are Cory catfish or also known as Corydoras. There are thousands of species of catfish all over the world, but this just covers North America’s most popular catfish.

Other Catfish Facts

Catfish are bottom-feeders, mostly eating absolutely anything they can find off of the ocean floor. Catfish get their name from their feline-looking whiskers, also known as barbels. These barbels help the catfish taste and smell when it is hunting for food. They also live up to their name when they are caught, they let out a sound that sounds almost identical to a cat purring.

Do Catfish Jump Out of Water?

Yes, some breeds of catfish do jump out of the water! Most of the time when they are doing this, they are probably attempting to catch their prey. This mouth is shaped especially so that catfish can easily angle themselves upward or downward to shoot themselves at their prey. This sometimes can give them the ability to temporarily shoot up past the surface of the water, if their prey is a flying insect, for example.

Are Catfish Good to Eat?

Yes, catfish are great to eat! Many prefer flathead catfish over any other breed.  This is because flathead catfish mostly eat live smaller fish for their diet, so their meat won’t taste as muddy as other breeds. The most popular ways to prepare catfish are deep-fried, pan-fried, baked, or grilled.

It is not recommended to eat catfish skin, but many enjoy catfish eggs as a delicacy. Catfish eggs are typically pan-fried in bacon grease and served atop buttered toast or an entree.

Catfish Fishing

Catfish fishing is very popular all over the united states, and freshwater is pretty much a professional sport. In saltwater environments, catfish are typically thrown back by professional fishermen. They are usually looking for more high-dollar catches.

The best bait to use for catching catfish is shrimp, worms, minnows, shad, anything bloody or oily, anything with a strong scent, stink bait, leftover food, literally anything you can get on a hook.

Catfish in Tanks

Catfish that are typically seen in freshwater tanks are cory catfish also known as corydoras. Cory catfish require a minimum of at least a 10-gallon tank. You could have six dwarf species of cory catfish in a 10-gallon tank comfortably. For all other varieties or more than six fish, a 20-gallon tank is ideal.

The bottom of the tank should have smooth sand or gravel. The tank ideally should be kept at around 74 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As well, you will need a good filtration system. Catfish are bottom dwellers but thrive with a small current. You can have other fish living in the tanks with them, just make sure it’s a fish breed that mingles well!

Catfish in Ponds

The best conditions for catfish ponds are as follows;

  • At least eight feet deep with pond edges sloping quickly to three feet deep.  Three feet is the minimum depth, the entire pond should be this or deeper.
  • Full of aquatic plants such as fishbone water fern, iris flag, Japanese iris, Egyptian paper plant, umbrella grass, watercress, or water mint.
  • Warmer water 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. They can survive winter temperatures through hibernation. Catfish will enter hibernation when temperatures reach 40-50 degrees.
  • Stones or gravel at bottom of the pond with mud underneath. This way food can get trapped in the stones for them.
  • Some type of aeration or filtration system.

Fish breeds that mingle well with catfish in ponds are danios, gourami’s, guppies, loaches, mollies, platies, plecos, rasboras, swordtails, and tetras. Although these breeds of fish mix well together, they all thrive best with multiples of their own kind.  It is recommended to get at least four to six fish of each breed you want for the highest success of integration. You can also house turtles and frogs in your pond with your catfish, to make for an ultimate nature experience.

Conclusion: Do Catfish Have Scales and Fins?

So yes, catfish do have three main fins and other alternative fins depending on the breed of catfish. These fins help the fish steer and change directions while swimming. Some breeds of catfish have poisonous spines located on their fins that can cause mild stinging. Their barbels are not harmful or poisonous and help the catfish taste and smell.

No breed of catfish has scales. Over time and evolution, catfish lost scales and replaced them with the same rubbery and slippery skin as sharks, dolphins, and whales. There is no true reasoning for this, other than that they just didn’t need them anymore.

Catfish have thick and dense bone structures similar to that of a spinal cord and ribcage. Catfish reproduce through spawning, which is the laying and fertilization of eggs. There are three abundant species of freshwater catfish in Northern America, and two saltwater catfish species. Catfish can jump out of water when attempting to catch their prey. Catfish are great to eat and often enjoyed deep-fried with breading. Catfish fishing is very popular, and catfish can be kept as pets in tank or pond environments.