The term “catfish” covers a wide range of fish with whisker-like protuberances around their faces. You have likely seen a picture of fishermen catching absolutely massive catfish, but just how old are these whiskered giants?
So, how old do catfish get? In captivity, most smaller species of catfish can live around twenty-five years, while larger species of catfish can live upwards of forty years.
It’s important to know that not all catfish are created equally when it comes to aging. Catfish can come with a diverse range of lifespans and weights. Keep reading to learn more about some of the oldest and largest catfish in existence.
How Long Do Catfish Live For?
The lifespan of a catfish differs greatly depending on the species of catfish. You may be shocked to learn that there are over three thousand species of catfish, and they have widely different lifespans depending on the fish.
Catfish can live for a considerably long time, but that does not mean that they frequently reach old age. Catfish of all species raised in captivity will live for a longer time than their wild counterparts because they don’t have to fight for resources or worry about predators.
Being raised in captivity, as opposed to the wild, can, on average, increase the lifespan of a fish by ten or more years.
Blue catfish are a common river catfish in the United States. The majority of Blue catfish live around ten years, but they have been recorded to live upwards of twenty-five years of age.
If you want to catch a Blue catfish, you are in luck. Blue catfish have been stocked for fishing in almost twenty states and live freely in most of the United State’s major rivers.
If you love to fish for catfish in the U.S., then you have likely reeled in a Flathead. Flathead catfish are an invasive species that inhabit rivers, lakes, and streams all over the United States.
Flathead catfish can live up to twenty-eight years, which means they fall in the middle range of years that a catfish can live.
Channel catfish have been discovered to live up to twenty-four years of age, but it is suspected that they are capable of reaching even older years.
The majority of Channel catfish reside in the Great Lakes region of the United States and are typically caught for sport.
What is the Oldest Catfish Ever Caught?
It is extremely difficult to say the age of the oldest catfish ever caught since the majority of all catches will go unrecorded or. Even if a catch is recorded, it doesn’t mean that scientists will analyze it to determine the age of the fish. It is still possible to speculate which type of catfish may have been the oldest caught and estimate how old it might have been.
There is a strong likelihood that the Wels catfish is the oldest catfish ever caught. Scientists predict that the Wels catfish can live up to eighty years. Whether a Wels catfish can reach that age in their natural environment is still not completely known.
How Large Can Catfish Grow?
Similar to their lifespans, the size of catfish varies depending on the species. Some species of common tank catfish may only reach a couple of inches in length at maturity. However, the largest catfish ever caught on record is the Mekong giant catfish at a whopping six hundred and forty-eight pounds and nine feet in length.
Here is a list of some of the largest growing catfish species:
The Piraiba catfish can grow to the truly monstrous size of around five hundred pounds if left to the right conditions. This enormous creature can be up to twelve feet in length making them a truly worthy opponent of fishermen.
The Wels catfish can not only live for a surprisingly long time but can also grow to massive proportions. Wels catfish can weigh up to forty-four pounds and reach a length of around ten feet.
The Wels catfish is home to Eurasia and lives primarily in fresh or brackish waters. However, this fish doesn’t reside solely in Eurasia, as it has been declared an invasive species in a multitude of different countries.
Also referred to as the Giant Devil catfish, the Goonch finds its home in southern India and Southeast Asia. The Goonch catfish can reach up to around six and a half feet in length.
The largest Goonch catfish caught on record weighed in at one hundred and sixty-five pounds and was caught on the show Fish Warrior. It is still likely that larger Goonch have been caught and that even larger Goonch exist in the wild.
Mekong Giant Catfish
The Mekong Giant catfish rightfully earns its name and is truly the giant of the catfish world. As mentioned previously, it currently holds the record for the largest catfish ever caught.
The Mekong Giant Catfish can grow up to ten feet in length and is named one of the world’s largest freshwater fish. Tragically, the fish has been declared critically endangered due to overfishing so it is unsure when another terrific catch might ever be made.
Do Catfish Stop Growing?
Fish never technically stop growing, but they do meet specified lengths at maturity. Fish may never cease to grow, but age will slow their growth rate phenomenally.
The maturity of a fish is determined by whether they are capable of reproducing. The age at which catfish reach maturity differs across species and often correlates positively with their maximum size. The Blue catfish, a mid-sized species, reaches sexual maturity between four to seven years of age.
The maximum recorded lengths of catfish are ever-changing as larger and larger fish are pulled from the water over time. This is why fishing for catfish can be such an exciting sport, as you never know when the next record will be broken.
The best way of discovering accurately how large a smaller catfish can become is by allowing them to reach old age unhindered by other predators in captivity. Unfortunately, this method is extremely difficult or completely impossible to execute with massive-sized catfish like the Wels, Mekong Giant, and Goonch because they would be hard to support in a captive environment.
How Do You Determine a Catfish’s Age?
You may be asking, “how can people know the age of a catfish?” The truth is that it isn’t as easy to age a catfish as most other fish.
Catfish can be a difficult fish to age because scale length is frequently used in determining the age of other fish, but catfish are notoriously scaleless. This doesn’t mean that discovering the age of catfish is impossible.
To find the age of a specific catfish, scientists cut slices out of the fish’s spine or other bony structures and measure the rings, or annuli, within the fish’s bones.
There is a lot of effort that goes into creating more accurate statistics for the maximum age and weight of different catfish species. What is certain when it comes to unraveling the mystery of catfish behemoths, is that there are plenty of chances to get your line into the water and reel in a new record.