How Big Do Pictus Catfish Grow In Size?

The wonder of the aquarium world is way beyond your imagination and the questions are truly never-ending. Out of few wonders, Pictus catfish definitely have a unique spot regarding their characteristics. These pretty, as well as entertaining scavengers, would happily live and swim around in your planted aquarium without making any fuss. Pictus catfish is one of the smallest catfish in the world of freshwater catfish and yet we are confused about their growth rate and size. How big do Pictus catfish actually grow?

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Pictus catfish are known to be 2 to 3 inches big in length when they are juveniles while they can grow up to 4.5 to 5 inches in size in their adult years. However, there are various reports that show they have exceeded this size and reached up to 6 inches or even more in the wild.

There are various factors and issues that determine how big your Pictus catfish can grow. Tank size, water parameters, food, tank mates, and even the genetics of the fish play the role of determining factors.

A single within these factors can make your fish end up as a dwarf one among the other big Pictus catfish.

That’s why, to subside the issues and help Pictus catfish grow big properly, I have written an article entirely dedicated to solving all the queries regarding their size.

Hope this will help you raise your Pictus catfish smoothly.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

How Big Do Pictus Catfish Grow?

Have you ever had a sudden heart attack where you saw a cute little fish turning into something big within the interval of few months?

Trust me, I have been there. Back when I was a beginner I had a friend who was kind of like an expert in fish keeping.

I had been visiting her quite often as I was making way more mistakes while raising my neon tetras. She had this cute little shoal of Pictus catfish in her home aquarium and I always thought that her aquarium was way big for those small fish.

I didn’t question her or anything and just quietly enjoyed sightseeing those small 2 inches Pictus catfish in the tank.

Now, I was doing fine on my own for a few months and had no reason to visit her again. However, one of my neon tetras started acting weird and I had to get some expert advice i.e., from my friend of course.

I sent her pictures and she suggested me to use some medicine and I did. After everything was normal, I asked her about her Pictus catfish, and when she sent me their pictures I was stunned.

They were way bigger than the time I last saw them. To the girl who was used to raising small fish like neon tetra, believe me, these Pictus were kind of like a big deal.

Size Of Pictus Catfish In The Wild

Firstly I will let you know about their size in the wild where are free and within their own natural territory.

Don’t be shocked or worried about their size in the wild as these fish are quite smaller in the aquarium. With that said, let me tell you what most reports say about these Pictus Catfish.

You will find various reports that show the wild Pictus catfish grow up to 6 inches. And that’s not it. There are so many examples where the researchers have found Pictus catfish that are longer than 6 inches.

Don’t worry, there is a slight difference in the growth rate of the wild Pictus catfish and aquarium-bred Pictus catfish.

Size Of Pictus Catfish In The Aquarium

Now, the very thing you need to know if you are planning to keep Pictus Catfish in your home aquarium.

Your Pictus catfish is quite amazing as it can grow up to 4.5 to 5 inches. But this one has a catch to it. You cannot just get a 5 inches big Pictus catfish out of the blue, now can you?

When you first get them from the pet store they will be barely 2 to inches in size. The growth starts afterward and after few months you will be able to see a bigger one.

They only grow big and healthy when you take care of them properly. These fish ask for certain water4 parameters and diet in order to grow into adult ones.

If you ever see a Pictus Catfish with 5 inches in size, then understand you are looking at adult ones. And if they are smaller, they might have some room to grow more.

How Long Does It Take For A Pictus Catfish To Grow?

People often ask me about the growth rate of fish but many barely ask about the time fish need to attain their full size.

Every fish is different and each of them needs a different time limit before they turn into a bigger adult. Pictus catfish are no different and there is actually no certainty when they will grow fully.

However, we can talk about the time period when it is probable for them to attain their full potential in terms of size.

If you are careful enough and giving your Pictus catfish everything they ask, then there is no doubt these fish will grow into bigger ones within a year.

To attain their maximum size and grow into a healthy adult, Pictus catfish needs nearly 8 months to 12 months.

Sometimes the water parameters, right tank mates, tank condition, and of course healthy diet do wonder and these catfish grow quite faster.

While some of these might take an entire year to reach the size 5 inches and it is not even certain if they will reach this size or not.

A little complication in the tank conditions or inadequate diet will lead to malnutrition and health hazards.

This health hazard and malnutrition lead to a slower growth rate or even no growth rate sometimes. So, for the first year of their life, you need to be delicate, punctual, and careful with every little need.

Factors That Affect How Big Pictus Catfish Grow

The dos and don’ts related to fishkeeping follow you around despite the change in the type of fish.

You can never outrun the things you need to do when you take fish keeping as a hobby. Each fish have a different need and each of them asks for a different care level.

Even if the fish is ideal for beginners, there are certain rules to follow and certain demands to meet. Pictus catfish are no different and ask for specific things to happen in the tank for them to grow properly into their bigger self.

You might be surprised when you see how small things that we are used to foreseeing make such a big impact on Pictus catfish growth.

Now, let me tell you all the factors that will directly impact the growth rate of your Pictus Catfish. These simple yet important things will determine how big your Pictus catfish will grow in captivity.

Tank Size

Do you want your Pictus catfish to go head-butting on the aquarium glass for the entire day? I know you don’t want that.

This will happen when the tank you are keeping your Pictus catfish is smaller for them. You might be surprised to know that even one single fish of this species needs an entire tank of capacity of 50-gallons.

I have seen people go for a 10-gallons tank and regret it later. The suffocation they feel in the smaller tank is not something you and I can understand.

Do not mistake the size of the tank and place your Pictus in a smaller one just because you see your Pictus catfish smaller in size.

They grow unpredictably within the interval of few months and will overgrow the smaller tank. This will make them suffer internally as the organs keep growing despite the outer under development.

Hence, they will never grow fully and stay uncomfortable if you forcefully leave them in a smaller tank than 50-gallons.

You might like to acquire more knowledge about How To Set A 50-Gallon Fish Tank?


There are two things you need to keep in mind while feeding your Pictus fish: first is they are nocturnal and second is they are omnivorous.

These two are quite important when it comes to feeding your catfish and I will tell you why. The nocturnal living being will not feed during the daylight and will only show their magic when it is night and very dim-lit.

Food is the basic source of energy and no living being can survive without food. Even to do the slightest and smallest of the task or to operate every system of the body, living beings need food.

And if you try to0 feed the Pictus catfish during the daytime then they will not come forward from the hiding place and eat it.

That’s why you need to place food in the bottom of the tank for these bottom feeders when you turn off the light in the aquarium.

You can go for any food you like as these fish will eat anything you give them. Sinking pellets to live food, you can go for anything you like them to have.

But remember to alternate food every day as these fish won’t like having the same food every single day, oops I meant night.

I have also written an article on Fish Food 101: A Beginner’s Guide On How To Feed Aquarium Fish

Tank Mates

Bullying can be equally traumatic for your fish as it is for any human being. We often underestimate the impact of bullying and incompatibility between tank mates thinking fish won’t feel anything.

But listen to me and listen carefully, your fish is equally and even more sensitive when it comes to bullying. They will start to lose their appetite and start to go into depression.

The stress and degrading mental health will impact the physical growth of your fish. So, while choosing a tank mate for your Pictus catfish, remember to ignore aggressive and voracious fish.

Even the overly active fish will injure these bottom-dwellers. Also, the larger fish that are capable to eat these Pictus catfish is a big No.

You need to be really picky and careful; when it comes to choosing tank mates for your Pictus catfish. And also remember to keep them in a shoal of at least 6 so that they don’t feel alone and get aggressive.

Shoaling fish tends to feel lonely when you keep in a tank with no mates of their kind. This will not only hinder their health but also their growth.


Sometimes genes of the parents’ fish betray the offspring and don’t let them grow to their full potential. There is a high chance of having a smaller Pictus catfish if their parents were smaller than usual.

You cannot blame yourself or your care level if your fish doesn’t grow up to the ideal size. This can happen to anyone and most of the time it is quite rare for wild Pictus catfish to grow even smaller than 4.5 inches in the aquarium.

Aquarium-bred catfish are supposedly way more adapted to aquarium life and they pass the same gene to their offspring.

The size consequently and consistently decreases when the fish is raised in captivity time and again. You can clearly see the example with the difference in the size of wild Pictus Catfish and aquarium catfish.

It is quite pre-determined for these Pictus catfish to grow up to 5 inches and when you keep them in a tank smaller than 50-gallon, you will constantly see them struggling for growth.

The outer layer might not grow but their internal organs will keep on growing. Genetics isn’t something that will change over simple mistakes and your fish will make an effort till the last to follow nature.

Water Parameters

People often underestimate the power water parameters hold against the well-being of your fish, let alone their growth.

I have seen people getting careless when it comes to changing the water in the tank with Pictus Catfish. You need to make sure each and every aspect of water parameters are optimum.

Firstly you have to change 25 to 30 percent every week in order to maintain the optimum water quality. Remember to not overdo it as to much water change can be harmful to your fish.

Also, the temperature needs to within the limit of 75 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit and the pH value needs to be between 7.0 and 7.5.

You have to install a good aquarium filtration system as well as a high-quality aquarium heater to maintain the water quality all the time.

Simple complications in the water parameters will make your Pictus catfish stressed and sick. This stress and sickness will be followed by diseases and loss of appetite.

The end result of all this chaos is the death of your dear Pictus Catfish let alone the hindrance on their growth.

If you fail to maintain ideal water parameters, the growth rate of Pictus catfish will slow down. You might end up with a dwarf and under-developed as well as sick Pictus catfish.

Frequently Asked Questions

I know the questions related to Pictus Catfish can be never-ending as well as nerve-wracking. So, I have brought some of the FAQs together and tried to answer them for you to loosen some of your burdens. Hope this helps.

Can A Pictus Catfish Live In A 10 Gallon Tank?

Can you imagine keeping a big shoaling fish in a smaller tank? That is straightforward cruelty. Imagine living in a one-bedroom apartment with 12 other members of your family. So you seriously think you will survive. We are past the world war phase and definitely want a better lifestyle than that.

The same happens with your Pictus catfish when you keep them in a 10-gallon tank. So, here is a straightforward answer: No, Pictus catfish cannot live in a 10-gallon tank.

The minimum tank size your shoaling fish asks for to live along with its shoal of 6 is 50-gallons. If you go for anything less than this, you might end up with unhealthy, undergrown, or even dead fish.

You can’t force your fish to confide in a space where they cannot even breathe properly. You might think they will adapt looking at their juvenile size but Trust me, this risk isn’t worth it.

Are Pictus Catfish Aggressive?

Well, the aggression of Pictus catfish depends on your definition of aggression. If you consider an omnivore that might eat of your smaller fish in the same tank aggressive, then yes Pictus catfish are aggressive.

However, if you are talking about getting territorial or inviting other fish for a duel, then this is not what Pictus catfish does.

These catfish mind their own business most of the time and are generally non-aggressive. They will not start a fight with other fish that are too large for them to eat.

You need to, however, keep small fish like neon tetras away from these catfish. They will eat up your smaller fish that will undoubtedly fit in their mouth.


In conclusion, Pictus catfish is the right choice for you if you are looking to keep a smaller version of catfish. These catfish might not grow as big as other catfish but they sure are entertaining to keep. The love for scavengers can be fulfilled when you go for this specific catfish. Neither do these catfish grow bigger in size nor will they create any fuss in the tank. If you are a beginner and have a desire to keep a bottom feeder along with some top-dwelling fish, go for Pictus catfish.

But remember these fish too need specific water parameters and proper tank size. When you fail to meet their optimum need, you might end up with unhealthy, sluggish, or even dead fish. You need to be careful about those fish too which have very minimal demands.

You will be fine if you take care of the factors I have mentioned above. Be careful and attentive and you will barely have any problem in the tank.

If you still have queries related to these Pictus Catfish or any other fish, do ask or drop a comment below. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Good Luck!!

Happy Fishkeeping!!!

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