Walking Catfish | Fish in Aquarium

Walking Catfish


Have you ever seen walking catfishes move on the land to cross a significant distance? Maybe not! But they are one of the widely observed fishes that have a remarkable ability to move on land with their special structure and unique behavior.

Walking catfishes are native to southeast Asia and possess a distinct brown color. They can be dangerous at times with their deadly stings. They can also live for long over water and travel up to 1.2 km on land. These omnivorous catfishes are widely used in the commercial fish marketing trade.


What is a walking catfish?


Freshwater catfish never fail to charm us with their typical behavior and unique anatomy. The walking catfish is one of those widely known freshwater species. They are typically native to southeast Asia.

But do you wonder why these fish are named catfish? Well, that’s because of their ability to walk. They are blessed with the ability to wiggle over dry land in search of food.

However, catfish do not usually move like other bipeds or quadrupeds. They use their pectoral fins to keep their motion upright, which renders them an effective movement on the land. They are typically found slowly moving in stagnant waters or ponds and flooded areas.

Within Asia, this species is widely popular. But outside this native area, they are considered an invasive species.

Walking catfishes tend to consume food supplies of native fish and preys on their young ones. Also, they are known as invasive due to their ability to destroy fish farms.

These catfishes usually have an elongated body shape. Their length reaches up to 0.5 meters. Besides, the appearance of this fish species is quite distinctive, with small white spots all over their body on a greyish or brownish base color.

Are you wondering where their specialty lies? Well, they have much longer dorsal and anal fins. Alongside, they also possess many sensory barbels located on their body. What is more interesting about catfish is that they have scaleless skin covered with mucus to protect them while staying outside water.

Where do walking catfish live?


Walking catfishes are widely known as tropical freshwater fish species. They are native to southeast Asia. These types of catfishes are commonly found in countries like India and Bangladesh. Also, they are widely spread across the Sumatra, Thai-Malay Peninsula, and Borneo Island.

Walking catfishes usually prefer to thrive in stagnant cold water, which is hypoxic. Hence, they are often found in muddy water bodies like canals, ponds, ditches, and other similar aquatic environments.

What do walking catfish eat?


Walking catfishes are usually omnivorous by nature. So, are you thinking, what do they usually eat? Almost everything! They typically prefer to have smaller fishes and mollusks as their diet. Also, they gobble up other invertebrates, insects, worms, etc., in their wild habitat.

Some catfish feed upon aquatic weeds and detritus. They are active eaters and turn voracious when they get a continuous supply of food. Thus, walking catfishes are considered harmful when they act as invasive species.

Do catfish walk on land?


Definitely yes, walking catfishes can walk on land. It is something very interesting about them. Walking catfishes move out of the water body and travel to another place to find food.

Also, when they do not feel good in the current water body, they might decide to move to another place searching for a suitable living space. Whatever the reason may be for their movement, they can swiftly wiggle across the land.

Walking catfishes use their pectoral fins to propel forward. You can find a similar snake-like movement in their motion, which helps them flutter across the land areas. They are primarily seen walking during wet weather conditions such as rainy days or in flooded land.

How far can a walking catfish walk on the land?


Walking catfishes can make remarkable progress on dry land. As already said before, they use their pectoral fin spines as the anchoring agent, which prevents them from jackknifing, thereby helping them to move forward.

A catfish can effectively cover up to 1.2 kilometers on the land while surviving for a long day above the water.

How long do walking catfish live out of water?


Since walking catfish has grown a typical behavior of moving on land, they can live for much longer without water. Usually, Catfish can live for a minimum of 15-18 hours on the ground while staying out of water. Sounds surprising, right!

Can catfish live in dirty water?


Yes, catfishes do absolutely fine in the muddy water! You can easily find them wiggling in the mud in search of food. However, these catfishes require proper water parameters for their living.

Though they can bear an extensive range of water parameters, a balance of water needs to be proper for their better growth.

Do walking catfish have gills?


Similar to all other fishes, walking catfishes also have gills. Their gills have a much-specialized structure, which allows them to breathe underwater.

The gills of walking catfish are usually a flap of tissues that contain capillaries. These blood vessels allow oxygen to get transferred in and out of their body.

As walking catfishes swim, water passes through their gills and comes in contact with the capillaries. It pulls oxygen from the water and transfers it to their blood system.

However, their gills only work in the water. If their gills do not come across any fluid to keep them upright, then the thin tissue present in the gills can collapse.

Nevertheless, walking catfishes have hollow cavities in their gills, comprising air-breathing organs that help them breathe even outside the water.

Are walking catfishes dangerous?


Though walking catfishes are not much deadly in nature, they can be marked as dangerous sometimes. Such a weird nature, right! However, these invasive species can be a bit difficult to handle while caring for them.

catfishes are invaders of aquaculture farms. They tend to eat a large amount of fish stock. Thus, fish farmers in Florida use fences or build levees to keep them away.

Besides, walking catfishes carry a disease called enteric septicemia, which can infect other farmed catfishes. And that’s why fishermen or drivers of the truck transporting brood fish keep them apart from other fishes.

In the context of Florida, though these fish do not have any report regarding the total impact on native species, walking catfishes are pretty pervasive in south Florida. Also, many scientists consider them as one of the most harmful introductions to North America.

Walking catfishes can be deadly and devastating in the pools of wetlands during the dry season. They can quickly become a dominating species in such areas. They have been reported to affect other catfishes and native centrarchids.


Walking Catfish

Why is walking catfish bad?


Well, do you know what sets them apart from other fishes? catfishes have stings near their heads, which work as their unique protective ability.

By using these sharp-pointed organs, they can actually put some native species at risk, especially the natural predators who strive on fishes, such as herons, egrets, and wading birds. Thus, preying on walking catfishes can be highly dangerous.

How many eggs does a walking catfish lay?


Interestingly, walking catfishes can lay a handsome number of eggs if they receive proper care and optimum water conditions. They usually spawn several times during the breeding season and give rise to innumerable offspring.

If a catfish mates for the first time, it will probably lay up to 100 eggs. Usually, they keep laying eggs with a few hours of gap between each session. In the next interval of laying,  catfish can lay up to 500 or more eggs.

The rule of thumb is that they will lay an average of 200 eggs per mating. They usually have four matings per hour. So, with proper amounts of gaps between each laying, a female catfish can lay up to a maximum of 5000 eggs.

Can you eat walking catfish?


Yes, walking catfishes are edible; you can eat them without any worry. The flesh of catfish is much darker than other commercial catfishes available in the market.

These fishes are a good source of sodium, protein, vitamins, and healthy fats with many minerals. They are low on calories and high on protein, which makes them highly nutritious food.

What is the best bait for catfish?


While catching catfishes, you need to use a bait that is completely suitable for enticing them. One of the widely popular bait for walking catfishes is worms. Worms are known to be classic baits for catching catfishes.

Shad and minnows are also widely used for capturing walking catfishes. Besides, stink bait works as a much appealing trap for catfishes.

Since they are omnivores, offering them some meaty foods will entice them much. Any animal meat like chicken pieces can be used as a good bait for eater walking catfishes.



Walking catfishes are undoubtedly one of the unique catfish species, which are abundantly available and often seen walking. Though they are invasive species, they are widely popular in the commercial trade among tropical fish dealers.

So, what are your ideas about this tiny walking fish? Share your views in the comment box below!