Glass Catfish – Habitat, Care, Feeding, Tank Size, Breeding

Glass catfish are unique types of fish that add beauty and life to every aquarium. Their transparent bodies have been catching attention to both armature and experienced aquarists.

Glass catfish, also known as ghost catfish or Phantom catfish, are calm in nature, and active swimmers that love to swim in a group around the bottom and the middle sections of the tank.

They grow to a maximum size of around 5 inches and have a lifespan of approximately 7 to 8 years. They were originally found in South Asia, in slow moving streams and rivers.

In this article, we shall discuss their appearance, habitat, feeding, water and tank requirements, compatibility with other fish and breeding to help take care of your glass catfish.


Glass catfish are a marvel to watch. They have a long slender body with a clear appearance that lets you see through to their bones and internal body organs. Along their bodies, you can see their central spine, and ribs that are aligned vertically across their bodies.

The glass catfish’s tail and ventral fins have a clear appearance also, which make them almost invisible.  These two fins help the fish to swim up and down in water. Their dorsal fin is located on the upper side of their body.  Unlike the tail and ventral fins, the dorsal fin is easier to identify, it is slightly raised on the upper side of the fish.

Like any other catfish, glass catfish also have barbels on their head. These barbels extend out from their nose past their face. They look like they have whiskers, hence the name catfish. Barbels make catfish very sensitive to their environment, with some catfish even sensing electromagnetic waves.

The clear appearance is not only fancy and unique, it also a self-defense mechanism that makes it hard for their predators to see them.


In their natural habitat, glass catfish reside in slow moving rivers and streams. They mostly swim near the river beds for safety reasons and rarely go into the deep ends.

When water visibility gets low in the water tank or rivers, they use their sensory organs, barbels, to find their way in the water. While keeping the glass catfish in an aquarium, it is important to reciprocate their natural habitat, in order to help them remain calm and feel at home.


Glass catfish are omnivorous. While in the wild, they feed on mosquito larvae, small fish such as baby guppies, small worms and zooplankton. In an aquarium, you can feed your glass catfish on frozen and dried foods such as Daphnia, brine shrimp, blood shrimp, vegetables, Moina, grindal worms, pellets or flakes.

To ensure your glass catfish are healthy and happy, feed them two to three times a day. Ensure you feed them as much food as they can finish within a couple of minutes. This is to ensure there are no left over food that will cause increased algae and bacteria amounts in the tank.

In addition, since glass catfish are shy, ensure they are not bullied by their tank mates and denied food.

Water and Tank Requirements

Glass catfish are very sensitive to changes in their environment. Fluctuating changes in water temperature, PH level or other chemicals can lead to death. As a result, glass catfish are hard to take care for and are not recommended for beginner aquarists with no experience in fish rearing.

Glass catfish thrive well in water conditions of; moderate water flow, PH level of 6.5 to 7.0, water temperature of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and water hardness of KH 8 to 12. These water conditions are not guidelines; however, they should be followed keenly to ensure the fish is living comfortably.

Glass catfish are shy, as a result, they love swimming together in a group. To ensure they have ample space to swim around, a minimum aquarium size of 30 gallons is recommended for 6 glass catfish. The tank should also have water plants such as Java Fern or Java Moss.

These plants will not only clean the water but also provide hiding spaces for the fish. You can also add small gravel or sand in the aquarium, however, watch out for sharper substrate that could harm the fish.


As mentioned earlier, glass catfish are social types of fish. They love living together in a group. Keeping one glass catfish can lead to health related issues caused by stress.

Glass catfish live comfortably in a community tank. Fish such as tetras, red tailed shark, Hachetfish and swordfish are perfect tank mates for glass catfish. They are all peaceful, calm and will not compete or bother each other.

On the other hand, larger and more aggressive fish such as sharks, tiger barbs, Oscars and Cichlids are not a perfect match for glass catfish. They are aggressive, highly competitive and chances are they will attack and eat your glass catfish.


The most challenging task in breeding glass catfish is to identify females from male. However, generally, females have a slightly larger stomach compared to males. In the wild, glass catfish spawn during the monsoon season, but it is still unknown on how to breed them in captivity.

To replicate the natural habitat, lower the temperature in your tank to about 73 degrees Fahrenheit then add fresh water into the tank daily.

If the glass catfish breeds well, you will see eggs spread on the plants throughout the tank. The eggs will hatch after two to three days into the fry. The fry is small but large enough to eat baby brine shrimp.


Fish keeping has always been fun and rewarding for most aquarists. However, it is an art that requires patience and being informed.

With a delicate fish such as glass catfish, it is important to keep water parameters in the preferred range always, failure to which can lead to death of the fish. However, although they are hard for beginners, glass catfish will give your aquarium an exceptional look.

Updated: February 24, 2020

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