April 5

Glass Catfish – Care, Feed, Breeding and Diseases Guide


Glass catfish are ray-finned freshwater species with a transparent body, meaning their internal organs are visible. They are one of the many wonders of Southeast Asian waters, and they are known to be very peaceful.

They are active swimmers that love going about in a shoal around the bottom and middle layers of the tank. They thrive in a tank with a moderate or slow flow. Their lack of pigmentation, however, means aquarists will have some difficulties keeping them.

The glass catfish exists in a world of its own and makes a great addition to the home aquarium. Though they may be a tough call for beginners, they remain hobbyist favorite nonetheless.

In this article, we discuss the lifestyle, diet, diseases, and features of this glassy pet. You will also read about how to care for them and also about the disease prevention measures you need to take.


Are you looking towards keeping some great fishes in your aquarium collection? Well, you must have gone through a variety of catfishes for this purpose, but the best to keep in your fish tank would be Glass Catfish.

If you’re also considering the same as your loved aqua pets, then you have bumped into the right site. In this read, you’ll get to learn in detail everything related to keeping Glass Catfish.

Origin of Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus bicirrhis), also known as ghost or phantom catfish, is said to have originated in the brackish waters of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. They are an Asian biotype.

Overview of Glass Catfish 

Glass Catfishes have an elongated and laterally compressed body with a sub-terminal mouth. These medium-sized fishes have a highly arched dorsal profile with a strongly projecting lower jaw. Having a transparent body and silver mouth, the spinal cord and the internal organs of glass catfish are usually visible from aside. It has an extensive anal that runs from the head to the caudal fin along with a long pair of barbels.

The glass catfish is a beautiful fish lacking scales, body pigmentation, and also the dorsal fin. The anal fin is large, crescent-shaped, clean, and transparent with 48-55 fin rays.

The amount of melanophores (cells containing pigment) present in the fish is lesser, so they are transparent in color. The other pigment present in the fish responsible for metallic coloring is guanine. The pigment present inside the fish is responsible for the formation of crystal-like plates that acts as a mirror or might be the reflecting light or the color of the environment, the way they mask the fish.

Glass Catfish prefers to stay at slightly acidic to alkaline water. This variety of fishes are picky eaters and eat anything from zooplankton to small invertebrates while also live on other fishes as small as newly born guppies, daphnia, and mosquito larvae. They can grow up to 8 cm and live till 8 years.

Aquarium environment necessary for Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish tend to be a bit fragile to the water parameters, and they usually don’t respond to temperature fluctuations, alteration to PH, or might be any other chemical changes. Thus, a slight deviation in these factors may cause the fish to die. 

The fish thrives well where the water temperature is maintained at 75- 80 degree Fahrenheit, the hardness of KH 8-12, PH 6.5 to 7, and have very moderate water flow. It can be a difficult job taking care of Glass Catfish compared to any other easier variety of fishes.

They require some plants to clean the water as well as provide some hiding spots. You may choose common plants like java fern, java moss, or hornwort which are incredibly hard. In case you select sharper substrates, it might damage parts of their barbels, so it’s always better to use sand or smaller gravels.

These fishes are used to swimming inside aquariums having a minimum of 30 gallons of water. Since they are shy by nature, bigger aquariums will give them places to hide. It’s convenient to keep one fish per 6 gallons of water inside the aquarium. If not given plenty of space, they tend to suffer from various health risks. Also, keeping lesser fishes can be beneficial for your tank and the rest of the fishes.

    How to care for a glass catfish

    Glass catfish usually require a medium level of care. Keeping them in larger tanks and in a school of minimum of 6 species would be best.  They are peaceful and timid and can be kept with other tank mates who are of similar type.

    Make sure that you quarantine the tank where you collect and keep the species. This catfish thrives well in the middle layers of the fish tank. Feed them with flakes and also dried foods. You may even consider food supplements such as frozen mysis, daphnia, and brine shrimp.

    They are usually kept inside a fully cycled aquarium with low nitrates. Keep them inside larger tanks having enough swimming and hiding space.

    Which other species can you keep your Glass Catfish with? 

    Glass catfish is very peaceful by nature and hence can be kept with other similar-minded tank mates like tetras, dwarf cichlids, dwarf gourami, danios, Loricarids, Corydoras, Hachetfish, Loaches, Kribensis, Platies, and Red-tailed shark. They are also compatible with silver dollars, angelfish, and larger gourami.

    In case, they are kept with aggressive mates, they either become white in color or even may die. You may plant some blue stricta, green pennywort, purple temple, and other bunch plants like Wisteria.

    How will you feed your loved Glass Catfish? 

    This transparent fish is omnivorous in nature that dwells in the deep water. Being selective eaters, Glass Catfish lives in the wild where it accepts a wide range of food like pellets, vegetables, flakes, blood shrimp, brine shrimp, Moina, and grindal worm.  You may feed them once or twice a day.

    Diseases associated with Glass Catfish

    The greatest challenges met while keeping these fishes are the changes in climatic conditions. Since you have to maintain strict parameters of water, maintaining them in good health is a difficult job. In order to minimize the health-related risks of these fishes, make sure that the place where you cycle your fishes must remain clean and properly recycled.

    Although they can be infected with certain diseases, you must take care that they are not affected by general sickness. Generally, the types of diseases they can be affected with are:

    •    Ich: Here, you will find grainy white substance at the surface of their skin, and they will always be gasping for water.

    •    Dropsy: Under this, the scales will be bloating and protruding.

    •    Fungus: There will be white or grey growth at the surface of their skin.

    •    Lice: Usually, under this condition, the fishes become restless and will always try rubbing themselves on the surface, thereby trying to remove the lice.

    When you observe that any of your fishes are affected by the type of diseases mentioned above, separate them at once. Stop overfeeding them and carry out changes at regular intervals.

    How does a Glass Catfish breed?

    Generally, these fishes breed in the wild, but it’s a challenge to make them breed while in captivity. Usually, these fishes spawn during the monsoon. Lower the temperature of the aquarium to 73 degrees Fahrenheit and then add fresh amounts of water every day. If the fishes breed successfully, you will see the eggs spread on the plants, and they will hatch after 3-4 days. The fry is usually small but can eat baby brine shrimp.

    The most challenging job is to identify the male and female variety. The females generally have a slightly larger stomach meant for keeping the eggs. Simulation of the rainy season will help these fishes grow faster.

    What are the three best species of Glass Catfish you can keep?

    The most commonly seen Glass Catfish is Kryptopterus minor, an Asian-origin catfish. It is sometimes sold as the ghost or phantom fish. They usually resemble an X-ray image when viewed from the side. Their organs are held within a silvery reflective pouch, and that’s the only part of the body you may see-through. These catfishes have long whiskers in front of their top lip and no dorsal fin. They have an adipose fin along with a vestigial fin which is reduced to a bit more than a single spine. Some Glass Catfish variety may grow up to 10 inches.

    The fish which is 10 inches in length are an interesting variety called Parailia pellucida that can characteristically swim with head up and tails down pose. They are held at a 45-degree angle and keep flicking their tails continually.

    Widely available in West Africa and identical to K. minor, this catfish variant can even grow to a length of 15 cms reportedly but in the wild. However, the species meant for aquarium don’t attain that length. Having an Asian look alike, these catfishes usually have a second set of whiskers and adipose tissue but lack a dorsal fin.

    The last species found in the category of Glass Catfish is Paraeutropius buffei, commonly known as ‘debawi cats’, which is a three-striped African variety and can grow up to 7cm in length. Unlike normal Glass Catfish, this variety is more translucent rather than being transparent. Their bodies are almost milky white and faded to blue tinge in certain places, marked by three blue-black stripes running along the length of the fish.

    Compressed laterally and having a cigar-like shape, these catfishes have their mouth fringed with three pairs of short sensory barbels.

    What are the challenges of keeping glass catfish?

    Since the fish is a very demanding one, it’s rather challenging to keep them in the aquarium. In case you change the parameters in the aquarium, the fish will be prone to diseases. Of course, it’s possible to simulate a natural environment for the fish like the streams and flowing water. You may use a lot of plants in that case so that the fish might hide inside the plants and aquarium.

    Also, if you try adding some fluctuations, the fish will start feeling safe. This species of catfish are very sensitive to water purity, and therefore, you must change the water often so that the purity is adequately maintained. Since they don’t like bright light, these fishes become active in the shaded parts of the tank.

    When the fish thrive in a school of its kind, they feel more comfortable. An interesting fact about Glass Catfish is that when they are alone, they tend to have a very bad appetite. While when they are in a shoal of its kind, you will find them to be much more active.

    Glass catfish feel more comfortable in the middle layer of the aquarium and make sure that the water temperature should not be lesser than 26 degree Fahrenheit.

    Please note that the level of ammonia and nitrates in the aquarium should be controlled since the fish is susceptible to these matters. After the fish is being put in their new dwelling, the freshwater catfish might be found at the bottom, but don’t panic as they are just stressed. As they get acquainted with their new homes, they will get up and start swimming.

    How do you set up an aquarium for Glass Catfish?

    There are certain facts that you should keep in mind while setting an aquarium for your Glass Catfish.

    •    They may live from seven to fifteen years.

    •    They can even grow up to 1 foot long.

    •    Glass catfish prefer living in shoals of 4-6.

    •    They will have to live with fishes of similar sizes else they end up eating the smaller ones.

    Choosing the aquarium and stand

    Best is to keep them in an aquarium with a water capacity of 30 gallons. Keep the aquarium near to any power source, away from direct sunlight and drafts. You should pick a sturdy, stable base for your aquarium.

    What should you put inside the tank?

    •    First of all, add the under gravel filter.

    •    You may layer about three inches of gravel from the bottom. In any case, you may rinse the gravel.

    •    Now fill the tank half with dechlorinated water.

    •    You may add thermometers and other necessary equipment.

    •    Add plants, rocks, and other items for decoration.

    •    Add the rest of the water to the tank and finish filling.

    How do you filter the tank?

    You should try to set up an aquarium filter that will help to filter the entire water at least 3-5 times an hour. Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer for setting up the filter carefully.

    Setting up Heat and Lights

    •    Check the temperature of the tank as a priority. You must make sure that the temperature is 74-78 degrees Fahrenheit inside.

    •    You must plant an aquarium heater with 5-watt power, which will be required for each gallon of water inside the aquarium.

    •    You must wait for 15 minutes before you fill the tank for heating.

    •    The heater must be placed close to the filter for power distribution.

    •    Make sure that you run the tank temperature and hood light for 24 hours, and adjust the heater if necessary.

    Adding fish to the Aquarium

    •    After you buy the Glass Catfish, bring them home and allow them inside the tank for at least 15 minutes.

    •    Always use a net to transfer the fish to the new tank, making sure you don’t bring much of the old water.

    •    You can add three fish at a time, making sure that the filter can handle the repeated function every time.

    •    Remember, the chemical balance of the aquarium will change with every fish you introduce.

    •    Check the level of PH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite level of the aquarium.

    Keeping your Glass Catfishes Healthy

    You need to consult the veterinarian in case any of the following abnormalities occur:

    •    Fish showing a decreased appetite

    •    If the fins are clamped to the sides

    •    If they scrap their body on the rocks

    •    If you spot any abdominal swelling in the fish

    •    Fish is exhibiting discolored skin or fins.

    Maintaining General Health and Environmental Guidelines

    •    Fishes might transfer zoonotic disease to humans. So every time you touch the fishes make sure you wash your hands or sanitize properly. This rule should be followed by children, pregnant women, and elderly women also.

    •    You must keep the fish away from areas where food is prepared.

    •    Make sure you never release the fish in the wild.

    Special Considerations while keeping Glass Catfish

    The transparent Glass Catfish generally responds to the electromagnetic field, if you keep them exposed near to the area. The reason why they respond is due to having a protein called Electromagnetic Perceptive Gene (EPG). Studies say that if anybody is affected by Parkinson’s disease, the Glass Catfish might help them strengthen their treatment.  In the future, a patient with Parkinson’s may receive an injection of the EPG gene in a specific region. This way it’s possible to check tremors and control the disease of the patient.

    Fishkeeping requires a lot of patience and information. But fish keeping has always been a favorite and rewarding job of hobbyists, especially keeping a fish as attractive as Glass Catfish. Make sure that you change the tank water, maintain quarantine conditions if you want the fish to live longer. Last but definitely not least; you should always try to give your positive vibes to these loved aqua pets.


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