Beautiful and strange, Glass Catfish are some of the more provocative catfish in the hobby. However, they are sensitive and have special needs.
Glass Catfish, or Kryptopterus bicirrhis, also known as the ghost cat, Ghostfish or Ghost Catfish, are relatively small, peaceful community fish. They are excellent candidates for community aquariums, provided they are kept with other peaceful, mild-mannered tankmates.
They are very sensitive to their environmental conditions, especially water quality, and they can be easily stressed. Therefore, special considerations should be made before attempting to keep these catfish.
Glass Catfish belong to the family Siluridae and were first identified in 1934. Kryptopterus bicirrhis can be found throughout Southeast Asia, including Eastern India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. Like most fish from these regions, Glass Catfish will require tropical conditions to remain healthy. They are a relatively small fish, reaching a maximum of six inches in length.
Ghost Catfish are very popular in the hobby, probably because of a particular trait: they are transparent. On observation one can make out their bones, organs, and even watch food being digested and move through their bodies. The name Kryptopterus comes from the Greek kryptos, meaning “hidden,” and pteryx, meaning “fin.” Upon close inspection, one can observe a very small dorsal fin that consists of a single ray. This fin usually remains tucked down most of the time and it is difficult to see.
Glass Catfish are a schooling fish. When kept alone or in small groups, they are easily stressed and will not exhibit typical, healthy behavior that would exist in a sizeable school. Generally, they should be kept in groups of six or more, preferably ten to twelve or more. The more fish in the school (without crowding), the better. The aquarium should be 30 gallons or more in size with sufficient water flow for a school of these catfish.
Glass Catfish are active swimmers and require ample open swimming space. They also appreciate planted aquariums as plants provide hiding spots and cover, thereby reducing potential stress on the fish. Floating plants are excellent choices to produce cover.
Ghost Catfish prefer dim, diffused lighting. At the very least, cover should be provided so that they can escape from direct light now and then.
Glass Catfish are very sensitive to water conditions. They need clean water with little to no nitrates present. This means that the aquarist will need to perform 30 percent water changes at least once a week, possibly more often depending on feeding frequency and the number of fish living in the aquarium. The water temperature should be maintained between 70 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit (21-26 degrees Centigrade). Water pH should remain constant near neutral (7.0).
Glass Catfish are eager eaters when they are not stressed. The core of their diet should consist of small live fish food, including tubifex/bloodworms and brine shrimp. They will also accept flake foods. The aquarist should choose a high-quality flake food that has natural ingredients and substantial protein content.
Due to Kryptopterus bicirrhis’ sensitive nature, they are prone to disease. A healthy, balanced diet will help mitigate risks and ensure good health and the ability to fight off sickness and parasites.
While sensitive in nature, anyone with a peaceful community aquarium can keep these intriguing Glass Catfish. Success keeping these fish will greatly depend on water quality, balanced diet, and the elimination of sources of stress. If the aquarist is conscientious and dedicated to the health and well-being of the Glass Catfish, maintaining a school in a community aquarium can be a simple matter.
Baensch, Hans; Riehl, Rudiger, ed. Aquarium Atlas.
Baensch, Hans; Fischer, Gero. Aquarium Atlas Photo Index. 2nd Edition.