Glass Catfish – Care, Tank Mates & Full Details!

The Glass catfish, also known as the ghost catfish, adds an unusual touch to aquariums with its transparent body.

This unique freshwater fish, scientifically called Kryptopterus vitreolus, can easily spark interest among aquarists looking to diversify their aquatic collection.

This interesting species is native to Thailand, and they can occasionally be found in Malaysia and Cambodia, though reports of this remain unverified.

Habitually, you’ll find these enigmatic creatures in rivers flowing into the Gulf of Thailand and concentrated groups in the river basins of the Cardamom Mountains.

These fish are not bottom dwellers like their catfish kin. Instead, they prefer to roam the mid-water areas, offering a visually captivating sight for aquarium enthusiasts.

Welcome to the intriguing world of the glass catfish, a delightful aquatic pet that brings an element of intrigue to any aquarium.

Learn how to make your glass catfish thrive in its aquatic abode through this comprehensive guide.

Quick Stats About Glass Catfish

Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Calm
Color Form: Transparent
Lifespan: 7-8 years
Size: 5 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Siluridae
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Planted community
Compatibility: Community tanks


Glass Catfish Appearance

The first thing you’ll notice when you lay eyes on a glass catfish, known scientifically as Kryptopterus vitreolus, is their almost entirely transparent body.

This unique feature has earned them nicknames such as “ghost catfish” and “phantom catfish.”

Their see-through bodies give them a stunning alien-like appearance, letting you witness their internal organs in real time, making them one of the most distinctive aquatic species you can own.

They bear a unique signature catfish barbel, extending from the head, which they use to navigate and find food.

Glass catfish can grow up to 4-6 inches in length, giving them a significant presence in your aquarium. These fish have streamlined bodies, designed for fast and efficient swimming.

Their pectoral fins, aiding vertical mobility, are often seen fluttering rapidly as they navigate their environment.

Behind their eyes, near the base of their pectoral fins, lies a cluster of organs appearing as a dark silvery mass.

Natural Habitat of Glass Catfish

Understanding the natural habitat of the glass catfish provides invaluable insights into their care requirements and helps mimic the conditions they are naturally adapted to.

They primarily inhabit the clear, slow-moving freshwater rivers and streams that flow into the Gulf of Thailand.

These waters are abundant with soft substrates, aquatic vegetation, and ample hiding spots. It is this tranquil and enriched environment that glass catfish thrive in.

The water is soft with a pH that leans towards the acidic side.

Glass catfish can be seen schooling in the middle regions of these water bodies, taking advantage of the plant life for shelter and the ample space to swim freely.

Origin and Distribution

The glass catfish originates from Southeast Asia, more specifically, Thailand. Occasional sightings of the species have been reported in Malaysia and Cambodia, but these are yet to be fully verified.

The rivers flowing into the Gulf of Thailand and the river basins of the Cardamom Mountains are especially abundant with this fascinating species.

Given their unique appearance and peaceful nature, glass catfish have become a popular addition to aquariums worldwide, making them a common sight in the pet trade.

They add an intriguing aesthetic to any aquarium and are admired for their schooling behavior and tranquility.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Glass Catfish

An average glass catfish can reach a length of 4-6 inches, which is quite significant considering the usual size of other transparent fish species.

The size and growth of these catfish are largely influenced by their genetics, diet, and the quality of care they receive.

Adequate nutrition plays a vital role in their growth, and a balanced diet consisting of high-quality flakes or pellets and supplementary protein sources like bloodworms and brine shrimp ensures healthy growth.

When it comes to lifespan, a well-cared-for glass catfish can live up to 7-8 years. However, this is contingent on the living conditions provided.

Maintaining optimal water parameters, providing a balanced diet, and ensuring a stress-free environment can greatly enhance their lifespan. The health and genetics of the fish at the time of purchase are also influential factors.

In conclusion, the glass catfish’s unique appearance, intriguing natural habitat, and fascinating lifecycle make it an exciting addition to your aquarium.

With the right understanding of their needs and proper care, these translucent marvels can thrive, adding an element of mystique and beauty to your aquatic ecosystem.

Transparent Glass or Ghost catfish

Glass Catfish Behavior and Temperament

Glass catfish are noted for their peaceful and somewhat shy demeanor, making them a perfect addition for a tranquil aquarium setting.

In the wild, they are known to live in large schools and display a strong sense of community. They mirror this behavior in captivity as well, preferring to stay in groups of at least five.

The safety of numbers seems to reduce their natural shyness and encourages more active exploration of the tank.

They are typically mid-to-bottom dwellers and spend their time gracefully exploring their environment, using their barbels to sense food and changes in their surroundings.

Despite their quiet nature, they are quite active swimmers, especially when they feel secure and unthreatened in their habitat.

Tank Setup for Glass Catfish

Creating the right environment for your glass catfish is key to ensuring their health and happiness. Let’s dive into the key considerations for setting up their perfect home.

Tank Size

Glass catfish can grow up to 6 inches, and considering their active swimming habits and schooling behavior, a spacious environment is essential. For a school of 5-6 glass catfish, a tank size of at least 30 gallons is recommended.


The glass catfish’s natural habitat consists of soft substrates. Mimic this in your aquarium by using fine sand or small, smooth pebbles. This helps the fish feel at home and doesn’t risk damaging their delicate barbels.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Glass catfish appreciate plenty of hiding spots. Using live plants, driftwood, and cave-like decorations can recreate the sheltered spots found in their natural habitat. Providing these hiding places helps reduce stress and allows for comfortable resting spaces.

Water Parameters

Maintain a water temperature between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH range of 6.0-7.0 to mimic their natural habitat. Regular monitoring is essential to ensure these parameters stay stable.

Filtration and Aeration

Glass catfish prefer slow-moving waters. A gentle filtration system that doesn’t create strong currents is ideal. Good aeration is also necessary for their well-being.


These fish prefer subdued lighting, as it closely mimics the dappled sunlight of their native habitat. Bright lights can stress the fish and make them less active.

Tank Mates

Choose tank mates wisely as glass catfish are peaceful and can get bullied by aggressive species. Ideal companions include other peaceful species such as tetras, gouramis, and similar-sized catfish.


Glass catfish are omnivores and thrive on a varied diet. Provide high-quality flake food or pellets along with supplementary feedings of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms.

In conclusion, setting up an ideal tank for glass catfish involves replicating their natural environment as closely as possible.

With the right setup, you can create a wonderful and peaceful underwater world that your glass catfish will thrive in.

Tank Maintenance of Glass Catfish

Proper tank maintenance is key to promoting the longevity and well-being of your glass catfish.

Let’s explore the steps to keep their environment clean, safe, and healthy.

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are a cornerstone of aquarium maintenance. For glass catfish, it’s crucial to replace about 20-25% of the tank water every week.

This routine keeps the water clean, lowers harmful chemical build-ups, and ensures a healthy environment for your fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Accumulated debris and algae can spoil the aesthetics of your tank and also affect your catfish’s health. Therefore, regular cleaning of the tank walls, substrate, and decorations is essential.

You can use specialized aquarium cleaners to gently clean these areas without harming the fish or disrupting the tank’s balance.

Filter Maintenance

The filter plays a vital role in maintaining water quality. Over time, it collects a significant amount of waste and debris, which can reduce its effectiveness.

To prevent this, clean and service your filter every month. Remember to replace only a portion of the filter media to retain beneficial bacteria.

Monitor Fish Health

Keeping an eye on your glass catfish’s health is part of tank maintenance. Monitor their behavior and appearance regularly.

If you notice changes such as loss of color, decreased activity, or refusal to eat, it could indicate stress or disease. In such cases, consult an aquatic veterinarian promptly.

In conclusion, maintaining a healthy tank for your glass catfish involves a combination of routine cleaning, regular water changes, diligent filter maintenance, and constant health checks.

By following these steps, you can ensure a long and healthy life for your glass catfish and enjoy their mesmerizing presence in your aquarium for years to come.

Glass Catfish

Acclimating Glass Catfish

Introducing glass catfish to a new environment is a delicate process that requires patience. First, float the bag in which the catfish were transported in your aquarium for about 15-20 minutes.

This step allows the water inside the bag to gradually match the tank’s temperature. Then, over the next hour, add small amounts of tank water to the bag every ten minutes.

This process helps the fish acclimate to the water chemistry of your tank. Finally, use a net to gently move the fish into the tank.

Try to avoid adding the bag water to your tank to maintain water quality.

Glass Catfish Diet and Feeding

Understanding the dietary needs of the glass catfish is crucial to ensure its health and longevity.

Let’s delve into the feeding habits and preferences of these stunning creatures.

Varied and Balanced Diet

Glass catfish are omnivores and thrive on a varied diet.

Here’s what a healthy menu might look like:

  • Flake Foods: Good quality flake food can form the basis of the glass catfish’s diet. Ensure it is high in protein to meet their nutritional needs.

  • Live Foods: Glass catfish relish live foods. Daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms are excellent options.

  • Frozen Foods: For convenience, you may also consider high-quality frozen foods. They are nutritionally dense and provide a good dietary variation.

  • Vegetables: Some glass catfish may enjoy nibbles of blanched peas or zucchini.

Feeding Frequency and Amount

Glass catfish should be fed once or twice daily. Only give them as much food as they can consume in 2-3 minutes to prevent overfeeding.

Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health issues, as well as degrade water quality.

Observing Eating Habits

Watch your catfish when they eat. Healthy glass catfish will have good appetites. If a fish is not eating well, it might be a sign of stress or illness.

In conclusion, a varied and balanced diet, careful feeding, and close monitoring of eating habits are key to ensuring your glass catfish thrives.

With these steps, you’ll help your glass catfish lead a long, healthy, and happy life.

Glass Catfish Tank Mates

Creating a balanced ecosystem for your glass catfish means considering suitable tank mates.

Let’s discover which fish make good companions and which ones to avoid.

Ideal Tank Mates for Glass Catfish

Glass catfish are peaceful fish that do well in community tanks.

Here are some tank mates to consider:

  1. Tetras: Neon Tetra and Cardinal Tetras make great tank mates due to their peaceful nature and similar water parameter needs.

  2. Guppies: Their non-aggressive demeanor makes them ideal companions for glass catfish.

  3. Dwarf Gouramis: These fish share the glass catfish’s peaceful temperament.

  4. Corydoras Catfish: Also a calm species, Corydoras can cohabit well with glass catfish.

  5. Harlequin Rasboras: They are peaceful and small, so they won’t intimidate your glass catfish.

  6. Mollies: Mollies are generally peaceful fish that are unlikely to bother your glass catfish.

  7. Cherry Barbs: These fish are calm and will coexist harmoniously with your glass catfish.

  8. Platies: These are active yet peaceful fish that won’t disrupt your glass catfish.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Here are some species you should avoid as they are likely to cause stress or harm to your glass catfish:

  1. Cichlids: Many Cichlid species are aggressive and territorial, making them a poor choice for a community tank with glass catfish.

  2. Oscar Fish: These fish are known for their aggressive behavior and large size.

  3. Arowana: Arowanas can grow very large and have predatory tendencies.

  4. Piranhas: They are predatory and will likely pose a threat to your glass catfish.

  5. Bettas: Male Betta fish can be aggressive and territorial, so it’s best to avoid them.

A glass catfish on black background

Breeding Glass Catfish and Fry Care

Breeding glass catfish can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Setting the Stage for Breeding

  • Increase the Group: Glass catfish are more likely to breed in larger groups. A group of five to seven fish is ideal.

  • Tank Conditions: Ensure the tank conditions mimic their natural habitat. This includes maintaining optimal water parameters and providing plenty of hiding spots.

  • Diet: Feed a high-protein diet to encourage spawning.


Glass catfish tend to spawn in the early morning. The female will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them.

Post-Spawning Care

After spawning:

  • Remove Adult Fish: To protect the eggs, consider moving the adult fish to a different tank. Glass catfish may eat their own eggs.

  • Monitor Water Conditions: The water condition should be monitored and maintained to ensure the survival of the eggs.

Fry Care

Once the eggs hatch:

  • Feeding: The fry should be fed infusoria (microscopic organisms) initially, then baby brine shrimp when they grow larger.

  • Water Changes: Regular water changes are necessary to keep the water clean and free of toxins.

  • Monitoring: Keep a close eye on the fry to ensure they are feeding and growing.

Breeding glass catfish is a complex task that requires dedication and precision. But seeing the tiny transparent fry swimming in the tank can be a reward like no other.

Understanding Stress in Glass Catfish

Stress in your glass catfish can lead to health problems, making it vital to recognize and address these issues quickly.

Here’s what to watch out for:

  1. Change in Color: Glass catfish may darken in color when stressed.

  2. Erratic Swimming: Unusual swimming patterns can indicate discomfort or distress.

  3. Reduced Appetite: If your catfish is eating less than usual, it might be under stress.

  4. Hiding More Than Usual: While glass catfish are often elusive, excessive hiding may point to stress.

Common Health Issues in Glass Catfish

Just like any other aquatic creature, glass catfish are susceptible to certain health issues.

Here are the most common ones:

  1. Ich: This parasitic infection causes white spots on the fish’s body. It can be treated with medicated aquarium salts and raising the water temperature.

  2. Fungal Infections: Recognizable by white, fluffy patches on the skin. Anti-fungal treatments are generally effective.

  3. Fin Rot: If left untreated, this bacterial disease can lead to loss of fins. Antibiotic treatments are recommended.

  4. Stress-Induced Diseases: Stress can make glass catfish more prone to illness. Improving tank conditions can help alleviate stress.

Top Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy environment is crucial for your glass catfish’s wellbeing.

Here are some additional tips:

  1. Regular Cleaning: Keep the tank and its components clean to prevent disease.

  2. Water Quality: Regularly test the water parameters to ensure optimal conditions.

  3. A Balanced Diet: Ensure your glass catfish gets a varied diet, rich in proteins.

  4. Observe Your Fish: Watch for signs of stress or disease and act promptly.

Should You Get a Glass Catfish for Your Aquarium?

Glass catfish are unique and rewarding pets, but they require specific care. If you’re willing to invest in their needs and create a supportive environment, they can make a wonderful addition to your home aquarium.

Their transparency is not only unique but can be a conversation starter. So, if you love the appeal of a serene and exotic aquatic pet, the glass catfish could be an excellent choice.

Unusual Glass catfish or ryptopterus vitreolus in aquarium

Glass Catfish: Conservation Status

Currently, the IUCN Red List does not categorize the conservation status of glass catfish, Kryptopterus vitreolus.

However, it’s essential to uphold responsible fishing and trading practices to ensure this species’ continued survival and wellbeing.

Availability and Pricing of Glass Catfish

The availability of glass catfish largely depends on your location and local aquarium stores. They are typically readily available in stores and online due to their popularity among aquarists.

As of now, you can expect to pay between $6 to $10 per glass catfish, but prices may vary depending on factors like size, age, and overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions About Glass Catfish

Why is my Glass Catfish Hiding?

Glass catfish are naturally elusive and prefer to hide in dimly lit areas. Excessive hiding, however, can indicate stress or discomfort.

What do Glass Catfish Eat?

These fish are omnivores, preferring a diet of small invertebrates, insects, and plant matter.

Can Glass Catfish Live Alone?

No, glass catfish are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least five to feel safe and reduce stress.

Wrapping it Up

In conclusion, glass catfish can make a fascinating addition to any aquarium, boasting a unique aesthetic and interesting behavior.

While they require specific care and conditions, their delicate beauty and peaceful demeanor make the effort worthwhile.

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a novice, the glass catfish can offer a uniquely rewarding experience in fish keeping.