All About Glass Catfish – Care, Size, Tank Mates, Diet, And More

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These invisible, gentle freshwater fish are known as the ghost catfish or phantom catfish and are great in community tanks. To help you get started with their care we have put together this guide to glass catfish keeping so you can ensure your translucent beauties thrive! We will cover information on where they come from, what they look like, their diet requirements, and who should be kept alongside them for a harmonious aquarium environment. So let’s begin learning how to keep these enigmatic ghosts of the water happy and healthy!

Key Takeaways

  • Glass catfish are peaceful and transparent fish native to Southeast Asia, with a lifespan of up to 7-8 years.
  • A 30 gallon tank is needed for glass catfish care, along with live plants, soft substrate & hiding spots.
  • Feed them a balanced diet & choose compatible species as tank mates. Breeding requires patience, but it can be done!

Species Overview

Scientific NameKryptopterus vitreolus and Kryptopterus bicirrhis
Common NamesGlass Catfish, Ghost Catfish, Phantom Catfish, Skeleton Catfish
OriginThailand (Gulf of Thailand), Indonesia
Care DifficultyIntermediate
Life Expectancy7 – 8 years
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons (114 liters)
Temperature Range75-80°F (24-27°C)
Water Hardness2-6 dKH
pH Range5.9 – 7.0
Filtration/Water FlowLow to moderate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg Scatterers
Difficulty to BreedVery difficult
CompatibilityCommunity Tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes


Glass catfish are a unique catfish species that is often seen inhabiting the community tanks of many hobbyists. With their almost transparent bodies and barely visible tail fin, these small cats have earned nicknames such as a skeleton or phantom catfishes – alluding to an elusive look! They remain peaceful additions among other fish varieties in most aquariums.

In this guide, we will cover glass catfish’s origin story, size, and lifespan while also providing proper care guidelines for them so you can confidently add them to your tank mates! Keep watch over its hardly-visible tailfin, which helps set it apart from traditional members of the Catfish family as well as enhance its distinctive “ghostly” aesthetic in any home freshwater aquarium.

Origins And Habitats

Ghost catfish, also known as phantom catfish, are highly sought after in the aquarium trade. They originate from Southeast Asia (namely Thailand), and they can typically be found residing within slow-moving rivers, river basins, or streams with dense vegetation for hiding spots and a calm aquatic environment. These aquarium fish have an extraordinary transparent body which allows them to blend into their surroundings while swimming freely, making it much easier to evade predators.

In freshwater tanks, glass cats make wonderful tank mates due to their peaceful behavior towards other fish species, such as being content simply swimming around actively together in schools throughout the middle of the aquarium. Nevertheless, one must take care that water parameters stay consistent so these sensitive critters do not suffer any distress caused by fluctuations in quality or temperature changes over time.

Overall ghost/phantom catfishes present an attractive addition to many home aquariums thanks to their beauty, activity levels & compatibility well alongside other small fishes, given proper consideration is paid when maintaining optimal living conditions.


Glass Catfish in Aquarium

A noticeable characteristic of glass catfish is their almost see-through body, which offers an ideal disguise from predators in the environment where they live. Their size can reach up to 3 inches, making them a suitable pick for most home freshwater aquariums. The barbels on the snout serve as sensory organs, helping them sense water pressure or changes around their natural habitat while missing out on having a dorsal fin yet featuring with a tail fin that gives Glass catfish unique swimming abilities.

Alongside this interesting feature are its pectoral fins which help it move upwards/downwards gracefully making themselves blend even better into hiding spots and other debris found in nature’s ecosystem.


It is essential to create a suitable living environment for glass catfish if you want them to achieve their full lifespan of 7-8 years. In order for these fish to stay happy and healthy, they need steady water parameters (such as temperature and pH levels) within the recommended range, regular partial tank changes, plenty of hiding places in their habitat, an adequate diet suited to this species, and compatible tank mates.

Creating such conditions requires careful monitoring since fluctuating aquascapes can be detrimental not just to your pet, but also to other inhabitants. It goes without saying that proper care should include carrying out necessary measures like keeping the water clean at all times. Providing areas where it could seek refuge from any potential predators would greatly aid in making your catfish feel safe.


When it comes to keeping glass catfish, it is important to remember that they usually grow up between 2-3 inches. Factors such as genetics and quality of care are essential in determining their final size. To guarantee a more natural environment for them so they can reach their full potential, you should provide your fish with plenty of room for swimming and exploring when setting up its tank.

Glass Catfish Care Guide

When caring for glass catfish (K vitreolus), it is important to be aware of the basic needs such as tank size, decor, water parameters, and filtration in order to create a suitable home environment. The fish are also sensitive creatures who require strict maintenance with regard to their water quality, so regular water changes should be done.

Tank Size

Glass catfish need a tank of no less than 30 gallons in order to thrive. With enough space for them to explore and swim, having other fish species or even just a larger school requires an adequately sized aquarium. They are a social species, requiring a group of 6 Glass catfish in order for them to stay social. Overcrowding could also lead your fishy residents into stress or ill health due to stunted growth.

Decorations And Setup

When setting up a tank for glass catfish, it’s important to consider their natural habitat and provide them with hiding spots. When it comes to aquatic plants, consider ones such as:

To make sure your fish are comfortable and safe whilst exploring the bottom of the tank, you should use soft substrates like fine gravel or sand. Using other large or irregular substrates will increase the chance of damage caused by sharp objects that may be present in other textures.

For decorations, you will want to use driftwood and aquarium rocks. As you’ll notice in the next section, Glass Catfish prefer soft and acidic water. Driftwood will maintain these parameters, and so can the right rocks.

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Water Parameters (Tank Conditions)

Glass catfish are not considered beginner fish. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment. The ideal temperature for these fish should be between 75-78°F and a pH range from the high 5’s to neutral. The tank should also maintain an optimal hardness level of 2 – 6 dKH. Monitoring all these values constantly and making adjustments accordingly will help keep stress levels low among your pet fish.

Outside of these parameters, you should also get a water test kit to monitor the following water conditions:

Always perform water changes to maintain your water parameters. Water changes can not only be helpful in reducing the three above parameters, but they can also help balance out pH and hardness. Consider purchasing a water test kit so you can constantly monitor your levels.

Filtration And Water Flow

In order for a glass catfish tank to be healthy, it needs proper filtration and water flow. Power filters or canister filters are recommended as they help keep the tank clean by eliminating debris and by processing unhealthy nutrients through the beneficial bacteria it houses. Glass catfish should have moderate-leveled currents resembling those of their natural environment like rivers and streams. Too strong flows might cause stress on them, so finding the perfect middle ground must be taken into account.

In order to regulate flow in the aquarium, you will want to adjust the flow of your filters. Many higher quality filters will have the ability to adjust the flow. They are fast enough to not get sucked up by your intake, but you have to adjust the flow as they are timid by nature and will stress out when they are exposed to high flows.

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Nutritional Needs And Feeding

For a glass catfish to remain healthy, it is important that its diet be both varied and nutritious. In this section, we will take an in depth look at what these unique fish feed on along with the frequency of feeding for them. A combination of high quality flakes/pellets combined with items like brine shrimp or freeze dried food should ensure your pet’s growth, coloration, as well as its healthiness overall.

Glass Catfish are omnivores, which implies they consume plant matter as well as animals items in the wild: things such as small fish, insects larvae, plus other tiny forms of protein sources all form part of their natural eating habits. You can provide pellets/flakes made exclusively out of these whole ingredients. Frozen or freeze-dried foods such as daphnia and bloodworms also help round up meals completely into more than just one type of dish per day!

Types Of Foods

In order to have a healthy and happy glass catfish, it is important to provide them with an adequately balanced diet. Let’s discuss the types of food and recommendations:

  • Flake food – Look for fish flakes made of whole foods, high in protein, and with probiotics
  • Pellet food – Whole formulas preferably with insects – bug bits are a great choice!
  • Freeze dried food – Krill, Daphila, blackworms – use supplements like Vita-Chem to enhance
  • Frozen – Brine shrimp, bloodworms

Even though live food can be great for providing your fish with protein-packed meals, you should make sure the critters are free of parasites before introducing them into the aquarium environment. The best way to introduce live foods to your glass catfish would be to cultivate your own. There are many videos online that explain this process. I’ve included one below from Hobby TV that will walk you through the process.

Creating variety when giving sustenance will promote both good physical health and well being within your glass catfish population. Try purchasing several types of food and mixing up the different types of food throughout the week to keep your fish’s diet balanced.

Feeding Frequency And Portion Sizes

Finding a balance between feeding your glass catfish enough and overfeeding them is important, which can lead to water quality issues. It’s best to give small servings 2-3 times per day that they must eat within minutes of being offered.

As these fish are selective feeders, it’s necessary to observe how much food they take in order to ensure their diet is balanced and the aquarium stays healthy. If there is an excess amount after every mealtime, then cut down on portion sizes accordingly. Maintaining a watchful eye during each feeding time will keep you from adding too many excessive nutrients via overfeeding while also keeping your fish well fed.

Tank Mates Selection

Having suitable tank mates for glass catfish is an essential part of setting up a successful community aquarium. As glass cats are passive and docile fish, they can be combined with other peaceful non-aggressive species to create a contented living environment that you and your fish will enjoy.

When choosing potential companions, it’s necessary to think carefully about the type of fish being added will not harass your glass catfish. The main thing to know about glass catfish is their fish. Because they only grow up to 3 inches in aquariums, they are going to be best suited with fish of similar size or nano fish. Any fish double their size is going to be questioned and may intimidate your glass catfish. Let’s dive into this further below.

Compatible Fish Species

Rummy Nose Tetra

When selecting tankmates for glass catfish, it is ideal to choose peaceful species such as:

To ensure the well being of your community aquarium inhabitants, research care instructions for each type carefully before bringing them together in one space. There are links to each of the fish listed above with our articles that will help you out.

Bad Tank Mates

Green Tiger Barb School

When it comes to tankmates for glass catfish, it’s important not to include aggressive fish. Let’s look at a fish bad choices:

These types of fish can potentially cause harm, stress, and lead to serious health problems from opportunist diseases or even death in your glass catfish. The best way to ensure a peaceful environment is by choosing suitable companions that will cohabitate with the group without competing too much over food resources. These should be carefully selected so they create a harmonious community tank for all inhabitants!

The Challenges Of Breeding

It can be a complicated task to reproduce glass catfish in captivity due to the meticulous care needed. Nevertheless, with enough patience and observation of their habits, it is possible for aquarists to breed these eye-catching fish and nurture their offspring successfully.

Although there isn’t much written on breeding glass catfish as they are rarely bred by hobbyist aquarium enthusiasts, if you observe them closely while attempting to replicate natural conditions that would enable successful spawning then this may increase your chances of having success raising fry from the species. That being said, I’ve only known of one documented case that was more of an accident published on Planetcatfish.

In the wild, these fish breed during heavy rainfall seasonality. To accomplish a similar environment, you will need to lower the temperature to the low 70s and add fresh water every day to simulate the rain. However, breeding is more realistic in commercial breeding environments and best left to those breeders.

Caring For Glass Catfish Fry

If you are able to successfully breed your glass catfish, the female will lay eggs on aquarium plants, and they should hatch in approximately 3-4 days. At first, the fry has to eat infusoria, then transition to baby brine shrimp because of their small size. Males can usually be distinguished from females since the latter tend to grow larger and show a noticeable stomach area due to egg carrying ability.

As it is necessary for proper growth and development along with fostering an eye-catching transparent look, feeding them protein-rich dishes like larval insects or micro worms combined with regular servings of brine shrimp should help raise healthy juvenile fish. With appropriate nutrition coupled with creating ideal conditions within the tank environment, you could observe fascinating experiences as those youthful Glass Catfish mature into adults before your eyes!

Common Health Issues And Preventative Measures

The health of glass catfish can be compromised if their habitat is not looked after properly. It’s important to maintain the water levels within a safe range and replace it with clean water on a regular basis for these fish, as they are sensitive to any changes in environmental conditions. In order to avoid diseases, consider quarantining new additions before putting them into your community tank set up along with other fish like tank mates. The most common disease you will come across will be freshwater ich.

Should you observe that one of your glass catfish has turned white, this could point towards poor health, stress or fungal infection – thus calling for immediate isolation followed by necessary treatment plans being administered accordingly.

If needed, steps are taken, such as providing secure surroundings (for example, through compatibility among the different types of fish) together with proper feeding and stable settings in general, which will help prevent potential medical issues from happening while also ensuring good health amongst the members inside the group.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are glass catfish hard to keep?

Not exactly. While not a beginner fish, Glass catfish, are relatively hassle-free to maintain in a tank environment. The main reason why they aren’t considered beginner fish is their timid nature and their ease of getting stressed out. As long as their basic needs, such as water temperature, comfortable community tank, and quality diet, are fulfilled, these fish provide plenty of enjoyment with minimal fuss.

How big do glass catfish get?

Glass catfish are an attractive option for any freshwater aquarium due to their colorful fins and elegant bodies. They measure 2-3 inches in length, with a lifespan of up to 8 years if properly taken care of. When kept in its natural environment or schooled together, they provide great visuals as well as long term companionship within the tank.

How many glass catfish should I get?

You should consider getting at least 6 to start. They are social creatures that prefer to hang out with their own kind. They can be combined with other schooling fish to make excellent compliments to planted tanks and community aquariums.

Are Ghost glass catfish aggressive?

Ghost Glass Catfish are great additions to a community aquarium due to their peaceful nature. They can be intimidated by more dominant fish yet typically move around the tank in harmony without any aggression toward other inhabitants. These peaceful creatures rarely cause issues and make for ideal companions in an aquatic home environment. You mostly have to worry about other fish harassing them then the other way around!

What is the ideal tank size for glass catfish?

It’s recommended that glass catfish have a healthy and contented life when they are placed in an aquarium no smaller than 30 gallons. Consider a larger tank if you want to keep them with other schooling fish. At least a 40 gallon aquarium would be recommended.

Closing Thoughts

To sum up, glass catfish are an absolutely spectacular species to have in any freshwater aquarium. With their clear bodies and stylish swimming movements, they make a great visual impact as well as bring peace to the tank. If you follow this guide’s care instructions accurately, your fish will stay healthy for many years ahead while also being surrounded by suitable companions that contribute to its wellbeing.

Ever kept this fish in your aquarium before? Let us know in the comment section. We love to hear from our readers. Let’s start a conversation. Until next time!

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