Black Bullhead (Ictalurus melas)

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Black Bullhead

Ictalurus melas6481.jpg
Black Bullhead

Ictalurus melas

341 Litres (90 US G.)

17.8-40.6cm (7-16 ")




6.5 - 7.0

15.6-27.8°C (60 -82 °F)

6-10 °d

1:1 M:F

Pellet Foods
Flake Foods
Live Foods

4-10 years



Additional names

Black Bullhead, Black Catfish, Brown Catfish, Bullhead, Common Bullhead, Horned Pout, River Snapper, Small Bullhead, Stinger, Yellow Belly Bullhead

Additional scientific names

Ameiurus melas


The USA, Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins from New York to southern Saskatchewan and Montana, south to northern Mexico. Has been introduced in Europe and is considered a pest species.


Difficult to sex. Females are broader during spawning season which is mid-spring.

Tank compatibility[edit]

Needs a large tank without a strong current. Will eat any fish that fits in it's mouth, but will thrive in captivity in the right conditions.


Omnivorous, will take most pellet and flake foods. When adult they will eat other fish. When juvenile they will eat small fish and crustaceans.

Feeding regime[edit]

Twice a day, a nocturnal hunter however so may prefer to be fed after lights out.

Environment specifics[edit]

Needs a tank with a spacious footprint and soft substrate.


Nocturnal feeder. Active mostly at night.


A typical catfish shape, with a broad flat head and a large mouth surrounded by several sets of barbels. Colouration varies from shades of brown to black, the barbels are either grey or black and there is a pale coloured band at the base of the tail.
This fish, like many catfish, has spines on it's fins that can inflict a painful sting, so be very wary putting your hands near this fish. The pectoral spines, however, can be used to distinguish this species from Ameiurus nebulosus (Brown Bullhead). Black bullhead spines will feel smooth along the sides. Brown Bullhead spines will feel serrated. The membrane between fin rays is dark, causing the fins to have a striped appearance.


External links[edit]