Bumblebee Catfish Stats InfographicThe Bumblebee Catfish from South America is a charming, hardy, and suitable pet for aquarists of any skill level.

While the Bumblebee Catfish seems a nice pet to have, you may have also heard a few aquarists complain about them, saying they regretted buying this fish due to its lack of vigorous activity.

However, in this article, we will show you that what the Bumblebee Catfish lacks in activity, gains in charm! By the end of the article, you can make an informed decision regarding whether this species of catfish is a good fit for your tank.


Family Pseudopimelodidae
Scientific Name Microglanis iheringi
Common Name South American Bumblebee Catfish
Size of Fish 3 inches
Prominent Features Black and yellow bands
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Nocturnal and extremely reclusive
Lifespan 4 to 5 years
Min. Tank Size 20 gallons
Temperature 70 to 77 F
pH 6.5 to 7.5
Hardness 8 to 12 dGH
Care Difficulty Easy

What Is Bumblebee Catfish?

The Bumblebee Catfish, scientifically known as Microglanis iheringi, is a small catfish whose pattern bears a close resemblance to the hairy, honey-loving humblebee.

Microglanis iheringi was first documented in the early 1990s and as expected of this pretty aquarium catfish, it didn’t take long to become popular. 

Bumblebee Catfish Care

The South American Bumblebee Catfish is a hardy, undemanding species, making it a suitable choice for beginners who are on the lookout for a low-maintenance catfish for aquarium. Here are the details to keep your fish hale and hearty.


The South American Bumblebee Catfish is omnivorous but it prefers to feed on live insects, insect larva, and other protein sources available in the wild.

In captivity, these meat lovers will accept a wide variety of live foods and they also adapt well to frozen foods.

Bumblebee Catfish will relish the following items:

  • Bloodworms
  • Cockle
  • Earthworms
  • Krill
  • Mussels
  • Prawns

Consider adding these foods to your tank before you hit the sack so that your catfish will nosh on these as soon as they come out of hiding. High-quality sinking pellets are also a convenient choice.

Do not underestimate what these coy fish can eat in your tank. Their large mouths act like a vacuum, slurping all the meaty bits lying on the substrate. Although South American Bumblebee Catfish look pretty small, they eat a surprisingly large amount of food for their size.

Although the South American Bumblebee Catfish is not predatory by nature, it will still prey on any fish that are small enough to fit into their mouths.

Water Parameters and Maintenance

While the South American Bumblebee Catfish is a hardy species, you will want to stick to the recommended parameters to ensure you have created the best environment possible for your pet.

Here are the recommended water parameters:

  • Water temperature: 70 to 77 F
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 8 to 12 dGH

Be sure to have testing kits on hand and perform a quick test every few days to prevent unwanted shifts. Moreover, you will want to perform 20 to 25 percent water changes each week.

Health Risks for The South American Bumblebee Catfish

The best part of keeping South American Bumblebee Catfish is their resilience against common diseases. These little guys are not susceptible to illness, unlike the majority of freshwater fish.

Infections are unlikely to occur when you provide great care throughout your pet’s life. The choices you make during the early years will create a significant impact on its lifespan. So, follow the recommended diet and water conditions religiously.

Lifespan: What Is Its Average Life Expectancy?

Four years is the average life expectancy of a South American Bumblebee Catfish. As these fish are quite resilient, it is possible that your pet may reach the five-year mark.


How Big Do Bumblebee Catfish Get?

Bumblebee Catfish Carem Diet, Tank Mates and MoreThe average South American Bumblebee Catfish size is three inches in length but males may grow an inch longer in the best of conditions. Then again, it would be impossible for these catfish to grow larger regardless of the level of care you give them. Given their size, these fish will not hog a lot of space at the bottom of the tank.

Colors, Patterns, and Other Distinct Traits

South American Bumblebee Catfish — the name gives it away! Just like bumblebees, the attractive catfish have blackheads as well as thick black and yellow bands that alternate from the head down to the tail.

Moreover, Bumblebee Catfish have a spiny dorsal fin but are not as prominent nor as rigid as a pleco’s. Also, a black band runs down from the middle of the dorsal fin from the front to the back. 

The forked caudal fin follows behind, which also has black and yellow bands of varying thickness. Typically, the space at the base of the caudal fin is black. With wide pelvic fins, the Bumblebee Catfish finds it a breeze to navigate the substrate.

As typical of a catfish, South American Bumblebee Catfish have long cylindrical bodies that are flattened slightly and are tapered down towards the tail. And of course, these guys aren’t called catfish if it weren’t for their whisker-like barbels.

Catfish use their highly sensitive barbels to navigate and scour the substrate for food.

Temperament: What Is Its Behavior Like?

If Microglanis iheringi was a person, he’d be an introvert or a sociophobe!

The South American Bumblebee Catfish is shy and withdrawn. This personality is further amplified by the fact it is a nocturnal species. During the day, the catfish will lie low in one of its favorite hideouts, only coming out of hiding when it gets dark.

If anything, you have a higher chance of seeing a chupacabra or Big Foot than seeing a Bumblebee Catfish swimming inside your tank! That is why some aquarists who have kept this species before have mentioned that they will never buy this fish again as they find it rather boring.

On the bright side, I discovered a hack to get these little loners to come out a little bit more. The key is to design all the rock formations in a way where all the openings are either visible from both ends or can be reflected. Although you can’t get an eyeful of your catfish, you can at least see his reflection.

Using its sensitive barbels, it will navigate the bottom for food as soon as the lights are off. If you sit long enough, you may also see your fish come out during feeding times at night.


It is nearly impossible to see their fins stick out, let alone breed these catfish in captivity.

Until now, there are no documented instances of successful breeding in South American Catfish in fish tank or home aquariums. The majority of specimens available for sale are collected from wild populations as juveniles.

While there seem to be no dangerous downsides to captive breeding, we discourage any breeding attempt as it is going to be a waste of time and money on your part.

Tank Mates 

When it comes to finding tank mates for Bumblebee Catfish, you have many viable options. The South American Bumblebee Catfish are not predatory by nature unlike the larger and more aggressive varieties, such as the Asian Bumblebee Catfish and the Bumblebee Jelly Catfish.  

Some of the best choices are the following:

Many fishkeepers have had success with keeping these species with the South American Bumblebee Catfish. Since these bottom dwellers are reclusive and nocturnal, their tankmates will probably forget they are even there in the first place.

Take note that the list only scratches the surface when it comes to suitable tank mates for Bumblebee Catfish. You can stock more middle to upper-swimming peaceful species that are also similar in size.

Fish to Avoid

Do not forget that these catfish are nano predators, so you should not underestimate their cuteness! These catfish will eat tankmates small enough to be considered food, such as neon tetras and fancy guppies.

Albeit rare, some Bumblebee Catfish display territorial behaviors to other bottom-dwellers, especially conspecifics. Furthermore, you do not want to take the risk of keeping those types of fish there, then.

Tank Setup 

Here are the guidelines to follow whether you are setting up a new aquarium or adding your Bumblebee Catfish to an existing community.

Tank Size

For a full-grown South American Bumblebee Catfish, we recommend a tank with a 20-gallon capacity or larger. While these catfish are cute size-wise, you should not get anything smaller than the recommended tank size since you will have to adorn their habitat with rocks, driftwood, and plants, among other things.

If you wish to keep more than one Bumblebee Catfish or a few other compatible species, then it would be wise to provide them with more space. A good rule of thumb is to have an additional five gallons for each different species you keep.

Plants and Decorations

Replicating a fish’s natural habitat is always the way to go. That said, even the decorations should match the waters where they come from.

That being said, the main items to add to their aquarium are stackable rocks, driftwood, and cave decors. Rock formations are often the go-to places for catfish when they need to hunker down.

Adding driftwood is also beneficial to your tank as it helps maintain soft acidic water conditions and boosts the immune systems of your fish by leeching tannins. Moreover, plants like Amazon Swords and Java Ferns are nice additions as they help dim the lighting.

You will see your catfish more often if you place it in a scarcely decorated tank with a bare bottom. However, we don’t think that is properly keeping your fish. Not having enough hiding places can distress your fish, which can drastically shorten its lifespan.


Opt for soft types of substrates, such as fine sand. Large, coarse substrates are a big no-no for the Bumblebee Catfish or any catfish in general. This is due to the fact that catfish have scaleless, mucus-coated skin and sensitive barbels, so coarse substrates might injure them.

Aquarium Equipment: Filters, Moonlight, Thermometer, and Heater

You do not need a high-tech aquarium for Bumblebee Catfish but it is essential to provide them with a sufficient amount of water flow as they are naturally used to fast-flowing waters.

We suggest using a canister filter since it also provides medium currents, which are also enough to oxygenate the water.

Consider using moonlights so that you can watch your fish graze at night. Also, do not forget to use a thermometer and heater as these fish prefer warm waters. 

How Many Bumblee Catfish Are There?

Many species got lumped in the “Bumblebee Catfish” category and these include the Asian Bumblebee Catfish and African Bumblebee Catfish. To the untrained eye, these fish could be confused with the South American Bumblebee Catfish.

Bumblebee Catfish Care and Breeding Guide

African Bumblebee Catfish

Scientifically known as Microsynodontis batesii, it originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Cameroon. 

These are its recommended water parameters:

  • Temperature: 70 – 77 F
  • pH: 6.7 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 10 to 15 dGH

The African Bumblebee Catfish can grow up to three and a half inches. Shy and laidback, it also lurks among rocks and submerged tree roots during daylight hours.

Asian Bumblebee Catfish

Scientifically known as Pseudomystus siamensis, the Asian Bumblebee Catfish hails from the warm rivers and streams of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These are its recommended water parameters:

  • Temperature: 68 to 78 F
  • pH: 5.8 to 7.8
  • Hardness: 4 to 25 dGH

Instead of black and yellow, the Asian Bumblebee Catfish features a brown and burnt orange striped coloration. Moreover, the average size of an adult male is six inches. 

Bumblebee Jelly Catfish

The Batrochoglanis cf. raninus, which is a native of Rio Nanay in Peru, looks a lot different compared to the South American Bumblebee Catfish, African Bumblebee Catfish, and Asian Bumblebee Catfish. Aside from being a lot darker, these catfish are not as timid as their cousins. 

The Bumblebee Jelly Catfish are cryptic ambush predators, concealing themselves into areas with leaf litter and submerged driftwood. In the wild, they can grow nearly eight inches.

These are its recommended water parameters:

  • Temperature: 76 to 82 F
  • pH: 6.0 to 7.5

Several other species are sold in the aquarium trade as “Bumblebee Catfish,” but the Microglanis iheringi is among the most popular ones due to its minuscule size. Most catfish would grow to the size of a ruler. Hence, the South American Bumblebee Catfish would fit the bill if you want something cuter.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Where Are Bumblebee Catfish Native To? 

Microglanis iheringi are native to South America. While the Bumblebee Catfish are primarily found in Columbia and Venezuela, they have wandered into neighboring countries, such as Ecuador, Guyana, and northern Brazil.

2. What Are Its Native Water Conditions?

The Bumblebee Catfish thrives in rivers and streams in its homeland, particularly those with strong currents. The fast-flowing water helps keep their environment clean and well-oxygenated.

South America is hot and humid and therefore, the tropical fish would require warm water with a fairly neutral pH.

Take note of these points as you will need to simulate these conditions at home to keep your Bumblebee Catfish happy and healthy.


If you love all things catfish, you might want to consider owning one or two South American Bumblebee Catfish. The best thing about this fish is that it is a cinch to take care of and you have a wide range of compatible tank mates to choose from.

In a nutshell, here are the most important points you need to remember about this species:

  • The South American Bumblebee Catfish is a lot smaller and more peaceful than its larger cousins
  • Bumblebee Catfish are extremely reclusive and this behavior is amped by the fact that they are nocturnal
  • Generally peaceful, you can keep this species with a variety of fish. Ideal choices are medium to large-sized cyprinids, characins, and peaceful cichlids. Avoid any fish that grow less than two inches as they will become a meal for your Bumblebee Catfish
  • Thanks to their wide mouths, these catfish would vacuum all the good stuff. Worms, insects, larva, and more are all on the menu
  • You do not need a massive aquarium but you should not get anything smaller than 20 gallons
  • These shy bottom dwellers do well in planted tanks. Sneaky and reclusive, they love to burrow and hide in caves and rock formations
  • These catfish are gluttonous, thus giving a large amount of bioload. Hence, excellent filtration is a must
  • To keep your catfish healthy. stick to the recommended water parameters, perform weekly water changes, and provide good filtration
  • While you can have them for many years, it is likely that you will only get a few brief glimpses of your fish

Many fishkeepers are still on the fence about the South American Bumblebee Catfish, so the only way to decide what you think is if you get the fish yourself!  

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