Glass Catfish Stats Infographic

The Glass Catfish is one of the few types of fish that make any average person want to set up a freshwater aquarium. Their completely transparent bodies make them appear delicate and ghostlike. They stand out even in community tanks that have a stock of more popular fish.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Glass Catfish, how to care for it, prepare your aquarium for this newcomer, the ideal tank mates, and more!

Stats and Facts

Here are some valuable stats and facts about the Glass Catfish to whet your appetite to learn more about this fantastic freshwater fish:

Order Siluriformes
Family Siluridae
Genera Kryptopterus
Size Up to five inches in length
Lifespan Seven to eight years in captivity
Temperament Calm and peaceful
Color Transparent, with silvery-white outlines
Care Level Needed Moderate
Minimum Experience Level Needed Beginner to Experienced
Minimum Tank Size Required 30 to 40 gallons
General Community Behavior Generally tolerant of other fish species; loves moving around the tank

Getting To Know the Ghost: Origins of the Glass Catfish

Glass catfish dietThe scientific name of the Glass Catfish is Kryptopterus Vitreolus. The term Kryptopterus is a combination of two Greek words, Kryptos and Pterygio, with the former meaning hidden and the latter translating to fin. The term vitreolus, on the other hand, is a Latin word that means glass.

Put together, the scientific name of the Glass Catfish perfectly encapsulates the most striking features of this particular fish: its hidden, almost non-existent dorsal fin and its glass-like body.

This fish was originally found in the river basins of Thailand but has since been collected aggressively for the aquarium industry. More research needs to be done on their population in the wild. The Glass Catfish goes by many names, with hobbyists sometimes referring to these fish as the Ghost Catfish or Phantom Catfish.

Some aquarists even call this type of fish the Invisible Catfish because of its peculiar appearance. This type of fish has been observed to be calm, peaceful, and tolerant of other fish species and aquatic creatures, making them perfect additions to large community tanks or even the focus of species-dedicated minimalist aquariums.

Main Physical Features

Glass catfish feedingAside from its striking body, this transparent Catfish has other physical features that are worth noting. Due to its transparent body, this fish may also appear as a dead catfish or Skeleton Catfish to novice fish keepers.

You can easily see the fish’s spinal column extending from one fish to the other, the set of ribs that curve downwards, and even their internal organs. This coloration of their bodies makes the Glass Catfish’s fins difficult to see; this is especially true with the dorsal fin that has been reduced in size and is hidden from plain sight.

Another feature of the Glass Catfish is the set of barbels that protrude outwards from its face. These barbels are a shared physical trait of all members of the catfish family. These facial protrusions help the Glass Catfish in terms of maintaining balance and detecting motion in the water. The Glass Catfish’s head is perhaps the only part of its body that has full color, complete with black beady eyes and a grayish-black coloration for the head.

Tank Requirements

Once you’ve made up your mind to purchase a few Glass Catfish for your home aquarium, you need to prepare their home tank accordingly. Below is a reference table that contains the important tank and water parameters you will need to meet in order to provide an ideal environment for these clear Catfish:

Temperature 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level 6.5 to 7.0
Water Hardness Level 8 to 12 dKH
Light Level Low

Unlike other tropical fish known for their hardiness and ability to adapt to varying water parameters, the Glass Catfish is quite sensitive to changes in water quality. This fish needs a consistent tank and water parameters to thrive. This is why, though novice fish keepers may certainly try their hand at raising this type of fish, it is more often recommended that experienced aquarists care for Glass Catfish.

If you are a beginner fish keeper and you believe that you are ready for the commitment and attention that comes with caring for the Glass Catfish, the best thing you can do is read a lot of informative articles such as this one. Invest in a large Glass Catfish tank size of about 30 to 40 gallons for a start. You should also perform minor water changes on a regular basis to ensure that your aquarium has clean and high-quality water at all times.

The Need for Live Plants

Aside from monitoring the tank and water parameters, you need to include live freshwater plants in your Glass Catfish’s aquarium. This type of fish is shy at first and will naturally feel more comfortable if there are flora in which it can swim and hide. Some of the best aquarium plants for the Glass Catfish are listed below:

Java Moss

Glass Catfish are quite fragile. Having Java Moss in their tank will prevent them from cutting themselves on sharp edges. The Java Moss is one of the easiest freshwater plants to care for and gives aquariums a more natural ambiance.


Another good plant to have in a Glass Catfish aquarium is Hornwort. These fine-leaved beauties make amazing hiding places for Glass Catfish. This plant is incredibly easy to care for and is known to spread fast in most aquarium setups.


You can also opt to have floating plants as part of your Glass Catfish aquascape. Floating plants like Duckweed help filter harsh and bright lights and also aid in keeping algal blooms under control. Similar to Hornwort and Java Moss, Duckweed is ridiculously easy to grow and maintain in an aquarium. Just be sure to follow your local government’s requirements and procedures for handling and disposing of extra Duckweed.

Substrate, Decor, and Filters

Glass Catfish prefer soft substrates such as aquarium sand or fine gravel. You might also want to use darker colored substrates to make it easier to see your Glass Catfish when they swim near the lower layer of your tank.

In terms of filters, you can opt to install an underwater filter for your tank. This will minimize any disruptive water flow. In addition, you should choose a water filter capable of cycling the water in the aquarium at least thrice daily. These measures are necessary for creating a clean and healthy environment for your Glass Catfish.

Population and Stocking

The average Glass Catfish size is four to five inches in length. A good rule of thumb to remember when stocking your aquarium is that the smallest Glass Catfish tank size should have a 30-gallon capacity; this is enough for six Glass Catfish. Add at least five to 10 gallons of capacity for every new individual Phantom Catfish you want to include in your setup. This will keep the population of your Glass Catfish in a healthy balance with the resources in the tank and as well as ensure that each fish has enough space for movement and exploration.

Care and Feeding Tips

Once you have prepared a suitable aquarium for your Glass Catfish, you should focus on learning about how to care for them properly. In this section, you’ll learn all about the Glass Catfish’s diet as well as other practical care tips you can apply with ease.


In their natural habitat, Glass Catfish are known to prey on small fish, insects, larvae, and other small sources of protein. It would be best to replicate this kind of diet, as this will help your Glass Catfish reach its maximum size and lifespan. Below are some of the types of food you might want to consider adding to the diet of your Glass Catfish.

Pellets and Fish Flakes

Glass Catfish that are raised in captivity will readily accept commercial fish food. That said, you should make it a point to feed them only the highest quality fish flakes and pellets that you can provide. Feed your Glass Catfish this type of food once daily.

Live Food

In addition to daily servings of commercial food, you should have live food for your Glass Catfish. Baby Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, Bloodworms, and Grindal worms make for excellent sources of protein and other nutrients. You can feed this type of food three to four times a week.

Freeze-Dried Food

You can also feed your Glass Catfish with frozen or freeze-dried food if you do not have access to commercial fish food or live food. Frozen Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, and Bloodworms are great to keep constant stock of so that you always have a supply of food for your Glass Catfish, even during emergencies.

Care Tips

1. Keep an Eye on Your Hungry Glass Catfish

The Glass Catfish is a shy creature. It is unlikely to aggressively compete with other types of fish for food, even if it is severely hungry. That said, be sure to keep a close eye on your Glass Catfish whenever they feed. Offer more food to individual Glass Catfish that were interrupted by their tank mates during feeding time or to those too scared to come out of their hiding places. Similarly, avoid overfeeding your fish as much as possible.

Feeding once or twice a day should be enough to keep each of your Glass Catfish sated and with enough nutrition support to stave off most health conditions.

2. Maintain at Least a Group of Six Glass Catfish

Glass Catfish should be kept in a school of at least six fish of the same species. While some aquarists prefer to keep less than this number, experts have observed that Glass Catfish are more comfortable in schools of larger numbers. Keeping Glass Catfish in a school of six or more will encourage them to come out from their hiding places more often and help prevent larger tank mates from bothering these fragile skeleton fish.

3. Perform Minor Water Changes Regularly

Glass Catfish are sensitive to water changes. This is why they require a moderate amount of care and attention. They are more fragile than other tropical fish and can be easily afflicted with health conditions if they are not able to adapt to fluctuating water conditions at once.

As such, it would be wise to perform minor water changes or cycling procedures regularly. Some aquarists perform such water cycling procedures once a week, while others prefer to change the water in their aquariums twice a month. The frequency of your water changes will depend on the rate of waste buildup in your tank; check your water for increases in nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia, as well as the presence of more algal blooms than usual.

Tank Mates

Glass catfish breedingWhen looking for suitable tank mates for your crystalline Glass Catfish, you want to remember two things. First, you should only pair peaceful and calm fish with the equally docile Glass Catfish. Second, the fish you select as tank mates should be roughly the same size as your Phantom Catfish. This will prevent any territorial outbreaks and bullying events in the aquarium.

Below is a list of the kinds of fish our experts believe are most suited to be tank mates with the peculiar Glass Catfish:

Tetra Fish

Tetras are known for their bright colors and peaceful nature. They are beloved in nano tanks as well as community aquariums that focus on docile fish. The Neon Tetra and Blue Tetra are two of the best Tetra fishes you can pair with your Glass Catfish.


Mollies are likewise as gentle and peaceful as Tetras. As such, they make for perfect tank mates for the fragile Glass Catfish. Mollies are easy-going fish that occupy the middle layer of the aquarium. They will not bump into your Glass Catfish all the time, and it is highly unlikely that they begin any territorial disputes or engage in a rough game of chase with your Phantom Catfish.

Dwarf Gourami

The Dwarf Gourami is a small tropical fish that is known for its shyness and small size. It shares many of the behavioral traits of the Glass Catfish. That said, these two types of fish would make for good tank mates because they pose no threat to each other and will most likely ignore each other for the duration of their stay in the aquarium. Dwarf Gouramis, like Tetras, also provide a great contrast of color to the striking transparent and silvery body of the Glass Catfish.

Avoid pairing the Glass Catfish with aggressive and large freshwater fish like Cichlids, Oscars, Arowanas, and Barbs. Doing so will only result in several clashes between stressed-out Ghost Catfish and highly territorial tank mates.

Breeding Glass Catfish: Is It Possible?

The Glass Catfish usually breeds during the monsoon season in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. However, the exact conditions to encourage these fish to breed in captivity have not been successfully identified. Some aquarists believe that the Glass Catfish need lower or colder temperatures and a separate breeding tank to be properly encouraged to breed.

In theory, this is how you might be able to breed Glass Catfish in a home aquarium setup:

  1. First, choose healthy breeding pairs of Glass Catfish to isolate from the main tank. Note that females are slightly rounder and larger than their male counterparts.
  2. Provide these pairs with a separate breeding tank that is heavily planted and has a soft substrate.
  3. Lower the water temperature to about 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Leave the breeding tank inhabitants in a dimly lit and cool room.
  5. Feed the breeding pairs with a protein-rich diet to prepare their bodies for mating.
  6. Wait for the female Glass Catfish to release her eggs on the leaves of plants. The male should then fertilize these eggs.
  7. The fertilized eggs should hatch after 72 hours. You can then support the Glass Catfish fry’s growth by feeding them small amounts of baby Brine Shrimp and infusoria.


The Glass Catfish is one of the most magnificent tropical fish you can add to your aquarium. However, as you just learned, there is more to these transparent fish than initially meets the eye. Below are the key points we covered in this article:

  • Glass catfish tank setupGlass Catfish originated from the calm and peaceful waters of Thailand and other areas in Southeast Asia.
  • Due to their fragile bodies, the Glass Catfish requires strict monitoring of proper tank and water parameters.
  • The Glass Catfish can be fed a mix of commercial pellets, live food, and frozen food.
  • This type of fish should only be paired with tank mates that are similarly peaceful or docile. They should not be forced to live with larger and aggressive fish.
  • It is theoretically possible to breed Glass Catfish in captivity; however, doing so would require an almost perfect mimicking of their natural habitat and environmental conditions during the mating season.

Now that you know how to care for the ghost-like Glass Catfish, you can add them to your aquarium, knowing that you are well-prepared to raise them and help them enjoy happy and healthy lives.

5/5 - (13 votes)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here