Bumblebee Catfish Care Guide: Types, Diet, Tanks, Tank Mates, Breeding

The bumblebee catfish is a beautiful and exciting tropical fish that any aquarist would enjoy in their home aquarium. These freshwater fish aren’t only easy to take care of, but they’re nocturnal, so you get to see them when they are active in the evening if you’re out at work during the day.

Keeping any fish has its challenges, but if you maintain the water parameters and conditions similar to their natural habitat, the bumblebee catfish will thrive under your care. Many fish keepers term these beautiful fish as hardy, but they don’t mind a little pampering and fun once in a while.

If you’re already convinced that you want one of these freshwater catfish in your home aquarium, this guide will give you everything you need to know, from their ideal tank mates to their preferred diet and what to put in their tank.

Species Overview 

The Bumblebee catfish originates from the freshwater rivers and streams in parts of South America, like Venezuela and Colombia. You can also find them in other parts of the continent, like Peru and Northern Brazil.

These fish have a life span of 3 to 5 years, but the number of years they live depends on their external environment and the care you give them. Some have lived more than five years in a spacious freshwater tank with the proper diet and tank mates.

Here are some quick facts about these tropical fish:

  • Origins: South America 
  • Scientific name: Microglanis iheringi
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Water Temperatures: 70-77°F
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Diet: omnivores 
  • Water hardness: Soft
  • Tank Size: 20 gallon minimum 
  • Size: Maximum of 3 inches
  • Care Level: Easy

Appearance and Size

The bumblebee catfish has a vibrant and pattern-colored body that any aquarist looking to add more fish species to their tank would love.

Like other catfish species, these ones also have a wide mouth to scavenge and swallow food. Their heads are black with yellow and black stripes on their long bodies. They have large ventral fins to help them swim and navigate the water. And, of course, being a catfish, these fish also have whisker-like barbels. The barbels help them swim and find food in the substrate.

The Bumblebee catfish can grow to a maximum size of three inches by the time they are adults. They could grow slightly longer with the right tank conditions. They don’t take up too much space at this size, even at the bottom of the tank.

Types of Bumblebee Catfish

Knowing the different types of bumblebee catfish is essential so you don’t take home a species you don’t like or know. These tropical fish come from the Pseudopimelodidae family, which has close to 40 known species of bumblebee catfish. 

South American Bumblebee Catfish

The most famous catfish species from this family is the bumblebee catfish or the South American bumblebee catfish (named after its origins in South America of course), and the primary one discussed in this guide.

Other catfish that a beginner fishkeeper might confuse with a South American bumblebee catfish are the Asian and African bumblebee catfish. 

African Bumblebee Catfish

This catfish originates from the democratic republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon. Like the other catfish members of its family, they require temperatures of between 70 to 77°F and can grow between 3-3.5 inches in size. The African bumblebee catfish is also shy and loves to hide during the day.

Asian Bumblebee Catfish 

The Asian bumblebee catfish originate from the warm waters of Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. They are different in color from the South American bumblebee catfish and have brown and slightly orange stripes on their elongated body. An average Asian bumblebee catfish can grow up to 6 inches, twice the size of a bumblebee catfish from South America. 

Bumblebee Jelly Catfish 

The bumblebee jelly catfish looks very different than the other members of it’s family. They are much darker and can grow to nearly 8 inches by adulthood. The bumblebee jelly catfish is also not as shy as the other family members. They like to hide and ambush predators in their natural habitat.

All bumblebee catfish require warm temperatures because they’re tropical fish. Most people will go for the South American bumblebee catfish because they’re generally smaller and won’t take up too much space in a 20-gallon tank. They’re also very peaceful and easy to take care of.

Another peaceful catfish species you can consider for your tank is the is the Cory Catfish. They’re also easy to care for.

What to Look For When Buying Bumblebee Catfish 

When buying one of these catfish, you should observe them and check if they are sick before taking them home with you.

Some common signs of a sick bumblebee catfish include:

  • Swelling on their body
  • Fading patterns
  • Decreased appetite
  • Less active
  • Lack of appetite

While you can take the fish and nurture it back to health, it’s not for the faint of heart. A sick bumblebee catfish probably lives in an unhealthy environment, so that store is likely not the best place to buy this freshwater tropical fish.

Where to buy a Bumblebee Catfish

You won’t find the bumblebee catfish just at any store you look at. But their popularity means you can find them online and at pet stores in your area. These fish mostly go for between $5 to $10, but that amount depends on where you are buying it, additional charges like shipping, and the size of the fish.

If you’re buying your catfish at a local pet store, research to ensure you’re buying a healthy fish with no signs of illness or stress. Here are some reliable online stores where you can purchase a bumblebee catfish :

As always when buying anything online, research the store and check out online reviews before placing an order.

Bumblebee Catfish Care

While it sounds easy enough to give a bumblebee catfish everything they need while in your care, you still need to know specifics about what they eat, what they need to be happy and healthy, and the best tank mates to keep them with. This article will discuss how to care of the South American bumblebee catfish.

Both beginner and experienced fish keepers can raise an adult bumblebee catfish to be healthy and happy. If you need help, here is everything you need to know about caring for this adorable freshwater creature.

Tank Size

What is the best tank size for a South American bumblebee catfish? Considering they grow to a maximum of three inches, the best bumblebee catfish tank should be a minimum of 20 gallons tank. It offers them enough space to swim around, and you can add many decorations to keep them entertained.

Although it’s advisable to only have one bumblebee catfish per tank because of their aggressive behavior towards one another, you can still keep a few together, but you will need a larger bumblebee catfish tank. An additional 10 gallons for each catfish you add to the tank should help prevent any fighting over territory. Now to the fun part, decorating their tank!

What To Put in a Bumblebee Catfish Tank? 

Bumblebee catfish are picky about their environment, so you should ensure you try your level best to mimic their natural habitat. Because they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank, it should be filled with a soft substrate so they don’t get injured. The substrate will also prevent further injury to your bumblebee catfish’s barbels and face while looking for food.

Adding hiding places like caves and crevices is crucial for these fish because they love hiding during the day and coming out to eat and play at night. Other hiding places like rocks and driftwood will make the tank more lively.

You can also add plants to their tank. Aside from adding oxygen to the water, your bumblebee catfish can munch on fallen plant matter while scavenging in the substrate. It’s best to get plants with broad leaves or floating plants that offer shade and coverage to these fish during the day.

Plants you can put in your catfish’s tank include:

  • Amazon swords
  • Java ferns

Aside from plants and other decorations, you should also place a heater and filter in a bumblebee catfish tank. Heaters are essential because these freshwater fish need warm water temperatures to be comfortable in their new environment.

Most filters will work as long as they offer moderate to strong currents. In their natural habitat, these fish are used to fast to medium water flow, so attempting to mimic this rate will help keep them at ease in your home aquarium.

Water Parameters 

As mentioned above, the bumblebee catfish are hardy and can withstand different water conditions. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the proper parameters these fish need to thrive in their new habitat. 

Here are the proper water parameters that these fish need:

  • Water temperatures: 70-77°F
  • Water pH range: 6.5-7.5
  • Water hardness: 8-12 dGH

You should ensure that the ammonia and nitrite levels are as close to 0ppm as possible to prevent illnesses or reducing the water quality. A weekly water change of 25% will keep the tank water clean.

Common diseases

Although these freshwater fish are hardy, they can still be prone to certain illnesses. These illnesses harm these fish, so you shouldn’t take it lightly when they start exhibiting signs of sickness.

Rapid changes in their environment can cause health problems, so you need to ensure you maintain warm water temperatures. Bumblebee catfish aren’t prone to any specific illnesses, but in a dirty tank, they can get sick due to the build-up of ammonia and algae.

One disease you should look out for with these fish is ich. Ich disease is common in tropical freshwater fish with symptoms like white spots on their body.

If your bumblebee catfish starts scratching themselves on the tank or other surfaces and refusing to eat, they could be sick. If this is the case, you need to monitor them for other symptoms and seek a vet’s opinion.

The best way to prevent diseases is to test the water using aquarium test kits regularly. This will ensure the levels of ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites do not exceed a healthy level in the tank. If the equipment like filters and heaters are also working well, it will reduce the chance of illnesses caused by drastic changes in tank conditions.

Food and Diet

These fish are omnivorous, so they’ll be easy to feed because of the wide variety of options available. As long as it’s high-quality food, you’re bumblebee catfish will be enjoying all their meals. These fish will eat at night, so dropping food in their tank towards the evening is advisable.

Food is the best way to get your bumblebee catfish out of their hiding places. So you can feed them up to 3 times a day but be careful not to overfeed them, or they’ll get sick.

While freeze dried foods are available for these catfish, they do not have all the nutrients that a growing bumblebee catfish needs.

So you can supplemented with the other foods like:

  • Sinking pellets
  • Algae wafers 
  • Frozen foods
  • Small pieces of vegetables like Zucchini, Lettuce, spinach
  • Brine shrimp
  • flakes
  • Bloodworms
  • Earthworms
  • Insects
  • Falling plant matter
  • Daphnia

Foods that sink to the bottom of the tank, like sinking pellets, are great for these freshwater tropical fish because that’s where they like to spend most of their time. It’s ideal, especially if they’re in a community tank with other fish. You don’t have to worry about your bumblebee catfish eating the plants in your tank. They mostly go for food in the substrate, including plant matter that has fallen from live plants.

Behavior and Temperament 

It’s rare to find these fish swimming openly during the daytime because they’re nocturnal. They spend most of the day hiding under plant roots or rocks, depending on what you place in that tank.

Suppose you want to catch them displaying their beautiful fins, you have to wait until nighttime or once the lights are dimmed to see these nocturnal fish in all their glory. Place the rocks where they like to hide in your view of sight so that you always know what’s happening with them.

If you’re not keeping them with aggressive fish, you don’t have to worry about fights breaking out because the bumblebee catfish are very peaceful and shy. They mostly spend their time in the middle or lower levels of the tank. So if they’re sharing that tank with other fish, you can try some of the suitable tank mates below.

Suitable Tankmates

Getting compatible tank mates for your fish is important because it will affect their behavior and lifespan. Aggressive tank mates can make the bumblebee catfish more timid, and cause stress. Bumblebee catfish are naturally peaceful, so you have various options for which fish to put them in a tank with.

Some good bumblebee catfish tank mates include: 

  • Rainbow Sharks 
  • Gouramis
  • Yoyo Loaches
  • Emperor Tetras
  • Kuhli loaches

You should also not keep these fish with tank mates that are smaller than them. With their wide mouth, it’s very easy for a bumblebee catfish to eat a smaller fish and you wouldn’t even notice. Ensure that the fish you’re putting with the bumblebee catfish are the same size, if not bigger.

Fish you shouldn’t keep with your Bumblebee catfish include:

  • Shrimps
  • Snails
  • Oscars


It’s advisable not to try and breed bumblebee catfish if you’re a beginner. It’s rare to find an aquarist who has successfully bred these fish, even with the best conditions. Not only is it hard to distinguish male and female bumblebee catfish, but getting them to mate is also difficult.

When a female bumblebee catfish is ready to lay eggs, their bodies will become rounder. This only happens with the proper water parameters, a nutritious diet, and plenty of hiding spaces so they can feel comfortable. A bumblebee catfish eggs will take between 3-4 days to hatch.

Even so, it isn’t easy to mate these fish species with dedicated fish farms, so trying it could end up draining your resources. And mating might not even occur. If you want to breed fish, here is a list of the best freshwater fish to consider.


Can you keep bumblebee catfish together? 

Yes, you can. But these catfish can quickly get aggressive, so you should provide a spacious tank to prevent a confrontation. 

Do Bumblebee catfish eat algae?

No, these catfish species do not eat algae. They are omnivorous. Some of their favorite live foods are insects and worms, so algae isn’t at the top of their list.

Can a Bumblebee catfish eat other fish?

Yes. If you keep them with tiny fish, and your bumblebee gets hungry, they could eat their tank mates. That’s why keeping them with larger fish is recommended if in a community aquarium. 

Taking Care of a Bumblebee Catfish

Bumblebee catfish are an excellent option for aquarists looking to add an interesting freshwater species to their home aquarium. These freshwater fish are peaceful, easy to take care of, and nocturnal. So you can enjoy their company by the time you get home.

Clean their tank, ensure the water temperatures are warm, and add plenty of hiding places and they will be comfortable throughout their life in your care. If you place them correctly in their tank, you will get enough time to stare at them while feeding. 

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