At first glance, you might not even see this fish! After a closer look, you might think the aquarium is home to some tiny fish skeletons! You might even be scared when you see these little "fish skeletons" move and swim! No need to call an exorcist! The aquarium is not haunted! It's home to the transparent Ghost Catfish!
Being a good ole Southern boy all of my life, I have always had a special place in my heart for catfish. As a child, I spent endless summer days catching catfish at the nearest lake, creek or pond. And as an adult, I have frequented my share of all you can eat catfish buffets! However, in all of that time, I can honestly say that I have never seen a catfish like the ghost catfish! And even after I was first introduced to this fish, I still almost didn't see the ghost catfish!
The ghost catfish is one of those freshwater fish that comes by its name naturally. After one close up look, you will know why this catfish is called a "ghost catfish." The fish is transparent! The ghost catfish actually looks like nothing more than a floating fish skeleton! This slender catfish has a transparent body that allows you to not only see its skeleton, but you can also see its internal organs! These internal organs are packed into the first ¼ of the ghost catfish's body.
The ghost catfish has an extremely long, transparent anal fin with 50 to 70 rays in it. However, it's the head of the ghost catfish that is probably the least transparent part of this fish. In many cases, the ghost catfish's head is the first thing you will see when looking at this fish! This somewhat silvery head features two maxillary barbells. Since the ghost catfish doesn't see very well at all, the fish usually uses these barbells to sense its environment.
The transparency of the ghost catfish is without a doubt the main reason why hobbyists like this catfish. However, in the wild, this transparency is what keeps the ghost catfish alive! The ghost catfish is a native of Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sumatra and other areas of eastern India and Southeast Asia. In these locations, the ghost catfish inhabits fast flowing, clear streams and rivers. The ghost catfish uses its transparency to blend into its surroundings to avoid any attacks from predators. In addition to being transparent, the ghost catfish will further complicate any predator's plans by remaining almost completely still, at a 30 degree angle, in the flowing waters.
Often the ghost catfish is initially hard to acclimate to the home aquarium. However, once the fish becomes acclimated, the ghost fish is quite a hardy fish. You can make the acclimation process for the ghost catfish easier by setting up its aquarium to closely reflect its natural habitat. The ghost catfish will appreciate a tank that has live plants, rocks, driftwood and plenty of open swimming space. An absolute necessity for the ghost catfish will be some type of moderate flow of water. This can be provided by a power head or a good filter. The ghost catfish will congregate wherever the strongest current is found in the aquarium. If the ghost catfish doesn't have some type of current to swim against, it will often die. And while the ghost catfish isn't a nocturnal catfish, it will appreciate dim or subdued lighting in its aquarium.
The water in the ghost catfish's aquarium will need to be maintained to prevent any bacterial infections. Imported ghost catfish are very susceptible to ich, or white spot, especially at lower temperatures. An ideal water temperature for the ghost catfish should range from 72 to 79 degrees, with the pH between 6.2 to 7.0.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure the health of your ghost catfish is not to keep this fish as a solitary specimen. The ghost catfish should always be kept in schools of 5 or more. If the ghost catfish are not kept together in a school, they will often become stressed and die! However, some hobbyists have successfully kept only one of these fish at a time. After a outbreak of ich struck my school of ghost catfish, I only had one survive. That single ghost catfish lived for over a year all by itself. That's pretty good, considering the ghost catfish are known to live only a few years anyway!
Even with a school of 5 ghost catfish, these fish won't take up a lot of space. Usually the ghost catfish that are found in pet stores are anywhere from 1 to 2 inches in length. As an adult, the glass catfish can reach a length of 4 inches. With a school of fish this size, you can successfully keep your ghost catfish in a 20 or 30 gallon aquarium.
If you are hoping to breed the ghost catfish in the home aquarium, you may be disappointed. There are only scattered, rare reported cases of the ghost catfish breeding in captivity. For the most part, breeding the ghost catfish in the home aquarium is rare, difficult and often impossible. In fact, hardly anything is known about the ghost catfish's breeding. It is suspected that the ghost catfish lays and scatters their eggs. In fact, just determining the sex of the ghost catfish is considered to be impossible! The two sexes are indistinguishable!
Care should be taken when deciding what tank mates the ghost catfish should have. The ghost catfish is a very docile fish that presents absolutely no threat to any other fish. The only threat the ghost catfish might represent would be to any fry found in its tank. Ideal tank mates for the ghost catfish can include corys, loaches, iridescent sharks, pictus catfish, red finned cigar sharks, bala sharks, neon tetras, glowlight tetras, rasboras, white clouds, guppies and even small angels.
When you feed the ghost catfish, you will notice that this fish doesn't feed like other catfish. The ghost catfish doesn't feed on the bottom of the tank. This mid to upper level swimmer will usually feed from the water's surface or eat slow sinking foods. The insectivorous ghost catfish will appreciate small live and frozen foods like blood worms, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, glass worms, plankton, beef heart and flake foods. Usually the only time you will see the ghost catfish move from its 30 degree resting position is at feeding time. At this time, you will notice that the ghost catfish is somewhat normal, swimming horizontally.
The ghost catfish is one of the easier to find catfish in the freshwater fish hobby. Due to the ghost fish's popularity, this fish is often found at nearly every pet store and even at wall to wall discount marts. The ghost catfish may be found under a number of different names such as the ghost fish, the Thai glass catfish, the Indian ghost and the popular name the glass catfish. It should also be mentioned that there are some "colored" versions of the ghost catfish available such as the orange, yellow, purple and blue ghost catfish. These fish aren't truly colored ghost catfish. Believe it or not, before these fish are exported to pet stores, some breeders take a needle and inject colored dye into the fish! Needless to say, these fish aren't healthy after this cruel, inhumane treatment and only about half of them actually make it to the pet stores!
As far as catfish go, the glass catfish is a pretty affordable species. I have seen the ghost catfish available anywhere from $4.00 to $7.00 apiece. Of course, when you buy a school of 5 or more of the ghost catfish, the total out of pocket expense tends to add up. But, even at that price, the ghost catfish is a fish that can be both a trick (to the eyes) and a treat!