Yellow Bullhead Catfish Habits


Yellow bullhead eggs hatch five to ten days after fertilization. The male yellow bullhead guards the nest during this period. Upon hatching, the young fry are herded into tight schools by the male and protected until they are approximately two inches long. Sexual maturity is reached between the ages of 2 and 3 years, when the fish are at least 140 mm in length.


Yellow bullhead males dig nests, which may range from a shallow depression in muddy sediment to a deep burrow in the stream bank. Protected nest sites near rocks and stumps with dense vegetation are preferred. Nest sites attract females for mating. 

Yellow Bullhead Catfish Species Information

Learn more about this catfish species.

Mating System

Mating System: monogamous

Yellow bullhead spawn from April until June, beginning when water temperatures reach 23 to 28 degrees Celsius. The female produces 300 to 700 sticky yellowish eggs per spawning act, and the nest can contain 1700 to 4300 eggs in total.

  • Breeding interval: Yellow bullheads breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season: Yellow bullheads breed and spawn from April to July.
  • Range number of offspring: 1700 to 4300
  • Average time to hatching: 5-7 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2-3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2-3 years

Both the male and female help in the construction of the nest and while the young are in the nest one of the parents will guard them. After the fry hatch the male herds the young into a dense ball and will protect them until they grow to two inches long.


Not much is known about the behavior of yellow bullheads. They are highly social and feed primarily at night.

  • Key Behaviors: natatorial, nocturnal, motile, sedentary, solitary 

Parental Investment

  • Pre-fertilization: provisioning protecting female
  • Pre-hatching/birth: protecting male
  • Pre-independence: protecting male

Communication & Perception

Studies have indicated that yellow bullheads are a very social fish and can recognize other individuals and their social status by their smell. The olfactory apparatus (i.e., nose) is responsible for this ability, while the barbels and other dermal taste buds are used for locating food.

Taste buds are found in the mouth and all over the body. Yellow bullheads have 5 taste buds every 5 mm² on their body surface. The barbels serve as both an external tongue and hands. Bullheads can feel with their body and their barbels. They also have 20,000 taste buds on the eight whiskers. The average adult has a total of over 200,000 taste buds on its body.

  • Communication channels: visual, tactile, chemical
  • Perception channels: visual, tactile, chemical

Food Habits

Like all other catfish species, yellow bullheads are opportunistic feeders. Yellow bullheads feed at night. They have been known to eat minnows, crayfish, insects and insect larvae, aquatic invertebrates, and worms. Compared to the other two bullheads, the yellow bullheads consume more aquatic vegetation. The young will feed on aquatic invertebrates.

  • Primary Diet: carnivore, insectivore, eats non-insect arthropods, molluscivore
  • Animal Foods: fish, carrion, insects, mollusks, terrestrial worms, aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant Foods: macroalgae
  • Other Foods: detritus


Yellow bullheads are preyed upon by larger fish such as largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and other catfish. Large wading birds and some turtles will also take the adults. The young will be taken by smaller predators, aquatic invertebrates, leeches, and crayfish. They can inflict venomous stings with their pectoral spines, helping them to avoid predation. ("Yellow Bullhead", 2005) 

  • Known Predators: largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), large wading birds (Aves), turtles (Testudines) 

Ecosystem Roles

Yellow bullheads have been found to be a host species for creepers (Strophitus undulatus) and they are parasitized by leeches (Hirudinea). 

  • Commensal/Parasitic Species: creepers (Strophitus undulatus), leeches (Hirudinea)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Yellow bullheads are not considered to be a game fish, but they are widely sought after for food. Yellow bullheads also can be introduced into streams with high pollution because of their high tolerance to pollution.

  • Positive Impacts: food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Bullheads are very well known for the ability to inflict a sting with their pectoral spines. The pain can last for a week or more. The sting is caused by small glands near their fins that produce a poison which causes the swelling. The pain can be dulled by dabbing ammonia on the wound.

  • Negative Impacts: injures humans  bites or stings