White Catfish Habits


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

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

White Catfish Species Information

Learn more about this catfish species.

Communication & Perception

Studies have indicated that white catfish 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.

  • 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


White catfish 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.

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

Ecosystem Connections

Apparently, more research should be done on the ecological impacts white catfish have in the many places they have been introduced. Does it have the capacity to become invasive in places where the climate and habitat suit its life cycle? For example, because the white catfish can tolerate relatively higher salinities, it can become abundant in brackish-water estuaries. These are often vital habitats for declining native fish species. Research is ongoing.