Catfish Survival

How do Catfish live in extremely muddy water?

It’s a jungle out there – survival of the fittest. Everyone knows, that to survive, you have to adapt. However, not everyone, or everything, can do this, with success. Catfish, however, deeply understand this necessity, it seems, as they are living testimony to the advantages of adaptation and specialization, in the sensory organ department, anyway.

Specifically, the question was raised as to how catfish can survive in extremely muddy water. Now, there’s two points to make here. First off, not all cats live in extremely muddy water, or even muddy water at all. Channel cats and Blue cats, among others, live almost exclusively in clear, faster-flowing waterways with rock or rocky bottoms, preferring deep, dark holes through which the current passes swiftly, bringing with it all manner of organic debris, such as dead fish, and washing away any would-be sediment buildup.

The second point, is that cats are, as stated, ultra-well adapted to life in the dark, and also, to life in waters which present a hardship for most other species to survive in, such as muddy, murky ponds, with limited oxygen in the water, and an acidic pH reading. so, the species which do live in the murkiest waters, are very well able to do so. Specifically, all catfish are identifiable by the eight barbels, or “whiskers” which surround their mouths. These barbels are actually adapted taste and tactile sensors, able to detect not only the location of an obstruction in front of or beside the fish, as it swims through total darkness and murk, but to taste the object, also, to determine if it’s food, and if so, what and how big it is. Catfish have a very highly-developed sense of smell, also, which allows them to detect and accurately locate potential food sources from long distances away, much like sharks. Next, cats have a thick, leathery and scaleless skin which is exceptionally protective and strong, and which can withstand a wide range of water conditions and potentially injurious situations. Finally, all cats have adapted swim bladders which also act as a sort of lung, to some extent, and in several species, it can be used to breath air directly, if the water no longer has enough oxygen dissolved to support life…. one species can even leave the water and walk over dry land on its pectoral fins, in search of other waterways, if the conditions are too harsh.

Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

One Response to “Catfish Survival”

  1. I just wanted to chime in here with my $0.02 on How Catfish Survive In Muddy Waters.

    Catfish, even Channel Cats and Blue Cats love muddy water, they’re right at home in it(no pun intended).

    There’s just something about muddy water that turns Catfish on, and it makes them bite like there’s no tomorrow.

    The only changes I can see in how they behave during high/muddy water periods is they feed ferociously, and they’ll move in closer to the shore usually, I think because they’re trying to avoid the large rocks that get moved along the channel of a river during high water.

    Also the bait fish that they feed on are doing the same thing and moving close to shore, so that’s where you’ll tend to find/catch them when the water is up and muddy.

    As for muddy water affecting catfish in a negative way, I really can’t see any evidence of it, in fact they behave as if the opposite is true.


    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts here, and till next time.

    Fish Dog Fish

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