Stocking Fish Tips: Slowly add fish to your tank. Never go out and buy a bunch of tropical fish because your tank’s bio-load won’t be able to handle it. Slowly adding fish gives your tanks biological filtration a chance to catch up.
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The redtail catfish, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus, is a pimelodid (long-whiskered) catfish named for its red or orange caudal fin. In Venezuela it is known as cajaro and in Brazil it is known as pirarara. It is the only extant species of the genus Phractocephalus. This fish originates from South America. Despite reaching a large size, this fish is a common aquarium fish.
Although the redtail catfish is the only living representative of this genus, there are other members that date back to the upper Miocene. P. nassi was described in 2003, and is from Urumaco, Venezuela. Another undescribed member is known to exist from Acre, Brazil. This genus has a minimum age of about 13.5 million years.
The redtail catfish is native to the Amazon, Orinoco, and Essequibo river basins of South America. It is found only in fresh water. This fish has also been introduced into Florida, but it is not established.
The redtail catfish has a broad head with a wide mouth. Its body is primarily dark gray with small darker gray spots. The ventral surface is paler. The redtail catfish has three pairs of long barbels. A lateral white band starts at the caudal peduncle and runs anteriorly, tapering to end anywhere from midway along the body to just behind the operculum. The caudal fin is red or orange, giving the fish its common name. The juveniles may be more intensely colored.
Upon maturity these fish can reach a length of 1.3 m (4 ft) total length. They have been known to reach over 44 kg (97 lb).