Giraffe catfish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The giraffe catfish is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is native to Africa.

This fish is not commonly found in the aquarium trade, but is becoming more popular as more people learn about them.

If you’re thinking about getting a giraffe catfish, you’ll need to know how to care for them. That’s where this guide comes in.

Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about giraffe catfish care. Tank size, diet, tank mates, and more. It’s all here!

Species overview

Giraffe catfish (scientific name: Auchenoglanis occidentalis) are a type of freshwater catfish that are native to Africa. They are most commonly found in the Congo River basin but have also been spotted in other nearby river basins such as the Zambezi.

This fish is a bottom-dweller and likes to find hiding places among the plants and debris on the river floor. They are nocturnal creatures that come out to feed at night.

Giraffe catfish are relatively peaceful but can be quite territorial. They are known to fight with other fish of the same species if they feel like their territory is being encroached upon.

These fish can grow to be quite large, which is something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about adding one to your aquarium. They can reach lengths of up to four feet!


Giraffe catfish

The Giraffe Catfish is one of those fish that’s hard to miss. These giants can grow up to four feet long in some cases which is absolutely massive for a freshwater fish.

The body on these fish is eel-like in shape and it tapers down from their large head to their long tail. The skin on these fish is smooth with a bit of a slime coating.

The coloration on Giraffe Catfish can vary quite a bit. They can be brown, tan, green, or even a bluish color. There is usually some sort of pattern on their sides that can be stripes, spots, or a mottled effect.

These fish have large fins that help them maneuver easily in the water. The dorsal fin is large and starts about halfway back on their body. The anal fin is a bit smaller but it’s still quite noticeable.

They have a long caudal peduncle that leads into their forked caudal fin. This fin makes up a good portion of their length.

Giraffe Catfish also have barbels on their face that they use to help them find food. These barbels are long and thin and they can be quite sensitive.


The Giraffe catfish lifespan is around 10 years. This is a pretty long time for a fish and it’s a testament to how hardy these fish are.

Of course, the lifespan of your Giraffe catfish can be impacted by a number of different factors. If they’re not given the proper care then their lifespan will be shortened.

Things like poor water quality, stress from bad tank mates, or a suboptimal diet can all lead to a shorter lifespan for these fish.


Giraffe catfish can grow to be pretty big! The average size of a full-grown adult is between 18 and 24 inches, but some have been known to reach lengths of up to 36 inches. With that being said, these fish are not suitable for most home aquariums. If you’re considering adding one to your tank, make sure you have the space to accommodate them first.


Tank Size

A minimum tank size of 125 gallons is recommended for a single Giraffe catfish. But if you want to keep more than one, you should add an additional 55 gallons for each fish.

Giraffe catfish are not the most active fish but they do grow to be quite large. They can also be a bit territorial so having a larger tank will help to reduce aggression.

Water Parameters

Giraffe catfish come from a variety of habitats in Africa. Some are riverine, while others are found in lakes. As a result, there is some variation in their preferred water parameters.

The most important thing is to maintain consistent water conditions. These fish are not particularly hardy, so any sudden changes can cause stress and health problems.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when setting up a tank for giraffe catfish.

  • Water temperature: 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 19 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 3-10 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

Giraffe catfish are a little bit different from other species on this list in that they prefer to have some plants in their tank.

This is likely due to the fact that they’re used to living in murky water in the wild. The plants help provide some cover and security for them.

That being said, they’re not too picky about what kind of plants you use. Just about anything that can survive in your aquarium’s water conditions will do just fine.

In terms of the substrate, these fish don’t really have any preferences. You can use gravel, sand, or even a mix of the two. Just make sure that it’s not too sharp or course.

Other than that, you can add in some driftwood or rocks if you want. These fish like to have a few places to hide so they don’t feel too exposed.

Common Diseases

The Giraffe Catfish is a pretty hearty fish that doesn’t get sick often. However, there are still a few things you should look out for.

The most common illness you’ll see in these fish is ich. This is a parasitic infection that will show itself as white spots on the body of your fish.

If you see this, it’s important to take action immediately. Ich can quickly spread and kill your entire tank if you don’t treat it right away.

The other disease you might see is hole-in-the-head disease. This one is a bit less common, but it’s still something you should be aware of.

It’s caused by poor water quality and the presence of activated carbon in the tank. It will present itself as one or two pits/holes in the skin of your fish’s head.

While it’s almost always curable, it will usually leave some scarring on your poor fish!

The best way to prevent these diseases is to simply maintain the quality of the water in your tank. A tank with clean and stable water conditions is always the key to healthy fish.

Behavior & Temperament

Giraffe catfish are one of the more unique-looking fish on this list. But their exotic appearance isn’t the only thing that makes them stand out. They’re also known for being one of the more peaceful species of catfish.

Giraffe catfish are nocturnal, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see them much during the day. They’ll spend most of their time hiding in the shadows and will only come out to feed at night.

When they are out and about, giraffe catfish are gentle giants. They’re not aggressive and will usually leave other fish alone. The only time you might see them being territorial is if they feel like their hiding spot is being threatened.

Other than that, these fish are relatively easy to care for and make a great addition to any community tank.

Tank Mates

Giraffe catfish are a community fish that can get along with most species. They’re not aggressive and will even do well with smaller fish.

The only time you need to be careful is when adding tank mates that occupy the same space in the water column.

Giraffe catfish are bottom-dwellers. They sift through the substrate in search of food. As a result, you don’t want to add fish that do the same thing.

Competition for food is not a good thing in the aquarium hobby. It can lead to malnutrition and even death.

To avoid this, add fish that occupy different areas of the tank. Some good giraffe catfish tank mates include:


Giraffe catfish are one of the most unique and interesting freshwater fish you can find. They’re native to Africa and can grow to be over two feet long!

Their bodies are covered in black spots and they have a beautiful long tail.

Giraffe catfish are relatively easy to breed in captivity. The first step is to set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 50 gallons and have a sandy bottom.

Then, you need to add some plants and hiding places. These fish like to have a lot of places to hide. Driftwood, rocks, and caves will all work.

The next step is to add your fish. You’ll need one male and two females. The female Giraffe catfish can lay up to 2000 eggs at a time, so you need to make sure the male can fertilize them all.

Once the fish are in the tank, you need to do a water change. This will trigger spawning. The female will lay her eggs in the plants and the male will fertilize them.

After about a week, the eggs will hatch. The fry will be very small, so you need to be careful when feeding them. They can’t eat regular fish food. You need to crush it up into a powder and sprinkle it over the surface of the water.

As they grow, you can start feeding them baby brine shrimp and other small live foods.


Giraffe Catfish are one of those rare fish that look great, are relatively easy to care for, and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

They’re perfect for beginner aquarists who want a fish that’s a little bit different, but not so different that they’re not sure what they’re doing.

Overall, we think Giraffe Catfish are a great choice for anyone who’s looking for a new fish and we’re sure you’ll be happy with them!