Do Catfish Eat Poop? All Questions Answered

Catfish eat whatever is available. From live foods like worms, insects, and other aquatic animals to debris like algae and fish excrement, almost everything is food for catfish. They are scavenger fish that hunt for whatever is available to consume in the fish tank. But does that include poop?

Yes, catfish eat poop. Catfish are opportunistic feeders. Some types of catfish are more likely to eat feces than others. However, catfish eat poop because they mistake it for food. Excreta is not a part of their natural diet. It doesn’t provide the necessary nutrients in fish tanks.

Tropical aquariums will look great with catfish, but you need to know how to care for them and ensure a healthy diet. Let’s find out more about catfish eating poop, their natural diet, and how to keep your aquarium clean. 

Do Catfish Eat Poop in the Aquarium?

Catfish eat poop, and that is why they are part of the cleanup crew for aquariums. 

Catfish belong to the order Siluriformes species and get their name for having barbells similar to cat’s whiskers. Corydoras Catfish and Synodontis Lucipinnis are two catfish species that are especially known for eating fish poop and are kept in aquariums to keep the habitat clean.

Generally speaking, catfish can eat poop if they mistake it for food or have nothing else to feed on. They constantly raid the bottom of the aquarium for leftover food, algae, debris, etc. If they come across fish poop, catfish might easily eat it and move on to other leftovers. 

In the wild, feces can be a good source of nutrients as it contains undigested food, bacteria, etc. However, domesticated fish poop is less likely to provide nutritional value to catfish. A catfish in a fish tank needs much more than leftover food and poop to survive. 

Though catfish eat poop when hungry and help clean the aquarium, it is best to ensure a healthy diet plan for their growth. Some catfish will spit when they eat fish poop by mistake. 

What does a Catfish Normally Eat?

Catfish eat a variety of items. Blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish are popular species of catfish. The channel catfish loves to eat and will consume most stuff found in the ponds. They also eat aquatic plants and decaying matter, along with debris. 

The blue catfish likes to eat smaller fish, insects, and worms, though it will try to gobble anything that fits in its mouth. A blue catfish have been known to eat a duck too. Imagine that! 

The flathead catfish love eating insects, live fish, shrimp, bass shad, bream, etc. These are the second-largest catfish in North America. The North African catfish enjoy phyto and zooplankton but are known to eat other fish, birds, and decaying matter. 

The following are some common food items catfish like to consume:

  • Worms 
  • Aquatic plants and insects 
  • Small fish 
  • Shrimps
  • Crustaceans
  • Mollusks
  • Detritus
  • Algae growth 

Catfish enjoy fish meat and will consume dead fish whenever possible. However, domesticated catfish in fish tanks don’t have access to food sources easily found in the wild. Hence, you can feed them the live foods, such as shrimps and worms to maintain a balanced diet.

Note: Young catfish need more feeding and eat twice or thrice a day due to higher metabolism. As they grow mature, their metabolism slows down. Adult catfish can be fed less often, but if you have young catfish, make sure they have enough food to support their growth. 

What does a Catfish Normally Eat

Types of Catfish that Clean Poop from Your Aquarium 

Among the various types of catfish found around the globe, only two species are suitable to keep the aquarium clean. 

Corydoras Catfish

Also known as cory catfish or cory cat, these fish are famous for being bottom-dwelling scavengers in ponds and large fish tanks. Around 160 species of cory catfish have been discovered, and many more are undiscovered. 

The green cory and leopard cory are the most popular additions to aquariums. They eat their own feces and waste released by other fish. Cory catfish also eat worms, insects, plants, and debris. They might consume harmful substances and fall sick if the fish tank is not cleaned regularly. 

Synodontis Lucipinnis

Synodontis Lucipinnis are also bottom dwellers but nocturnal fish that swim like sharks. They are expensive freshwater fish and have a lifespan of twenty-eight years. In captivity, Synodontis Lucipinnis can live for about twenty years. People prefer to add at least one Synodontis Lucipinnis to their fish tank as they are undemanding and eat whatever they can find. The fish eats poop and other debris to keep the aquarium clean for longer periods.     

Types of Catfish that Clean Poop from Your Aquarium

What Other Fish Eat Poop?

There are no specific poop-eating fish to keep your tank clean. Though some catfish and snails eat poop and are called ‘cleanup crew,’ they should not be added to the aquarium only to rid of fish poop. 

If you want your pet fish to survive and be healthy, it’s your responsibility to clean the poop from the tank. The scavenger fishes eat dead fish, leftover food, algae growth, etc., to prevent them from rotting in the tank.

Factors to Consider When Getting Poop-eating Catfish for the Fish Tank

You can use Poop-Eating Catfish to your Advantage

Depending on the size of your aquarium, you can buy an assortment of different catfish species that do the job of a cleanup crew. Snails, shrimp, urchins, bristle nose catfish, etc., are some good additions to your fish tank. 

However, cleanup crew can consume only a portion of the leftover and rotten food, algae, and other debris in the tank. You should manually clean the fish tank to get rid of the remaining waste and prevent ammonia spikes in the water. 

Here are some factors you need to consider before getting poop-eating fish for your aquarium:


Not all fish species live together in harmony. Choose the cleanup crew based on the fish already inhabiting your fish tank. 

Algae Size 

Some algae, like kelp, are used as shelters by smaller fish. Smaller algae like diatoms are consumed by fish and snails. There should be enough algae left even after the cleanup crew consumes it.  


Bioload is the quantity of waste the fish generate (dead and alive). Feeding high-quality food reduces leftovers and waste and increases their lifespan. This will lead to a lesser bioload, which can be handled by a smaller cleanup crew. 

Tank Size 

A small tank will need only a couple of snails or a smaller catfish. Don’t overcrowd the tank with too many fish, as it makes it difficult for them to swim. 

What Other Fish Eat Poop

Why Do Catfish Eat Poop in the Aquarium? 

When poop floats in water, it can look similar to food. Catfish can mistakenly eat it. Sometimes, they spit it out, while some fishes may fall sick. Another reason is the lack of food in the fish tank. When catfish are hungry, they look around to find anything that feels remotely edible and consume it. 

What to do When Catfish Eat Poop in the Tank?

Rabbits may have to rely on their feces for nutrition, but fish don’t. If you notice your catfish consuming poop, you should take the following steps to prevent it from becoming a habit. 

Step 1: Increase Feeding

Give your catfish enough food to ensure it doesn’t have to survive only by eating fish poop in the tank. 


Many fish turn scavengers when there isn’t adequate food to eat. Underfeeding is as risky as overfeeding. That’s why vets provide a detailed diet chart and instructions to feed aquarium pets, including catfish. 

Step 2: Clean the Tank 

Dirty water in the fish tank makes it hard for fish to find food. Regularly cleaning the aquarium and improving the water quality will ensure that catfish don’t eat fish poop, mistaking it as their food. Clean aquariums also reduce the risk of infections. 

Step 3: Feed it the Right Kind of Foods 

A catfish’s enthusiasm to eat will lead to excess eating and health issues. Typically, adult catfish should be fed about 2.5% of their body weight per day. 

  • Thaw frozen food in warm water and feed smaller quantities. 
  • Include fish food flakes and pellets in their diet. 
  • Repeat the process two or three times a day. 

Even with catfish in the tank, there can be some uneaten leftover food that rots at the bottom of the aquarium and affects the water quality. 

When you feed them smaller quantities, and clean the aquarium regularly, your catfish will not eat poop. 

How to Clean Poop from the Fish Tank 

Fish eat, swim, and poop in the same water. Over time, the waste decomposes and breaks down to mix with water. This reduces the water quality and turns it murky. 

The chemical composition changes in the fish tank, leading to infections and even death if you don’t change the water on time. Even with the cleanup crew in the tank, you’ll notice that fish poop remains in the tank.Manual cleaning is the best way to get rid of this harmful waste. Periodic cleaning also increases the life of the filtration system and other things (decorations). Fortunately, there are three different ways to clean the poop from an aquarium. 

How to Clean Poop from the Fish Tank

Scoop Out the Poop

Scoop the poop using a skimmer. This method is suitable when the fish has just pooped and the waste is still floating in the water. After a few minutes, the poop will sink to the bottom. You need to scoop the poop out as soon as you see it. 

Drain the Fish Tank 

Once the poop settles at the bottom, you have to try another cleaning method, like draining the water from the tank and refilling it with fresh water. First, transfer the fish to another container or bucket with water and drain the tank. 

Vacuum the Aquarium 

Vacuuming the aquarium is the easiest method to remove the fish poop. The machine is also called a gravel cleaner. The machine is used to change the water in the fish tank, suck dirt from the bottom, and wash the sand or gravel on the tank’s floor. 


Catfish can be found eating fish poop, but that doesn’t mean it eats only waste throughout its life. Even though some catfish seem to enjoy the taste of poop, make sure to feed them a nutrient-rich diet. Live and fresh food does wonders to help your catfish grow big and healthy. 

Clean your aquarium manually instead of relying on catfish. They can help maintain the ecosystem in the fish tank, though. 


Can You Feed Human Food to Catfish?

Yes, catfish enjoy eating what humans eat. Ingredients like peas, corn, cucumber, melons, and bananas are safe for catfish. Peas and corn should be thoroughly cooked, while the other three can be fed raw. Peas also help in clearing the digestive system of fish.

What is the favorite food of catfish?

Live and dead crawfish are the favorite food for catfish in the wild. They also love eating worms, white fish, mackerel, snails, clams, crayfish, aquatic plants and insects, etc. 

Do catfish eat snails?

Yes, snails are among catfish’s favorite food. Snails provide nutrients, vitamins, and carbs necessary for their health. However, they eat only smaller snails and snails’ eggs (except for mystery snails’ eggs). Cory catfish, Bandit catfish, and Albino catfish enjoy snails as a meal.

Can catfish eat fruits?

Catfish farmed in domestic ponds can eat fruits. You should feed them fruits like bananas, apples, and strawberries only if there isn’t enough algae growth to ensure your catfish have a comprehensive diet plan. 

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