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North American (or Bullhead) Catfishes

Ameiurus brunneus
Photo by Richard T. Bryant & Wayne C. Starnes
Etowah R., just above Yellow Cr. Rd., Cherokee Co., GA
51 mm SL, Collected 11-September 1982

With 49 species, Ictaluridae, the Bullhead Catfish family is the largest family of freshwater fishes endemic to North America. Bullhead catfishes are easy to recognize from other North American freshwater fishes. They have no scales, 4 pairs of barbels (“whiskers”) around the mouth, an adipose fin, stout spines at the dorsal and pectoral fin origins (except some cave species), and pelvic fins on the abdomen. Members of this family are active mainly at night in contrast to the other large groups of North American freshwater fishes – minnows, darters, and suckers — which are primarily active during daylight. Glandular cells in the skin surrounding the fin spines of some species, especially madtoms, contain venom, and a person can be “stung” by a catfish. Reaction to the sting of a madtom varies with the individual but is generally considered equivalent to a bee sting.

The Flathead and Blue Catfishes, the giants of the family at about 132 lb. (60 kg) and over 5 ft. (1.5 m) in length, and several other large species, especially the widely marketed Channel Catfish, are of major commercial, angling, and aquacultural value.

Ictalurids are organized into 7 genera:

Ictaluridae Taxa List

Genus & SpeciesCommon Name
Ameiurus brunneusSnail Bullhead
Ameiurus catusWhite Catfish
Ameiurus melasBlack Bullhead
Ameiurus natalisYellow Bullhead
Ameiurus nebulosusBrown Bullhead
Ameiurus platycephalusFlat Bullhead
Ameiurus serracanthusSpotted Bullhead
Ictalurus balsanusBalsas catfish
Ictalurus dugesiiLerma Catfish
Ictalurus furcatusBlue Catfish
Ictalurus lupusHeadwater Catfish
Ictalurus mexicanusRio Verde Catfish
Ictalurus priceiYaqui Catfish
Ictalurus punctatusChannel Catfish
Noturus albaterOzark Madtom
Noturus baileyiSmoky Madtom
Noturus crypticusChucky Madtom
Noturus elegansElegant Madtom
Noturus eleutherusMountain Madtom
Noturus exilisSlender Madtom
Noturus fasciatusSaddled Madtom
Noturus flavaterCheckered Madtom
Noturus flavipinnisYellowfin Madtom
Noturus flavusStonecat
Noturus funebrisBlack Madtom
Noturus furiosusCarolina Madtom
Noturus gilbertiOrangefin Madtom
Noturus gladiatorPiebald Madtom
Noturus gyrinusTadpole Madtom
Noturus hildebrandiLeast Madtom
Noturus insignisMargined Madtom
Noturus lachneriOuachita Madtom
Noturus leptacanthusSpeckled Madtom
Noturus maydeniBlack River Madtom
Noturus miurusBrindled Madtom
Noturus munitusFrecklebelly Madtom
Noturus nocturnusFreckled Madtom
Noturus phaeusBrown Madtom
Noturus placidusNeosho Madtom
Noturus speciesBroadtail Madtom
Noturus stanauliPygmy Madtom
Noturus stigmosusNorthern Madtom
Noturus tayloriCaddo Madtom
Noturus trautmaniScioto Madtom
Prietella lundbergiPhantom Blindcat
Prietella phreatophilaMexican Blindcat
Pylodictis olivarisFlathead Catfish
Satan eurystomusWidemouth Blindcat
Trogloglanis pattersoniToothless Blindcat