Bullhead vs Catfish: What’s the Difference

Did you guys know there are some significant distinctions between bullhead vs catfish? While bullheads are a sort of catfish, several characteristics can be used to separate them from other catfish varieties- but what should you look for when attempting to distinguish between these two fish?

In this study, we will discuss the various bullhead and catfish so that you can thoroughly grasp both. We will also examine their favorite habitats, activities, lifespans, and physical looks. So, let’s get this party started.

Table: Differences Between Bullhead vs Catfish

ClassificationClass: Actinopterygii
Family: Ictaluridae
Genus: Ameiurus
Species: A. nebulosus
Class: Actinopterygii
Family: Clariidae
Genus: Clarias
Species: C. gariepinus
HabitatBullhead catfish are a unique species of fish that can survive in water habitats that other fish species cannot. They are able to thrive in small farm ponds, as well as large lakes. This makes them an important part of the food chain in freshwater habitats.
Some catfish live in freshwater, some live in salt water. Lakes, reservoirs, and ponds are usually fresh water, but there can be saltwater fish in them if the water comes from an ocean or a bay.

There can also be brackish water fish in them if they are near a river or a creek. Streams, creeks, and rivers are moving water habitats and catfish can live in any of them.
Shape & SizeAs a whole, bullhead catfish are fat fish that seldom grow more significantly than 16 inches. Overhanging the lower jaw is the upper jaw. There are no apparent forks in the tail.
The species’ typical size is from 1.2 to 1.6 meters, The presence of barbels surrounding the mouth is one observable trait shared by all catfish. Four barbels are located beneath the jaw and one is located on the tip of each maxilla in a specific pattern (upper jaw).
FinAt the dorsal fin’s base, there is no black spot. The 19–23 rays on the anal fin make it a rather short fin. The center of the caudal fin’s margin has a little notch. 50 cm (21 in) maximum total length.

The adipose fin is a free lobe that is widely separated from the tail fin and is located on the back, between the dorsal fin and tail.
The anal fin has between 24 and 29 rays. One dorsal fin is seen. The anal fin’s margin is gently rounded. The tail fin of channel catfish is forked.

HeadHave flatter shaped headHave bullet-shaped head
ColorationIts body is scale-free and has a variety of colors from dark brown to olive.Colors range from olive-brown to slate, with blue and grey accents on the edges at times. On the back, they are typically olivaceous to blue, fading ventrally to off-white.
DietBrown bullheads are benthic bottom feeders scavengers that eat everything. Algae, leeches, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, crayfish, other smaller fish species, and fish eggs make up their food. Brown bullheads are primarily nocturnal feeders but have been seen feeding during the day.Although they generally feed on the bottom, channels will occasionally feed at the top and in the middle of the water. Aquatic insects, crayfish, mollusks, crabs, and fish are important food sources. Smaller channels eat invertebrates, whereas bigger ones may devour fish. Carrion, contrary to common perception, is not their usual diet.
ReproductionFishes discharge developed gonads from their bodies into particular and favorable areas of the surrounding waters, resulting in reproduction. Before the parents of these catfish begin to spawn, they construct a strong nest in a dark and sheltered part of the water.

This method protects their fertilized eggs from the harshness of the sea, including predators and adverse weather conditions. The female then deposits her eggs in the nest, and both parents protect the eggs as they hatch into fingerlings.
Brown Bullheads typically spawn exclusively from April to June each year, when the water temperature surpasses 65°F.
Spawning often occurs in rivers and streams in spring and early summer, when water temperatures range from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Catfish will also spawn in more giant lakes with sufficient habitat. Eggs are laid in nests hidden behind banks or logs or on the open bottom. The male selects the nesting place.

Usually, a natural cavern or hole clears the nest and protects the eggs and young. Depending on the temperature of the water, a female may lay 2,000 to 21,000 eggs, which hatch in 6 to 10 days. Males guard the eggs until they hatch, which takes approximately a week.


  • Wikipedia: Brown Bullhead
  • Wikipedia: Catfish
  • Kansas Wildlife & Parks: Identification of Blue, Channel, and Flathead Catfish
  • https://mdc.mo.gov
  • https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu