Bumblebee Catfish: The Ultimate Guide to Care, Diet, Size, Lifespan & More

The Bumblebee Catfish is a hardy and easy-to-care-for fish that is great for beginner aquarium owners.

Bumblebee Catfish – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Bumblebee Catfish below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameMicroglanis iheringi
Common NamesBumblebee Catfish, South American Bumblebee Catfish
AppearanceBumblebee catfishes are black and yellowish, alternating between both colors down the length of the fish.
DifficultyThe difficulty of caring for bumblebee catfish is low-maintenance and straightforward.
DistributionThe bumblebee catfish is found in South America, specifically in Columbia and Venezuela.
LifespanThe lifespan of a bumblebee catfish is about 5 years.
ShoalingThe bumblebee catfish is not a shoaling fish.
TemperamentThe bumblebee catfish is a quiet and peaceful fish that is nocturnal.
Keep in Groups of1 or more
Tank MatesCorydoras, Rainbow sharks, Bristlenose plecos, Dwarf or opaline gourami, and Kuhli loaches, avoid significantly smaller fish as the bumblebee catfish is likely to eat them.
DietThe diet of bumblebee catfish is mainly composed of scavenged larvae, plant matter, and insects.
LengthThe average length of the bumblebee catfish is 2.5 inches.
Sexual DimorphismIt is difficult to tell the difference between the sex of bumblebee catfish, but females tend to be wider than males and rounder.
Breeding DifficultyBreeding Bumblebee Catfish is difficult because they require changes in the physical environment/hardscape and the presence of other fish in order to breed.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeBumblebee catfish are freshwater fish.
Water TemperatureThe preferred water temperature for bumblebee catfish is between 24-28°C (75-82°F).
Water pHThe ideal water pH for bumblebee catfish is between 6.0 and 8.0.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for bumblebee catfish is 5-12 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum size tank for bumblebee catfish is 20 gallons, and the recommended tank size is at least 10 gallons per additional catfish.


South American bumblebee catfish are a freshwater fish that have captivated aquarists for years. Even though they are not as trendy as some of their more flamboyant counterparts, something about these little guys makes them an appealing choice!

These fish bear resemblance to aquatic versions of the real-life bumblebees we always see in nature. Their bright yellow and black coloration is striking and will stand out in your tank (no matter what other species you keep with them).

Bumblebee catfish are also very low-maintenance, which is always welcome when it comes to keeping fish in your home aquarium. If you want a pretty yet easy-to-care-for species but don’t want anything too flashy, this might be the perfect fit for you!

About Bumblebee Catfish

The bumblebee catfish is one of the most colorful freshwater fish out there. This species gets its name from its alternating black and yellowish pattern, resembling a bumblebee.

These fish are very peaceful and easy to care for. They are highly active nocturnal scavengers that spend most of their time near the substrate. Bumblebee catfish are bottom-dwellers but can sometimes be found throughout your tank due to their natural curiosity about what might be going on in other parts of your aquarium.

They do excellent with a broad assortment of tank mates and can coexist with just about any fish you throw at them!


The base color of the bumblebee catfish is black, with yellow stripes along the length of the fish. This pattern makes it easy to identify these fish and gives them their common name.

There are some variations in this pattern, but all have this same primary look.

The fins of the bumblebee catfish are typically transparent except for black rays at the end. There will be a dark stripe running along each ray as well.

Their Length

The average bumblebee catfish length is around 2.5 inches, making them a relatively small fish.

Because of their small size, keeping these fish in a well-maintained tank (20 gallons or larger) is fairly easy. The fact that they aren’t too large also makes them very appealing for hobbyists with limited space.


The lifespan of a bumblebee catfish is about 5 years. So if they’re kept in optimal conditions, this is the average age you can expect them to live.

However, like any other fish, the their lifespan can be negatively affected by their living conditions. As always, we recommend striving for excellent care.

Sexual Dimorphism

It is difficult to tell the difference between the sex of bumblebee catfish, but females tend to be wider than males and rounder. The size difference between the sexes is not large enough to notice when they are young, but as they grow up, it becomes more apparent.


Bumblebee catfish are found in various rivers and streams throughout South America.

When kept as pets, bumblebee catfish do fine in standard aquariums but often spend most of their time at the bottom or near the substrate.

They’re nocturnal, so they tend to be a little shyer during the day and move more often at night.

Caring for Bumblebee Catfish

You don’t have to know everything about order to care for a bumblebee catfish properly. These fish are very hardy and can handle a range of water conditions without many issues (as long as you stay within the accepted ranges).

This is one reason they are so popular, especially with aquarists who want a low-maintenance species that doesn’t require constant attention.

However, these aren’t fish that should be taken lightly by anyone. While we believe they make great starter freshwater species, if you know what you’re doing, that doesn’t mean you can just set them up and forget about them!


The bumblebee catfish is a scavenger that consumes whatever it can find. They love to eat leftover food from other aquarium fish and will often steal it if they can’t get it first!

They also enjoy eating any plants that you put in their habitat as well as algae growing on rocks, driftwood, and tank decorations.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

Bumblebee catfish will eat a variety of foods in the wild. Omnivores are animals that consume both plant and animal food. These fish will scavenge for leftovers after other fish or consume insect larvae along with dead organic matter that accumulates on the bottom of the water.

It’s not practical to replicate this natural diet in an aquarium setting, but you can provide some vegetable-based foods as part of their diet to ensure good health. Make sure insects and other protein sources are also available for your bumblebee catfish.

If you feed them twice per day, then each meal should last about 2 minutes since these fish aren’t big eaters!

Possible Diseases

The bumblebee catfish is not immune to diseases, but it’s rare for them to experience health issues.

Their low-maintenance nature makes it difficult for disease-causing bacteria and fungi to thrive in their tank. However, if you fail to maintain the proper temperature or water conditions, your fish could suffer from ich or other life-threatening diseases.

One common health issue you should watch out for is dropsy, which causes the belly of your fish to swell. Dropsy has many possible causes; however, it can be difficult to treat and often leads to death if not caught early on.

Tank Setup

Bumblebee catfish prefer a natural habitat, so stick to the basics with plants and driftwood.

These bottom-feeder fish like to stay close to the ground, where they can easily scavenge for their food. Provide plenty of hiding places in case any aggressive tank mates come along! Driftwood or rocks work well.

Bumblebee catfish also prefer a soft, fine substrate such as sand or very fine gravel. Since they are spending most of their time there, you don’t want them injuring themselves on sharp chunks of gravel.

Aquarium Size

Bumblebee catfish are not large fish. Because of that, the minimum tank size for this species is relatively small (20 gallons).

However, we recommend going with an aquarium that holds at least 10 gallons per additional bumblebee catfish you wish to keep. This will ensure they have enough space to swim and hide when needed.

Note: These fish prefer a long tank rather than a tall or any other type. This is because a long tank allows for a larger bottom for them to explore.

Water Conditions

The most important thing you can provide your Bumblebee Catfish with is consistency in temperature and pH levels. This will ensure they have the optimal home environment where they feel safe enough to feed freely and grow strong.

Below we outline what each parameter should be for a healthy Bumblebee Catfish.


The ideal water pH for bumblebee catfish is between 6.0 and 8.0. There’s no need to adjust the pH level of their tank to a specific value, but you should be aware that this species prefers a slightly alkaline environment (as opposed to an acidic one).


The preferred water temperature for bumblebee catfish is between 24-28°C (75-82°F).

Somewhere in that range is best. You don’t need to go crazy with a super precise heater, but also make sure you get one that can handle both ends of the scale.


Bumblebee catfish are not fussy about the hardness of their water, and a hardness level between 5-12 dH is suitable.

Note: Harder waters can make it more difficult to keep your tank clean. Your bumblebee catfish may also have an increased chance of getting disease.


Bumblebee catfish, like most types of catfish, need very clean and well-oxygenated water to live to their fullest. In addition, many owners choose models with adjustable flow to keep the tank as quiet as possible.

Aquarium Plants

Bumblebee catfish enjoy having plants in their tanks. Not only do the plants help provide a hiding place, but they can give your fish some variety in their diet as well.

Plants like hornwort and Java moss are great for this species because of their durability and resistance. These plants also make it easier for these catfish to get closer to the bottom of the tank without risking injury.

Note: Some aquarists recommend floating aquarium plant options instead, so you don’t have to worry about them getting too close to the substrate. This is ultimately your decision!

Behavior and Compatibility

Bumblebee catfish are nocturnal and spend most of the day hiding out in caves or under shady rocks. However, when dusk approaches, they become more active and begin searching for food. They will eat anything from worms to small insects that fit into their mouths.

In general, you shouldn’t house these catfish with any small, easily-eaten fish, since they will often mistake them for food.

How Many to Keep Together

Bumblebee catfish are not a shoaling species and can be kept on their own. However, we say they are best kept in groups of at least three fish. When there is a larger group, the bumblebee can exhibit more natural behavior and be less skittish.

If you’re confident that your tank setup will not negatively impact this species, you can keep them as solitary fish if necessary. However, we don’t recommend it because they feel safer and more comfortable with their own kind.

If you’re keeping a large group together, make sure that there is enough room for each fish to swim comfortably and have its own space.


Bumblebee catfish are very peaceful fish that get along with all kinds of tank mates. They’ll spend their days laying low and minding their own business, so they tend to not want to start any trouble!

They can be roughed up a bit if you put them in the wrong kind of tank or with the wrong species (aggressive fish). This will cause them stress and anxiety, making it hard for them to live peacefully.

Tank Mates

Remember that these fish are nocturnal, which means they will be sleeping during the day and active at night.

While you can keep them with other species, it can be good to pair these fish with others that share the same nocturnal tendencies. A good example of this would be Corydoras catfish or any similar bottom-dwelling community tank mate.

As far as other non-aggressive tropical fish go, here is a list of some compatible tank mates:


Breeding these fish is not easy and the method is not very well known. Most species available for purchase are caught directly from the wild, and they are not generally bred in captivity.

Are Bumblebee Catfish Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

Bumblebee catfish are a good choice for freshwater tanks. They’re hardy fish that will not cause any trouble in your tank and can thrive in a wide range of conditions.

The only time you might have to worry is if there are smaller or more vulnerable critters swimming around the tank. This could lead them to become food!

If this is something that might be a problem for you, we recommend keeping these fish in an aquarium by themselves. In our experience, the size and strength of bumblebee catfish make them prone to attacking smaller tank mates.


The first and most obvious pro of owning a bumblebee catfish is that they are quite beautiful. There’s something about the unique alternating colors on their bodies that really stands out!

Another reason to consider these fish is their low-maintenance care requirements. These fish are very hardy, so you don’t need to keep track of any specific water parameters or tank conditions (although we always recommend doing this). This implies that you can spend less time stressing over keeping your fish happy and more time enjoying them!

Bumblebee catfish are also known for being fun to watch during their nocturnal period. They will scavenge around the bottom half of the aquarium, looking for food and occasionally exploring some hiding spots in vegetation. It’s up close watching like this that really allows you to see how neat they look.


The major downside of bumblebee catfish is that they can be hard to find on sale.

Pricing usually depends on availability and quality (these two things often go hand in hand). You’ll pay more for a high-quality specimen than one that isn’t very clean or has visible imperfections.


Bumblebee catfish are a fantastic freshwater option for fish keepers of all experience levels. They’re hardy, peaceful, and quite beautiful!

If you have any questions about this species or suggestions on how we can improve this guide, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

We want to help everyone interested in bumblebee catfish become successful aquarists.

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