Honestly, a bumblebee catfish is a perfect match for you if you want an addition that is low-maintenance and tropically aesthetic.

This breed is trendy among aquarium hobbyists and often a top suggestion to beginners, mainly because these shy pigmy catfish are easy to care for and readily available in aquarium commerce.

Their fun appearance and color are where they get their name and identity from.

Their origin and habitat have conditioned them so that they can withstand a wide variety of external conditions.

When we talk about the species, they are broadly divided into two types – The Asian Bumblebee catfish (Pseudomystus siamensis) and the South American bumblebee catfish.

In this article, our narrative will be focused on the South American Bumblebee catfish’s care sheet, food habits, breeding, and tankmates.

Species Overview

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Microglanis Iheringi
Alternative Names South American Catfish, Dwarf Marbled Catfish
Family Pseudopimelodidae (Neotropical Catfish)
Origin North-western Part of South America
Lifespan 4-6 years
Max.Size/Length 2-3 inches
Type Freshwater Fish

History, Habitat & Distribution

The breed, first found and published in 1946, is native to South America and currently is abundant in Colombia and Venezuela.

You will mostly find this freshwater fish swimming in the rivers, lagoons, and streams.

The bumblebee is endemic to the Orinoco river basin and is found mainly in the Tumero River catchment area.

Moreover, they possess a wetland and freshwater habitat, making them a suitable tropical addition.

Geologists worry the least about their scarcity as they have a very stable population.

Currently, there are more than 10000 bumblebee catfishes that are happily swimming.

Interesting Fact: The genus was first discovered in the year 1912, and there are presently 17 species in it.

How Big Does Bumblebee Catfish get?

The bumblebee catfish has a comfortable size and has a standard size of approx. 6cm. Although, the breed found in the wild can be larger, up to 7.8 cm.

When it gains maturity, they are not more than 4cm, which is the best time to purchase them.

This way, as a fish parent, you get to see them grow into their natural size.

Appearance and Color

As there are numerous bumblebees in the fish world, it is only natural to get confused while spotting your South American Bumblebee catfish.

The resemblance between a bumblebee’s orange and brownish-black parallel bands (the insect) and the bumblebee catfish is uncanny. Through which originated this fun name.

They possess a smooth and sleek body. Their blunt head elongates and recedes to their two barbells.

The identifier orange and thick black stripes venture all along their bodice, caudal fin, and even their dorsal fin.

While paying attention to the creature, you may be able to notice a bar-shaped blotch on their caudal fin-base.

If their name is based on their appearance, you might be wondering, “what is the relevance of the word catfish?” To conclude their beautiful description, they have a long translucent mustache near their nose.

Bumblebee Catfish Care - Size and Feeding
Bumblebee Catfish

 Lifespan – How Many Years Do They Live in your Tank?

When it comes to the bumblebee catfish, they can easily sustain in the tank for five years.

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Although, for these years, you will have a minimal amount of worry in their caretaking as they are a hardy breed.

Their lifespan can extend for a good 1-2 years with proper care and maintenance.

Keep reading further to learn how to adapt the same.

Sexing: Male or Female?

Understanding the gender of the pet is highly recommended, as it helps in asserting the balance of population and plays a key factor in the mating procedure.

Unfortunately, sexual dimorphism in the bumblebee catfish is relatively tricky.

The only way of learning the difference is by observing their shape and size. A female bumblebee has a fuller and rounder bodice compared to the male bumblebee.

It is also advisable to fish this breed from a credible source that gives you clarity concerning their gender.

Sale Price and Availability

The abundance in their population has made them easy to purchase. Many aquariums and communities sell this breed. Opting for this medium will help you gain more insight into their habitat and requisites.

Moreover, when it comes to online forums, the bumblebee catfishes available for sale are in a range of $3-$8. The price solely depends on the availability and geographical scope.

Although, when it comes to the Asian bumblebee catfish, they might be a little pricier as they are a little challenging to find.

Care Guide

Quick Care Sheet
Care Level Easy
Social Social but reserved
Predators Yes (Can eat the fry)
Temperament Calm but shy
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Difficulty Difficult

What Should you Feed them?

Though bumblebee catfish are reported to be largely insectivores in their native habitat, preying on smaller species such as bees, ants, sawflies, and wasps, they may become accustomed to all kinds of food in captivity (frozen, fresh, or dry).

It is important to keep mixing their diet to provide the appropriate nutrients for their well-being.

Given below are some food options for the bumblebee catfish:

  • Frozen Plankton (exceptionally good for protein intake)
  • Tablets
  • Frozen larvae
  • Brine shrimp
  • Dry Flakes
  • Dry Pellets

Expert Advice: Integrate the right kind of plant in your tank as they like to nibble on them. We will learn about the appropriate plants that they can ingest further in this article.

Behavioral Tendencies

Bumblebee catfishes are not only famous for their beautiful color pattern but also their elusive nature.

They are one of the calmest species that don’t show any temperament issues. Hence, they are easy to interact with any breed.

Although, when they are initially added to the tank, they can come off to be a little shy. In such scenarios, you may find them hiding in their caves. 

It takes a while for them to get conditioned to their surroundings, so need not worry if they seem dormant. 

You will mostly find them residing at the bottom of the tank with increased activity during the night due to their nocturnal nature. 

Good to know: Because they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank during the night, they split ventral fins that assist them in navigation. 

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Breeding Course


Even though there is an occurrence of sexual reproduction, the breeding tendencies in the bumblebee catfish are extremely difficult. Usually, it is advisable to leave it for professional aquarists. 

Although, there are some conditioning steps you can attempt, as that is a crucial step that decides the breeding in this species.

  • Dim the lighting of the tank.
  • Increase the temperature.
  • Instill a vast amount of caves, wood, and hiding places for the breed to mate. 
  • Ensure there is no human meddling. This may become a hurdle. 


 After the most tricky step of breeding is over, you will be able to witness the spawning, which is very prominent. 

The bumblebee catfishes are egg scatterers, so they scatter more than 650 eggs in one sitting. The eggs have a diameter of 1.1 mm.

After the completion of spawning, it is highly crucial to separate the fry from the tank. The predatory nature suggests that the parent may feed on the fry. 

After the development of which, it can be added back to the tank. 

Diseases – Do they Fall Ill?

There is only a brief list of diseases the bumblebee catfish is prone towards. Their habitat and lifestyle have conditioned them into not falling sick that often. 

Although, look out for the following symptoms:

  • Inflammation or swelling in the body. 
  • Even more, decreased activity. 
  • Discoloration or fading of their pattern. 

These symptoms suggest that the bumblebee has ich, dropsy, or tumor in some cases. 

While it is best to consult a medical professional, the health of the fish has a lot to do with their external environment. 

Upon learning of their degraded health, increase the temperature of the tank.

Preventive measures include:

  • Create a hospitable environment with minimal stress. 
  • Avoid over-feeding.
  • Consistently change the water of the tank. 

Tank Care and Setup

Tank Specification
Capacity 130 liters
Water Temperature 24-28 degrees C
Hardness Range 5 to 12dGH
Tank Lighting Dark – Dim lighting
Water pH Level 6-8
Tank Type Community tank
Nitrate Below 50 mg/L
Substrate Rocky and sandy substrate

Size of the Tank

While the bumblebee catfish are elusive, they tend to swim extremely fast during the night. 

To comply with this extensive activity, it is necessary to provide them with a lot of space.

They are dwarf in size, unlike their Asian counterparts, therefore do not require a bigger tank. Typically, a minimum of 30-gallon community tank is advisable for their intense mobility and stress-free requirement. 

Feel free to integrate a larger tank than this if you plan on adding more than 4-5 bumblebees in the tank.


When we think about their plant mates, there is only one rule, the more, the better. Birthing from a tropical habitat, the bumblebee catfish appreciate leafy vegetation. 

Be sure to include surface plants specifically. This gives the open-end tanks a natural covering, which makes the bumblebees feel more secure. 

Listed below are some plants which make an excellent cut to the tank: 


When you encounter the South American Bumblebee catfish, they will majorly be swimming underneath the tank near the surface.

This suggests that they are more comfortable with dim lighting. The increased activity in night is a further indication for the same.

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Although, if you have to keep sharp lighting, you can simply include lots of plants that will dim the light at the tank’s surface.

Substrate and Decor

Tropical fishes are accustomed to rocky and sandy flooring. Hence, to model that in your tank, the best suggestion for the substrate is a sandy and gravel one.

While the substrate is a no-brainer, the decoration must be appropriate as they require a lot of hiding space.

Inculcation of a tremendous amount of driftwood, crevices, and tea roots make for a fantastic hiding spot.

Other than that, the addition of a wavemaker can make them feel at home, as it will resemble their originating water body.

Filtration and Oxygen

Bumblebee catfishes are night-loving critters; hence they appreciate black water. Being a freshwater fish requires a rich amount of oxygenation in the tank, especially when they spend most of their time near the surface.

Moreover, chlorine in any form is hazardous to the health of a fish. Ensure you have installed a credible anti-chlorine.

When it comes to filtration, any filter that assists in creating ripples is appropriate for the tank.

Water Parameters

The appropriate water parameters play a vital role in the longevity of their life. When we say the external environment is necessary, we direct towards the water parameters.

Keeping the following water parameters work best for the bumblebee catfish:

  • Freshwater fishes are more adaptive to tepid water. Hence, it is best to keep them at 7 Ph.
  • The temperature can range anywhere between 75-83 degrees F. Anything more or less than that can be inadequate.
  • Feel free to keep any level of water hardness as the bumblebees can sustain both- soft and hard water. Although to be safe, keep a neutral hardness of around an 8 DH.
  • Ensure there is a strong current in your tank; this makes them feel more at home.

Right Tankmates

The calm and social temperament of the bumblebee catfish opens them to a realm of friends. The best option is to add them with other community fishes of the same size. 

The bee catfish can be placed with the following tankmates: 

  • Tiger barbs 
  • Clown loaches 
  • Kuhli loaches 
  • Phoenix tetras 
  • Flame tetras 
  • Angelfishes 
  • Plecos 
  • Platies 
  • Corydoras
  • Gouramis
  • Bamboo shrimp 

Note from the Author: It is not recommended to keep bumblebee catfish with smaller organisms since they may pounce on livebearer fish, particularly fry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will bumblebee catfish eat other fish?

The Bumblebee catfishes are predatory species; hence, leaving out anything that fits their mouth is best. Any fish smaller than 1 inch must be avoided at all costs. 

What is the difference between the Asian and South American Bumblebee catfish? 

Apart from the name and origin, there is a tremendous difference in their shape, habits, and lifestyle. But majorly, the difference is seen in their behavior. The Asian bumblebee catfishes are more aggressive and ferocious, while the South American bumblebee has a calmer temperament. 

Can bumblebee catfish live with angelfish? 

Research suggests there is no downside to integrating the two fishes in the same tank. They both have a calm temperament and are around the same size, making them well-suited. 

Are bumblebee catfish venomous? 

No, they are not venomous. It can be confirmed that they don’t show any threat to human beings or any other creatures. 

Final Word –Are They a Good Fit for your Tank? 

The answer to this is an absolute yes. 

The bumblebee catfish are an ultimate addition to the tank. Their appearance and lifestyle have a solid hand in adding value to the tropical aesthetic of your tank. 

Their abundant availability makes them pocket-friendly and an excellent addition if you are a new fish parent. 

If your community tank lacks bottom dwellers, they are a non-threatening tankmate and a good match for your other peaceful fish.

Go ahead and mark them off their tropical to-do addition. 

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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