Maximum size : 15 cm

Glass Catfish - Kryptopterus vitreolus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

Table of contents


The Glass Catfish (Kryptopterus vitreolus), an enchanting freshwater ray-finned fish belonging to the Catfish family, captivates aquarists with its unique, translucent body that offers a fascinating glimpse into its internal organs and bones. Distinct from many typical Catfish that suction onto rocks and feed at the bottom, the Glass Catfish has evolved to embrace a free-swimming lifestyle, despite possessing barbels like its counterparts. Characterised by their peaceful and timid nature, Glass Catfish tend to keep to themselves and seek cover only when disturbed. Their harmonious temperament makes them an excellent addition to community tanks, where they coexist gracefully alongside other aquatic inhabitants.

Glass Catfish are recognized for their propensity to form tightly knit schools, necessitating their maintenance in groups comprising six individuals or more. Although glass catfish generally exhibit a peaceful disposition, instances of preying upon fish fry and eggs have been recorded. While glass catfish are frequently suggested for inclusion in community tanks, identifying compatible tankmates that refrain from displaying aggressive behaviour can pose a challenge. Even ostensibly placid species have been observed unsettling glass catfish through their conduct, often prompting the latter to seek prolonged concealment.

While certain fish species can harmoniously cohabit with Glass Catfish, particularly those indigenous to similar aquatic environments, it is often advisable to house Glass Catfish within a dedicated species-exclusive tank. However, if the determination to integrate them into a community setting prevails, a select few candidates can serve as suitable companions. Notably, Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, and Harlequin Rasboras stand as potentially compatible tankmates. It is advised to abstain from larger fish, as they may competitively outperform and pose a threat to glass catfish.

The well-being of Glass catfish is best upheld within a mature aquarium, as they evince heightened sensitivity to even minor fluctuations in water conditions. The introduction should only transpire in a thoroughly cycled and densely planted aquarium to mitigate potential health complications.

An apt habitat for Glass Catfish is one characterized by subdued illumination, abounding in tall and buoyant plants that serve to modulate light penetration. Such plants contribute to fostering a sense of security, consequently encouraging glass catfish to venture into open areas more frequently. Instances of an entire school of glass catfish congregating beneath leafy vegetation are not uncommon.

Employing a muted-hued aquarium substrate is recommended, further enhanced by a layer of desiccated leaves on the substrate's surface to simulate their natural milieu. The beneficial attributes of tannins that leach from these dried leaves, particularly in mirroring the conditions of blackwater environments, have been established. The provision of a robust filtration system is imperative, warranting a strong over-filtration approach to water management. Given this requirement, a canister filter is typically the preferred choice.

In accordance with their nomenclature, these Catfish exhibit a bodily composition characterized by transparency, thereby rendering their skeletal framework and internal organs conspicuously discernible. An alteration in this translucence is evident when their physique transitions into a milky white hue, a phenomenon typically observed during instances of severe ailment or when the organism approaches the proximity of mortality.

Glass Catfish Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Regrettably, discerning between male and female Glass Catfish is not feasible due to the lack of distinguishable physical characteristics between the sexes. This presents a unique challenge for aquarists interested in understanding the gender dynamics within this fascinating and enigmatic species.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameKryptopterus vitreolus
Year Described2013
Other NamesGhost Catfish, Phantom Catfish
Max Size15 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 6+
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
LifespanUp to 8 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.5 - 7.5
GH 1 - 12
KH 8 - 12
Ideal Temperature
75 - 81
23 - 27

Natural Habitat

Glass Catfish are endemic to the River Basins of the Cardamom Mountains, as well as in rivers south of the Isthmus of Kra that flow into the enchanting Gulf of Thailand. These Catfish establish their habitat along the courses of streams and rivers. Its distribution encompasses sluggish currents and stagnant waters, often prevailing in environments characterized by brown water compositions or acidic black water conditions. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the species is not confined solely to blackwater ecosystems and can also be encountered in freely circulating, non-blackwater habitats. Their transparent bodies make them a sight to behold as they glide gracefully through the water, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. 


Breeding Glass Catfish remains an elusive endeavour, with limited information available and only a few reported instances of success in certain Far East farms. In their natural habitat, these fish are known to breed during the rainy season. To replicate these conditions within a home aquarium, one could simulate the rainy season to encourage breeding behaviour. Additionally, providing an abundance of live food may stimulate females to scatter their eggs onto the plants within the tank. If successful, the eggs are expected to hatch within 3-4 days. Despite these suggested methods, breeding Glass Catfish in a home aquarium remains a challenging and largely unexplored undertaking.

Diet & feeding

The Glass Catfish has a diverse appetite and readily consumes a variety of food options, provided they are appropriately sized for their small mouths. These include flakes, granules, and pellets. However, Glass Catfish demonstrate a preference for live foods, such as tubifex, bloodworms, and white worms. They are also partial to frozen foods like brine shrimp, mysis, and daphnia. Catering to these dietary preferences ensures that the Glass Catfish receives adequate nutrition to maintain its health and well-being in the aquarium setting.

Other Other Catfish of interest