Why do Catfish have Whiskers? – Interesting Facts not Many Know About


Catfish with whiskers

As an angler, there are several things out there that fascinates us. These things range from the operation of some fishes, their habitat, feeding pattern, anatomy, and appearance. Talking of appearance, have you figured out why catfish have those protruding hair around their mouth? If you haven’t, you are about to find out.

Scientists believe that catfish have whiskers, which are also called “barbels”, due to the fact that each one is loaded with tiny taste buds and special olfactory sensors to help them smell and feel the food around them when navigating in the dark. There is one on each side of their mouth and four on their chin.

Unlike most fishes, catfish can’t really spot their prey with their eyes. It is safe to say they are partially blind, especially at night. However, with their whiskers, they have a chance. This feature helps make up for the bad or impaired vision of the catfish. And given the fact that they are night hunters, we can say that it is a good addition. Below are some elaborate reasons why catfish have these cat-like whiskers.

Why do Catfish have Whiskers?

Contrary to what some people may believe or assume, catfish whiskers aren’t there for fancy. Their whiskers are not some sort of decoration or useless feature. The whiskers you see on those catfish are there for a reason, an important one I must confess.

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Catfish whiskers may look like that of a dog or a cat, and you would be wrong if you think they are similar. The whiskers that dogs and cats possess are different from that of the catfish; they also play different roles.

Catfish have unique whiskers that are made of skin. These whisker-like feelers are regarded as “barbels.” Each barbel consists of little taste buds and special olfactory sensors that help the fish smell and navigate dark surroundings.

Cats live in the dark abodes like holes and in the bottom of sands. They are also night feeders. When navigating these dark abodes, catfish use their whiskers to search for food. They also use their whiskers to feel and taste. Hence, it is safe to say that catfish whiskers help make life easyer for them.

Can Catfish Whiskers Sting?

If you have looked at a catfish whisker closely, you might think that they sting. Sometimes, we often get scared of holding them close to their mouth because we fear that their whiskers may dig into our soft hand. Of course, they are long and sharp, but they don’t sting.

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Catfish whisker may look as sharp as a sword to you, but they don’t sting. Some anglers claim that their fins sting, but that is not totally true. The dorsal and pectoral fins of a catfish can cause a little discomfort, but this happens only when you are not careful.

Catfish with barbels

So next time, when going on a catfishing trip, go with the mindset that you can’t get stung by the whiskers of a catfish. However, it would be best if you recalled that the pectoral and dorsal fins of a catfish could cause your hand discomfort. The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is by learning how to hold a catfish properly.

Are Catfish Whiskers Poisonous?

Aside from having the ability to sting, people also believe that the whiskers of a catfish are poisonous. Of course, you can’t blame them; those whiskers actually look like they are. They are long and a little bit scary if you ask your kid. However, contrary to the misconception, catfish whiskers are not what they seem.

The whiskers of a catfish are not designed to sting; neither are they poisonous. These whiskers are harmless because they have no toxins in them. Instead of toxins, catfish whiskers contain taste buds that enable them to see and feel things at night. In terms of toxins, the area you should be worried about is the spine. The spine of a catfish contains a hemolytic toxin, which is not poisonous. However, it can prevent blood coagulation.

The fact that catfish whiskers aren’t poisonous doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind when removing them from a hook. Of course, their whiskers are harmless; however, if you aren’t careful, their spines may end up hurting you. So be cautious when holding a catfish. If you are a beginner, ensure that you learn how to hold a catfish before you begin your catfish adventure.

Do Catfish Regrow Whiskers?

The whiskers of a catfish are what make it unique. Lots of anglers, especially beginners, find these whiskers fascinating. Sometimes, these fascinations often result in lots of inquiries. One of those inquiries is regarding the ability of a catfish to regrow its whiskers.

A catfish whiskers will grow back if, for any reason, they get severed or falloff. However, the tendency of this happening depends on some factors. Some of these factors are water quality, nutrition, and the age of the fish. In fact, water quality is the most important factor of them all.

You must also note that there is a possibility that when damaged, the whiskers of a catfish may not grow back to its original length. So if you own a catfish, ensure that they are well catered for.

Can You Touch Catfish Whiskers?

Catfish whiskers, no doubt, look scary. They resemble something that can hurt severely. For this reason, some anglers, especially beginners, are often scared to touch those soft and indeed harmless whiskers. They fear that they may get stung or, worse, get infected. However, this is a huge misconception.

You can touch the catfish whiskers; they are harmless and contain zero toxins. You can touch them and play with them if you wish. However, it would be best if you didn’t extend this gesture to its fins or spines. The pectoral and dorsal fins of a catfish can sting. So ensure you learn the art of holding a catfish as it would help you avoid unpleasant experiences.

Have you touched the whiskers of a dog or a cat before? It is the same with touching the whiskers of a catfish. These hair-like strands are soft and tender. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of when holding those whiskers.

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