The Fish Files: Kryptopterus vitreolus


More commonly known as the glass catfish, or as the ghost catfish or phantom catfish, Kryptopterus vitreolus are found throughout South-eastern Thailand and the coastal rivers of peninsular Thailand.

These translucent freshwater fish have two long barbels and their spinal cord and internal organs are clearly visible, giving them an appearance similar to an x-ray image when observed from the side. Kryptopterus vitreolus are transparent because they are scale-less like all catfish, but this species specifically do not present any pigment in their body.

Kryptopterus vitreolus are most suited to a 30 gallon, more densely planted tank, with some additional surface vegetation to filter out bright lighting, which is essential to their wellbeing. As Glass Catfish have a peaceful but sensitive nature, they are quick to hide when first introduced into a new fish tank or when they are disturbed, so it is important to create some sheltered spots in your tank to provide hiding spaces for them.

Fish Keeping Information



Name Origin

Kryptopterus: from the Greek kryptos and pterýgio meaning ‘hidden’ and ‘fin’.

Vitreolus: from the Latin vitreus, meaning ‘of glass’

Care Level

Easy to medium

Fish Size

They can reach a size of 6.5cm

Water Temperature

24 – 26 °C


4.0 – 7.0

Water hardness

18 – 179 ppm

Aquarium Size Required

36″ x 12″ x 12″ (90x30x30cm) – 80 litres or greater

Gender Differences

It is very difficult to distinguish between male and female catfish. The male is slightly smaller than female.


Dried, frozen and sinking foods


Glass Catfish are peaceful community fish and are generally accepted by a wide range of tank mates - may prey on fry and eggs


Glass Catfish are medium-sized silurid fish with two elongated barbels and a strongly projected jaw. They get their name, and are easily recognisable, from their laterally compressed translucent bodies. They head is silver in colour and their lack of body pigment means that much of their skeletal structure is visible.

Kryptopterus vitreolus have a large, crescent shaped anal fin running from the base of the head to the caudal fin, and do not have a dorsal fin.


Kryptopterus vitreolus are a very peaceful, timid species of fish that prefer to hide in the darker areas of rivers in their natural habitat. They are diurnal, so will be visible swimming in your tank during the daytime, and due to their scatty nature it is ideal to keep then in a school of 6 or more. They are not well suited to a tank with much larger, boisterous fish – they are best kept in a community tank environment with other non-aggressive fish of the same size.


It is very difficult to breed Kryptopterus vitreolus in a home aquarium.  For trade, Glass Catfish are spawned in large quantities in outdoor ponds in Southeast Asia, but it is still relatively indeterminate how to breed these fish in a home environment.