Why Do Catfish Croak, Grunt, and Make Other Weird Sounds

Catfish is one of the most unique fishes that post some interesting challenges to anglers.  Have you heard a fish making a sound before? Because catfish are known for making many weird sounds.

Why do catfish croak and grunt? Catfish croak and grunt as a defence-mechanism. It also makes similar sounds when it feels stressed or afraid as it’s their stress or fight or flight response like all other animals. So, catfish will croak, grunt, and make as much noise as they can to try to scare away predators and escape

Now you are probably wondering, do catfish even have vocal cords to make these sounds, and do they make these sounds in the water too or only when they are out of the water? 

Why do Catfish Croak and Grunt?

catfish on water to show why catfish croak, grunt, and groan

The most common reason for catfish croaking and grunting is to keep their enemies and potential predators away. A scared catfish will raise its spines too as self-defense. They also make croaking noises while they are swimming as a result of the fins’ forward motion.

Catfish croaking sound, duration, and loudness depend on their size.

If the catfish size is big, their croaks will be louder than smaller fish. While catching a catfish is an exhausting process, most anglers will do it anyway because their delicious taste (as well as the feeling of victory) is worth it.

While some studies have shown that catfish Croak and grunt sometimes because they feel like it but these studies are not 100% approved.

What sounds do Catfish make?

With that said, you may be curious to know what this sounds like? Some people describe it as chalk on a chalkboard and others say it is like a little burb. For me, it is the same as frog croak.

Catfish make this noise by rubbing the base of the pectoral spine against the pectoral girdle. The sound is typically made as the catfish locks its spines as a defense mechanism.

If you have heard a catfish croaking before, what was this sound like for you?

Why do Catfish make weird sounds?

When you hold a catfish to unhook it, you will feel vibrations and notice its pectoral fins sweep forward, while you hear weird sounds that seem like a croak. Don’t freak out, this is normal because catfish are known for their loud croaking, it is not as loud as frog croaking but it is louder than the croaking (and other sounds) that most other fish make.

These weird sounds happen because of ridges on the spine’s basic scrape against bone the Cleithrum bone during forwarding fin sweeps this is called pectoral spine abduction. Catfish make these sounds every time they feel danger.

How Long Do Catfish Croaks Last?

On average fish can croak for 10 minutes but some fish can croak for up to 3 hours when they are out of water

They will stop making these sounds either when they finally pass out or when they feel they are no longer in danger.

You need to be prepared when catching them whether to kill the catfish quickly if you are planning to cook them, or to put them in a similar environment if you want to keep them alive till you go home.

What do small catfish do in danger?

While old and big fish make croaking and other loud noises as their main self-defense mechanism. The smaller catfish croaks are weak, so they can’t lean on croaks only.

Small catfish (about 10 to 15 inches) spines are too sharp and though these fish don’t sting, imagine that you are unhooking the fish and suddenly, you got finned by one of their spines, it will be very painful for you. Not to mention that some parts of the catfish are dangerous to the touch.

When catfish grow up and their size passes 16 – 18 inches their spines will be dull and won’t harm you. To stay safe, make sure that you hold the catfishcorrecrtly while unhooking;

Here is the best way to hold each catfish’s size:

Small size

The safest way to hold this size is to hold it from the top. Put your hand behind your pectoral and dorsal spines.

Medium size

This fish size is easy to handle, you can hold it from outlined above behind their pectoral fins and in front of the dorsal fin.

Big size

As we mentioned before big size catfish spines are dull and unable to harm you, you can hold them in any way you want as long as you can control the fish body.

But be careful from their mouth cause at this age the fish mouth is very dangerous and catfish can bite you.

What to do if you got stung by catfish?

When a catfish is stung you need to move quickly or ask someone to help you because catfish spines have Venom that may cause sickness and dizziness.

You will need to clean the wound quickly with fresh water and cover it with medical bandages. 

Here are some tips to deal with your wound:

  1. If you find that sections of the spines that penetrated your skin have broken off and are still in the wound, remove them completely to avoid infection.
  2. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound if possible to kill any bacteria.
  3. Don’t use ice cause the cold temperature will make your pain even worse.
  4. Put your wound in hot water instead as it will reduce the pain. It can also help killing the bacteria.

Related Questions 

Do Catfish have vocal cords? 

catfish don’t have vocal cords, so when they croak or make weird noises they are using their mussels and fins to make it. It is similar to some other animals who don’t have vocal cords such as the giraffe. 

Can Catfish hear you? 

Catfish can hear you very well, with their visible ears when the sound waves knock their swim bladder, it causes it to vibrate, This enhances sound waves, which subsequently travel to the inner ear’s small bones (otoliths), then they transmit this vibration to cells and the nerve of this cells send a sound message to the fish brain.

Do catfish usually sting?

Catfish don’t usually sting, but sometimes the small catfish do because they have sharp spines located on their fins hole which might cause stings if you hold the fish in the wrong way. And once they stung you it will be very painful.

Helpful Resources 

Do fish make sounds? Yes – listen for yourself

How do fish produce sounds?

Resources for Catching Catfish Faster and More Easily

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