Pictus Catfish Swimming Against Glass? Is Glass Surfing Normal?

Last Updated on March 1, 2022 by cmoarz

Why are my pictus catfish swimming against the glass? Is this something that you need to worry about?

One of the most interesting behaviors that you may observe with your pictus catfish is swimming against the glass. Some people may worry that this means something is wrong with their fish.

This article will explain the 2 reasons why this happens, And how to prevent it.

2 reasons why pictus catfish glass surf

There are actually two reasons why pictus catfish swim against the glass, also known as glass surfing.

One is benign and completely normal, and the other is more insidious and can be a sign of a problem.

Reason One: They’re just having fun.

We’ll start with the more light-hearted reason, They’re happy. Sometimes when a pictus catfish is happy, content and feeling safe in their surroundings, they will swim up against the glass as a form of playing.

This behavior is often seen in young fish that are still getting used to their new home, or in older fish that have been well-cared for and feel secure.

In general, you have nothing to worry about if they are just doing it occasionally and have no other signs of illness. They’re probably just playing.

This is especially true if you have any sort of bubble wall they will enjoy playing in.

The other reason that they might swim against the glass is more concerning. If your pictus catfish are doing it constantly or seem to be struggling against the glass, it could mean that they are having trouble breathing.

In this case, you should take a closer look at your tank setup to see if there might be an issue

Reason Two: There is actually something wrong and it needs to be dealt with

Onto the more serious issue, When a pictus catfish is stressed it will often dart around the tank and display similar glass surfing behavior.

This is usually a sign that there is something wrong.

There can be many different reasons why your fish might be stressed, but some common causes include:

  • Too little oxygen in the water
  • Too much noise or vibration in the tank
  • Bad water quality
  • Fish being bullied by other fish

However, the most common reason is they have just been freshly added to a new aquarium and they don’t yet feel comfortable.

This can also happen if a large change has occurred in the tank, Such as new decorations or plants, or even something as simple as a drastic plant pruning.

Adding more objects into a tank often means less swimming space for the fish itself, and by taking away extra space you could be inadvertently causing a stressor in the fish’s life.

Another thing that people often miss is not having enough hiding places available for the fish.

Pictus catfish like to have a place to hide and feel safe, and if they don’t have enough of these places in the tank, they will become stressed.

It may sound counterproductive as that means adding more stuff to the tank, But in reality, they should be happier for it.

If you have a new fish and it is displaying this behavior, try to give it some time to adjust. If the problem persists, you might need to take a closer look at what could be causing stress.

Bottom line, If your Pictus catfish are swimming up and down the glass, It could be a sign it’s happy, Or it could be a sign it’s stressed. Only you as the owner are in a position to diagnose the issue.

If you’ve made any recent changes to your tank, or recently added the fish, then it could point to a stress-related issue.

Consider reverting the changes to the tank if possible to see if they calm down.

You should also always be checking water parameters to ensure the tank itself is healthy.

If your fish just started doing this recently out of the blue, But only on occasion, and have no other symptoms of illness, Then it’s probably nothing to worry about.

Enjoy your pictus catfish!


Owner of AquariumGravel.com and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!