Difference Between Bullhead and Catfish

Bullhead vs Catfish

Catfish and bullheads should be carefully understood as the meanings of the both go closely. The difference between them could be evaluated as equivalent to the difference between Asian elephants and Sri Lankan elephants. This article summarizes most of the important features of catfish and discusses the differences with bullheads mainly in terms of naming.


Catfish is a major group of fishes with a great array of diversity. They are classified under the Order: Siluriformes that consists of 38 extant taxonomic families. There are more than 3,000 species of catfish described under more than 410 genera. Catfish are so named due to the presence of barbels those look like the whiskers of cats. They vary in their size considerably, as the largest member, Mekong Giant Catfish, weighs more than 290 kilograms, whereas the smallest species, Vandellia cirrhosa, is a very tiny parasitic catfish. It would be important to note that not all the catfish have barbels on their face, as members of the Order: Siluriformes have been described based on the skull and swim bladder features. However, one of the most prevailing importances of catfish is their economical impression.

Catfish have been a popular food fish as well as in the aquarium trade. Catfish are naturally distributed in most of the inland and coastal waters throughout the world except in the Antarctic and Arctic regions. They lack scales on the skin, but some have cutaneous plates. Additionally, there are some with mucus-covered skins, which are used for breathing. Most of them are bottom feeders of the water column, and the swim bladder is usually small. Catfish are predominantly detritivores, but there are predatory and parasitic forms, as well. They are usually harmless for humans, but very few parasitic causes have been reported.


Bullheads are a type of catfish, but it would be proper to state as few types of catfishes. There are few catfish genera named bullheads, such as Ameiurus, Pseudobagrus, Lophiobagrus, and Liobagrus. Some of those genera include few species (Ameiurus with seven species and Pseudobagrus with 32 species), and all of them are colloquially called as bullheads. However, this account on catfish bullheads should not be confused with the bullhead sharks, triplefins, and minnows. There is another major bullhead fish group called Sculpins, which is a separate order called Scorpaeniformes, but catfish are the Order: Siluriformes.

The most conspicuous feature of the bullheads is the large head as they are so called. The body size of bullheads does not usually go beyond one or two pounds. Their unforked tail should also be noticed. Their popularity as aquarium fish is very low, but the importance as a food fish varies by species. Most of the bullheads are called rough fish by fishermen, but there are some special recipes to make them edible. In some areas of the United States viz. Minnesota, the bullheads being caught as a food fish frequently.

What is the difference between Catfish and Bullhead?

• Catfish is the major group while bullheads are a subgroup of catfish.

• Taxonomic diversity is seriously higher in catfish than among bullheads.

• The barbels are more prominent among catfish than in bullheads.

• Catfish are more important than bullheads when their food values are considered.

• Bullheads being barely kept as aquarium fish, but some catfish species are very popular as aquarium fish.

• The head in bullheads is more conspicuous than in catfish in general.