Difference Between Mudfish and Catfish

Difference between mudfish and catfish

Catfish is one of the most popular fish species in America. Catfish has more than 7 million anglers in the USA. They can be found almost in all parts of the world. Mudfish, on the other hand, is quite the opposite of popular. The mudfish is a prehistoric species of fish that can only be found in North America. The mudfish’s real name is bowfin. As it is not well-liked, it has many slangs like dogfish, mudfish, trash fish, and so on. There is a certain difference between mudfish and catfish.

Many people cannot tell the difference between catfish and mudfish. In reality, they are very different. They might share a few similar characteristics but are very different. The catfish and mudfish are not only different in appearance but other aspects as well. I will discuss their different features and qualities to easily tell the difference between mudfish and catfish.

Difference between mudfish and catfish

Mudfish and catfish share some similar features like both have similar colors and slippery skin without scales. I have listed some of the major differentiating features below. These differences will help you tell them apart easily.


You can easily differentiate between a catfish and mudfish simply by their appearance. Both these fish have certain distinct appearance features that tell them apart. The major differences in appearance are given below.


Barbel is a thin, whisker-like sensory organ near the mouth of a fish. The presence of barbels or not is the most distinctive difference between the mudfish and catfish. Catfishes have barbels on their heads. The catfish got its name thanks to its barbels that look like cat whiskers. Mudfish, on the other hand, have no barbels on their heads. One look, and you can easily tell that the fish with the barbels is the catfish.

Head Shape

You can also differentiate by taking a close look at their head shape. Catfish have a flattened head shape, whereas the mudfish have a more rounded head shape. Mudfish also have larger jaws than the catfish.


Catfish and mudfish have different teeth style which set them apart. Mudfish have visible sharp teeth for catching prey. These scissor-like teeth are on both the top and bottom sides of its mouth. Whereas most catfish have no teeth. Instead of teeth, they have grippy pad inside their mouth. These pads help the catfish to hold onto food.

Because catfish have no teeth, some fishermen hold the lure in their hands and put it in water. Just as the catfish grabs the fisherman’s hand, they pull the catfish out of water. However, you do not want to pull this trick with a mudfish because it will bite with its teeth and injure you.


Another distinct difference between mudfish and catfish is the difference in their fins. Catfish have a large pronounced dorsal fin on the top. Whereas the mudfish have a smaller but longer dorsal fin that runs along its spine.

However, in the anal fin at the back, the catfish anal fin is longer and runs along its belly at the end. The mudfish, on the other hand, has a short anal fin at the back. By taking a look at their dorsal and anal fins, you can tell the difference between the mudfish and the catfish.

Looking at the two pictures above, try to guess which one is the catfish and which the mudfish.


You can also identify them depending on where you caught them. The mudfish and catfish live in different kinds of habitat. They are rarely found living in the same place. Catfish are mostly freshwater fishes meaning that they prefer clean and well-oxygenated water. You are most likely to find catfish in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and small streams. The water quality conditions range from clear to muddy waters, depending on the type of catfish.

Mudfishes, on the other hand, prefer unclean mucky water that is stagnant or slow running. You are most likely to find them in heavily vegetated lakes, sluggish rivers, and swamps. Their habitat is quite different from freshwater fishes like catfish. Mudfish prefer to hide under the cover of mud. To catch one, you have to go to shallow parts of the river or lake.

Catfish cannot adapt easily to different conditions. Catfish like to live in cold water. Therefore, in summers, you are more likely to catch them at night time. In contrast, mudfish can survive even in warm water conditions. They can adapt easily to different conditions. Mudfish are so adaptable that they can survive anywhere from a humid swamp to a cold lake.

Mudfish are very territory driven. They rarely migrate from the water bodies they live in. They only migrate if the water they live in dries up due to the hot weather. In comparison, catfish migrate from season to season.

Feeding Habit

Catfish and mudfish can also be differentiated based on what they eat. Eating habits of catfish vary from specie to specie, but we’ll look at what most of them eat. Catfish are known to eat small aquatic animals like worms, crayfish, and minnows. Catfish also feed on seaweed and other aquatic plants.

Mudfish are not very selective when it comes to food. Due to its poor eyesight, they eat mostly slow-moving prey like insect larvae, water fleas, shrimps, snails, and earthworms. Mudfish also fulfill a very important duty of cleaning up the lakes by eating dead aquatic life. However, some catfish species also eat both dead and alive aquatic life. By taking a close look at their feeding habits, you can make a very educated guess, whether it is mudfish or a catfish.


One of the more tempting ways to tell the difference between a catfish and mudfish is through taste. The environment plays an important part in determining the taste. Catfish living in a cleaner and running water, have a sweet and mild taste. Their meat has white to off white color. Catfish living in muddy waters, however, have a very strong unsavory flavor

Mudfish, on the other hand, have a strange muddy flavor, which most people find difficult to eat. This is due to how their digestive system handles waste. The nitrogenous waste is converted to urea instead of being excreted directly. This presence of urea in the mudfish blood gives it a very unpleasant taste.


If you have a good eye, then you can also tell the difference between a catfish and mudfish from their color. Catfish can have silver, grey, white, tan, green, or yellow color depending on their kind. You are most likely to come across a silver or grey catfish. Mudfish, on the other hand, has an olive green or brown color. They are covered in dark blotches and vertical stripes.

So by carefully looking at the color, you can safely tell a catfish and mudfish apart.

Out of water survivability

Another big difference between mudfish and catfish is in their ability to survive out of water. Just like any other, a catfish cannot survive out of water. However, catfish can survive longer out of the water as compared to other fish. As long as its skin remains moist, catfish can survive out of water. 

Mudfish, on the other hand, is a lot more capable of surviving out of water. They can survive for up to 20 weeks out of water. They do this by slowing down their metabolic rate and breathing oxygen through their skin. Mudfish are also capable of surviving in water with limited oxygen as well. To get the oxygen, they just jump out of the water and take a big gulp of air.


After going through the many differences above, I am sure that now you can easily tell the difference between mudfish and catfish. Catfish and mudfish have their distinct features and qualities that set them apart. If you are still confused, just remember that catfish have cat-like whiskers and mudfish like muddy waters.

Steve Hudson

I have been an outdoor activities enthusiast from teenage. I have been going out with my parents on different outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. After moving to a town surrounded by three well known fishing spots, I started fishing and started using all kinds of tricks and equipment to make the most out of each adventure I pursued. Over the years I have been camping outdoor, hiking and following my passion of enjoying life at full. Few years ago, I started writing about my thoughts, experiments and ideas about outdoor, fishing, hiking and more. This blog is a compilation of that plus tips, ideas and products that can make life more meaningful, enjoyable and a pleasant.

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