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Hardhead Catfish

Saltwater catfish, sea catfish


Hardheads get their name from the bony plate between their eyes and dorsal fin. They have a slender, elongated shape with a forked tail and slighlty flattened head. They are silver with brown to olive green undertones and a yellow to white belly. They have three sharp, serrated spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins that are coated with a venomous slime and can inflict a painful puncture wound. Hardheads have six barbels (whiskers), four under their chin and two round barbels at the corner of their mouth. 

Range and Habitat

Native to the southeastern Atlantic coast, through the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula. Found in nearshore coastal waters and brackish coastal estuaries. Prefer muddy or sandy bottoms and can tolerate a wide range of salinities from full saltwater to fresh. Often found near structures like piers or bridge pilings. 


Opportunistic bottomfeeders, hardheads consume live and dead animals. Frequently found in large, loosely-formed schools. Spawn in the spring. Males are mouthbrooders and carry the eggs in their mouths until they hatch. 

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