Firstly, a warning:
This is certainly the most beautiful fish I’ve ever kept. The pattern is amazing, the fins are large, and the whiskers are as long as their body. They grow very large, very quickly, and are a good tank mate until they reach (what I assume to be) sexual maturity at about 10-12 inches long. When that happens, they will change overnight. A fish that you’ve been able to keep with it for years will suddenly be bullied and often killed.
I’ve read many times that these fish do nothing to earn the fearsome reputation they seem to have, and that is true, until they do something to deserve it. I kept my Vulture successfully with many different types of fish, most of which were small enough to fit in his mouth and as long as I kept him well fed, he never touched them… Then, quietly, over the course of about two months before the final attacks, all three of these fish that I have kept (one at a time) would change. They’d slowly eat smaller fish, attack bigger ones (waking up to half an Angelfish being my first indication), and gradually whittle down the tank population to just themselves.
Are they placid and nice before they change? Yes, but all three of mine eventually changed. They deserve the reputation.
With that said, let’s move on and talk about the positives of this awesome fish… Because if you want to dedicate a tank to it, or something it can’t hurt? Go for it. It’s an amazing fish.
Yes. Finding half a fish and a clean cut through both flesh and bone occasionally is a good indication that this fish packs a hefty bite.
Vvictor448 says: IME I would not trust a Vulture Cat in a community situation unless it was in a very large aquarium. A friend of mine had one in a 180 with a 20 inch Datnoid, large cichlid and a bolt cat about the same size as the vulture. The large cichlid had its abdomen torn open and the Bolt cat was cut in half approx 3 weeks after the vulture was introduced. Of course I am sure there are exceptions.
TBTB: That's disturbing new info. Many thanks for chiming in, Jeff. IDK if you know it or not, but I found at least half a dozen of fish dead in my 4500 gal with no sign of struggle, not so much as a scratch, but with their tummy completely surgically removed with precise bites. I always thought my vultures have done it post mortum. With your new info, my surety lessens.
For instance, here is another case. One morning last week I had two losses in that 4500 gal. A suncat was stuck to the bottom drain screen and its tastiest / easiest-to-rip-out body parts were missing while vultures' tummies were quite full. No mistake who ate it. I continue to believe that they parsed the suncat when it was dead already, because the prior suncat that died in that tank just a week or two ago floated and was found stuck to the top overflow screen and was found intact (but that happened during the day, so there is a caveat).
The other death was my oldest bala shark that I got from Seascape Aquarium in Sarasota FL in 2011 already this size. It's got a deformed mouth (I think the upper lip was missing) and has always been slim, unlike my other balas. It was stuck to the overflow screen and the vultures didn't touch it:
Here is the suncat that died 1-2 weeks prior to these two. Floated. No damage. I think vultures only / mostly get whatever sinks or stays on the bottom, hence, my belief that they only / mostly rip out fish that are dead already, or pretty much dead.
That's why they are called vulture catfish. And that's why they are called machete catfish due to their ability to bite off flesh chunks with or without skin and bones.
My second of Chrysichthys ornatus trio finally gave up. 12". It's been getting thin and his backbone getting misshapen for a few years. It was wrapped around the bottom drain, still breathing but too weak to even swim.
Thin fish... not much meat on it, perhaps this is why the vultures didn't touch it. The tail tattered by pbass - I witnessed it.