Black Bullhead

Ameiurus melas


Image of a black bullhead
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Ictaluridae (bullhead catfishes) in the order Siluriformes (catfishes)


Smooth, scaleless skin and barbels, or “whiskers,” around the mouth, like all catfish. Only young, spawning males are truly black; dark greenish brown is the most common coloration. Square tail and a rounded anal fin.


Total length: to 16 inches; weight: 2-3 pounds.

Habitat and conservation

Prefer turbid, silty water with little or no current.


Omnivorous bottom feeders, eating insects, mollusks, crustaceans, fish and plant material, including dead and decaying matter.

image of Black Bullhad Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Throughout most of the state, but concentrated in northeast and central Missouri; absent in extreme south central region.



Life cycle

Spawns in May or June with one or both parents selecting and guarding nest sites beneath logs or in weedy cover.

Human connections

Anglers pursue black bullhead with a variety of methods, including trot or jug lines and rod and reel.

Ecosystem connections

As a bottom feeder, this species aids in the decomposition process and nutrient cycling.