Shubunkins are pond fish really, they get enormous and are fairly active so unless you're thinking of a 6ft tank then you might want to consider something else. There's only one catfishy species I can think of that would do well with a goldfish and they get 10" long and like to have friends so you'd be looking at a pretty serious set-up.
'Catfish' is a huge group and they can range from 8ft+ to an inch long, coldwater and tropical, solitary or shoaling... they are many and varied (and some are seriously ugly ). And they don't clean the tank- that's your job, sorry! They are scavengers but they can't keep the water clean.
Probably the best place to start is to decide how much space you've got for a tank- the more space you have, the more choice you have, but you shouldn't consider anything smaller than 60 litres if you want catfish. Once you've got that, you can test your tap water to check your pH and hardness, because that will also rule out some species. Then you'll narrow it down even further and can start thinking about different species and create a suitable set-up for them.
It's not harder to maintain a tropical tank, as long as you keep an eye on the temperature. Most heaters now are pretty reliable and if your house isn't freezing cold then you don't need to worry too much about all your fish snuffing it if the heater packs up.
The only hard part is choosing the right fish because there are so many more species available. But if you get that right then there's no reason why a tropical tank will be more difficult to look after.
How much space do you have for a tank? I can start throwing some ideas at you then, see if anything catches your eye Do you prefer cute or <ahem> interesting-looking catfish?
Well, I'm not fixed on a catfish... just thought they were good algae cleaners. This is going to be DS's thing to look after - he's 8 (the dog and the chinchilla he doesn't count). So, I'm looking for something that he will enjoy caring for, but is not going to be too short-lived or difficult to keep happy and healthy.
Personally I liked the fact that the cat fish pootled around quietly, stuck to the side of the tank or on the bottom, occasionally managing to get to the catfish sinkers before the other fish in the tank. He wasn't particularly pretty, but he wasn't ugly either - but he grew much too big for the sort of thing I'm thinking of.
We're not looking to go for a large tank - but some of the small ones that I've seen as 'start up' ones in eg pah seem pretty small - again, this is why I'm here!
Yes, you're right that the small tank marketed at beginners are too small- it's a bugbear of mine! The smallest you should really consider is 60 litres, which is 60x30x30cm. If you're not fixed on catfish then you could get away with 45 litres but you'd be very limited on what you could house in there. Any smaller than that is just too small really.
That's a good starting point There are lots of peaceful community fish. If you want more than one species of fish then you'll need something larger than 60 litres. I'd go for 90 and then you could have a shoal of little catfish and a shoal of something like small tetras or barbs.
It will give him more choice of fish, but there are some nice coldwater fish too- white cloud mountain minnows are easy to look after and don't need a heater (unless you house is really, really cold). There are a lot more brightly coloured tropical fish that might appeal more to children though. I wanted minnows but DD1 (almost 5yo) vetoed them in favour of cherry barbs, so I had to get a heater.
We had a tropical tank, stocked with neon tetras, zebras, x ray fish, calicos swordtails, guppies and catfish. They were a real hit and I must say that the catfish were the fond favourites of everyone in the house, although it was also very exciting when the guppies started to have lots of little babies!!
We had a weather loach in our main 70l tank, like a catfish crossed with an eel. He was really interesting and quite slow growing, but i don't think they get much bigger than 8 inches. Our fish on the other hand would go nicely with chips! They're moving to a pond next month.
The smaller tank has half a dozen mountain minnows and some snails in it. The DC love the snails.
You could get some apple snails to keep the algae down, and as they don't count towards the fish/water capacity you can add some interesting cold water fish too. I can recommend Leopard or Zebra Danios, Guppies, and Paradise fish.
Please get them from a decent aquatics centre too, they can advise on which will live well together.
Weather loaches can reach 10" (sometimes more) and need to be kept in a group. The recommended minimum tank size is around 160 litres for those reasons.
Yes, defo go to a proper aquatic place. There's a chain called Maidenhead, they are pretty good and they have stores in garden centres all over the place. There are a lot of good independent shops too, but also a lot of shit ones. Avoid P@H like the plague.
I have already decided to avoid PAH... just not found the right local one yet! I think that DH and I might have a discussion at the end of the holidays... rather a lot on our plates at the moment for actually doing anything, but its really good getting ideas etc (please keep them coming!)
ok, now I've read the thread....my suggestion is otocinclus m....(I can never remember)....grow to about 4cm, were suckered to the side of their tank last time I saw some at Viscum, very sweet looking little fish. Would have some myself if I wasn't still stuck with the pleco
(p.s. look at pool filter sand for the bottom if you like catfish, shouldn't need too much rinseing [sp?] and is better for the barbels)