Pimelodus pictus, like other members of the Pimelodidae, are known for having extremely long barbels. These can extend all the way to the caudal fin. The fish are silver-colored with black spots and stripes. They have sharp spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins, which makes shipping a difficult task, since the spines can pierce plastic bags and get caught in nets. There is relatively little sexual dimorphism, with females being slightly larger than males. Like many catfish, P. pictus has a downturned mouth and a forked tail. These fish are active swimmers and, like many catfish, nocturnal bottom feeders. In captivity, these fish prefer soft water and are omnivorous; pictus cats eat bloodworms, beef heart, insects, vegetables, and prepared fish foods. They will also eat very small fish such as neon tetras, depending on the size of the catfish. Despite this, they are generally non-aggressive and will not harm fish too large for them to eat. A larger tank is required as these fish are agile and fast swimmers. They are also non-territorial and can be kept with other P. pictus. Besides the mildly venomous sting imparted by the dorsal spine, they are generally harmless to humans.