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All catfish, except members of Malapteruridae (electric catfish), possess a strong, hollow, bony leading spine-like ray on their dorsal and pectoral fins.
Many of the smaller species, particularly the genus Corydoras, are important in the aquarium hobby.
By contrast, in the subfamily Doumeinae (family Amphiliidae) and in hoplomyzontines (Aspredinidae), the armor is formed solely by expanded vertebral processes that form plates.
Finally, the lateral armor of doradids, Sisor, and hoplomyzontines consists of hypertrophied lateral line ossicles with dorsal and ventral lamina.
However, some families, notably Loricariidae and Astroblepidae, have a suckermouth that allows them to fasten themselves to objects in fast-moving water.
Catfish also have a maxilla reduced to a support for barbels; this means that they are unable to protrude their mouths as other fish such as carp.
A flattened head allows for digging through the substrate as well as perhaps serving as a hydrofoil.