The wels catfish (or ) is a scaleless fresh and brackish water catfish recognizable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. The mouth contains lines of numerous small teeth, two long barbels on the upper jaw and four shorter barbels on the lower jaw. It has a long anal fin that extends to the caudal fin, and a small sharp dorsal fin positioned relatively far forward. It uses its sharp pectoral fins to capture prey. With these fins, it creates an eddy to disorient its victim, which it then simply engulfs in its enormous throat. It has very slippery green-brown skin. Its belly is pale yellow or white. Wels catfish can live for at least thirty years and have very good hearing.
The female produces up to 30,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight. The male guards the nest until the brood hatches, which, depending on water temperature, can take from three to ten days. If the water level decreases too much or too fast the male has been observed to splash the eggs with the muscular tail in order to keep them wet.
With a possible total length up to 3 m (ten feet) and a maximum weight of over 150 kg (330 lb) it is the second largest freshwater fish in its region after the beluga sturgeon. However, such lengths are extremely rare and could not be proved during the last century, but there is a somewhat credible report from the 19th century of a wels catfish of this size. Brehms Tierleben cites Heckl's and Kner's reports from Danube about specimens 3 m long and 200-250 kg heavy, and Vogt's 1894 report of a specimen caught in Lake Biel which was 2,2 m long and weighed 68 kg. . In 1856, K. T. Kessler wrote about specimens from Dniepr which were over 5 m long and weighed up to 400 kg. These reports, however, cannot be validated today for lack of physical evidence.
Most wels catfish are only about 1.3 to 1.6 m (4 ft 3 in to 5 ft 3 in) long; fish longer than 2 m (6 ft 6 in) are normally extremely rare. At 1.5 m they can weigh 15 to 20 kg and at 2.20 m they can weigh 65 kg.
Only under exceptionally good living circumstances can the wels catfish reach lengths of more than 2 m, as with the record wels catfish of Kiebingen (near Rottenburg, Germany), which was 2.49 m (8 ft 2 in) long and weighed 89 kg (196 lb). This giant was surpassed by some even larger specimens from Poland, Ukraine, France, Spain (in the River Ebro), Italy (in the River Po and River Arno), and Greece, where this fish was released a few decades ago. Greek wels grow well thanks to the mild climate, lack of competition, and good food supply. The largest accurate weight was 144 kg for a 2,78 m long specimen from the Po Delta in Italy. Other reports of larger wels (around 16 feet or more) are unlikely and are often regarded as typical big fish stories or in some cases misidentifications of the now rare sturgeon.