Copyright text and photos, Aquaristik
Fachmagazin/Tetra Verlag GmbH, published here with permission.
n the last years under the designated
name "Pseudopimelodus nigricaudus" there
have been repeated introductions of broad shaped catfish. Those
have been 15 to 25 centimetres long animals with the extra large
head and the enormous muzzle and assigned to four species so
far in the genus Cephalosilurus, which today is the
valid name for the earlier genus name Pseudopimelodus.
Striking are the similarities of C.
nigricaudus with C. apurensis which is the most
frequently imported species of this genus. Can distinguishes
be crystallized out?.
Probably because they are so dark and frowning, these plump,
little catfish every now and then are assigned to C. fowleri
which is notorious for its aggressiveness and is a third Cephalosilurus
species apart from C. albomarginatus, which has not
been introduced to aquarists yet.
Primarily here however no mistake is possible, because apart
from the brighter colouring, C. fowleri is to be identified
clearly by its slimmer shape and the flatter head.
nigricaudus of 15
cm length with its typical juvenile colouring
C. nigricaudus of
35 cm length: Caudal fin and tail are still nearly black
The Latin name “nigricaudus”
means “black tail”, and indeed already with young
specimen of C. nigricaudus the very dark colouring
of the caudal fin is remarkable. On the other hand according
to personal information from the Brazilian ichthyologist Dr.
Oscar Shibatta (Londrina) who is scientifically occupied with
the Pseudopimelodidae, and also with young specimens of C.
apurensis, the caudal is quite dark. So from this conclusion,
one of the two species can be told apart.
At present I keep two with the figuration and colouring nearly
similar in both specimens, of which one came from a private sale
and the other one was acquired from Tropic-Aquaristik as C.
nigricaudus. A comparison with one from Aquarium Glaser GmbH
bought by another aquarist approximately two years before as,
Pseudopimelodus nigricaudus which agreed was complete
in form, colouring and behaviour. At first sight they are quite
similar to my C. apurensis. By the way with regard to
price there’s not much of a difference; as young animals
they both can be bought starting from approximately 60 euro upward.
So what now is common with both species and which is much more
important for the enthusiastic keeper of these catfish, what are
the differences? Here are some beginning possibilities:
Already the name of C. apurensis shows that this species
is to be found in the Rio Apure of Venezuela. The habitat of C.
nigricaudus is limited to Surinam. If asking the dealers
the exact origin of these animals one mostly gets the answer that
they were imported from Colombia or Venezuela. The exact habitat
can only rarely be determined. If one comes to speak on Surinam
then it is pointed out that at least at the questionable time
no exports from there have taken place. A contradiction? Not necessarily,
as a dealer confirmed, because catfish also from Surinam were
imported from Venezuela. Besides it is questionable whether the
actual area of circulation of C. nigricaudus is really
limited to Surinam.
According to Dr. Shibatta the number of gill rakers (these are
internal bony or gristly extensions of the gill arch) varies with
C. apurensis to around 27 and with C. nigricaudus
lies between eleven and 16. Since such a counting can be made
only with dead animals, it does not really help the aquarist with
the identification of his specimen.
Obviously there are differences in the colouring. Both
species indeed have a remarkable juvenile dress by their black,
partly in the form of stripes, arranged marks. The juvenile dress
of C. nigricaudus however is altogether clearly more
dark than of C. apurensis especially in the head area
which is light brownish. The stripes are more on C. nigricaudus
than with C. apurensis which are less clearly pronounced
and are replaced later by points of different sizes and also with
adult specimens of C. nigricaudus there remains by the
multiplicity of the affect of marks something like a great big
ribbon which drags on over the whole rear body region. With
C. apurensis at 30 centimetres in length, the caudal fin
and the tail are not so dark.
C. nigricaudus (top)
and C. apurensis in direct comparison
Compared with its genus comrade, the body of C. nigricaudus
is somewhat flatter and the rear third seems to be longer. C.
apurensis particularly in old age seems so massive with its
brawny head. Both species also have a little bit different muzzle
final length: At the 40 centimetres mark C.
nigricaudus as C. apurensis, bought as young fish
of 15 centimetres in length, exceed to this size not later than
in 18 months, afterwards growth slows down with both. Against
the data of Fishbase one must assume with C. nigricaudus
from a minimum length which is with half a meter, and the smaller
of the two (according to Fishbase), C. apurensis, really
reaches even 65 to 75 centimetres (cf. Fishbase-website of May
4th, 2008, where the maximal length of C. apurensis is
indicated with 29 centimetres and for C. nigricaudus
- in both cases male specimen - with 35 centimetres).
Actually as to the behaviour of my specimen of
C. nigricaudus one could hit the nail squarely on the
head in such a way that theythey love to hide itself and they
eat wholeheartedly for their life. Basically both
these attributes also applies
to C. apurensis. Nevertheless, when keeping both species
you will soon determine that C. nigricaudus is a bit
more nocturnal, otherwise however it is more greedy. This is to
be considered with its keeping, best in a tank with a capacity
of approximately 800 litres upward. So it must be suggested that
absorbed light and the supply of a hiding place which is appropriate
to the body size. One is not dependent on giving live fish, the
ambush-predator devours worms, shell meat and after habituation
also fillet of fish in enormous portions. Therefore if at all
one should socialise it only as a young animal with larger and
in addition high-backed fish. At a temperature from 23 to 26°
Celsius and otherwise "normal" water equivalents these
species prove very durable.
Blow the co-inhabitant, who comes too close for this, a good 45
cm long C. nigricaudus!
Also in the behaviour for the keeper there
are characteristics: C. nigricaudus needs more time for
its acclimatizing and cannot as rapidly be tamed as C. apurensis,
and if the food is given by hand, it shows itself as the more self-willed,
more incalculable and thus in the long run also more snappy, with
which one should act out with special caution.
In relation to species and other genus comrades
C. nigricaudus gives itself out as much more aggressive
than C apurensis. With the entrance of sexual maturity
it becomes feisty also in relation to other socialised fish of every
species and size. If it cannot overwhelm and devour these, it becomes
dangerous for them by its strong biting. Some observers would describe
this behaviour as bad and mean, however it serves exclusively the
purpose to drive away all further, and even if they are only potential
one, food competitors out from their own territory. The species
is even capable of attacking anything which is unprotected in the
tank like heaters or pumps. I could observe with my larger, in the
meantime nearly half a meter-long specimen, how it refused the right
to exist to an additionally installed interior filter and how it
struck out at it with such madness with its head against it until
I had to remove it.
All in all C. nigricaudus from
the colouring is more attractive. It does not grow as large as
its genus comrade but adjusts this however by its aggressive approach
to its keeper and potential socialised fishes. So who is looking
after the mysterious and incalculable and also fascinating should
decide for this species. Who however enjoys a calm, to some extent
reliable giant overeater, which is sensitive also towards heaters
and pumps, C. apurensis is to be recommended.
K. (2004): Cephalosilurus apurensis (Mees, 1978), ein Raubwels
aus den Llanos Venezuelas, AF 178: 26.
C. und W. Ros (2007): Cephalosilurus apurensis - Ein gefräßiger
Lauerräuber, aber nicht ohne Charme, Datz 60 (5): 38-42.
André (2005): Neu importiert - Cephalosilurus fowleri,
Datz 58 (11): 29.
This article was published in February/March
2008 in the German publication:
Fachmagazin & Aquarium heute (AF) 40 (1), Nr. 199: 34-36.
Our thanks apply here for the AF-editorship
and the Tetra Verlag GmbH (Dr. Hans-Joachim Herrmann and Eckhard
Grell-Herrmann), who gave us kind permission to publish this article
on Scotcat. Mention must also be made of our debt to Dr. Shibatta
for the given details.
© Copyright text and photos,
Fachmagazin/Tetra Verlag GmbH,
published here with permission.