Carl Ferraris and Mario di Pinna
after an in-depth review of the relevant literature, have
published a comprehensive list of all family-group and other
suprageneric names proposed for the order Siluriformes.
Their findings will undoubtedly cause a few groans from
hobbyists, as we now have to learn some new names. Still
other hobbyists may be disappointed that the authors chose
not to retain such families as the Ageneiosidae. However,
this new paper is important. While the rules that govern
generic and specific names are very stringent, family level
names do not come under such scrutiny. For many years it
has been nearly impossible to know exactly how many Catfish
families legally (legal as defined by the International
Code of Zoological Nomenclature) exist. Hopefully, this
paper will provide some, at least temporary, stability to
the number of catfish families.
A complete discussion of
taxonomic terminology is beyond the scope of this paper,
but a brief introduction to some of the terminology is certainly
in order. Phylogeny (from the Greek phylon = tribe and genesis
= origin) is the evolutionary history of a species or group
of related species. These genealogies trace evolutionary
relationships. Reconstructing phylogenetic history is part
of the scope ot systematics, the branch of biology concerned
with the diversity of life. Systematics encompasses taxonomy,
which is the identification and classification of species.
A family, as used in this paper, is a taxonomic grouping
below order and above genus. Family names for plants always
end in acae while those of animals, like catfishes, always
end in idae.
The family level is an important classification for hobbyists.
If the aquarist knows which family a fish belongs to they
can immediately make inferences about the fish's diet, adult
size, natural habitat, and other important information for
captive maintenance. This is especially true in those cases
where the aquarist is lucky enough to make when of those
truly rare finds. At these times, it can be almost impossible
to identify the fish to genus, let alone species and identification
to family is the best we can hope for.
Below is a list of the 35 catfish families accepted by the
authors after their review of the literature. I will make
a few comments under each family to point out any radical
changes or changes that affect popular aquarium catfishes.
I will also point out common family names where they exist
or have been confused and comment on the family's availability
in the aquarium trade. I have taken the liberty of suggesting
a few common names for some of the newer families.
family rarely imported for the aquarium trade. Collectively
known as the Asian banjo cat-fishes (Ferraris, 1991:
164) or stream catfishes (Jayaram, 1999: 266). The family
Parakysidae, (Roberts, 1989), pustulous catfishes (Kottelat
et al 1993: 105), is included in this family.
rarely imported family from Asia. Collectively known
as the loach-catfishes (Burgess, 1989: 107).
rarely imported family found in Africa. Collectively
known as the African hillstream cat-fishes (Burgess:
109) or mountain catfishes (Skelton, 1993: 218).
by Glaw and Vences, 1994 to accomodate Ancharius
Steindachner, 1881. The family was proposed by de Pinna
in an unpublished thesis. I have not seen the original
description and thus can not add much. The family is
found on Madagascar. I am not aware of any common name
by Gayet, 1988 to accommodate the fossil genus and species
Andinichthys bolivianensis from South America.
Obviously not an aquarium import.
family known as the sea catfishes (Burgess, 1989: 158;
Ferraris, 1991: 82) or shark catfishes (Baensch &
Riehl, 1997: 434) even though some members are restricted
to freshwater. Allen (1 989:47) uses the term fork-tailed
catfishes. Known in the hobby mainly for the Arius
species imported as "shark catfish"
American family known as the banjo catfishes (Burgess:
295). A number of species are common imports.
American hillstream catfishes (Burgess: 446) or Andes
catfishes (Ferraris: 166). Restricted to South America
and likely never imported.
known as the driftwood catfishes (Burgess: 226). The
family Ageneiosidae, the slopehead cat-fishes, appears
to be included under this family, but is not specifically
discussed. Imports range from the common (e.g. the Zamora
or midnight catfish) to the rare (e.g. the jaguar catfish)
to the very rare.
known as the rock catfishes (Skelton, 1993: 215), this
family was erected by Mo, 1991 to accomodate the south
African genus Austroglanis. All three species
contained in the family are rare in nature and threatened
or endangered by habitat destruction.
family Bagridae, after Mo's 1991 revision, is now an
exclusively Asian family with the exception of a single
genus, Bagrus, that occurs in Africa. The family
Olyridae, bannertail catfishes (Burgess: 153), is also
now included in the Bagridae. Many members of the family
are common to rare imports. Collectively known as the
American family well known in the aquarium hobby especially
for the members of the genus Corydoras. Collectively
known as the armored catfishes Riehl & Baensch (1991:
American family known as the whale catfishes (Burgess:
289). One or two species are rarely imported. Helogenidae,
the marbled catfishes (Burgess: 287), is included in
Asian family of three species that are uncommonly imported.
Collectively known as the frog-mouth catfishes (Burgess:
151). The common name angler catfishes has also been
applied (Ferraris: 109) but should not be used as it
appears that Chaca do not angle (Linder, 1998:
known as the labyrinth catfishes (Burgess: 135), walking
catfishes (Baensch & Riehl, 1997: 484), and air-breathing
catfishes (Skelton: 227) this family is widely distributed
throughout Africa and Asia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service has declared them "injurious wildlife"
and their import is banned (Ferraris: 113). Occasional
specimens come in to the U.S. as by-catch or contaminants.
by Mo, 1991 to accommodate most of the African genera
that were formerly of the Bagridae. This family is composed
of 13 genera and over 90 species and are referred to
simply as Claroteid catfishes (Skelton: 211). A few
members of the genera Auchenoglanis, Parauchenoglanis,
Chrysichthys, Clarotes, Gephyrogianis,
Lophiobagrus, and Phyilonemus are uncommonly
to rarely imported (Glaser, 2000).
as Chinese catfishes (Burgess: 72) this Asian family
contains but one species that has not been imported.
American family known as the Patagonian catfishes (Burgess:
23). This small family, with about four species, has
not been imported. They are found in swift cool streams
in Chile and Argentina.
South American family known as the talking catfishes
(Burgess: 199 Ferraris: 114) and thorny catfishes (Riehl
& Baensch, 1991:) Importations range from common
(the so called raphaels) to rare
Asian family consists of Conta, Laguvia,
Pseudolaguvia, Erethistoides, Hara,
and Erethistes which are genera removed from
the family Sisoridae. A few genera are uncommon to rare
imports. No common name has been applied to this family.
The family was erected by de Pinna in 1996. However,
some subsequent authors (e.g. Jayaram, 1999) have not
followed de Pinna's findings, while others have (e.g.
Grant, 1999: 9). Hopefully, Ferraris and de Pinna's
1999 paper will stabilize the use of this family.
small Asian family are referred to as airsac catfishes
(Burgess, 148), fossil catfishes, and stinging catfishes
(Ferraris, 121). Imports have become rare in recent
years. Perhaps because of the restrictions placed on
the closely related family Clariidae.
for the catfish genus Hypsidoris Lundberg and
North American family. Although maintained by a few
specialist aquarists there is no organized commercial
trade in place for the aquarium hobby. The only species
commercially traded are juvenile channel cattishes that
are brought into the hobby trade by aquaculture enterprises.
Riehl and Baensch (1991: 453) use horned pouts as a
common name and Burgess (1989: 26) uses bullhead cattishes
. However, this latter name is normally applied only
to members ot the genus Ameiurus. Members of
Ictalurus are commonly known as forktail catfishes,
Pylodictus as the flathead cattish, and the largest
genus Noturus as the madtoms. The common name
should be standardized as North American catfishes as
it is the only family native to the continent.
South American family that is very popular in the aquarium
hobby. Common names include armoured sucker-mouthed
catfishes and armoured catfishes (Ferraris, 126). Armour-plaited
catfishes (Riehl and Baensch 1991: 453), suckermouth
catfishes (Burgess: 368), sucker-mouthed armoured catfishes
(Innes, 1966: 285), and, of course, the plecos. Some
scientific papers use armoured catfishes while lsbrücker
and Nijssen (two scientists that have done a lot of
taxonomic work on the family) consistently use the term
mailed catfishes. With so many common names in use,
it is impossible to suggest a single universal common
African family known as the electric cat-fishes (Burgess:
155, Riehl & Baensch, 1991:453). At least one species
is an uncommon import.
and diverse African family. Burgess (182) uses the term
upside-down catfishes but only a very few members of
a single genus swim in this manner. Also, at least one
bagrid is an upside-down swimmer. Skelton (240) divides
the family into squeakers (Synodontis) and
suckermouth catlets (Chiloglanis) which is
certainly more descriptive. Because the family is so
diverse as to defy a common descriptive name, the term
mochokid catfishes should be used.
South American family consisting of a single genus.
I am unaware of any importations of this family for
the aquarium trade. The common name should be worm catfishes
which follows from the family name and is descriptive
of the family.
family referred to as the shark cat-fishes by Burgess
(100). This term has also been applied to the Ariidae.
One species (Pangasius hypophthalmus, the irridescent
shark) is common. Other species are showing up in the
trade as the result of aquaculture programs.
and popular South American family. Common names include
antenna catfishes (Burgess: 243) and flat hosed (nosed?)
catfishes (Riehl and Baensch, 1991: 453). Imports are
common to rare depending on the species with Pseudopimelodus,
Microglanis, and Pimelodus the most common.
Hypophthalmidae, lookdown catfishes (Burgess: 293),
are included in Pimelodidae.
distriduted family that includes marine species. Common
names include tandan catfishes (Burgess: 171), eel-tailed
catfishes (Ferraris: 157). The name eel-tailed catfishes
is the most commonly accepted (Allen, 1989: 55 Jayaram,
1999: 317, Kottelat et al 1993: 113). Only one species,
Plotosus lineatus, is a common import for the
sized family found in Africa and Asia. Sometimes spelled
Schilbeidae (Burgess: 87 Jayaram: 249). Common names
include glass catfishes (Burgess: 87, Riehl & Baensch
1991: 453) and butter catfishes (Skelton: 224). However,
the term schilbid catfishes is more descriptive as very
few members are transparent and the term glass catfishes
is also often applied to the Siluridae. Importation
of one Eutropieiius and one Schilbe species
is common, but all others, especially those from Asia,
family found in South America and referred to as spiny
dwarf catfishes (Burgess: 450). Only very rarely imported
and usually only as by-catch.
family found from Europe (two species) through Asia.
Commonly known as sheat cat-fishes (Burgess: 74), glass
catfishes (Ferraris: 161), old world catfishes (Riehi
& Baensch 1991: 453), and sheath (Baensch &
Riehl, 1997: 576). Sheat catfishes is the term preferred
in most scientific works and should be used to refer
to the family. Importation of Southeast Asian species
ranges from common (various Kryptopterus) to
uncommon (e.g. Ompok) to rare (e.g. Belodontichtys)
with all other species rarely, if ever, imported.
Asian family commonly known as Asian hillstream catfishes
(Burgess: 119) and sucking catfishes (Kottelat et al:
106). Asian hill stream catfishes in the most widely
used name. Imports are generally rare. This appears
to be mainly due to the high oxygen requirements and
cooler temperatures demanded by most species. Neither
of these requirements is conducive to commercial shipping.
South American family known as parasitic catfishes (Burgess:
305). This name is probably undeserved as most species
are not parasitic. However, it is likely to remain in
usage. Imports are rare and infrequent. These fishes
undeserved reputation scares off many would be importers.
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