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Clarias macrocephalus Günther, 1864

Image contributors to this species:

Fishes of Mainland Southeast Asia (1)

ScotCat Sources:

Etymology = Genus

Other Sources:

FishbaseGoogle Search All Catfish Species Inventory

Relevant Information:

Dorsal spines (total): 0. Distinguished from Southeast Asian congeners by an extremely short and rounded occipital process and by a very high dorsal fin. The combination of these characters are diagnostic for the species. Occipital process wide, broadly curved, with length 3-5 times in its width; distance between dorsal and occipital process 5-7 times in distance from tip of snout to end of occipital process. Lives in lowland wetlands and rivers and occurs in shallow, open water and is capable of lying buried in mud for lengthy period if ponds and lakes evaporate during dry seasons. Can move out of the water using its extended fins. Found in medium to large-sized rivers, stagnant water bodies including sluggish flowing canals and flooded fields of the Mekong. Spawns in small streams and feeds on aquatic insects, young shrimps and small fishes. In Thailand and Laos, this fish is considered to be better and more nourishing than Clarias batrachus; uncommon in Laos but common in Thailand; thought wrongly as female of Clarias batrachus in Thailand. Important foodfish and in pond cultures. Marketed live, fresh and frozen; consumed fried, broiled and baked. Cultivated on a small scale but attempts to farm it are increasing. Remarks: The species is assessed as Near Threatened by the IUCN at present due to the scale of decline in suitable habitat, the impacts of introduced species and the extensive population decline. If data were available on the rate of population decline it is likely that this species may even reach the thresholds for a threatened category.

Common Name:

Bighead catfish


Clarias leiacanthus




Asia: Thailand to Viet Nam. Introduced to China, Malaysia, Guam and the Philippines.


100cm. (40ins)


23-28C (73-83F)




Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009. FishBase.World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (08/2012).
Kottelat, M., 2001. Fishes of Laos. WHT Publications Ltd., Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. 198 p.
Kano Y, Adnan MSB, Grudpan C, Grudpan J, Magtoon W, Musikasinthorn P, Natori Y, Ottomanski S, Praxaysonbath B, Phongsa K, Rangsiruji A, Shibukawa K, Shimatani Y, So N, Suvarnaraksha A, Thach P, Thanh PN, Tran DD, Utsugi K, Yamashita T (2013) An online database on freshwater fish diversity and distribution in Mainland Southeast Asia. Ichthyological Research 60: 293-295.
Teugels, G.G., R.C. Diego, L. Pouyaud and M. Legendre, 1999. Redescription of Clarias macrocephalus (Siluriformes: Clariidae) from Southeast Asia. Cybium 23(3):285-295.
Frimodt, C.,
1995. Multilingual illustrated guide to the world's commercial warmwater fish. Fishing News Books, Osney Mead, Oxford, England. 215 p.
Vidthayanon, C. & Allen, D. 2011. Clarias macrocephalus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>.



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