Bagarius bagarius (Hamilton,
his month we welcome back regular
contributor and writer for the U.K. magazine 'Practical Fishkeeping',
Chris Ralph, with another feature on his favourite topic
" The Big and Nasty" with an indeph look at the
Devil Catfish from the Indian continent, Bagarius bagarius.
I will let Chris carry on and hopefully educate and entertain
is commonly known as the Devil Catfish, which is also referred
to as Bagarius yarellii.
This catfish is quite a rare find amongst shipments of fish from
Asia. Bagarius bagarius belongs to the family Sisoridae
which are more commonly referred to as Asian Hillstream Catfishes.
Within this group of catfish there are around 23 genera and 85
species. As their family name suggests they are naturally found
in the fast flowing freshwaters of southern Asia. Most of the
catfish within the family Sisoridae are small to medium in size
from 6-30cm, with the exception of Bagarius with representative
species growing in excess of 2 metres!
Bagarius are described as predatory fish quite unlike the
other members of the family Sisoridae which tend to be omnivorous.
In its natural habitat Bagarius will live under bogwood
or logs in fast flowing rivers in wait of its next victim. All
of the Hillstream Catfishes are able to inhabit mountain streams
by virtue of the fact that the skin on the undersides of their
bodies is adapted by being corrugated thus acting as an adhesive
attachment to rocks and stones. In addition to the skin being
corrugated or folded another factor making these fish better able
to withstand the strong water currents they have flattened heads.
It is generally documented that most of the representative species
of sisorids have a ventrally positioned mouth, allowing them to
rasp algae from the substrate (which is not the case with Bagarius
I have personally been looking after (above)
one of these magnificent catfish for the past year now and am
just waiting for its owner to collect it before it outgrows its
present accommodation. I am quite a fan of large catfish as I
am sure that those of you who know me appreciate, the problem
being the eventual size that this fish can attain
cannot accommodate a fish that might eventually grow to 200cm
(or around 79" in old money).
That said I am pleased that I have been able to observe this fish
over the last few months. This fish has evil written all over
its face, it watches every move that I make whilst in the fish
house, and no matter where you are you can sense this fish watching
you. It is a fish that does not like to be watched whilst it feeds,
so you have to try to be out of eye-shot in order to see it feed.
Very much a predator in its natural environment, it will however,
take dead foods in captivity. At present this fish eats almost
anything on offer including cockles, whole prawns, mussels, dead
fish and large earthworms. It is for this reason that this catfish
leads a solitary life, as I would not risk housing any other fish
When keeping the Devil Catfish it is essential
to provide the fish with oxygen-rich water due to the fact that
these fish are from highland streams. I have personally found
it essential to provide good filtration and water movement in
order to keep this fish in optimum condition. Regular 25% water
changes are also appreciated by this catfish, and I always carry
these changes out weekly and certainly no longer than fortnightly.
Other water parameters such as pH and hardness are not as important
as good water circulation and aeration, but nevertheless are still
of importance. I have found that this catfish will tolerate lower
water temperatures than most other species of catfish due to the
fact that its natural environment is cooler. At present the Bagarius
that I have is kept at around 22ºC.
I have to admit that this is a magnificent catfish to observe,
but be warned that they will eat anything small enough to fit
inside the enormous mouth that they possess. Finally perhaps it
is just as well that these fish are rare amongst catfish imports,
as in the wrong hands it could do untold damage to other fish
and rapidly outgrow small accommodation.
Dorsal 1/6; Anal 12-15;
Pectoral 1/13; Ventral 6. Four pairs of barbels: one pair each of
of maxillary, nasal and two of mandibular; maxillary barbels with
broad bases. Gill membranes free from each other up to base of isthmus
and overlapping, free from isthmus. Caudal fin deeply forked, upper
lobe longer and both lobes produced into soft filamentous prolongations.
Lateral line complete, simple. Air-bladder small, enclosed in two
This catfish is quite attractively marked.
The base colour of the body of this fish is light brown with dark
brown to black mottled markings over the eyes, around the dorsal
and adipose fins and at the base of the caudal peduncle. The fins
share this mottled pattern of markings.
This really is a fish destined to live a solitary
life due to the fact that I am convinced that it would eat just
about any other occupant that it could fit inside its mouth.
There are no known records of this catfish
having been bred in captivity, most likely due to their adult size
and size of aquarium/tropical pond required for them.
There are no documented
or observed external sexual differences.
As its common name suggests this truly is
a demon amongst the fish world, requiring meaty foods at all times.
In the wild this fish would predate upon smaller fishes, but in
an aquarium it can be persuaded to feed upon cockles, mussels, whole
prawns, dead fish and earthworms. It is also documented that this
catfish when kept with fish bigger than itself, that it would eat
Catfish Association Great Britain
From the vernucular name; 'Vaghari'
Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl 1985 Aquarien atlas.
Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle,
Germany. 1216 p.
Top picture: Asian
Middle picture: Paul Tapley
Bottom picture: Chris Ralph