chaca (Hamilton, 1822)
have not had the fortune, or should
that be misfortune, to acquire this facial challenged catfish from
the Chacidae family, but its reputation goes before it and is usually
purchased for its 'oddity' role in the catfish hobby.
I suppose you would have to call this catfish
'ugly' even although it is against my catfish loving nature :-)
to do so, but the cats from the Chaca genus have a face
that only their mother would love.
Now I mention the Chaca genus as
there are now three in the family whereas not so long ago it was
believed that this family was monotypic (one member). There are
now, alongside this months factsheet, Chaca bankanensis,
Bleeker, 1852 and the latest Chaca burmensis, Brown &
Ferraris, 1988. Chaca chaca is found in Bangladesh, India
in the Brahmaputra and Ganges river systems, and Nepal. C.bankanensis
locality is Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and the species name
of C.burmensis gives its location away as Myanmar (Burma).
of the Family Chacidae
To differentiate between the three species
is not that easy as they look very similar in photo's. Chaca
bankenensis seems to be a little bit darker in colouration
than Chaca chaca and has one less pectoral
ray, 1/4 to 1/5 of C. chaca. You can differentiate the
difference between Chaca burmensis and Chaca
chaca by the number and the size of the cirri along the
inner edge of the lower lip, C. chaca has 14+ and tend
to be relatively longer and/or thicker. Chaca burmensis
usually numbers around 10 or 11 small cirri, and they don’t
tend to have them near the corners of the mouth. There seems
to be two forms of this species, Archipelagic and peninsular.
This is taken from a recent (October 2006) article by Steven Grant
on the differences. "Roberts visually differentiated C.
chaca from C. bankanensis by the fact that C.
chaca has 5 soft pectoral fin rays, versus 4. This can quite
easily be seen if you look at the fish from above (see images),
even without counting the rays you can see the different shape
and relative size of the fin. Unfortunately burmensis
can also sometimes have 4 rays, so the number of rays themselves
are not indicative. The first indicator to use then, is to look
for the tiny barbel on the rim of the posterior nostril. C.
chaca and burmensis do not have this, but unfortunately
some Peninsular Form bankanensis don’t either,
so if the fish has no posterior barbel, also then look at the
shape of the pectoral fin when viewed from above. If it has a
posterior nostril barbel, or the shape of the fin is that in the
image above, you have a bankanensis. There are some other
minor visual differences that are sometimes quoted, but I find
it more reliable to use the ones I have given".
"Differentiating chaca from burmensis using
the naked eye is not as easy. Most of the differences listed in
Brown & Ferraris use information inaccessible for aquarists
using live fish. The number and extent of cirri is very variable
in chaca, so although burmensis appear generally to have
less, some chaca do also. C. burmensis tend
to have a blacker base colour, but again this can be seen in chaca
also. Brown & Ferraris state that “On the head, flattened
flaps of skin, usually branched at the tip, occur laterally in
the region of the cheek and opercle. None is found along the dorsal
surface of the head or immediately posterior to the eye, as in
C. chaca”. However, in some C. chaca,
there aren’t any flattened flaps of skin on the head, or
associated with the eye either (although there are cirri, but
there are also some cirri in burmensis). The easiest
way I have found to differentiate them using live specimens, is
to look at the number and relative size of the cirri along the
inner edge of the lower lip. In the C. burmensis I have
seen, they usually number around 10 or 11 small cirri, and they
don’t tend to have them near the corners of the mouth. In
the C. chaca that I have seen, they tend to number at
14+ and tend to be relatively longer or thicker".
You can access Steven Grants
showing the large mouth and the hooklets on the bottom jaw.
Dorsal 1/3-4; Anal
7-10; Pectoral 1/5; Ventral 6. Body tadpole like, anteriorly and
strongly depressed, posteriorly strongly compressed, without lateral
scutes but covered with a thick horny skin. Mouth very broad. Dorsal
fin small. The rounded caudal fin extends far forwards on both dorsal
and ventral surfaces. 1 pair of very short, often merely peg-like,
barbels at the corners of the mouth. Older specimens have small,
arborescent appendages at the corners of the mouth.
German catfish aquarist Klaus Dreymann has monitored Chaca
chaca for what he believes is, that this catfish is able to
secrete certain substances that lower the pH level in its tank
and in doing so can sometimes poison other inhabitants of the
aquarium with a drop from 7.0 to 5.5 in a matter of a week. I
would surmise that in excreting the waste products away from the
kidneys and into the water that it must be of a very high acid
content considering its diet, and thus lowering the p.H in a very
confined area. Of course this would not happen in its native habitat
in the large rivers of India, where millions of gallons are flowing
by instead of the paltry handful that we let them exist on.
It is also said that they have a very pungent dorsal fin spine
leading to a very sore hand if impaled on it, which is common
to a fair amount of the order Siluriformes.
On summing up this months factsheet you would be better acquiring
this catfish if you knew that you could feed it properly, starting
of with live food such as Cichlid fry (see Compatibility section)
and maybe Guppies (worth a try) until hopefully you can wean them
on to more friendly foods such as large earthworms other worm
foods and beefheart, as I am prone to a bit of guilt when feeding
fish to other fish. :-(
Since I have finished writing this factsheet I know fancy having
a go at this unusual animal myself, as I have "wetted"
my own appetite, as I hope I have yours too.
Acknowledgement: Klaus Dreymann from WelseHomePage.
Black-Brown with numerous black and pale spots
and blotches, the head somewhat paler and the belly white with closely-approximated
dark blotches. Fins dark brown with black blotches and whitish to
This catfish does not do a lot apart from
sitting very still buried in the substrate waiting for its next
meal and then engulfing its prey by opening its very large mouth
and basically creates a strong vacuum, whereas the unlucky victim
is drawn in to the gaping hole!. It is a very hardy aquarium fish
that will do very well on a sand/leaf substrate where it can bury
itself with just its head showing and also a landscape of rocks
and caves. It is not your average community tank fish so I would
choose my tankmates carefully for fear of them getting eaten as
they will consume fish half their size. Probably any species of
the African Synodontis would do fine and for the upper layers
you would do better with larger shoaling fish such as Congo tetras,
or larger barbs i.e. Tinfoil Barbs. This would pre-empt a larger
tank to house the larger barbs or characins. If you can make the
space, a better idea would be a species tank with 3 to 4 individuals,
as they seem to coincide peacefully with one another with a feeding
of earthworms and other meaty foods such as feeder fish like young
Tilapia sp. They are said also to take tablet food when
There is a substantiated report in the Tropical
Fish Hobbyist magazine of March 1992 by Sharad R. Sane and Leena
R. Bhide on the successful spawning of Chaca chaca. Three
males and one female were set up in a bare bottomed tank 36"
x 18" x 18" with an 8" asbestos pipe with a 3"
diameter. This tank also contained Danio's, Rasboras and four Perch,
One morning in April 1989 they noticed that one of the four Chaca's
was in the pipe. The next morning all of the Nandus had bulging
bellies even although they had not recently been fed. They found
fry still in the pipe with the male guarding them and as they emerged
from the pipe the Nandus were eating them. The rest of the
fish were removed from the tank including the other three Chaca
and a total of 78 fry were raised from that spawning.
The other three Chaca were settled in another tank of their
own with the same setup, and they also spawned with one of the males
guarding the eggs. They hatched between 3 and 4 days and the fry
started feeding after losing their yolk sac after 7 days, with an
incredible raising of 392 young up to 1½ ins.
In their native habitat they feed on other
fish such as Betta's and various Cyprinids. In the aquarium, will
feed also on live food such as other smaller fishes and fry. Will
take worm foods such as large earthworms, chopped beaf heart, shrimp
and can be weaned on to tablet food. The main criteria is to give
them a varied diet with live food being predominant.
Steven, Article no. 90, www.scotcat.com,
From the vernucucular name 'Chaca'
Sterba, Gunther; Sterba's Freshwater Fishes of the World 1
Baench; Aquarium Atlas 3
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2002. FishBase.World Wide
Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org,
27th October 2002
Talwar, P.K. and A.G. Jhingran, 1992. Inland fishes of India
and adjacent countries. Volume 2.. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.
Chaca chaca (or the growling
Tropical Fish Hobbyist; March 1992, The successful Spawning
of Chaca chaca, p196-199
Allan James @
Bottom picture: Klauss
Dreyman @ WelsHomePage