first factsheet of the new dacade of 2010 is by all
accounts an unusual one as it centres on a catfish
that looks more like an eel with barbels, hence its
common name of the "Eel
apus was first described in 1873 by the eminent
zoologist Albert Günther
and was named as Gymnallabes
It was then moved into a family of its own, Channallabes(due
to the cranial morphology), and was the only species
in this genera (monotypic) for many years until DEVAERE
et al. 2007 named another five species which
added up to six in all in this family. They are all
very like each other and some are difficult to name,
when live, to an exact species.
This is a nocturnal species and ideally should be
housed in a dimly lit tank no less than 4ft long with
hiding places and a soft substrate such as sand or
small rounded gravel, as it likes to burrow into the
substrate, so there should be no sharp edges there
to scar its soft body parts. Provide a close fitting
lid to your tank as they could, due to thier shape,
make an escape this way. The image below shows the
perfect setup for the "Eel Catfish". They
do like to socialise with their own, so three or four
specimens would get on well together.
apus- the perfect setup.
apus- an unusual catch, a red colour form
captured by fish importer Thomas Kobe from a cave
system in the Congo
their natural environment they inhabit forest streams
and swamps where they burrow into the substrate or
make nests in the masses of tree roots that are exposed
near the banks. It tends to avoid light so it is increasingly
difficult to capture by conventional collecting techniques.
They are caught in a traditional manner, by means
of fykes, made of bamboo strips, or fish hooks and
bait. These hooks are made of a recurved spine of
the African porcupine (Aethiurus africanus),
and are attached to a wire made from fibers, obtained
from the bark of a specific tree. The fykes, on the
other hand, are submerged into the mud or surface
water, into a hand made burrow, into which some parts
of a nest of tree termites are put out to attract
the fish. These fykes are then left over night, and
collected in the early morning (University of Ghent;
Gabon expedition 1999).
In the Clariidae
family (air-breathing catfish) which includes the
various Clarius species, a complete range
of fusiform to anguilliform body shapes can be observed.
The cranial morphology of Channallabes apus,
an extreme anguilliform (eel like) species, compares
to the anguilliform Gymnallabes
typus and the more
The Eel- catfish
may look primitive compared to the Clarius
spp. but they are more highly evolved or specialised
and have undergone evolutionary changes due to environmental
pressures, and have lost many of the structures that
the various Clarius spp. possess in order
to adapt to a special ecological niche. They also
posses a powerful bite when attacking prey and can
shoot out from their hiding place in a head down position
to grab food. As with other members of the Clariidae,
they can venture on land and can also take food
Angola to Congo River Basin. Type locality:
Interior of Ambriz, Angola.
continues round the body and unites in a single fin
incorparating the caudal and anal fins.
Dorsal 140-150 rays. Anal fin 125-130
rays. The head has two fontanelles, a frontal fontanelle
that is sole-shaped and a occipital fontanelle which
is smaller and has a tear drop shape. Four pairs of
barbels. Very small eyes (microphthalmic).
Body dark brown, underside
in front of the anal fin may be lighter. The colour
of the substrate in the aquarium appears to make
a difference in the light ness or darkness of the
Care & Compatibility
Better to have this species
as the only catfish in the tank. Tank mates could
include larger African barbs or characins, such as
Congo Tetras that don't encroach in their territories,
and keep themselves to the upper layers of the water.
has only been sporadic accounts in the aquarium, but
in their natural habitat they make nests in the masses
of tree roots that are exposed near the banks.
Females grow larger
than the males.
Omnivore: In the wild they
feed on Coleoptera (beetles) worms and shrimps. In
the aquarium, tablet food and any larger live foods
such as earth worms, and frozen foods such as bloodworm
The fin forward from the anal cavity. Dorsal fin: The primary rayed fin(s)
on top of the body. Fontanelle: The space(s) between
the bones on top of the skull covered by skin. Maxillary: Pertaining to the upper
jaw. (maxillary barbels).
Channallabes:Channe = a sea perch; al-to;labes = stain. apus: From the Greek; a-
meaning without, and pous, meaning foot; in reference
to the lack of any pelvic fins.
H.A. and R. Riehl 1985
Aquarien atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur-
und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p. Devaere S, Adriaens
D, Verraes W, and Teugels G.G. 2001.
Cranial morphology of the anguilliform clariid Channallabes
apus (Günther, 1873) (Teleostei: Siluriformes):
are adaptations related to powerful biting? J. Zool.,
Lond. 255, 235±250. Taylor E.C. Incidental
Imports. The Eel Catfishes. Tropical
Fish Hobbyist Dec. 1982. University of Ghent; Gabon expedition