or our first factsheet of 2004
we shine the spotlight on a speciesthat
could be deemed as one of the most dangerous freshwater
catfish kept by aquarists. So as not to alarm unsuspecting
keepers of this animal, the dangerous bit concerns
the poison that can emanate from a gland on the pectoral
fin spine and has been known to be fatal to some humans.
If stung you should immerse the wound in very hot
water so as to dissipate the poison and then get in
touch with your local doctor.
Now that we have
scared the living daylights out of you :-) we shall
commence with a few facts on the Asian Stinging Catfish.
This catfish for many years was in its own family,
Heteropneustidae, and it is only very recently that
it has been moved into the Clariidae family (Diogo,
R., M. Chardon & P. Vandewalle, 2003) which many
in the scientific community thought that is where
it should be. There are differences between the two
families listed below. This does mean now that the
family Heteropneustidae is now invalid and is such
retired (see 2021 update at bottom of text).
Short dorsal fin, two elongate pulmary sacs that run
backwards from the gill through the muscles in the
Dorsal fin, large with many rays. Possess a much reduced
air-bladder and their gills are stiffened to prevent
their collapse when out of water and in a special
part of the gill chamber are spongy arborecent (tree-like)
organs growing from the upper ends of the gill arches.
Heteropneustesfossilis has the same attributes as the many
Clariid species in that it can leave its chosen home
and cross overland to an other body of standing water.
This is helped by its body mucus which helps it from
Depending on whose
thoughts that you attain to, there is one other species
in this family, Heteropneustesmicrops.
The reason that I mention this is there is another
theory that microps is a junior synonym of
fossilis and they are one and the same fish.
The for fraternity state that the
difference is that H.fossilis has a separation
(notch) between the caudal and anal fin and that H.microps
has these two fins joined together. The against
faction say that the the fusion of these two fins
can be caused by injury and therefore are one and
the same species (Rohan Pethiyagoda and Mohomed M.
Line drawing of Heteropneustesfossilis above showing
the notch between the anal and caudal fins.
Image of Heteropneustes micropsleft with
fusion of the anal and caudal fins
All in all, not
your usual catfish for the beginning hobbyist but
something unusual for the experienced catfish keepers
amongst us, and also a good challange for a breeding
project. Give them a try.
The above image
shows an unusual catch, a wild caught albino captured
by fish importer Thomas Kobe.
genus Heteropneustes has been removed
from the Clariidae family and reinstated to the
1936 and H. microps has now been deemed to
be a synonym of H. fossillis.
and Sri Lanka to Myanmar. Type locality:
Body elongate, compressed.
Abdomen rounded. Four pairs of barbels, one pair =
maxillary; one pair = nasal; two pair = mandibular.
Rayed fin short with 6-7 rays. Anal fin long with
60-79 rays. Ventral fins 6 rays. Two elongate pulmary
sacs that run backwards from the gill through the
muscles in the back.
Uniform grey-brown to olive-brown.
Two narrow, pale to yellowish, longitudinal bands
and numerous black spots on the flanks. Fins often
fawn. Anal fin occasionally with dark marbling.
Care & Compatibility
Apart from giving it the utmost
respect when handling, it does very well in a larger
aquarium, and you can either keep it alone with other
inhabitants that are too big for its mouth (large
Barbs, Cichlids etc.) or in a group situation if you
would like the challenge of breeding them. A sand
substrate is best with hiding places of rock and cavework
and making sure that it has plenty of swimming space,
as they do like to cruise the tank during the nightime
hours. Keep your regular water changes up with good
filtration as they are a greedy species, and can make
a mess of your aquarium if good husbandry is not adhered
Has been reportedly
bred in the aquarium where they excavate a nest in
the substrate and the parents look after and defend
the eggs. The young when born are guarded throughout
their early development and can be fed Brine shrimp
naupli and tablet food.
The females are
stockier looking than the males.
Will eat almost anything such
as tablet and pellet foods. Will also much appreciate
some live foods such as garden worms and other wormlike
food. Frozen bloodworm is another good bet. Experiment
with feeding to find the right balance.
Heteropneustes:From the Greek heteros meaning
other; Greek, pneo = to breath (atmospheric
Bahir, M. Mohomed; Heteropneustes
microps, a junior synonym of H. fossilis
(Osteichthyes: Heteropneustidae) 1998. Wildlife
Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka. Jayaram, K.C. The Freshwater Fishes
of India. Zoological Survey Of India, Calcutta. Burgess, W.E., 1989. An Atlas of
Freshwater and Marine Catfishes: a preliminary survey
of the Siluriformes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune
City, New Jersey. Diogo, R., M. Chardon & P. Vandewalle,
2003. Osteology and myology of the cephalic region
and pectoral girdle of Heteropneustes fossilis
(Teleostei: Siluriformes), with comments on the
phylogenetic relationships between Heteropneustes
and the clariid catfishes. Animal Biology, 53: 379-396.