his is certainly a catfish for the experienced
catfish keeper as it is like no other, and when adult the electric
organ is capable of generating 300-400 volts, enough to stun a
full grown adult of Homo sapian!. When they are bought,
usually as small juveniles, their electrical output is more of
It uses its electrical charge for catching prey and defense. It
has a negative charge at the head and positive at the tail and
consists of greatly modified body muscle fibres. This appears
as a thin jelly like sleeve directly under the skin. It has been
noted that the species that reside in Lake Tanganyika (M.
tanganyikaensis) do not
have as large a potential electrical current probably due to the
more alkaline conditions that exist there.
In the not too distant past there used
to be only three species in this genus, M.electricus
from the Zaire system to west Africa and the Nile, M.microstoma
from the Congo basin and M.minjiriya from Lake Kainji,
Nigeria. After the work carried out by Steven Norris in 2002
there are now 16 species classified.
Along with the "Electric Catfish's"
there are only another two species that have the capability
of electric shock, The "Electric Eel", Electrophorus
electricus and the "Electric Ray", Torpedo
Anal-9. No rayed dorsal fin, adipose fin short,
pectorals without spines, caudal rounded. Head and body rounded
and fleshy, mouth terminal, teeth fine, in broad bands on both jaws,
3 pairs barbels, outer mandibulars longest, reaching base of pectorals,
gill slits short, restricted to sides.
This is an old world catfish and
it is reputed that Doctors in ancient Egypt used shocks from
the Electric Catfish to reduce the pain of arthritis. This trait
is still used today in some areas. It also has the earliest
reference of them as hieroglyphics on the walls of ancient Egyptian
tombs dating back some 5000 years.
Adults can become quite tame for their
owners and can be fed from hand. The best aquarium conditions
for them would be a planted tank as big as you can afford, anything
over a 4ft long tank with it being wide enough to let it turn
its body without any strain, 24ins being a good guide. Height
is not that important but again 24ins for a guide. Sand or smooth
gravel for the substrate and also caves, as they like to hide
away during the day and a set-up such as this will mean that
you may be see it poking its head out of its cave as they do
in their natural environment.
Another important point is to position
the heater so as not to cause the "Electric Catfish"
any damage to its naked body., as they do have an aversion to
laying against them. A better bet would be to cover over the
heater with a heater guard or invest in the type of external
filter that has a space for a heater in its make-up.
Filtration would be an external power
filter and subdued lighting would be an advantage as they do
not like their surroundings to be too bright. With that set-up
you can enjoy your pet for many years.
A note about removing your "Electric
Cat" from the aquarium for any reason. Do not startle it,
if you do not feed for a couple of days before and then just
move your cat around the tank with a gentle push from a plastic
handled fish net, it will then discharge itself with a large
charge then a few smaller ones. You can then gently lift it
out of the tank with the help of heavy weight rubber gloves
for added protection, but sometimes they will be passive anyway,
but why take the risk!.
Body grey to to brown above with a white underside.
Numerous black spots and blotches along the body, denser on posterior
half. Caudal fin dark at base margined with orange or red, anal
fin similarly coloured. Ventral and pectoral fins yellowish to red.
Young specimens differ from adults - the body being flesh coloured
with very few black spots and having a light ring around the caudal
peduncle and a vertical black bar at the base of the caudal fin.
Not to be trusted when adult so will need
to be kept on its own. Juveniles can be kept together but would
need to be monitered when growing.
In their natural habitat they form pairs and
lay their eggs in excavated cavities or holes. Would not be possible
in the small confines of an Aquarium. There have been rumours that
they are mouth brooders, but this needs to be confirmed.
In their natural habitat they feed on fishes
that are stunned by their electrical charges so adults would need
to be fed live fish. If bought as juveniles you may be able to wean
them on to worm food such as garden worms, frozen bloodworm, shrimp,
krill and small pieces of fish or meat. The urge to overfeed must
be avoided as they can get quite gluttonous. They could also be
trained to take tablet food. It is a matter of trial and error in
|The males tend to be more
slender than the females.
Pertaining to the lower jaw. (mandibular
= Mala = soft;
pter = fin; urus = tail. (Refers to the
Paul; A complete Guide
to the Freshwater Fishes of Southern Africa. Southern Book
Publishers. p 238-239
Norris, S.M., 2002. A revision of the African
electric catfishes, family Malapteruridae (Teleostei, Siluriformes),
with erection of a new genus and descriptions of fourteen
new species, and an annotated bibliography. Ann. Mus. R. Afr.
Centr., Sci. Zool., 289:155 p
Catfish Association Great Britain: Volume
Sandford, Gina; Fishkeeping Answers, May
Wimo, Jørgen; African Shocker, Aquarist
& Pondkeeper, Sep.1989.
Nile and tropical Africa (except Lake Victoria and rivers of
East Africa north of the Zambezi), Lake Tanganyika
and probably Malagarazi, Fernando Poo Island. Also known from
the lower and middle Zambezi, Pungwe, lower Save, and throughout
the Congo system
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