e are off "down under" for our latest factsheet this
month (May 2005) with a visit to a member of the Plotosidae family,
the Narrow-Fronted or Black Tandon Catfish, Neosilurus ater
from Northern Australia and New Guinea.
There are about 30 species of the Plotosidae family that inhabit
coastal seas, estuaries, and inland waters (Allen, 1989)
of Australia and New Guinea. The majority
reside in streams and lakes with slow running water but Neosilurus
ater is found in streams and rivers where the current is
fairly swift and as such would be better housed in an aquarium
with moving water.
The juveniles of this species (up to 18cm-7ins) possesses a silver
mottled appearance and when reaching adulthood they take on a
grey to black body colour with a lighter underbelly. You
can see a smaller mottled juvenile in the picture below.
You can see on the map below the habitat
locations for this species in Australia centre around the streams
in the north. There are two populations in Australia (Allen, 1989).
The Western population occurs in the Carson River range and the
two smaller populations in the Cape York Peninsula in the Jardine
and Starcke rivers. In New Guinea they are found in the central
southern area. It is thought that the individuals seen in the
trade come from the New Guinea area.
It has to be remembered that the members of
this family posses venomous and sharp spines on the pectoral and
dorsal fins and so care must be taken to avoid a nasty wound when
In its natural habitat they feed on aquatic
and terrestrial insects, mollusc, and prawns.
An aquarium set-up would contain a gravel substrate with hiding
places such as PVC pipes or slate/stonework as this is a shy species
and such a set-up will make this species feel secure in its surroundings.
The tank must not be too small as N.ater can grow upwards
of 40cm (16ins), but may have a smaller size in captivity, and so
needs this space to move around in. You can keep this species in
a group but as mentioned you would need to provide a pretty large
aquarium to carry out this task.
Acknowledgment: Heok Hee Ng for providing informational
material for this factsheet.
Head broad and slightly
flattened; body tapering posteriorly. Small dorsal fin composed
of a sharp spine with 5 to 7 soft rays; second dorsal and anal fin
confluent with caudal fin, composed of about 120 to 160 rays. Pectoral
spine with sharp spine and 11 to 13 soft rays; ventral rays 12 to
Grey to black, often lighter on underside;
sometimed with paler blotching on side.
Juveniles up to 18cm (7ins) are peacefull
schooling fishes but with ongoing size they can become predatory
towards smaller 6mm (2ins) fish.
No reports on the breeding of this species
in captivity. In their natural habitat they lay their eggs in the
month of December in shallow areas with a good water flow over a
gravel or sand substrate. The eggs are 2mm in size.
A good quality flake food, tablet food and
pellets and live foods of any kind.
Jackson, Lee; An
Australian Eel Catfish, FAMA - p130
Neo means "new" in latin and "silurus"
From 'silouros', a kind of river fish. Silurus, sheetfish,
catfish. According to Lacepéde (1803) this word indicates
the rapidity with which Silurus can move its tail.
ater : Black.
Allan, R.Gerald Dr.; Freshwater Fishes of Australia
T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1989 p59
Baench, A. Hans & Riehl, Rüdiger Dr.;
Aquarium Atlas 2, p568
© Dave Wison @
© Julian Dignall @
atra, Tandanus ater, Neosilurus mediobarbis, Neosilurus ater
- fronted Tandon, Black Tandon
Northen Australia; Carson
River range, Cape York Peninsula in the Jardine and Starcke
New Guinea; Southern region.
|40cm. (16ins) but may grow
smaller in the aquarium
| 6.0 - 8.0.
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