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.
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 handling.
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.
River range, Cape York Peninsula in the Jardine and
Starcke Rivers. New Guinea: Southern
40.0cm. (16ins) but may grow
smaller in the aquarium.
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 15.
Grey to black, often lighter
on underside; sometimed with paler blotching on
Care & Compatibility
Juveniles up to 18.0cm (7ins)
are peacefull schooling fishes but with ongoing size
they can become predatory towards smaller 6.0mm (2ins)
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.
Neo means "new" in latin and "silurus"
From 'silouros', a kind of river fish. Silurus,
sheetfish, catfish. According to
Lacepede (1803) this word indicates the rapidity with
which Silurus can move its tail. ater: Black.
R.Gerald Dr.; Freshwater Fishes of Australia
T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1989 p59. Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl 1985 Aquarien
atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde
GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.
Jackson, Lee;An Australian
Eel Catfish, FAMA - p130. Ng, Heok Hee. pers comm.