his month we stay on the North
American continent and go on to a very large catfish
from the Ictaluridae family and in a genus all of
its own, Pylodictus olivaris. This large
cat could be said to be somewhat placed between the
genera of Ictalurus and Ameiurus
in its appearance and can be found in southern Canada,
United States and northern Mexico.
can been seen in the above picture (and its mouth!)
this is not a catfish for the home aquarium and can
only be housed when large in a public aquarium facility.
They are solitary creatures and inhabit large creeks,
rivers and reservoirs, near the cover of rocks, logs
or other debris. When young they tend to often live
among rocks in a slight current. They are mainly a
sport and food fish and specimens of 14-23 kg (30-50
lbs) are not unheard off.
The range of Pylodictus olivaris is SE. Ontario,
West Pennslvania, SW. Wisconsin, north Dakota, south
to Texas and NE. Mexico; east in Gulf drainages to
the Mobile Bay drainage of Alabama, Georgia.
In these pictures
it certainly looks a fearsome looking beast and when
adult it is piscivorous (fish-eating) but when they
are young they are predated on by Bullheads and Channel
Catfish but soon mature to feed on aquatic insects,
crayfish, small fish, worms and then on to the larger
fish when adult. The picture below shows a young juvenile
of Pylodictus olivaris showing a more mottled
and colourful pattern. In common with a lot of large
catfish that lose there juvenile markings to become
in later life, a more subdued pigmentation. Sexual
maturity is not reached until 3-4 years and is said
to have a life expectancy of 20 years.
anal and caudal fin
Bullheads, anal and caudal
Channel cats, anal and
The shapes of the anal
fins are quite distinct with Pylodictis being
more rounded than the bullheads and the channel cat
has more of a keel shape.
Garold W. Sneegas for the use of
his photographs. Robin Fischer for
providing information on this species.
lower Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins from
western Pennsylvania to White-Little Missouri River
system in North Dakota, and south to Louisiana in
the USA; Gulf Slope from Mobile Bay drainage in Georgia
and Alabama, USA to Mexico. Transplanted elsewhere
Head large, wide and very flat.
Eyes small; mouth wide, lower jaw projecting beyond
upper. 4 pairs short barbels. Adipose fin large; dorsal
fin spine weak; 14-17 anal fin rays; caudal fin truncate,
Sides olive-yellow to light
brown with dark mottling; belly yellowish; caudal
fin dark brown to black, with upper lobe unpigmented.
Other fins yellowish to light brown.
Care & Compatibility
This is not a catfish for the
home aquarium and can only be housed when large in
a public aquarium facility.
They first spawn
at about 4-5 years old in June and July when water
temperatures reach 22-23° C (72-75° F). The
flathead, normally a loner fish, pairs up with one
of the opposite sex and both the male and female construct
the nest. They dig out a large hole under a bank or
log or dig down through silt and mud until they reach
gravel. They spawn in the nest with the female laying
eggs in bunches of 30 to 50. A single female can lay
3,000-30,000 eggs depending on her size. When the
female is done, she leaves the nest. The male fans
the eggs with his fins. After they hatch, he protects
the young until they can feed on their own.
Juveniles feed on aquatic insects,
then on to crayfish small fish, worms and larger fish
when growing into adulthood.
Pylodictis: Greek, pylos
= mud + Greek, ichthys = fish. olivaris: Means "olive-coloured"
The Audubon Society Field guide to North America Fishes,
Whales & Dolphins, 1986. Smith W.Philip; The Fishes of Illinois,
University of Illinois Press. 2002. Fischer,