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Sciades herzbergii (Bloch, 1794)   

he Ariidae family is not that well covered in online literature so I thought "why not" so I have hand picked a species that you would not keep in your home aquarium due to its adult size and migratory habits, The Pemecou sea catfish, Sciades herzbergii.


Sciades herzbergii = adult colouration


Sciades herzbergii - adult colouration



This species may be confused with Sciades couma, although it is much more frequent than S. couma. Adults occur in turbid estuaries, mangrove-lined lagoons and lower parts of rivers being very tolerant to changes in salinity. Found on shallow soft bottoms. Feed on a large variety of bottom-living and pelagic organisms including those found among the roots of mangroves.





Sciades herzbergii - head view


Sciades herzbergii - habitat


Sciades herzbergii - habitat



This species is widely distributed and can be very common. It is a targeted species in artisanal fisheries, principally in the north and northeast of Brazil. It may be susceptible to habitat loss in mangrove, estuarine areas. At present neither habitat loss or fishing pressure is considered a major threat to this species. It is listed as Least Concern with a recommendation to monitor its fished population and study its life history. (The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015).


Sciades herzbergii commonly occurs in turbid estuaries, mangrove-lined lagoons and lower parts of rivers. It is very tolerant of changes in salinity, also occurring in hypersaline waters and occasionally shallow marine waters.


The spines of this species are poisonous and may inflict painful wounds that sometimes result in long-lasting effects.





Presence of a furrow, partly covered by a flap of skin, extending across the snout between the posterior nostrils; snout long and rounded, mouth slightly inferior; supra-occipital process slightly keeled; usually 21-23 gill rakers on second arch, palatine teeth patch always with an U-form; medium sized species; soft rays in pectoral fins usually 10 or 11.

Grey colour to dark brown above, whitish below. All fins have a touch of red/pink.

Aquarium Care

Grows too large for the home aquarium.



Grows too large for the home aquarium.



Reproduction occurs between September and December. A female lays 20-30 eggs, with a diameter of 10-12 mm. Males incubate the eggs in their mouth. Females reach maturity at a younger age than males and grow faster. The male incubates 28-40 eggs in the mouth and 200-400 eggs that are fixed in a glutinous mass on its head. Incubation takes 10-12 days. After 50-60 days fully functional young (6-6.5 cm TL) are released.

Sexual Differences

Not reported.



Fishes, worms, pelagic micro-crustaceans, benthic shrimps and detritus.

Glossary of Terms

Supra-occipital process: Unpaired bone at the back of the skull, usually with a crest.

Gill rakers: Structure on the upper portion of the gill arches.

Pectoral fins: The paired fins just behind the head.

Palatine teeth: The teeth present on the palatine bone which lies laterally in the roof of the mouth.




Chacon, J.O., M.I.M. Alves and M.S.C. de Mesquita, 1994. Alguns aspectos da reprodução do bagre branco, Selenapsis herzbergii (Bloch 1794), Pisces: Ostariophysi, Siluriformes, Ariidae. Bol. Tec. DNOCS. 47/52(1/2):43-78.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2015.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, ( 08/2016 )
Betancur, R., Marceniuk, A.P., Giarrizzo, T. & Fredou, F.L. 2015. Sciades herzbergii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T190245A1945803. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T190245A1945803.en

Mol, H.A. Jan, The Freshwater Fishes of Suriname. BRILL, Leiden Boston, 2012. 889 p.

Photo Credits

© Cecile de Souza Gama by Creative Commons

© By The Photographer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

© The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Factsheet 251

Arius herzbergii, Bagrus coelestinus, Bagrus mesops, Bagrus pemecus, Hexanematichthys herzbergii, Netuma dubia, Pimelodus argenteus, Selenaspis herzbergii, Silurus herzbergii
Common Name:
Pemecou sea catfish
South America: Caribbean and Atlantic draining rivers and estuaries from Colombia to Brazil: Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. Habitat: brackish, marine.
57cm. TL (22½ins)
22-26°c (71-79°f ) 
7.0 - 8.0.
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