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Trachycorystes trachycorystes  (Valenciennes, 1840)

o good they named it twice! well I don't think so as this is one of the most aggresive catfish around in the hobby and definately not suited to your average community tank, although It is certainly very striking looking in its all-black livery. There is another type which has a more brown body colouration and may turn out to be a seperate species.


Trachycorystes trachycorystes

A fellow aquarist has told me about a friend who kept one, and stated that it was very aggressive, and you had to watch if you put your hands in the tank as it was prone to attacking the hand that feeds it!. It is very strange indeed as the Auchenipteridae family on the whole are not known for their aggressive behavior.


There are three other Trachycorystes species, T. cratensis from the Rio Granjeiro in Brazil, T. obscurus from the Rio Essequibo basin in Guyana, and T. porosus. Our factsheet of the month T. trachycorystes is the only member of this genus to be exported, but they are still not a common site in the aquarium shops.



Trachycorystes trachycorystes = The mouth you have to watch!


The mouth you have to watch!



It is reported (watkins, et al) that this catfish is an important food fish in the Iwokrama Forest in Guyana but this species may be T. obscurus (Rio Essequibo basin) alongside the larger species of the Pseudoplatystoma genus.


This is a catfish for the more experienced keeper who knows what they are getting for their pound of flesh!. Provide shelter in the aquarium such as driftwood as it will hide there during the day and venture out at night for food. It may come out in the open during the day if it is relaxed and confident enough.

The tank length should be at least 4" 6" ft (135cm) or over at least, and the width would need to be 18" (45cm) for an adult to turn around comfortably. Substrate is not important, using either smooth gravel or sand.




Head is broad and depressed, the width of the cleithra almost twice the depth. The bones of the head are naked (without a covering skin) and fused, forming a solid, heavy, very rugose casque; there is a small oval fontanel. The mouth is wide, horizontal, and the lower jaw extends beyond the upper and a band of small teeth is present in each jaw, but there are none on the vomer and palatines. The dorsal and pectoral fin spines are strong, pungent, the dorsal fin spine with teeth along its anterior edge only, the longer, stronger pectoral fin spines with teeth along both edges. The adipose fin is very small, and the anal fin is of moderate length, with about 20 rays. The ventral fins have 9 or 10 rays, and the caudal fin is emarginate to slightly forked.

Black all over, some species have a white underbelly. Fin edges may have a white fringe to them.

Not to be trusted when growing into adulthood as it will quickly kill any smaller inhabitants of the tank. May be able to keep with large Cichlids but basically a fish to keep on its own.

Like all members of this family, T. trachycorystes practices oviducal fertilization. There are no known reported aquarium spawning's of this catfish but can be sexed due to the thickening of the anterior of the anal fin, as is the norm in this family, akin to the anal fins of the males of the Goodiae family of livebearers. The females store the sperm to fertilize their eggs.

Sexual Differences
Adult males possess a thickening of their anal fins akin to the anal fins of the males of the Goodiae family of livebearers. The females genital pore is enlarged and recessed into her abdomen.

A predator but will accept worm foods, frozen shrimp and bloodworm, chunks of frozen fish, tablet and pellet foods.

Glossary of Terms

Dorsal fin:The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body.
Pectoral fin: The paired fins after head and before anal fin.
Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Caudal fin: The tail.
Cleithra: A flattened pointed posterior extension of the pectoral girdle.
Casque: Shaped like a helmet.
Fontanel: The space(s) between the bones on top of the skull covered by skin.
Vomer: The anterior bone in the mid-line of the roof of the mouth.
Palatines: The teeth present on the palatine bone which lies laterally in the roof of the mouth.
Emarginate: Concave; used to describe the posterior border of a caudal fin which is inwardly curved; a caudal fin with a slightly concave margin


Trachycorystes: Greek, trachys, -eia, -ys = rough + Greek, chorystes, -ou = a soldier with helmet

Watkins, Graham; Saul Bill; Holm, Erling; Watson, Cynthia; Arjoon, Deokie; Bicknell Jake and the North Rupununi District Development Board. The Fish Fauna of the Iwokrama Forest. 32 p.
Ferraris, Dr. C.J. Jr., Catfish in the Aquarium. An introduction to Catfish Keeping and the Diversity of Catfish Forms and Behavior. Tetra Press Publication. 199 p.

Burgess, W.E. 1989 An atlas of freshwater and marine catfishes. A preliminary survey of the Siluriformes. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey (USA). 784 p.

Photo Credits

Top © amiidae @

Bottom: © Allan James @

Factsheet 156

Auchenipterus trachycorystes, Trachycorystes typus
Common Name:
Black Driftwood Catfish
South America: Brazil , Venezuela : Amazon basin and Orinoco River subbasin.
35cm. (14ins)
23-27°c (73-81°f.)
6.5 - 7.0
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                                                                                                                                                   Factsheet 156 = updated March 30, 2009, © ScotCat 1997-2018  Go to Top