e are continuing the predator theme this
month ( Nov.2004) with another beastie, the "Helicopter catfish"
from the upland rivers in Thailand down to Indonesia. This species
of Wallagonia is not exported as much as its cousin Wallago
attu but a few aquatic publications have W. leeri captioned
as W.attu and I will point out the differences later
in these two closely related species.
First of all we at ScotCat
must stress that this is not really a catfish to keep in your
aquarium and as they are creeping up more and more on importers
lists you must keep in mind that it can grow to a mostly unmanageable
6ft in length and would need a fish only diet the older it gets,
as you can tell by the girth of its mouth. It strikes me as strange
that it is now offered to unsuspecting aquarists although these
specimens were in very good condition and were around 18inchs
in length when photographed in the aquatic stores tanks.
There are at present 5 species of Wallago
listed on Fishbase, our factsheet of the month W. leeri,
W. attu, W.hexanema, (which is probably W.attu)
W.maculatus, and a new species which was described this
year (2004) by Heok Hee Ng from mainland Southeast Asia,
To distinguish W. leerii from the
very similar W. attu you have to look at the dorsal fin
first. W. attu has a pointed extension while W. leerii
does not and is more rounded at the tip. The mouth gape of W.
attu (see above) reaches beyond the insertion of the eye and
W. leerii has the mouth only reaching to the beginning
of the eye. W. attu has a longer anal fin than W. leerii
with 77- 97 with the latter possessing between 64-75 fin rays.
Remarks: Cited in
Fishbase as Wallago but in the Catalog of Fishes in the
current status (2018) Wallagonia
micropogon is stated to be a synoymn of Wallagonia
leerii and could be the one and same species. The diferences
between Wallago and Wallagonia are complex and
are due to the different bone structures. Wallagonia was
placed by Myers (1948) and nearly all subsequent authors as a junior
synonym of Wallago, but it is was later recognised as a
distinct genus by Roberts, T. R. 2014.
Body elongated, compressed. Abdomen rounded.
Head large, depressed. Snout spatulate, somewhat protruded. Teeth
villiform in bands on jaws and in patches on palate. Two pairs of
barbels, one pair each of maxillary and mandibular. Mouth reaching
to anterior margin of eye. Mandibular barbels shorter than pelvic
fin. 12-16 gill rakers on 1st arch. 64-75 anal fin rays.
Light golden brown on upper body with broad
black band reaching to caudal peduncle from posterior of insertion
of dorsal fin. Silver spangle effects adorning this band. Older
larger adults lose this colouration and tend to be all over silver.
This catfish is not meant to be in an aquarium
as it will view any other fish as lunch. Only suited to very experienced
aquarists who can give this catfish an indoor heated pond and plenty
Not possible in an aquarium setting as in
their local habitats they leave the deeper water and spawn in the
As juveniles they will eat pellet and tablet
foods and meaty foods such as earthworms and beef heart. As adults
they will only except a living fish diet.
Aquarium Atlas 2
Bleeker, in 1851 took the Indian fish name 'Wallagoo', gave
it generic rank, and used it in connection with a new species.
leerii - Named in honour of Leer
Rainboth J. Walter; Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong.
FAO Rome 1996
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors.
2004. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org,
Ng, H. H. 2004. Wallago micropogon: A
new species of silurid catfish (Teleostei: Siluridae) from mainland
Southeast Asia. Copeia, 2004 (1): 92-97. 
Jayaram, K.C.; The Freshwater Fishes of India,
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka - A Handbook. Zoological
Survey of India, Calcutta 1981 p.206-210.
Allan James @
miostoma,Wallago nebulosus, Ompok nebulosus, Wallago miostoma,
Wallagonia tweediei, Wallago tweediei
catfish, Trey stuak (local name)
Thailand, upland river systems,
Indonesia, river systems
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