us this month (June 2011) is David Marshall with an
in depth look at the Bressou sea catfish from the
Ariidae family and a catfish that is not often seen
or discussed in aquarium literature. David is a show
judge and also editor of The
Aquarium Gazette, a CD based aquarium publication
in the U. K. and distributed worldwide. We will let
David carry on from here with his look at the 'Bressou
In 2004 TAG contributor
Jackie Goulder phoned, in a very excited voice, to
let me know that some kind fishkeeper had literally
dropped onto her doorstep an unknown, and very large,
catfish. Now this fish I had to see so Jackie arranged
to collect me and down to Flamingo Land we went for
a ‘night visit’ (which you can read all
about on the Aquarticles website at www.aquarticles.com).
When my eyes fell upon the wonderful catfish pictured
above, I was truly amazed.
From first sight
I could tell that the large catfish was an Ariid of
some type and it had a resemblance to the large Asian
catfish 'Mystus' wyckii. Armed with e-mail
friendly copies of Jackie's photographs I contacted
several 'catfish experts' and asked for their help
in providing some clues as to the exact identity of
the Flamingo Land Ariid. As I really should have guessed
TAG contributor Steven Grant was the only person to
reply and left me with the following lead (the reference
to Mystus comes from my comments that the
Arrid had a look of 'Mystus' wyckii.
David - Yes it's difficult to tell from a photograph
but it does look like an Ariid. Mystus wyckii
(now known as Hemibagrus
long maxillary barbels. My closest guess from the
photos is Aspistor quadriscutis (used to
be in Arius) but it is only a guess. The
only sure way of identifying it is drawing/photographing
the cephalic shields (Head plates), and also if possible
the tooth patches but this is virtually impossible
in live fishes. - Regards Steven".
textbooks revealed that Valenciennes scientifically
named Aspistor quadriscutis in 1840. The
only other member of this genus is A. luniscutis.
A. quadriscutis has a natural distribution
from north west Guyana through to northeastern Brazil
(off Orinoco Delta) with unconfirmed reports placing
it around the coastline of Venezuela. This fish is
known commonly as the Bressou Sea Catfish but is equally
at home in brackish and freshwater environments. Unlike
many members of the Arius grouping this fish
does not have a 'shark catfish' tag. The exact spawning
ritual is unknown but eggs are orally incubated by
I was absolutely
thrilled to get this far, having never heard of the
scientific name, so began to cross-reference the above
on the 'search' facility of our Internet supplier.
I did not expect to find much more information than
had already come to light so was thrilled when 12
sites were revealed as possible sources of further
bits and pieces about Aspistor catfish. From
the first eleven sites the information we already
had was confirmed and the following points added:-
- The Bressou Sea Catfish had been the subject of
scientific research on sustainable food resources
on two occasions.
had been unable to find a definite way of telling
males and females apart.
2- This fish is sold fresh for human consumption via
wet fish stands while exported frozen to countries
of unstated origin.
3- Usually has various bottom-dwelling invertebrates
found among its stomach contents.
Now with site
12 left to view I expected to find very little else
to report upon so imagine my joy when the FishBase
org., first time I had visited this site, had a wonderful
two page information sheet on the Bressou Sea Catfish
that had been compiled by A. P. Marceniuk and C. J.
Ferrais Jr. After reading this sheet I was able to
confirm that the Flamingo Land monster was indeed
Although the only
photograph with the file was of a museum specimen,
this fish, which looked like a deflated version of
our photographs and lacked natural colour, looked
very similar and fins and whiskers certainly appeared
to match. The description talked of 3 pairs of barbels
on rostral region, 2 pairs on lower jaw, a single
pair posterior end of maxilla and of the fish having
a large saddle-shaped bony plate with rugose surface
in front of dorsal fin. Although the body colour is
quoted as more yellow in appearance this could be
to do with pigmentation increase due to a natural
The Bressou Sea
Catfish is found in turbid waters over muddy bottoms
in shallow coastal areas, also around estuaries, and
In aquaria Jackie
found the Bressou Sea Catfish to be no trouble in
the company in which it was kept, that ‘he’
fed from her fingers and was a real ‘pet’
(as many large catfish can become). Sadly, a few weeks
before Jackie retired from her work, a second phone
call was received informing me that very suddenly,
and without warning, the Apistor catfish had died.
How this fish had come into the U.K. we never knew
and no aquatic retailer I have spoken with have found
this fish on their list from wholesalers. So it looks
as though our Apistor most likely came in as a ‘contaminant’
with more readily available South American catfish?
‘He’ was a unique fish and putting together
this article reminded me of all those wonderful evening
visits to Flamingo Land in which Jackie, Sue, the
members and friends of Ryedale Aquarist Society (on
occasions) had ‘free wander’ of the wonderful
aquarium and Zoo.
Ariids are found worldwide in tropical to warm temperate
zones. They are unusual among catfish in that they
live primarily in the sea and thus are found along
the coastlines of the America’s, Africa, Asia
and Australia. Many species are also present in freshwater
habitats; some species only occur in freshwater. In
North and South America about 43 species extend into
brackish water or are found exclusively in freshwater.
Doilichthys is another freshwater species
that is found in New Guinea. The scientific classification
of the Arrids is something of a ‘muddle’
and we will mention more about this in a forthcoming
article on Shark catfish.
This article was published in The Aquarium Gazette
America: Atlantic coastal rivers of South
America from Guyana to northeastern Brazil. Type
locality: Cayenne ou de la Mana ... Cayenne.
50.0cm.TL (1ft 8ins)
20-27°c (67-81°f )
Dorsal spines (total): 1. Three
pair of barbels on rostral region, two pairs on lower
jaw, one pair on posterior end of maxilla; end of
maxilla barbel reaching pectoral fin insertion; large
saddle-shaped bony plate with rugosa surface in front
of dorsal fin, anterior margin of this plate waved
but no deep medial incision.
Body yellow or gray-yellow
dorsally, white ventrally.
Care & Compatibility
In aquaria Jackie found the
Bressou Sea Catfish to be no trouble in a large aquarium
in which ‘he/she’ had an Xanthic Giant
gourami and several large Pacu for company. 'He/she'
fed from her fingers and was a real ‘pet’
(as many large catfish can become).
is probably between September and November. Egg diameter
is 9-11 mm. Males practice mouth brooding of the eggs.
The sexes can
be told apart, at the right time of the year, in this
respect due to a bulging male mouth.
Raw marine fish with a lettuce
and carrot side salad formed the favoured food dish.
in ridges, knobs or protuberances, deeply wrinkled
etc.. Dorsal fin: is defined as the medial
fin on top of the back. Mandibular barbels: pertaining to
the lower jaw. (mandibular barbels). Maxillary barbels: pertaining to
the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels).
R. and D. Pauly.
Editors. 2009. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic
publication.www.fishbase.org, version (05/2011).
If you would like to contribute to the monthly
factsheets with an article, information or photos, please e-mail
me. You will of course be credited for your work.
If you would like to donate any denomination
of money to the site just click the above link button. All proceeds
will go to running the site and hopefully to keep it going for a few