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Auchenipterichthys coracoideus (Eigenmann & Allen, 1942)

e stay on the South American continent for this months (July 2004) factsheet and to a long standing member of the  Auchenipteridaebfamily, the "Midnight Catfish", Auchenipterichthys coracoideus.

Auchenipterichthys coracoideus

This "Driftwood catfish" has been around the hobby for many years, and with a few other cats from other Genera, was one of the first uncommon catfish you could find in your LFS and would be the first member of the Auchenipteridae family that many catfish enthusiasts would encounter. I still remember fondly of finding them in a shop in the early eighties on one of my catfish hunting day trips and getting quite excited with my purchases. In these days of course this catfish was known as Auchenipterichthys thoracatus which we now know as a completely different fish altogether, they come from the waters of the Amazon River basin and the Araguaia River in the Tocantins basin while Auchenipterichthys thoracatus come from the upper Madeira River basin (see update below).

The "Midnight Catfish" received its common name due to its background colour of blue-grey with its vertical rows of tiny white specs adorning the foreground, hence the fish resembling the night sky. The other common name of the Zamora catfish stems from the catching locality around the Zamora region of Peru and is caught in fairly large numbers.

A tank setup for this species would entail a minimum size of 36x12x15ins (92x30x38cm) with plenty of hiding places with a temperature around the 23-25°c (73-77°f.) mark.
Filtration could be by external or internal filters. You don't need to provide too strong a current in your aquarium as this would unnerve this secretive fish and also not too bright aquarium lighting would benefit this cat also. A parting shot here is the fish you would include with your "Midnight Catfish", try to keep away from small tetra-like fish as they will soon disappear at night and also aggressive fish such as the larger Cichlids which would harass this catfish and stop it getting any food.

Auchenipterichthys coracoideus
has a very shark-like appearance with its black tip to the dorsal and when you do catch it out swimming it is very graceful, darting in and out of the tank decorations, and is well worth seeing for the first time. It can be quite a secretive fish, only coming out at lights out, but in time when it settles in to your aquarium you may start to see it on the odd occasion during the day looking for food, and even going to the surface of the water for any tit-bits.

To sex male from female is common to the Auchenipteridae
family. Juveniles are hard to sex but as they mature the males develop a black hooked extension to the anal fin which resembles the gonopodium of Livebearers of the Goodiae family.

There is an other member of this genus, Auchenipterichthys longimanus which looks alike but sports black spots in place of the white of Auchenipterichthys coracoideus.

Update: As from 2005 this catfish was misidentified and through the scientific studies carried out by Carl J. Ferraris Jr., Richard P. Vari, and Sandra J. Raredon in their paper Catfishes of the genus Auchenipterichthys (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes: Auchenipteridae); a revisionary study, this species is instead Auchenipterichthys coracoideus. This is an extract from the named paper.


"The Neotropical auchenipterid catfish genus Auchenipterichthys is reviewed and found to include four species. Auchenipterichthys thoracatus, formerly considered to be widely distributed throughout the Amazon River basin, is found to be restricted to the upper Madeira River basin. The widespread Amazonian species that had been misidentified as A. thoracatus is, instead, A. coracoideus; a species that also occurs in the upper Essequibo River. Auchenipterichthys longimanus, the most widely distributed species of the genus, is found through much of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins. The fourth species of the genus, A. punctatus (and its junior synonym A. dantei), is found in the upper portions of the Orinoco and Negro River basins in Venezuela and the central portions of the Amazon River basin in Brazil."

D; 1-6, Shark-like body appearance, large eyes, deep caudal peduncle with truncate to keel shaped caudal fin. Large anal fin.

Blue-grey body colouration with small white spots. Black tip to dorsal fin. Pectoral and dorsal spines with black edging. Anal fin with black edging. When in good condition these fish can show a yellow colouration in the caudal fin band.

Good community catfish with normal sized patrons but not to be trusted with small Tetras for instance, which will be picked of at night on its twilight patrols.

This family practice internal fertilization with the female depositing the fertilized eggs on aquatic vegetation with no care of the eggs shown. An unsuccessful breeding report states that the male swims behind the female and they suddenly lock their pectoral, female's adipose and caudal fin. They speed around the tank and are oblivious to anything around them. After this confrontation they break apart and fall to the aquarium floor where they sit for a couple hours in a "dazed" condition.

Can be fed most aquarium fare such as good quality flake, white worm, tablet and pellet foods and frozen foods such as bloodworm. Better to feed at lights out until they get accustomed to the daytime feeding regime when they may very well join in.

Auchenipterichthys: From the Greek, auchenos, meaning neck; pteron, meaning fin; ichthys, meaning fish in reference to the long cranial shield, giving the appearance that the dorsal fin originates at the neck region.
coracoideus: Like a raven, black.

Marshall, David; A Fish for the Midnight Hour ; Fishkeeping Answers October 1993, p62-63
Carl J. Ferraris Jr., Richard P. Vari, and Sandra J. Raredon. Catfishes of the genus  Auchenipterichthys  (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes: Auchenipteridae); a revisionary study

Photo Credits
Allan James @  ScotCat
Factsheet 097

Trachycorystes coracoides
Common Name:
Midnight Catfish, Zamora Woodcat
South America:Tocantins River, central and upper portions of Amazon River, and Essequibo River basins
13.5cm. (5¼ins)
23-25°c (73-77°f.)
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                                                                                                                                Factsheet 97 = updated April 28, 2004 © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top