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Auchenipterichthys punctatus (Valenciennes, 1840)

ur last factsheet of 2017 and we head to South America to a member of the  Auchenipteridae
  family and one you do not see very often in the hobby, not like Auchenipterichthys coracoideus, the "Midnight Catfish". I am referring of course to Auchenipterichthys punctatus.


Auchenipterichthys punctatus


Auchenipterichthys punctatus


There are four species in this genera namely, A. coracoideus, a species that occurs in the upper Essequibo River, Auchenipterichthys longimanus, the most widely distributed species of the genus, and found through much of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins, Auchenipterichthys thoracatus from the upper Madeira River basin and at one time misidentified as A. coracoideus and our fourth species of the genus, and our factsheet of the month for December 2017, A. punctatus (and its junior synonym A. dantei). It 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. At the northernmost collecting site (altitude of about 150 m) along upper Rio Negro, the water was blackish, over rocky bottoms.




Auchenipterichthys punctatus = showing the extended sharp spine to dorsal fin.


Auchenipterichthys punctatus is most similar in appearance to A. longimanus, which differs from A. punctatus primarily in lacking distinct, dark spots covering the head or body. Auchenipterichthys punctatus is readily distinguished from its other two congeners, A. coracoideus and A. thoracatus, which have coracoids that are covered ventrally only by a thin layer of integument and appear to be exposed to the surface, the anterior teeth on premaxilla are visible in the closed mouth and, typically, eight (rarely nine) branched pelvic-fin rays (Ferraris et.al. 2005).




Dorsal-fin origin at approximately 0.30–0.34 of SL. Length of dorsal-fin base slightly less than one-half of length of first branched dorsal-fin ray. Dorsal-fin spine pungent, with slightly curved, convex anterior margin (see above image). Body depth at dorsal-fin origin 0.25–0.27 of SL and equal to, or slightly greater than body width at cleithrum. Body depth at anal-fin origin approximately 0.25 of SL and equal to HL. Body compressed, with width at anal-fin origin slightly less than one-half of body depth at that point. Ventral surface of coracoids not exposed on ventral surface of body (Fig. 1c). Lateral line complete and midlateral. Canal having irregular zigzag pattern, with oblique posteriorly-directed branches off main canal. Lateral line canal extending short distance onto caudal fin base and branched with both obliquely posterodorsal and obliquely posteroventral branches.

Overall ground colouration of adults tan to brown, universally dark on dorsal portion of head and body other than in smaller individuals that may have darker spots scattered over dorsal one-half of body. Midlateral region along lateral line pale other than in smaller individuals. Pale region in such specimens forming narrow, irregularly-margined, horizontal stripe. Lateral and dorsolateral surface of body with series of unpigmented, rounded spots of size most often approximately equal to one-fifth of width of pupil or smaller. Lateral surface of body ventral of lateral line tan to light brown and overlain by variably sized and distributed spots of dark pigmentation. Dark spots proportionally larger in small specimens. Abdomen and lower portion of head posterior of lateral mandibular barbel pale. Margin of lower lip darkly pigmented.

Aquarium Care

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 A. punctatus, 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.



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 for A. coracoideus 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.

Sexual Differences

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.



Stomach contents of four specimens indicate a diet consisting mainly of insect nymphs and adults. (Soares-Porto, L.M. 1994). 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.

Glossary of Terms

Cleithrum: The major bone of the pectoral girdle, extending upward from the pectoral fin base and forming the rear margin of the gill cavity, also: the principal bow-shaped bone of the prectoral girlde, dermal in origin, forming the rear margin of the gill cavity. It articulates dorsally with the supracleithrum and ventrally with the scapula and coracoid.
Anal fin: The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.
: Middle and lower section of the pectoral girdle.
Lateral line
: A sensory line, along the sides of the body.
Dorsal: The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body.

Caudal fin: The tail.
Pungent: piercing or sharp-pointed.


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.
punctatus: From the Latin punctatus = 'spotted'.


Ferraris, C.J. Jr., 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418:1-628.
Soares-Porto, L.M. 1994 Auchenipterichthys dantei, a new species of catfish from the Amazon Basin (Siluriformes: Auchenipteridae). Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwat. 5(3):281-287.
Ferraris, C.J. Jr., Vari, P. Richard and Raredon, J.Sandra; Catfishes of the genus Auchenipterichthys (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes: Auchenipteridae); a revisionary study. Neotropical Ichthyology, 3(1):89-106, 2005.

Photo Credits

© Allan James @ ScotCat

Factsheet 258

Auchenipterichthys dantei, Auchenipterus punctatus
Common Name:
South America: Upper Orinoco River and Upper Amazon River basins, including the Negro River.
15.0cm. (6ins)
23-25°c (73-77°f.)
6.5 - 7.2.
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