his month we welcome back regular contributor and
writer for the U.K. magazine 'Practical Fishkeeping',
Chris Ralph, with anotherfeature on his favourite
topic " The Big and Nasty"with an
indeph look at the Devil Catfish from the Indian continent,
Bagarius bagarius. I will let Chris carry on and
hopefully educate and entertain you.
is commonly known as the Devil Catfish, which is also
referred to as Bagarius yarellii (now a synonym
of Bagarius bagarius). This catfish is quite
a rare find amongst shipments of fish from Asia. Bagarius
bagarius belongs to the family Sisoridae which
are more commonly referred to as Asian Hillstream
Catfishes. Within this group of catfish there are
around 23 genera and 85 species. As their family name
suggests they are naturally found in the fast flowing
freshwaters of southern Asia. Most of the catfish
within the family Sisoridae are small to medium in
size from 6-30cm, with the exception of Bagarius
with representative species growing in excess of 2
are described as predatory fish quite unlike the other
members of the family Sisoridae which tend to be omnivorous.
In its natural habitat Bagarius will live under
bogwood or logs in fast flowing rivers in wait of
its next victim. All of the Hillstream Catfishes are
able to inhabit mountain streams by virtue of the
fact that the skin on the undersides of their bodies
is adapted by being corrugated thus acting as an adhesive
attachment to rocks and stones. In addition to the
skin being corrugated or folded another factor making
these fish better able to withstand the strong water
currents they have flattened heads. It is generally
documented that most of the representative species
of sisorids have a ventrally positioned mouth, allowing
them to rasp algae from the substrate (which is not
the case with Bagarius bagarius).
- head view
have personally been looking after (above) one of
these magnificent catfish for the past year now and
am just waiting for its owner to collect it before
it outgrows its present accommodation. I am quite
a fan of large catfish as I am sure that those of
you who know me appreciate, the problem being the
eventual size that this fish can attain I really
cannot accommodate a fish that might eventually grow
to 200cm (or around 79" in old money).
said I am pleased that I have been able to observe
this fish over the last few months. This fish has
evil written all over its face, it watches every move
that I make whilst in the fish house, and no matter
where you are you can sense this fish watching you.
It is a fish that does not like to be watched whilst
it feeds, so you have to try to be out of eye-shot
in order to see it feed. Very much a predator in its
natural environment, it will however, take dead foods
in captivity. At present this fish eats almost anything
on offer including cockles, whole prawns, mussels,
dead fish and large earthworms. It is for this reason
that this catfish leads a solitary life, as I would
not risk housing any other fish with it.
When keeping the
Devil Catfish it is essential to provide the fish
with oxygen-rich water due to the fact that these
fish are from highland streams. I have personally
found it essential to provide good filtration and
water movement in order to keep this fish in optimum
condition. Regular 25% water changes are also appreciated
by this catfish, and I always carry these changes
out weekly and certainly no longer than fortnightly.
Other water parameters
such as pH and hardness are not as important as good
water circulation and aeration, but nevertheless are
still of importance. I have found that this catfish
will tolerate lower water temperatures than most other
species of catfish due to the fact that its natural
environment is cooler. At present the Bagarius
that I have is kept at around 22ºC.
I have to admit
that this is a magnificent catfish to observe, but
be warned that they will eat anything small enough
to fit inside the enormous mouth that they possess.
Finally perhaps it is just as well that these fish
are rare amongst catfish imports, as in the wrong
hands it could do untold damage to other fish and
rapidly outgrow small accommodation.
As of January 2021 there are now five Bagarius
species described. The "Devil Catfish" Bagarius
bagarius from the Indian subcontinent. The "Dwarf
vegrandis is found
in Chao Phraya and the Mekong. The "Flat head
suchus is found in
Chao Phraya and the Mekong. The Giant B.
lica is found
in every basin except Salween. B.
Vietnam, and the undescribed speciesB.
sp. salweenwhich is only found in Salween. B. yarrelli
is now a synonym of Bagarius bagarius.
Mekong and Chao Phraya basins. Reported from Salween,
Maeklong and Peninsular Thailand. Type Locality:
Ganges River, India.
6.5-7.8 although it is documented
that pH 7.0 is optimum.
It is documented that juvenile
specimens prefer a hardness up to 12ºdGH, but that
adult fish can tolerate a hardness of up to 30ºdGH.
1/6; Anal 12-15; Pectoral 1/13; Ventral 6. Four pairs
of barbels: one pair each of of maxillary, nasal and
two of mandibular; maxillary barbels with broad bases.
Gill membranes free from each other up to base of
isthmus and overlapping, free from isthmus. Caudal
fin deeply forked, upper lobe longer and both lobes
produced into soft filamentous prolongations. Lateral
line complete, simple. Air-bladder small, enclosed
in two bony capsules.
This catfish is quite attractively
marked. The base colour of the body of this fish
is light brown with dark brown to black mottled
markings over the eyes, around the dorsal and adipose
fins and at the base of the caudal peduncle. The
fins share this mottled pattern of markings.
Care & Compatibility
This really is a fish destined
to live a solitary life due to the fact that I am
convinced that it would eat just about any other occupant
that it could fit inside its mouth.
There are no known
records of this catfish having been bred in captivity,
most likely due to their adult size and size of aquarium/tropical
pond required for them.
There are no documented
or observed external sexual differences.
As its common name suggests
this truly is a demon amongst the fish world, requiring
meaty foods at all times. In the wild this fish would
predate upon smaller fishes, but in an aquarium it
can be persuaded to feed upon cockles, mussels, whole
prawns, dead fish and earthworms. It is also documented
that this catfish when kept with fish bigger than
itself, that it would eat their scales.
From the vernucular name; 'Vaghari'
H.A. and R. Riehl 1985 Aquarien atlas. Band
2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde
GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.
Catfish Association Great Britain Volume 1.