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Chrysichthys ornatus  Boulenger, 1902

ur factsheet this month (May 2006) centers on a former member of the Bagridae family and one of the nicest looking "Bagrids" around as its common and specific name entails "The Ornate Bagrid". The genus Chrysichthys was split off from Bagridae by Mo in 1991 along with all of the African Bagrids bar one and is now housed in the Claroteidae family. You can find out more in the Ichthyology articles section titled, The Family Claroteidae 

Chrysichthys ornatus

This is not one of your "Tankbusters" as it will grow only to 9ins (22.5cm) standard length (SL) but in saying that, this is a predator when adult in the aquarium, so you will need to account for this when purchasing this species.

It has often been confused with a South American "Pim" from the Heptapteridae family, Goeldiella eques, the "Fox Face Pimelodella". The difference of course is that the African species, C. ornatus, has an extra pair of barbels in having nasal barbels, a shorter adipose fin and a different head shape. (see below)

Goeldiella eques= larger adisose fin
Chrysichthys ornatus = nasal barbels
Goeldiella eques = no nasal barbels

Goeldiella eques=
larger adisose fin

Chrysichthys ornatus
= nasal barbels

Goeldiella eques
= no nasal barbels

Could be used in a fishhouse environment as a feeder for an overrun of Livebearer fry but would be quite happy on commercial foods. Quite tolerant of water parameters but very shy and would need the usual good husbandry and tank regime of weekly water changes and the keeping of the filtration up to the mark.

This bagrid is not usually available in aquatic outlets so would be quite a find if you could spot any on your "Fish hunting" travels.

Dorsal: 1/6; Anal: 11-13, 6-8 branched. Body elongate, anteriorly hardly compressed, posteriorly strongly so. Dorsal and anal fins short. Dorsal and pectoral fins with stout spines. Ventral fins inserted behind the dorsal. Adipose fin present. 4 pairs barbels ( 1 pair nasal, 1 maxillary, 2 mandibular). Jaws with teeth arranged in bands. Pallete toothed.

Alternation of large, irregular, dark brown to black blotches and pale, yellowish to brownish blotches, with further small dark spots among them. Belly dirty white. Fins pale with irregular dark spots; each lobe of the caudal with a blurred dark longitudinal band.

Not to be trusted with smaller tankmates. Would do better with larger African Tetras or Cichlids. Give it a choice of hiding places to make it feel more comfortable in its surroundings as it can be nocturnal.

Sexual differences
Not recorded but I would surmise that females would be heavier when in breeding condition.


Not recorded.

Frozen shrimp and mussels. Frozen bloodworm pellets and tablet food.

Chrysichthys : Chrysos = gold; ichthys = fish.
ornatus : Ornate; decorated.

Glossary of Terms
Standard length (SL) : Standard length as measured from the snout to the caudal peduncle.
Nasal barbels: Barbels on top of the head, by the nostrils.
Nocturnal: Active at night.

Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl 1985 Aquarien atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.
Sands, David:
Catfishes of The World, Vol.5 Bagridae and Others. p. 77.
Sterba, Günther Dr.; 1 Sterba's freshwater fishes of the world.

Photo Credits
Chrysichthys ornatus:     Chris Ralph
Goeldiella eques (1):      Robin Warne

Goeldiella eques (2):   © 
 Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library
Factsheet 119

Chrysichthys pictus
Common Name:
Ornate bagrid  
Africa: Congo River system below Stanley Falls. Type locality: l’Ubangi à Banzyville [et] Monsembé, Haut Congo.
22.5cm ( 9ins)
20-25°C (67-77°F)   
6.5 -7.2.
up to 17°dGH
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                                                                                                         Factsheet 119 = updated December 14, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018  Go to Top