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Cranoglanis bouderius (Richardson, 1846)

The family Cranoglanididae from China and Vietnam has not been covered before in our Factsheets probably because of their rarity in the hobby, but none the less this a very interesting family to cover and hopefully an interest to all catfish enthusiasts worldwide.


ranoglanis bouderius
is a species of armorhead catfish found in Kwangsi Province, China. It grows to a length of 43.0 cm SL and to 2.2 kilograms. It is considered to be a fine food fish in the Zhujiang River Valley in China.


Cranoglanis bouderius

Cranoglanis bouderius



Cranoglanis bouderius was first described as Bagrus bouderius in 1846 by John Richardson based on a Chinese watercolor painting and later Wilhelm Peters later described Cranoglanis along with a new species, Cranoglanis sinensis.


In 1936 Otto Koller described a new species, Pseudotropichthys multiradiatus and in 1931 George Myers synonymized Pseudotropichthys with Cranoglanis, as well as describing the family Cranoglanididae.

In 1955 the Indian Ichthyologist K. C. Jayaram synonymized C. multiradiatus and C. sinensis under C. bouderius, but more recently, C. bouderius and C. multiradiatus have been treated as separate species. In the same year Cranoglanis had been considered a monotypic genus by some, with C. bouderius as the only valid species.

C. henrici
, described by Léon Vaillant in 1893, is often overlooked, but is a valid species.




Cranoglanis bouderius = head view


Cranoglanis bouderius - head view

Strange but true but the Cranoglanididae are closely related to the North American family Ictaluridae. These two families are sister taxa in the superfamily Ictaluroidea





China: Kwangsi-Province in China, Zhu-jiang River

: Overexploitation. Illegal fishing using electric shock devices, explosives and poison. The huge Longtan Dam and numerous smaller dams, may have already driven, and will continue to drive C. bouderius into decline.


In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species it has a tag of Vunerable. It was historically common in the valley of the Zhu Jiang and especially in the Xi Jiang (rivers). The population of the fish has markedly decreased and it is estimated that the species has declined by at least 50% in the last twenty years (K. Cui and H. Zhou 2011). Overfishing has impacted the species population, as well as agricultural pollution, and dams. Research into populations trends, distribution, and threats is needed. A research agency has captive-bred the species for aquaculture (IUCN Red List).

Conservation actions
: Some work has already been done on the fish’s habit, reproduction and breeding technology. Artificial propagations has not been successful yet. Wild larvae are raised in aquaculture (Yu and Shen 2005). An annual fishing ban is in operation in the whole Zhujiang River System (in place since 2007).



D II/5–6, A ii–iii/26–34, P I/9–13, V i/10–11. Body elongateand laterally compressed. Head dorsoventrally de-pressed, bone on top of head naked or covered withthin membrane. Snout blunt and projected. Teeth villiform. Four pairs of barbels. Gill openings large. Scales absent. Lateral line straight and complete. Swimbladder heart-shaped, with three chambers (Chu et al. 1999).

Olive colored body, gradually become white starting from the stomach. All fins white grey.

Aquarium Care

There is not much information on the keeping of Cranoglanis species but they are predators so would need to take this into account if purchasing. Not seen very often in the hobby.



Best kept on own or with larger species in a large tank as small fish would be seen as food.

Matures after four years. Spawning in schools between late March and late June, with an intense period in May. Spawning in batches, water temperature 25–28°C. Build nests by burrowing in substrate. Eggs laid and protected in nest, eggs adhesive (Yuand Shen 2005).

Sexual differences
Not known.


Feeds on small fishes, shrimps, aquatic insects, and invertebrates.

Glossary of Terms

Synonym: Different name for the same fish.
Dorsal fin:
The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body

Anal Fin: The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.
Monotypic: Having only one species, such as a monotypic family of fishes.
Ventral fins: The paired fins, between the pectorals and the anal fins.
Villiform: Elongated cardiform teeth.
Swimbladder: The air sac that gives fish buoyancy and balance. Acts as sound resonator in some fish.
Gills: The organs utilized to obtain oxygen from the water.
Lateral line: A sensory line, along the sides of the body.


Cranoglanis: Greek, kranion = skull + Greek, glanis = the name of a kind of fish.



Google Maps 2018
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, March 22). Cranoglanis. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:49, December 20, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cranoglanis&oldid=831827824.
Zheng, C.-Y. 1990 Cranoglanididae. p. 294-297. In J.-H. Pan, L. Zhong, C.-Y. Zheng, H.-L. Wu and J.-H. Liu (eds). 1991. The freshwater fishes of Guangdong Province. Guangdong Science and Technology Press, Guangzhou. 589 p.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (03/2012).
Cui, K. & Zhao, H.H. 2011. Cranoglanis bouderius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T166213A6191057. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T166213A6191057.en. Downloaded on 20 December 2018.
Nelson, J.S., 1994. Fishes of the world. Third edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York. 600 p.
Yang, Lei & Liu, Caixia & He, Shunping. (2009). Threatened fishes of the world: Cranoglanis bouderius (Richardson, 1846) (Cranoglanididae). Environmental Biology of Fishes - ENVIRON BIOL FISH. 84. 157-158. 10.1007/s10641-008-9400-4.

Photo Credits


Top: Freshwater Fishes of China in Coloured Illustrations

Bottom: ©  Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library

Factsheet 271

Bagrus bouderius, Cranoglanis bouderius bouderius, Macrones sinensis, Cranoglanis sinensis
Common Name:
Helmet Catfish


Asia: Kwangsi-Province in China, Zhu-jiang River
43cm (17ins)
20-24°C (67-75°F)
6.0 -7.2.
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                                                                                                            Factsheet 271 = updated January 1, 2019 , © ScotCat 1997-2018  Go to Top