honour of ScotCats 100th factsheet, author and Practical
Fishkeepings catfish expert, Chris Ralph, has offered
to compile an article on a catfish that could very
well be deemed a wolf in sheep's clothing!, Hemibagrus
asked by Allan to write the 100th information sheet
for the site, I felt honoured and thought that I would
write about a fairly straightforward catfish! How
wrong could I be, firstly the little beast that I
am keeping in the fish house has changed its name
from Hemibagrus nemurus to Hemibagrus
wyckioides, and reading a little more about this
fascinating catfish I find that it can attain lengths
up to 950mm or 38”!. So how did I end up with
this catfish I here you ask?. I was shown a listing
of fish that were available from a wholesaler and
knowing that a good friend of mine, Daphne Layley,
had previously asked me to look out for a Hemibagrus
wyckii, I duly ordered two specimens to be collected
the following week. I arrived at the shop to collect
the fish as planned to find from quite a distance
(I was at least ten feet away from the tank that the
bag was floating in) that there were not two H.
wyckii as expected but two of what I thought
were H. nemurus (now H. wyckioides)!,
I must admit to being more than a little disappointed
at the time but took the fish anyway.
week the wholesaler was visited by my friend who informed
him of the mix up. The wholesaler said “But
you don’t know anything about catfish, and I
thought that nobody would notice”, to which
my friend replied “I know, but my customer does”!
Apparently the wholesaler was a tad embarrassed and
has promised to replace the fish for me at some stage.
I subsequently re-homed one of these catfish to some
very good friends on the Isle of Wight, whilst in
the not too distant future the remaining catfish is
destined to be relocated to one of Daphne’s
tanks in her fish room.
have to say that this is a catfish full of character,
but one that is also purely evil. It looks at you
as if butter would not melt in its mouth, but turn
your back and it is probably the most mischievous
fish that I have had the pleasure to keep recently.
This catfish is constantly rearranging the décor
in the tank, one day the aquarium sand (BD Aquarium
Sand) is piled up against one end of the tank the
next you cannot see through the front glass! This
catfish will eat literally anything that I care to
feed it ranging from earthworms, cockles, prawns,
mussels etc to catfish pellets and floating food sticks.
In some respects I will be sad to see the fish go
but I know that it will have much larger accommodation
than I can provide for it at present. As most of you
reading this will realise this catfish is not one
to be taken lightly, and is not one for the novice
Anyway I digress,
back to the confusion over the naming of this catfish.
Those of you who surf the web will no doubt have come
across many sites listing or referring to our favourite
subjects “Catfish”, this is where some
of the confusion certainly on my part sets in. My
first encounters with this catfish (too many years
ago to remember now), were when I saw the odd specimen
in a retailers tank labeled up as Mystus nemurus,
how things have changed. At one time these catfish
were compared to the Red tailed catfish – Phractocephalus
hemioliopterus “The Emperor of the Amazon”
as being the poor man’s cousin. At the time
it was thought that H. wyckioides only grew
to around 300mm or 12” how naive we were. As
the years have passed by this catfish has seen some
name changes from Mystus nemurus to Hemibagrus
nemurus (or so we thought), to what we now know
as Hemibagrus wyckioides; hence the confusion!
To further add to this confusion Hemibagrus nemurus
is a valid species but differs from Hemibagrus
wyckioides in that it does not posses the red
coloured tail and has a more flattened head, shorter
adipose fin and filamentous extensions to the dorsal
and caudal fin rays.
In its natural
habitat H. wyckioides is found at irregular
depths usually over rocky substrates in large upland
rivers. It is documented that this catfish reproduces
in its local environment and enters the flooded forest
during the high water season which is usually between
July and October. It is a predator feeding upon a
diet that includes prawns, insects, fish and crabs
in its natural habitat. As with all large species
of catfish (or any other fish for that matter) good
water quality and general aquarium husbandry are paramount
to the successful keeping of this fish. Water changes
should be performed at least weekly to maintain good
water quality. This catfish prefers good water movement
which can usually be provided by using adequately
sized external and or internal power filtration. Finally
it is described as being the largest bagrid in Asia
reaching weights of up to 80kg!
Red Tailed Catfish, Common Baung, Pla Kayeng Thong,
Trey khya, Asian redtail catfish.
Mekong, Chao Phraya and Xe Bangfai basins.Cambodia,
Thailand river systems, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra,
Borneo and Java.
950mm or 38” SL (although
1300mm TL is suggested)
19-29°C ( 65-85°f)
6.0-8.2 (although pH 6-7.6
seems to be preferable)
The dorsal fin has 1 spine
with 7-8 soft rays. The anal fin has 12-14 soft rays.
The adipose fin is described as being long with a
gently sloping anterior margin. The maxillary barbels
usually reach to the middle of the base of the adipose
fin, although the barbels sometimes extend beyond
this point. The head is described as being flat as
opposed to being conical with a short occipital process
not close to the basal bone of the dorsal fin.
The base body colour of this
catfish is light grey/brown with a greenish tinge.
The lower half and underside of the body is whitish
in colour. The caudal fin in adult specimens is
whole or partially coloured bright red. Juvenile
specimens have a whitish coloured caudal fin.
Care & Compatibility
This catfish has the reputation
of being one of the most (if not the most) aggressive
freshwater fish in the world. This catfish has the
ability to bite, hence the reason why in captivity
this catfish is ultimately destined to a life in solitary
confinement, for if it is kept with other fish the
most likely outcome is that they will eventually form
part of its diet.
There are no known
reported aquarium spawning's of this catfish, most
likely due to the eventual size that these fish attain
and their aggressive nature! The males are said to
possess a genital papilla just in front of the anal
Whilst this catfish is best
described as a predator/carnivore in its natural habitat
feeding on fish, insects, crabs and prawns; in captivity
this catfish will feed on mussels, prawns, pieces
of fish, earthworms and will even take prepared foods
such as catfish pellets.
half; bagrus - From 'bagre',
a South American name for a catfish, but is only used
for African and Asian species.