Poll & Gosse, 1969
s with most of this family
this is certainly a catfish for the experienced catfish keeper
as it is like no other, and when adult the electric organ is capable
of generating 300-400 volts, enough to stun a full grown adult
of Homo sapian!. When they are bought, usually as small
juveniles, their electrical output is more of a tingle.
It uses its electrical charge for catching prey and defense. It
has a negative charge at the head and positive at the tail and
consists of greatly modified body muscle fibres. This appears
as a thin jelly like sleeve directly under the skin. It has been
noted that the species that resides in Lake Tanganyika (M.
tanganyikaensis) do not have as large a potential electrical
current probably due to the more alkaline conditions that exist
In the not too distant past there used
to be only three species in this genus, M.
electricus from the Zaire system to west Africa and
the Nile, M. microstoma from the Congo basin and
M. minjiriya from Lake Kainji, Nigeria. After the work
carried out by Steven Norris in 2002 there are now 16 species
You can notice the differences in the
pattern on the caudal and caudal peduncle of M. electricus
and M. microstoma but the biggest discrepancy is the
shape of the snout as can be seen in the images depicted.
Sharp snout: M. microstoma,
Rounded or blunt snout: M. electricus.
The common name of Dwarf Electric Catfish
for M. microstoma is I feel a misdemeanor as this species
can still grow to an impressive 60cm (24ins)
Along with the "Electric Catfish's"
there are only another two species that have the capability
of electric shock, The "Electric Eel", Electrophorus
electricus and the "Electric Ray", Torpedo
= showing the sharp snout
showing the rounded snout and different caudal and peduncle
Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 10 - 13; Vertebrae:
40 - 42. Diagnosis: tooth patches narrow; horizontally based pectoral
fins, placed low on the body; snout sharply narrowed rostrally;
40-42 vertebrae; 7-29 gill-rakers; 11-12 anal-fin rays; caudal saddle
and bar pattern very faintly expressed; 7-8 branched caudal-fin
rays; body finely spotted; lateral line complete.
Head depressed; snout and tooth patches narrow;
body more or less fusiform; 17-18 abdominal vertebrae; 23-25 caudal
vertebrae; 19 caudal-fin rays (arrangement: ii-7-8-ii).
The above image shows an unusual catch,
a wild caught albino captured by fish importer Thomas Kobe in
A note about removing
your "Electric Cat" from the aquarium for any reason.
Do not startle it, if you do not feed for a couple of days before
and then just move your cat around the tank with a gentle push
from a plastic handled fish net, it will then discharge itself
with a large charge then a few smaller ones. You can then gently
lift it out of the tank with the help of heavy weight rubber
gloves for added protection, but sometimes they will be passive
anyway, but why take the risk!.
sharply so; dorsum tan or light brown, venterly pale and largely
unpigmented, except for slight stippling on the underside of the
head and around anal and pelvic fin bases, and scattered small spots;
flank and dorsum well marked with generally small spots, 1-1.5 times
an eye diameter large or smaller, with sometimes larger blotches
posteriad; pectoral fin unspotted, rays may be dusky in adults;
pelvic fin generally opaque, unspotted; adipose with pale distal
margin, otherwise marked as dorsum; anal fin matches body ground
colour, lightly spotted in adults, with a pale distal margin in
juveniles and adults; distal 2/3 of caudal fin dusky in juveniles
and young, bounded by a clear distal margin and pale basal crescent;
caudal fin in adults matches dorsum and flank ground colour, except
for a clear distal margin, and is well marked with fine spots in
large adults (larger than 40cm SL); caudal saddle and bar pattern
weakly developed, even in young; saddle slightly darker than ground
colour and extends to about mid-depth; pale interspace slightly
lighter than ground colour; caudal bar somewhat darker than
saddle and present mostly on the caudal peduncle (not the caudal
can become quite tame for their owners and can be fed from
hand. The best aquarium conditions for them would be a planted
tank as big as you can afford, anything over a 4ft long
tank with it being wide enough to let it turn its body without
any strain, 24ins being a good guide. Height is not that
important but again 24ins for a guide. Sand or smooth gravel
for the substrate and also caves, as they like to hide away
during the day and a set-up such as this will mean that
you may be see it poking its head out of its cave as they
do in their natural environment. Another important point
is to position the heater so as not to cause the "Dwarf
Electric Catfish" any damage to its naked body., as
they do have an aversion to laying against them.
A better bet would be to cover over the heater with a heater
guard or invest in the type of external filter that has
a space for a heater in its make-up. Filtration would be
an external power filter and subdued lighting would be an
advantage as they do not like their surroundings to be too
bright. With that set-up you can enjoy your pet for many
Not to be trusted when adult so will need
to be kept on its own. Juveniles can be kept together but would
need to be monitored when growing.
In their natural habitat they form pairs and
lay their eggs in excavated cavities or holes. Would not be possible
in the small confines of an Aquarium. There have been rumours that
they are mouth brooders, but this needs to be confirmed.
In their natural habitat they feed on fishes
that are stunned by their electrical charges so adults would need
to be fed live fish. If bought as juveniles you may be able to wean
them on to worm food such as garden worms, frozen bloodworm, shrimp,
krill and small pieces of fish or meat. The urge to overfeed must
be avoided as they can get quite gluttonous. They could also be
trained to take tablet food. It is a matter of trial and error in
|The males tend to be more
slender than the females.
The median, unpaired,
ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually
on the posterior half of the fish.
Pectoral fin: The paired fins just behind
Caudal fin: The tail.
Caudal peduncle: The narrow part of a fish's
body to which the caudal or tail fin is attached.
Pelvic fin: The paired fins, between the
pectorals and the anal fins. (also referred to as ventrals)
Gill-rakers: Structure on the upper portion
of the gill arches.
Lateral line: A sensory line, along the
sides of the body.
Fusiform: Spindle or
Dorsum: The upper (dorsal) surface of the
head or body.
= Mala = soft;
pter = fin; urus = tail. (Refers to the
2002. A revision of the African electric catfishes, family
Malapteruridae (Teleostei, Siluriformes), with erection of
a new genus and descriptions of fourteen new species, and
an annotated bibliography. Ann. Mus. R. Afr. Centr., Sci.
Zool., 289:155 p
Sandford, Gina; Fishkeeping Answers, May
1 & 2: © Serge
3: © Chris