here is about 25 species or so of the genus
Noturus, commonly called, madtoms, and they of course belong
to the same family as the bullheads and channel catfish, the
Ictaluridae. The name Noturus means "back tail"
and refers to the fusion of the adipose and caudal fins ( in some
species ) which tends to give them a tadpole-like appearance.
Noturus flavus - head view
Noturus flavus is commonly
called the 'Stonecat' because of its tendency to hide beneath
flat rocks in fast flowing riffles and runs among stones
on the river bed, where it resides in moderate to large streams.
I have never seen any madtom species in the U.K. for sale
in the retail shops, and it is one genus that I would dearly love
to have had, at one time or another ( hint, hint, to our American
aquarist friends). The nearest I got to them was when the
first coldwater darters where brought into this country from the
U.S. about 10 years ago (1989) and I purchased the beautiful Rainbow
Darter, Etheostoma caeruleum. At the time there were rumours
that madtoms had also been imported, but alas not one to be seen.
In these days there was no restrictions on keeping the more exotic
coldwater species but now echoing that great song of the past,
"Times they are a changing " (*see below).
The main talking point of N. flavus and other madtoms
is the venom contained in the dorsal and pectoral spines of this
genus which can give a very nasty sting, it is a venomous toxin
that forms part of the mucus coating on these spines. In some
cases this can last a few hours with swelling of the infected
area. This of course is a deterrent to large predators to keep
well away and is an excellent defence mechanism. Jason Leaman
from Pennsylvania talks about a close species in N.insignis
and he states that "if you get stung by the Stonecat,
the best relief right away ironically is to rub the wound onto
the fish (anywhere you won't get stung again). I have never had
the sting last more than about 30 seconds. Its really not too
painful, however throbs a bit briefly. I don't know how long it
would actually last if I didn't use the Stonecats own medicinal
value of its oily flesh"
This madtom and others in the same genus have been an ambition
to a lot of U.K. catfish keepers to own (myself included) but
with a few of them being in the endangered list in their own habitat,
and with the U.S. Government and our own Government restrictions,
it looks like we will just have the pictures to drool over.
There is now moves afoot by the Government ( U.K.) through the
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAAF) to impose restrictions
on some coldwater species like the above mentioned 'Stonecat',
due to the dangers of introduction to native waters and the threat
to its occupants through disease and predation. In other words
you could be paying up to £30 for a license to keep them.
In the future due to the exporters having to implement new guidelines
on matters such as health records for each fish, they could become
quite rare in the U.K.
Update: As of November 1998 in the U.K.you must have a
licence to keep the above species. This licence is now issued
free, but does take a few months to process. There has been numerous
updates since 1998 so would be better to check this out. For more
information log on to the DEFRA
site and also to get a phone number if needed.
The body is slender, and compressed posteriorly;
the head and nape are broad and depressed; the mouth is subterminal;
eye small to moderate. The pectoral spine is straight; the surface
usually only roughened, and lacking prominent serrae. The genital
papilla is conical and a ventral apical notch is present. The
upper jaw projects beyond the lower jaw. The tooth pad on the
upper jaw has a narrow, crescent-shaped extension on each side.
The notch between adipose and tail fins are closer to tip of tail
fin than to the dorsal fin base. The dorsal fin has 1 spine, (5)6
rays. The upper caudal rays number (27) 29-33(36) and the lower
caudal rays (26)27-31(33). Anal rays 15-18(19); pelvic rays (8)9-10;
the pectoral has 1 spine and 9-11 rays
Back and side gray, olive, or brown, often
with a yellowish cast; postdorsal spot yellow; fins with a pale
yellow cast, blotches gray to blackish
This is one of the bigger madtoms growing
to a foot in length in the wild, (smaller in the aquarium) compared
to most of the other species which grow to between 4 and 5 inches.
Not having kept this species myself the data that I have collated
points to a large tank ( 4' 0") with a gravel bottom with
no heater of course with an external filter and good water movement.
They are very nocturnal so plenty of hiding places, large rocks
or slate would suffice, they would then venture out at night for
feeding, and would be able to be seen with the tank lights off
and with one small light on in the viewing room.
As far as I am aware, no madtoms have been
bred in the U.K.but some successes have been recorded in the U.S.
and Canada. Spawnings in the wild for Noturus flavus takes
place in Spring or Summer with higher temperatures to trigger
spawning. According to Scott and Crossman (1979) the eggs, which
number between 20 and 100 are deposited in a cavity beneath a
rock or other structure. The eggs are amber-yellow and are very
large, ranging between 3.5 and 4mm diameter, with the whole egg
mass enveloped by a gelatinous material. A female stonecat may
produce between 200 and 1,200 eggs per year. They exhibit parental
care, with the male or both sexes guarding the clutch.
In their native habitat they will feed on
aquatic insects and crustaceans. Aquarium specimens do prefer
live feeding including glass shrimp, whiteworm, earthworms and
bloodworms, but you might be able wean them on to frozen food,
shrimp pellets and carnivore flake.
"Back Tail" referring to the fusion of the adipose
and caudal fins
|Burgess, Peter Dr.
The Madtoms N.A.C.G.Sept.1997.
Knopf, The Audubon Society Field guide to North America
Fishes, Whales & Dolphins, 1986.
Fishes of Ohio's State Scenic Rivers.
Leaman, Jason; e-mail corespondence: 18/05/07
St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River) and Mississippi
River basins from Quebec to Alberta in Canada, and south
to northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, and
northeastern Oklahoma, USA; Hudson River drainage in New
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