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Rita rita (Hamilton, 1822)    


taying with the Bagridae family from the first factsheet of 2017, we move into February and a much larger and as they say "a different kettle of fish" in the Whale Catfish, (given this common name because of its likeness to some members of the South American family Cetopsidae, Whale catfishes) or given its scientific name the double barreled Rita rita. Not a catfish for your usual community tank as it grows far too large and would pollish off the rest of your fish in the tank, so follow below the ins and outs of keeping this large Bagrid.



Rita rita


Rita rita


Can occur in brackish and fresh waters but thought to prefer clean water. Although Rita rita is reported to be in decline from overfishing in southern West Bengal, available data indicates that it is still relatively abundant. Together with the apparent absence of major threats (other than possibly overfishing), this species is assessed as Least Concern but there is a concern as being critically endangered in Bangladesh (IUCN 2000). However, further taxonomic studies to assess the identity of the material from the northern Western Ghats are needed. Given the fishing pressure being currently exerted on this species, it may be necessary to reassess this species in the near future when more detailed catch data is available. (IUCN Red List 2010)



Rita rita


Rita rita = albino variety


Rita rita was described from estuaries in Bengal (Hamilton 1822). It has previously been thought to be found throughout the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, including the Indus River drainage. However, Ng (2004) described the population from the Indus River drainage as a distinct species, Rita macracanthus.




Body elongate. Head depressed; occipital process subcutaneous (situated or lying under the skin, as tissue), extends to the basal bone of the dorsal fin. Mouth transverse; villiform teeth in two contiguous bands in front of the upper jaw. Molariform teeth in two elliptical patches on the palate. Occipital process broad, deeply notched posteriorly to receive triangular basal bone of the dorsal fin. 3 pairs barbels, the maxillary pair extends posteriorly to the operculum, mandibular pair to the pre-operculum, nasal pair minute or small with a valve like base. Dorsal spine very stout, hollow as long or longer than the head in adults; smooth anteriorly, finely serrated posteriorly on its upper part. Pectoral spine stout and hollow, shorter than the dorsal spine, denticulated on both the edges. Forked caudal fin and the lateral line is straight.


Greenish/brown above and on the sides, brownish/white on the belly..

Aquarium Care

Provide sand or smooth gravel as a substrate and driftwood for hiding places.



If deciding to keep this large catfish they can only be kept with the same size or larger robust species as this bagrid will, and can eat, smaller fish.


Bhatti (1924) reported 20,800 eggs in less than 500g of its egg mass.

Sexual Differences

Not known.



Carnivore: Feeds on insects, molluscs, shrimps, fishes and roots of aquatic plants, also putrid carcass or flesh of animals.

Glossary of Terms

Occipital process: A median bone on the upper surface of the back of the head; pertaining to the occiput.
Dorsal fin: The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body.

Villiform: Elongated cardiform teeth.
Molariform: Having the form of a molar tooth.
Caudal: The tail.
Maxillary: Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels).

Mandibular: Pertaining to the lower jaw. (mandibular barbels)

Operculum: The bony covering of the gills of fishes.


Rita: A vernacular name from Bangladesh


Ng, H.H. 2010. Rita rita. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T166602A6245095. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T166602A6245095.en.
Jayaram; K.C
. Catfishes of India, Narendera Publishing House. p.383
Ferraris, C.J. Jr., 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418:1-628..

Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh. Vol.23. Freshwater Fishes. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 300p.

Photo Credits

© Johnny Jensen
©  Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library

Factsheet 248

Pimelodus rita, Arius ritoides, Rita buchanani
Common Name:
Rita, Whale Catfish
Asia: Rivers of northern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Type locality: estuaries of Bengal. No types known.
120cm SL (48ins)
18-26°C (63-79°F)
6.5 - 8.0.
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