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Schilbe marmoratus Boulenger, 1911

his month (August 2011) we welcome back Adrian Taylor, member of the
Catfish Study Group. He takes a look at the "Grass Cutter Catfish", Schilbe marmoratus.

Schilbe marmoratus


Schilbe marmoratus is a medium size catfish of around 20cm in length and on rare occasions this mid-sized and somewhat attractive species can be found in our local fish stores. It originates from in the drainage of the Congo river in Africa and out side this area is only found in the Cabinda province of Angola. These are not a bottom feeding Catfish but are a mid-water to surface open water active swimmers; that although normally are found in small groups, can from time to time be found schooling together in quite considerable numbers.



Schilbe marmoratus = a school



Schilbe marmoratus has no adipose fin, which distinguishes them from other similar coloured Schilbe species. It has a small head; large eyes and a long anal fin that can have anywhere between forty three and fifty nine branched rays.


Care for these mid-water catfish is relatively easy. Keep with a group of four or more in a medium to large size aquarium that is well-filtered having a pH ranging between 6 and 7.2; a temperature of between 22 and 25°C, with wide open spaces with long grass like plants and a few pieces of bogwood positioned around its margins would make an ideal habitat for a small group of Schilbe marmoratus.




Never has an adipose fin, whereas some of this family may or may not have. Also akin to this family is the drooped down caudal fin. Small head; large eyes and a long anal fin that can have anywhere between forty three and fifty nine branched rays. Similar to S.yangambianus and S.brevianalis which also have a marbled pattern but these two species possess an adipose fin.


The body and head have a light brown to tan base colour, marbled with brown to sooty black spots, and with a large sooty black spot on the lateral line between the dorsal and pectoral fin base. The ventral surface is coloured white.

Tank mates however should be chosen with care, as anything that Schilbe marmoratus can fit into its mouth will be predated upon.

There are no reports of this catfish breeding behaviour in the wild or of any captive spawning successes. It may well be that when these African catfishes congregate in large schools it is a precursor to spawning activity?

Sexual Diferences

Not known.



Feeding is un-problematic as this is a catfish that readily accepts commercial prepared foods such as pellets and granules. Frozen foods, whitebait, prawns and slivers of white fish such as haddock should be given as part of a weekly balanced diet.

Schilbe: schérifié (noble). It probably announces the superiority of this species for its taste".
marmoratus: Marbled; mottled.


Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.

Dorsal fin: The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body

Pectoral fin: The paired fins after head and before anal fin.
Lateral line: A sensory line, along the sides of the body.

Photo Credits

Allan James @ ScotCat


Factsheet 182


Schilbe congolensis
Common Name:
Grass Cutter Catfish 
Africa: Congo River basin and Shiloango system. Type locality: la rivière Sankuru (Kasaï).
18cm. (7ins)
22-25°C (71-77°F)   
6.0 - 7.2.
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                                                                                                  Factsheet 182 = updated December 16, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top