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Sisor rabdophorus Hamilton, 1822 

ur Factsheet going into the month of August 2017 takes us to the Indian and Asian family of the Sisoridae and namely the Sisor genera. There is six species in this genus, Sisor barakensis from Manipur, India, S. chennuah from the Brahmaputra River drainage in India, S. pakistanicus from the River Chenab in Pakistan, our factsheet of the month S. rabdophorus from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, S. rheophilus from Ganges River basin in India, and S. torosus also from the Ganges River basin in India.


Sisor rabdophorus


Sisor rabdophorus


Sisor rabdophorus was originally described from the rivers of Bengal and Bihar (Hamilton 1822). Previously thought to be widely distributed in the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus river drainages, this species was shown to be more restricted in distribution (the lower Ganges drainage) by Ng (2003), who designated a neotype (from the Bhagirathi River, a distributary of the Ganges in West Bengal) for this species. It is likely that material identified as this species from the Indus River drainage is not conspecific.



Sisor rabdophorus - head view


Sisor rabdophorus - head view


Sisor rabdophorus - line drawings


Sisor rabdophorus - line drawings



Sisor rabdophorus - locations



Sisor typically inhabit large rivers with fine sandy bottoms and fairly swift current.


Sisor rabdophorus is a peculiarly modified catfish confined to some of the tributaries of the upper reaches of north Indian rivers. Its most striking features are the presence of a series of bony plates on the back and a very long upper caudal filament.





Sisor rabdophorus has fewer lateral line ossicles (66–70 vs 72–79) and serrations on the anterior (27–29 vs 29–49) and posterior (6–15 vs 12–22) edges of the pectoral spine compared to the other species. It further differs from S. chennuah and S. torosus in having a more slender body (body depth at anus 5.0–5.4% SL vs 5.6–7.8), and from S. rheophilus in having a smaller eye (9.4–12.2% HL vs 13.2–16.3) and a shorter snout (53.9–55.7% HL vs 56.2–60.3).

Body colour: Blackish above and lighter below.

Aquarium Care

A fine sandy substrate is very much preferred, since these fish will spend a considerable amount of time burrowing into the substrate. This species is sensitive to temperature and oxygen levels, so the water should be on the cool side and well-oxygenated, preferably with a moderate to strong current. Additional tank decor can be in the form of large driftwood and/or rocks.



A peaceful species that should thrive in a hillstream-type biotope tank.



Not reported

Sexual Differences

Not recorded.



Better to feed frozen and live foods as they do not seem to feed on normal aquarium fare.

Glossary of Terms

Neotype: Specimen which replaces Holotype when lost.
Caudal fin: The tail.
Lateral line:
A sensory line, along the sides of the body.

Pectoral fin: The paired fins just behind the head.


Sisor: Local name for the fish in Bengal and Bihar
rabdophorus: rhabdos: From the Greek meaning rod and phorus: meaning bearer in reference to the long filamentous extension of the uppermost caudal finray.


Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (01/2011).
Ng, H.H.,
2003. A revision of the south Asian sisorid catfish genus Sisor (Teleostei: Siluriformes). J. Nat. Hist. 37:2871-2883.
Ng, H.H. 2010. Sisor rabdophorus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T166408A6202653. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T166408A6202653.en.
Ng, H.H. Practical Fishkeeping June 13, 2016.
Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh. Vol.23. Freshwater Fishes. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 300p.

Photo Credits

© Beta Mahatvaraj @ Indianaquariumhobbyist.com 

R. Mintern - Day, Francis (1878) The Fishes of India. Volume 2.

Factsheet 254

Common Name:
Indian Whiptail Catfish.
Asia: Ganges River basin, West Bengal, India. Type locality: Northern rivers of Bengal and Behar [now India: West Bengal State, Bhagirathi River at crossing point between Kalna (Barddhaman District) and Nisinghapur (Nadia District) (23º13'33" N, 88º32'41.4"E)
18.0cm. (7ins) SL.
14-22°c (57-72°f.)
6.5 - 7.5.
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