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Sperata aor  (Hamilton, 1822)  

elcome to the Asian version of the South American shovelnoses,
maybe not in the aggression stakes but certainlyu in size, as The "Indian Shovelnose Catfish" grows, to a total lengh (from tip of snout to end of caudal fin) 6'ft. (180cm) and is arguably along with another nasty character Hemibagrus wyckii one of the most aggressive big cats. The larger Asian Bagrid cats seem to be that bit more territorial and aggressive compared to their South American counterparts.

Sperata aor


This is a very sleek looking catfish from the Bagridae family and is one of only four in this genus, Sperata aor, S. acicularis, S. aorella and S. seenghala. They all grow large and have an elongated shape with a large head and depressed body and posses four pairs of barbels with a black spot on the posterior of the adipose fin. Ferraris and Runge (1999) revised this genus and they separated the Myanmar populations previously identified as aor as a separate new species.

Sperata aor = caudal view

The image above shows the deeply forked tail and the black spot to the adipose fin. The four species
posses a black spot on the posterior end of the adipose fin but S. seenghala differs from S. aor in having a spatula snout and shorter barbels. These two members of this genera are regularly caught on rod and line, and nets, and sold in the local food markets.

Sperata aor = head view

The image above shows the rounded snout and the long maxillary barbels.


Aquarium Care: This species is not intended to be housed in a community aquarium and apart from the reason of aggression towards other fish and conspecifics it grows too large for the normal tanks in our homes. Please leave this catfish alone unless you have the facilities to move through the growth patterns from a small 3inch specimen on to the tank busting 6ft giant, although they may not reach this size in a captive environment. A specimen would need a large heated pond in a Conservatory like building on its own to do it any kind of justice. The pond would need to be at least 12ft wide by 20ft long as this is a quick growing catfish given the right dietary requirements. Provide hiding places such as large pipes, driftwood and rocks.


D 1/7; P 1/9; A; 12/13. Head depressed, rounded snout. Four pairs of barbels with the maxillary pair reaching to the end of the anal fin or sometimes the rear of the caudal base or beyond. Caudal fin deeply forked.

Body silvery grey with white below. Fins yellowish with dark edges. Black blotch at the posterier end of the adipose fin.

Aggresive towards other fish and conspecifics. Can be kept with the same size or larger fish when younger such as South American Pacus and large Cichlids.

Oviparous, distinct pairing possibly like other members of the same genus. and breeds before the onset of the monsoon in the Ganges. They apparently prepare a nest on the bottom of the river bed and guard it. The fry have been reported to feed of the skin on the males belly where he produces a slime like substance.

Sexual differences

Females have a more rounded appearence and the males have a genital papilla just in front of the anal fin.


In the wild adults will feed on small fishes and worms. Can be fed on frozen shrimps, worms, pellet and tablet foods. Adults can be fed on strips of trout and sprats. Not a fussy eater.

Sperata: Named after Mr. M. A. Sperat.
aor : From the Bengali common name for this fish: "AYRE" for Sperata aor.


Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (01/2009).
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.

Glossary of Terms

Caudal fin: The tail.
Anal fin :
The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.
Adipose fin : Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Maxillary barbels: Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels)

Photo Credits
Images: © Danny Blundell @ TheDanny Blundell PhotoGallery
Factsheet 215

Pimelodus aor, Orichthys aor, Mystus aor, Macrones aor, Aorichthys aor 
Common Name:
Indian Shovelmouth Catfish, Long-whiskered catfish.
Asia: Ganges River system and peninsular India south to Cauvery River basin. Type locality: Rivers of Bengal, and upper parts of the Gangetic estuaries.    
180cm (6ft)
23-26°C (73-79°F)  
6.0 - 7.2
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                                                                                                                              Factsheet 215 = updated December 16, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018  Go to Top