Your internet guide to
all things catfish

Tachysurus fulvidraco (Richardson, 1846)

s you can see in the image below, this months factsheet (May 2011) is based on the Bagridae family from Asia and a very nicely coloured member by the common name of the "Tawny Dragon catfish" so named for its specific (latin) name of fulva; meaning tawny, and draco; meaning dragon.

Tachysurus fulvidraco




Tachysurus fulvidraco has had a chequered history. In the 1980s you could purchase this species under one of its previous names, Pelteobagrus fulvidraco and it was reasonably common in the trade in the U.K. Today it is quite rare in imports which is a pity as this is a very interesting "cool water catfish"


There is still ongoing discussions in the scientific fraternity on the validity of the genus name of Tachysurus as the original description of this genera was by La Cepède in 1803 and it depicted a member of the Ariid catfish family. He proposed the name Tachysurus sinensis for
a catfish depicted in a Chinese illustration archived in Paris at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN). Tachysurus sinensis La Cepède, 1803 is the type species of Tachysurus La Cepède, 1803 (pp. 150, 151) by monotypy. The locality for the illustration is given as China. The only problem with this was the painting looked very much like a Bagrid and not an Ariid species and quite probably Pseudobagrus fulvidraco (Richardson, 1846) or P. nitidus Sauvage & Dabry de Thiersant, 1874. Of course this story is not as simple as that and if you want to read more on the pros and cons of this argument you can seek out and read the references listed below by López; J. Andrés 2008 and Ng, H.H. & Kottelat, M, 2007. To add to this confussion, Fishbase has this species listed as Pelteobagrus fulvicrado and Catalog of Fishes has it down as Tachysurus fulvicrado.


Drifting away from the scientific slant to this species, how do we keep the "Tawny Dragon catfish?. Not too much of a problem catfish as long as you don't house them with smaller species as being a Bagrid they will do what the vast majority of Bagrids will do "chase and eat them". I mentioned 'them' earlier in the text as you can keep them in a group and they will get on fine together as long as you give them plenty of room and hiding places for each individual, but you would need a very large tank with a minimum length of 6ft. If you are set on a large big fish community type setup you would probably be better off with one individual.




Tachysurus fulvidraco = gold




This is a primarily a cool water catfish so placing the tank in a centrally heated house would suffice but there are also reports that this catfish is also happy at temperatures of between 23-26°C (72-79°F) so a very variable temperature range does not worry this Bagrid at all. Providing a good current in the aquarium will suit this catfish. The growth of these fish are quick and a report states that a 8cm (3¼ins) imported specimen reached 14cm (5½ins) in a matter of a few months.


The image above depicts a golden variety of the Tawny Dragon catfish.



Dorsal spines (total): 2; Dorsal soft rays (total): 7; Anal soft rays: 19 - 20. Body is naked, skin fairly thin particularly on the upper side of the head. The mouth is large with upper jaw extending slightly beyond lower. Four pairs of barbels, two mandibular, one maxillary and one nasal. Dorsal spine very stout only slightly serrated along posterior edge. Pectoral spines very stout with fine serrations along the anterior and coarser serae along the posterior edge. The caudal fin is forked with rounded lobes.

Yellowish brown with irregular darker brown bands running into both caudal lobes. Colour contrast is more intense on juvenile specimens than in adults.

Needs a large tank as they grow fast and they will squabble with conspecifics if kept in too small a tank. Create hiding places with rocks and bogwood with the tank densely planted and with floating plants as part of the setup. If keeping other fish with the "Tawny Dragon" you will need fish larger than this catfish that will accept cooler temperatures, although a mid 70s tank will suit them fine. Although they are a cooler water catfish don't keep them with Goldfish as they will be constantly harassed as they are slow swimmers and will be picked on during the night.

In the wild these fish form small breeding colonies by making burrows or depressions on the bottom near the shore. The eggs are guarded by the male.

Sexual Diferences

As with most other species of catfish the males tend to be more slender than the females. It would appear also that the male can be determined by the papillae just prior to the anal fin, a feature found in other Bagridae.



Will accept most prepared foods such as flake, tablets, live and frozen tubifex and bloodworm.

fulvicrado: fulva; meaning tawny, and draco; meaning dragon.


López; J. Andrés Case 3455 Pseudobagrus Bleeker, 1858 (Osteichthyes, Siluriformes, BAGRIDAE):proposed conservation. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 65(3) September 2008.
Ng, H.H. & Kottelat, M; The identity of Tachysurus sinensis La Cepède, 1803, with the designation of a neotype ( Teleostei: Bagridae) and notes on the identity of T.fulvidraco (Richardson, 1845). Electronic Journal of Ichthyology November, 2007 2: 35-45.

Northern Area Catfish Group. Information sheet 14.
Goss, Malcolm; Red in the - bed - tank. Thames Valley Catfish Area Group. Magazine 1991.



Caudal fin: is defined as the tail fin.
Pectoral fins: are defined as paired lateral fins.
Dorsal fin: is defined as the medial fin on top of the back.
Anal fin: is defined as the medial fin immediately posterior to the anus.
Mandibular barbels: pertaining to the lower jaw. (mandibular barbels)

Maxillary barbels: pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels)

Nasal barbels: on top of the head, by the nostrils. (nasal barbels)


Photo Credits

Top image: Freshwater Fishes of China in Coloured Illustrations

Bottom image: © Zhou Hang

Factsheet 179

Pelteobagrus fulvidraco, Pseudobagrus fulvidraco, Pimelodus fulvidraco, Macrones fulvidraco, Silurus calvarius Basilewsky, 1855, Bagrus calvarius (Basilewsky, 1855)
Common Name:
Tawny Dragon catfish
Asia: Widely throughout China, except the western plateau and Xinjiang (Chu et al., 1999); Nam Ma Basin, Laos, and northern and central Vietnam and the Amur river basin in the far east of Russia. Type locality: Canton, China.
32cm ( 14ins)
16-25°C (59-77°F)
If you found this page helpful you can help keep ScotCat running by making a small donation, Thanks. 

Donate towards my web hosting bill!


Print Friendly and PDF

































































                                                                                                                                      Factsheet 179 = updated December 16, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top