his months factsheet
(July 2000) concerns a group of fish that I thought
that I would not be featuring on ScotCat, but
such is the interest in the U.K. for Australian catfish
now that I decided to include the Australasian continent
on my homepage catfish map, and on my research on
Tandanus tandanus, the 'Eel-tailed Catfish',
I found this to be a very interesting fish and indeed
has wet my appetite to try one day to go 'down under'
and sample the delights of trying to collect them.
As mentioned earlier
Australian catfish have started to appear in some
aquatic outlets in the U.K.which has led to further
interest. There is not an abundance of freshwater
catfish species in Australia-New Guinea akin to the
South American and African/Asian continents, there
is as far as I know only about 16 species.
is actually the largest catfish compared to the smaller
Neosilurus species and as such is prized as
a good food fish and to be one of the best flavoured
fish for the home plate. It is said that it is easily
caught on baits of shrimps and worms and 'camp' leftovers.
One word of warning with these fish, as with most
cats of the Plotisidae family, is their very
sharp dorsal and pectoral spines and I have included
the following extract from an Australian fisherman
Barrie Gill on this subject.
can be a bit of a handful once landed, and one should
be particularly careful of the spikes in the dorsal
and pectoral fins. These spikes are extremely sharp,
and if you are spiked it will cause intense pain that
will last for hours. I once walked on one while walking
along a dam shoreline. The spike went straight
through my boot, and I was in a lot of pain for a
couple of hours. The pain only stopped when I got
myself to a hospital and they gave me an injection.
I have had friends call me a big baby when I tell
them this story, but I don't care, all I can say is
that a catfish has never spiked them. So please be
very, very careful when handling catfish, and never
just place them in the bottom of a boat. That is only
asking for trouble, and if you step on one you will
know what trouble is."
- colour plate (1916)
If you do come
across some Australian catfishes and fancy giving
them a go I have included a couple of line drawings
to help differentiate between the Neosilurus
and Tandanus species, notice the difference
in the caudal and anal fins where Tandanus
has an uninterupted anal fin which is connected to
the caudal and ends just posterier to the dorsal,
whereas Neosilurus stops well short of the
dorsal fin. Both species sport 4 pairs of barbels
which they tend to hold out erect.
Nick Thorne, Webmaster of Native Fish Australia for
his interest and help. Barrie Gill and Louissa
Rogers for extra information on this factsheet.
Update April 2013:
Tandanus tandanus are now protected in South
Australia and Victoria and NSW fisheries has recognised
the Murray-Darling Basin population to be endangered
in Victoria according to DSE’s Advisory list
Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria
- 2003 (DSE 2003) under the Flora and
Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act).
Eel-tailed Catfish, Jewfish,
In the Murray-Darling basin in North Western Victoria
and Western New South Wales.
Head broad, somewhat flatened;
body tapering posteriorly; a small dorsal fin anteriorly,
composed of a sharp spine and 6 or fewer soft rays;
second dorsal and anal fins confluent with caudal
fin, containing about 150 rays; pectoral fin with
sharp spine and 10 soft rays; caudodorsal fin base
about 50% of Standard Length, originating on middle
of back; gill rakers on first arch 23 to 32.
Colouration tends to vear from
a mottled reddish-brown on the back and sides, with
the underside white/yellow, to a mottled olive-green.
The nasal barbels (on top of its snout) vary in colour
uniformly with the body, in the former being pink,
in the latter pale green. The colouration is influenced
to a large extent by its surroundings.
Care & Compatibility
Well if we are not going to
fish for Tandanus tandanus for food puposes
but, as I am, more interested in them as a addition
to an aquarium it may come as a surprise that for
such a large fish (90cm) they are quite suited for
an aquarium as juveniles and can become quite tame
in captivity. I would of course not house them with
small fish and you would be looking for a larger tank
of 4ft and above to accommodate them. The size of
90cm is of course the size they grow to in their natural
habitat and they will grow only to about half (45cm)
this size in an aquarium, so housing them with larger
Characins and or Cichlids could work but I would be
more inclined to house even a pair of them by themselves.
They are not overly territorial but I would include
some retreats for them with safely constructured rockwork.
These fish are great escape artists so make sure you
have a properly constructed lid for your tank.
The male builds
a large nest out of sandy-grit or pebbles where he
entices the female to spawn. After spawning the male
guards the nest for up to 2 weeks and they can lay
up to a grand total of 20,000 eggs. They hatch after
7 days at a temperature of between 19-25c (65-77f).
Sexing out this species is easy with the male possessing
a long cylindrical papilla and the female a triangular
urinogenital papilla. In their natural habitats they
require specific temperatures for spawning, and so
alterations to temperature regimes in rivers and streams
may threaten the species’ breeding activity.
Siltation of waterways, as a result of clearing and
poor land management practices, may also affect spawning
In its native habitat they
feed on insect larvae, prawns, crayfish, molluscs
and small fish. In the aquarium they will eat anything
given such as earthworms, chopped liver, frozen brine
shrimp, prawns, pellets and flake.
on the upper portion of the gill arches.
A local name, tandan, in Australia.
Fishes of Australia.1989. Burgess, E.Warren Dr. Atlas of Freshwater
& Marine Catfishes 1989. Department of Sustainability and Environment:
Action Statement, Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.
No. 201. Gill, Barrie. pers comm. July 2000.
Fish Australia Rogers, Louissa; pers comm. April
2013. Roughley, T.C. Fishes of Australia
and their Technology 1916.