Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822)
North African catfish
Clarias gariepinus
photo by Larsen, J.H.

Family:  Clariidae (Airbreathing catfishes)
Max. size:  170 cm TL (male/unsexed); max.weight: 60 kg; max. reported age: 15 years
Environment:  benthopelagic; pH range: 6.5 - 8; dH range: 5 - 28; depth range 0 - 80 m, potamodromous
Distribution:  Africa: almost Pan-Africa, absent from Maghreb, the Upper and (most of the) Lower Guinea and the Cape province and probably also Nogal province. Asia: Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and southern Turkey. Widely introduced to other parts of Africa, Europe and Asia. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction.
Diagnosis:  Dorsal spines (total): -0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 61-80; Anal spines: -0; Anal soft rays: 45-65; Vertebrae: 56-63. Diagnosis: body depth 6-8 times in standard length, head 3-3,5 times (Ref. 34290). Head somewhat between rectangular and pointed in dorsal outline; snout broadly rounded; eyes supero-lateral and relatively small (Ref. 248). Teeth on premaxilla and lower jaw small, fine and arranged in several rows; nasal barbels 1/5-1/2 times as long as head in fishes longer than 12 cm, and 1/2-4/5 of head length in smaller individuals; maxillary barbels rarely shorter than head, usually somewhat longer and reaching to a point midway between origin of dorsal fin and insertion of pelvic fins; outer mandibular barbel longer than inner pair (Ref. 34290). Postorbital bones in contact; lower part of head with 2 black, lateral bands (Ref. 81644). Contrary to other Clarias species, Clarias gariepinus has a high number of gill rakers varying from 24-110 (Ref. 248, 34290, 81644, 101841), the number increasing with size of the fish; gill rakers long, slender and closely set (Ref. 248, 34290). Distance between occipital process and base of dorsal fin is short; dorsal fin almost reaches caudal fin; anal fin origin closer to caudal fin base than to snout, nearly reaching caudal fin; pelvic fin closer to snout than to caudal fin base; pectoral fin extends from operculum to below 1st dorsal fin rays (Ref. 248). Pectoral spine robust (Ref. 248), serrated only on its outer face (Ref. 248, 81644), the number of serrations increasing with age (Ref. 248). Lateral line appears as a small, white line from posterior end of head to middle of caudal fin base; openings to secondary sensory canals clearly marked (Ref. 248). Description: head large, mean 30.8% SL; frontal fontanel long and narrow; distance between end of dorsal fin and caudal fin short (0.0-7.6% SL, mean 4.3)(Ref. 81644). Colouration: 2 colour patterns can be discerned: uniform and marbled pattern; in uniform pattern, dorsal surface and flanks of body and dorsal parts of pectoral and pelvic fins are generally dark greyish-greenish black, while belly and ventral parts of paired fins are lightly coloured; in marbled pattern, specimens show irregular dark blotches on light coloured background above and laterally, belly and ventral parts of the paired fins are whitish (Ref. 248, 81644). Most specimens show pigmentation bands on both sides of lower surface of head (Ref. 248, 81644), but these might be absent (Ref. 101841). A series of light and dark bands may occur on caudal fin; proximal third of caudal fin lightly coloured while other part is dark; occasionally, irregular black spots may occur on caudal fin (Ref. 248). Never an irregular pattern of small white spots on body (Ref. 101841).
Biology:  Adults occur mainly in quiet waters, lakes and pools (Ref. 248) and prefer rather shallow and swampy areas with a soft muddy substrate and calmer water (Ref. 78218). They may also occur in fast flowing rivers and in rapids (Ref. 248, 78218). The two known colour types appear to correlate with water turbidity and substrate type (Ref. 81644). Widely tolerant of extreme environmental conditions (Ref. 6465). Water parameters appear to play only a very minor role (Ref. 78218). The presence of an accessory breathing organ enables this species to breath air when very active or under very dry conditions. They remain in the muddy substrates of ponds and occasionally gulp air through the mouth (Ref. 6465). Can leave the water at night using its strong pectoral fins and spines in search of land-based food or can move into the breeding areas through very shallow pathways (Ref. 6868). Omnivorous bottom feeders which occasionally feed at the surface (Ref. 248). Feed at night on a wide variety of prey (Ref. 6868) like insects, plankton, invertebrates and fish but also take in young birds, rotting flesh and plants (Ref. 6465). Migrate to rivers and temporary streams to spawn (Ref. 34291). Also caught with dragnets. During intra-specific aggressive interactions, this species was noted to generate electric organ discharges that were monophasic, head-positive and lasting from 5-260 ms (Ref. 10479). Known as sharptooth catfish in aquaculture, a highly recommended food fish in Africa (Ref. 52863). Marketed fresh and frozen; eaten broiled, fried and baked (Ref. 9987).
IUCN Red List Status: (Ref. 115185)
Threat to humans:  potential pest
Country info:  Introduced from Taiwan in 1985 (Ref. 6096) and Thailand in 1985 (Ref. 13686). Introduced in Laguna de Bay (Ref. 80824). Recorded from Candaba Swamp and Pampanga River (Ref. 109918). Also Ref. 13446.

Entered by: Binohlan, Crispina B. - 10.11.90
Modified by: Musschoot, Tobias - 15.09.17
Checked by: Torres, Armi G. - 05.09.03

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