Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Siluriformes
(Catfish) > Clariidae
Etymology: Clarias: Greek, chlaros = lively, in reference to the ability of the fish to live for a long time out of water; gariepinus: Named after its type locality, the Gariep river, the Hottentot name for the Orange river, South Africa.
Environment / Climate / Range
Freshwater; benthopelagic; pH range: 6.5 - 8.0; dH range: 5 - 28; potamodromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 80 m (Ref. 34291). Subtropical; 8°C - 35°C (Ref. 6465); 52°N - 28°S
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm 30.8, range 34 - ? cm
Max length : 170 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 40637); common length : 90.0 cm NG male/unsexed; (Ref. 34290); max. published weight: 60.0 kg (Ref. 4537); max. reported age: 8 years (Ref. 1665)
soft rays: 45 - 65;
Vertebrae: 56 - 63. Body depth is 6-8 times in standard length, the head 3-3,5 times (Ref. 34290). The head is somewhat between rectangular and pointed in dorsal outline; the snout is broadly rounded (Ref. 248). The eyes have a supero-lateral position and are relatively small (Ref. 248). Teeth on the premaxilla and lower jaw are small, fine and arranged in several rows (Ref. 34290). Nasal barbels from 1/5 to 1/2 times as long as the head in fishes longer than 12 cm, and from 1/2 to 4/5 of the head length in smaller individuals; maxillary barbels rarely shorter than the head, usually somewhat longer and reaching to a point midway between the origin of the dorsal fin and the insertion of the pelvic fins; outer mandibular barbel longer than the inner pair (Ref. 34290). Contrary to other Clarias species, Clarias gariepinus has a high number of gill rakers varying from 24 to 110, the number increasing with the size of the fish; these gill rakers are long, slender and closely set (Ref. 248, 34290). The distance between the occipital process and the base of the dorsal fin is short; the dorsal fin almost reaches the caudal fin (Ref. 248). The anal fin origin is closer to the caudal fin base than to the snout; it nearly reaches the caudal fin (Ref. 248). The pelvic fin is closer to the snout than to the caudal fin base (Ref. 248). The pectoral fin extends from the operculum to below the first dorsal fin rays; the pectoral spine is robust, serrated only on its outer face, the number of serrations increasing with age (Ref. 248). The lateral line appears as a small, white line from the posterior end of the head to the middle of the caudal fin base; the openings to the secondary sensory canals are clearly marked (Ref. 248). Two colour patterns can be discerned: the uniform and the marbled pattern (Ref. 248). In the uniform pattern, the dorsal surface and the flanks of the body and the dorsal parts of the pectoral and the pelvic fins are generally dark greyish-greenish black, while the belly and the ventral parts of the paired fins are lightly coloured (Ref. 248). In the marbled pattern, the specimens show irregular dark blotches on a light coloured background above and laterally; the belly and the ventral parts of the paired fins are whitish (Ref. 248). Most specimens show pigmentation bands on both sides of the lower surface of the head (Ref. 248). A series of light and dark bands may occur on the caudal fin; the proximal third of the fin is lightly coloured while its other part is dark; occasionally, irregular black spots may occur on the caudal fin (Ref. 248).
Africa: almost Pan-Africa, absent from Maghreb, the upper and 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.
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). 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). Are 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).
Teugels, G.G., 1986. A systematic revision of the African species of the genus Clarias (Pisces; Clariidae). Ann. Mus. R. Afr. Centr., Sci. Zool., 247:199 p.
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 90363)
Threat to humans
Potential pest (Ref. 4537)
Fisheries: minor commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes
Estimates of some properties based on empirical models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5000 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00696 (-0.03371 - 0.04764), b=3.01 (2.98 - 3.03), based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 3.2 ±0.3 se; Based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (K=0.06-0.19; tm=2; Fec > 10,000).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Very high vulnerability (79 of 100) .