Clarias Gariepinus Classification Essay

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Siluriformes (Catfish) > Clariidae (Airbreathing catfishes)
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 Ecology

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); 42°N - 28°S, 17°W - 51°E

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

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.

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm30.8, 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: 15 years (Ref. 94815)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsalspines (total): 0; Dorsalsoft rays (total): 61-80; Analspines: 0; Analsoft 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).

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).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Oviparous. Spawning takes place during the rainy season in flooded deltas. The fishes make a lateral migration towards the inundated plains to breed and return to the river or lake soon afterwards while the juveniles remain in the inundated area. Juveniles return to the lake or river when they are between 1.5 and 2.5 cm long (Ref. 34291). First sexual maturity occurs when females are between 40-45 cm and males between 35-40 cm. Eggs are greenish. Incubations lasts little (about 33 hours at 25°C).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

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. (Ref. 248)

CITES (Ref. 115941)

Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Potential pest (Ref. 4537)

Human uses

Fisheries: minor commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes

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Internet sources

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World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.5000   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].

Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00813 (0.00663 - 0.00997), b=2.99 (2.94 - 3.04), in cm Total Length, based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).

Trophic Level (Ref. 69278):  3.8   ±0.4 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).

Prior r = 0.45, 2 SD range = 0.21 - 0.99, log(r) = -0.8, SD log(r) = 0.39, Based on: 14 K, 7 tgen, 1 tmax, 10 Fec records

Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Very high vulnerability (79 of 100) .

Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.

Clarias gariepinus
Scientific classification
Species:C. gariepinus
Binomial name
Clarias gariepinus
Burchell, 1822
  • Silurus gariepinusBurchell, 1822
  • Macropteronotus charmuthLacepède, 1803
  • Clarias capensisValenciennes, 1840
  • Clarias lazeraValenciennes, 1840
  • Clarias syriacusValenciennes, 1840
  • Clarias mossambicusPeters, 1852
  • Clarias macracanthusGünther, 1864
  • Clarias orontisGünther, 1864
  • Clarias xenodonGünther, 1864
  • Clarias robecchiiVinciguerra, 1893
  • Clarias smithiiGünther, 1896
  • Clarias microphthalmusPfeffer, 1896
  • Clarias guentheriPfeffer, 1896
  • Clarias longicepsBoulenger, 1899
  • Clarias longicepsBoulenger, 1899
  • Clarias mooriiBoulenger, 1901
  • Clarias tsanensisBoulenger, 1902
  • Clarias vinciguerraeBoulenger, 1902
  • Clarias malarisNichols & Griscom, 1917
  • Clarias notozygurusLönnberg & Rendahl, 1922
  • Clarias depressusMyers, 1925
  • Clarias muelleriPietschmann, 1939

Clarias gariepinus or African sharptooth catfish is a species of catfish of the family Clariidae, the airbreathing catfishes.


They are found throughout Africa and the Middle East, and live in freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps, as well as human-made habitats, such as oxidation ponds or even urban sewage systems.

The African sharptooth catfish was introduced all over the world in the early 1980s for aquaculture purposes, so is found in countries far outside its natural habitat, such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.


The African sharptooth catfish is a large, eel-like fish, usually of dark gray or black coloration on the back, fading to a white belly. In Africa, this catfish has been reported as being second in size only to the vundu of the Zambesian waters,[1] although FishBase suggests the African sharptooth catfish surpasses that species in both maximum length and weight.[2][3]

C. gariepinus has an average adult length of 1–1.5 m (3 ft 3 in–4 ft 11 in).[citation needed] It reaches a maximum length of 1.7 m (5 ft 7 in) TL and can weigh up to 60 kg (130 lb).[2] These fish have slender bodies, flat bony heads, notably flatter than in the genus Silurus, and broad, terminal mouths with four pairs of barbels. They also have large accessory breathing organs composed of modified gill arches. Also, only the pectoral fins have spines.[1]


It is a nocturnal fish like many catfish. It feeds on living, as well as dead, animal matter. Because of its wide mouth, it is able to swallow relatively large prey whole. It has been known to take large waterbirds such as the common moorhen.[4] It is also able to crawl on dry ground to escape drying pools. Further, it is able to survive in shallow mud for long periods of time, between rainy seasons.

African catfish sometimes produce loud croaking sounds, not unlike the voice of the crow.

Natural spawning[edit]

Spawning mostly takes place at night in the shallow, inundated areas of the rivers lakes and streams. Courtship is preceded by highly aggressive encounters between males. Courtship and mating takes place in shallow waters between isolated pairs of males and females. The male lies in a U-shape curved around the head of the female, held for several seconds. A batch of milt and eggs is released followed by a vigorous swish of the female's tail to distribute the eggs over a wide area. The pair usually rests after mating (from seconds up to several minutes) and then resume mating.

Parental care for ensuring the survival of the catfish offspring is absent except by the careful choice of a suitable site. Development of eggs and larvae is rapid, and the larvae are capable of swimming within 48–72 hours after fertilization.


The rearing of the African sharptooth catfish in Africa started in the early 1970s in Central and Western Africa, as it was realized to be a very suitable species for aquaculture, as:

  • It grows fast and feeds on a large variety of agriculture byproducts
  • It is hardy and tolerates adverse water quality conditions
  • It can be raised in high densities, resulting in high net yields (6–16 t/ha/year).
  • In most countries, it fetches a higher price than tilapia, as it can be sold live at the market
  • It matures and relatively easily reproduces in captivity
  • It tolerates difficult conditions in aquaculture


Clarias gariepinus could be easily crossed with Heterobranchus longifillis to get the so-called hybrid Hetero-clarias.[5] This cross has advantages over the Clarias gariepinus:

  • fish cannot reproduce itself (so it won't spend energy on reproduction)
  • fish has white meat (could be preferred by customer)

Disadvantage of the Hetero-clarias hybrid:

Parasites and diseases[edit]

Clarias gariepinus may host several species of digeneans, in addition to other endo- and ectoparasites.[6]


External links[edit]

Young African catfish caught in the sewers of Rishon LeZion, Israel
  1. ^ abEcotravel South AfricaArchived 2011-01-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ abFroese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Clarias gariepinus" in FishBase. March 2014 version.
  3. ^Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Heterobranchus longifilis" in FishBase. March 2014 version.
  4. ^Anoop KR, Sundar KSG, Khan BA & Lal S (2009) Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus in the diet of the African catfish Clarias gariepinus in Keoladeo Ghana National Park, India. Indian Birds 5(2):22-23
  5. ^B.J. Roosendaal, Fleuren & Nooijen
  6. ^Jansen van Rensburg, C., van As, J.G. & King, P.H. 2013. New records of digenean parasites of Clarias gariepinus (Pisces: Clariidae) from the Okavango Delta, Botswana, with description of Thaparotrema botswanensis sp. n. (Plathelminthes: Trematoda). African Invertebrates54 (2): 431–446.[1]

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