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Flat head catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)

Flat head catfish ( Pylodictis olivaris )

Subclass : Real bony fish (Teleostei)
Overcohort : Clupeocephala
Cohort : Otomorpha
Sub-cohort : Ostariophysi
Order : Catfish
Scientific name
Rafinesque , 1820

The catfish-like (Siluriformes) are an order of the bony fish , which is distributed with about 3390 species in 38 families worldwide mainly in fresh water . A few species from the families of the cross catfish (Ariidae) and the coral catfish (Plotosidae) also live close to the coast in the tropical seas. The only species native to Central Europe is the river catfish ( Silurus glanis ), also called catfish, which belongs to the real catfish and can be up to three meters long. The Mekong giant catfish ( Pangasianodon gigas ) is similar in size . Among the catfish there are predatory fish, fry-eaters, such as many armored catfish (Loricariidae), detrivores that feed on decomposing organic substances, and parasitic species such as the Candiru ( Vandellia cirrhosa ).

New species are constantly being discovered. In the first six years of the 21st century alone, 332 species, nine genera and one family were newly described . The number of previously undescribed species is estimated to be up to 1750.

There are armored and scaleless types. The most striking feature of the catfish are the more or less long barbels , which can appear in different numbers.

Catfish are of great importance to humans. Larger species are caught or bred for food, and many smaller species are popular aquarium fish .


The striped coral catfish is a resident of the Indo-Pacific coral reefs

The recent catfish live in fresh and coastal waters of all continents , with the exception of Antarctica . Their diversity is greatest in tropical South America , Africa and Asia . More than half of the species come from America. The catfish are the only Ostariophysi that have colonized freshwater habitats in Madagascar , Australia, and New Guinea . They inhabit fresh waters of all kinds, but mainly shallow rivers. Among the fish, the catfish are among the most successful cave colonizers. Representatives from at least eight families are cave dwellers. Some species of the frying pan and banjo catfish (Aspredinidae) and the spiny catfish (Bagridae) also live in brackish water, numerous species of the cross catfish (Ariidae) and coral catfish (Plotosidae) even predominantly in the coastal sea.


The skin is flaky and armored in some species. The mouth is surrounded by barbels that serve as organs of taste and touch. It is usually subordinate, that is, the mouth opening is directed downwards; this shape of the mouth is ideal for feeding from the ground. Many catfish have thorns that are located just in front of the pectoral fins and the dorsal fin. These thorns are stiffened fin rays . They are used to make it more difficult for a predator to swallow the fish by extending them to make the fish more bulky. Catfish are closely related to the New World knife fish (Gymnotiformes).

Most catfish are adapted to a benthic way of life. They are usually heavier than water because of the reduced swim bladder and large head. Catfish have a variety of body shapes, most commonly a cylindrical body with a flat head to allow them to eat from the ground. The mouth is usually very large. Prey is more likely to be swallowed whole than bitten into. Some families, especially the armored catfish (Loricariidae) and the Astroblepidae , however, have a suction mouth, which them both allows rasping nursery food, and to hold fast in fast flowing water on stones or wood. The mouth of the catfish is not, like that of many carp fish, extendable. In many species the males care for the brood .

External system

The catfish are a monophyletic group. This is supported by molecular data. Together with carp-like (Cypriniformes), tetras (Characiformes) and New World knife fish (Gymnotiformes), they belong to a sub-cohort called Ostariophysi , the most important feature of which is possession of a Weberian apparatus . Sister group of the catfish-like are the New World knife fish.

The following cladogram shows the systematic position of the catfish:


 Herring-like (Clupeiformes)




 Sandfish (Gonorynchiformes)


 Carp-like (Cypriniformes)


 Tetras (Characiformes)


 New World Knifefish (Gymnotiformes)


 Catfish (Siluriformes)

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Internal system

The catfish belong to 40 families, 490 genera and 3730 species. Catfish thus make up over ten percent of all fish species. A cladogram and a current system based largely on this cladogram are presented below:

Cladogram according to Sullivan et al., 2006 Systematics according to Nelson, Grande & Wilson (2016)

 Loach catfish (Trichomycteridae)


 Nematogenys inermis


 Armored and calloused catfish (Callichthyidae)


 Prickly pygmy catfish (Scoloplacidae)


 Climbing catfish (Astroblepidae)


 Armored catfish (Loricariidae)

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 Primitive catfish (Diplomystidae)


 Whale catfish (Cetopsidae)


 Frying pan and banjo catfish (Aspredinidae)


 False thorn catfish (Auchenipteridae)


 Thorn catfish (Doradidae)


 Gill catfish (Clariidae)




 Cross catfish (Ariidae)



  Big Asia  



 Spiny Catfish (Bagridae)


 Asiatic glass catfish (Ailiidae)


 River catfish (Akysidae)


 Slender catfish (Amblycipitidae)


 Mountain catfish (Sisoridae)



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 Eel and coral catfish (Plotosidae)


 Great mouth catfish (Chacidae)


 Real catfish (Siluridae)


 Big mouth catfish (Pseudopimelodidae)


 Antennae (Pimelodidae)






 Shark catfish (Pangasiidae)

  Big Africa  

 Whiskered catfish (Mochokidae)


 Electric catfish (Malapteruridae)


 Burbot catfish (Amphiliidae)




 African glass catfish (Schilbeidae)




 Catfish (Ictaluridae)


 Armored catfish (Cranoglanididae)

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Sterba's catfish ( Corydoras sterbai )

Aquarium keeping

Small, tropical catfish species are popular ornamental fish in freshwater aquariums because of their interesting appearance . The South American armored catfish (Callichthyidae), the armored catfish (Loricariidae), the whiskered catfish (Mochokidae) as well as individual species from the family of the cross catfish (Ariidae), the antenna catfish (Pimelodidae) and the frying pan catfish (Aspredinidae) are particularly important in the aquarium hobby. .

Catfish in a restaurant in Wuhan


Individual evidence

  1. a b c J. P. Sullivan, JG Lundberg, M. Hardman: A phylogenetic analysis of the major groups of catfishes (Teleostei: Siluriformes) using rag1 and rag2 nuclear gene sequences . In: Mol Phylogenet Evol. tape 41 , no. 3 , 2006, p. 636-662 , doi : 10.1016 / j.ympev.2006.05.044 .
  2. a b c Joseph S. Nelson, Terry C. Grande, Mark VH Wilson: Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, 2016, ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6 .
  3. ^ JG Lundberg, JP Friel: Siluriformes. Catfishes. The Tree of Life Web Project .
  4. ^ A b c Michael N. Bruton: Alternative life-history strategies of catfishes . In: Aquat. Living Resour. tape 9 , 1996, pp. 35-41 , doi : 10.1051 / alr: 1996040 .
  5. Thomas G. Langecker, Glenn Longley: Morphological Adaptations of the Texas Blind Catfishes Trogloglanis pattersoni and Satan eurystomus (Siluriformes: Ictaluridae) to Their Underground Environment . In: Copeia . tape 1993 , 1993, pp. 976-986 , doi : 10.2307 / 1447075 .
  6. Dean A. Hendrickson, Jean K. Krejca, Juan Manuel Rodríguez Martinez: Mexican blindcats genus Prietella (Siluriformes: Ictaluridae): an overview of recent explorations . In: Environmental Biology of Fishes . tape 62 , 2001, p. 315-337 , doi : 10.1023 / A: 1011808805094 .
  7. N. Monks (Ed.): Brackish Water Fishes. TFH, 2006, ISBN 0-7938-0564-3 .
  8. F. Schaefer: Brackish Water Fishes. Aqualog, 2005, ISBN 3-936027-82-X .
  9. Rui Diogo, Zuogang Peng: State of the Art of Siluriform Higher-level Phylogeny. In: Terry Grande, Francisco José Poyato-Ariza, Rui Diogo (Eds.): Gonorynchiformes and Ostariophysan Relationships. A Comprehensive Review. Science Publishers, 2010, ISBN 978-1-57808-374-9 , p. 493. doi: 10.1201 / b10194-13 .

Web links

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