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Catfish of the Month Right Arrow May 2007 • Article © Chris Ralph, uploaded May 08, 2007



Chocolate Talking Catfish, Chocolate Raphael, Gemeiner Dornwels (Germany), Milky Catfish - Acanthodoras cataphractus   (Linnaeus, 1758)

English catfish expert Chris Ralph introduces this months featured catfish.

Acanthodoras cataphractus is very popular amongst a number of catfish enthusiasts myself included. Unfortunately A. cataphractus is not commonly available to the hobbyist, but is sometimes imported amongst other representatives of the family Doradidae. When this fascinating catfish is available expect to pay £10-£12 for an adult fish. In their natural habitat these catfish are said to be abundant in the calm waters of swamps and mangroves. These catfish are most active at night preferring to take refuge during the day.

The body shape of this species is described as being depressed or flattened and elongated. The body is naked and is best described as being without scales. The body has a lateral row of bony plates which bear backwardly projecting spines referred to as "scutes". There are a number of small spiny projections above and below the lateral line situated behind the dorsal fin and extending towards the caudal fin. The head of A. cataphractus is large and flattened and is described as being granular with solidly united bones. The mouth is described as being terminal, with three pairs of barbels one pair of maxillary and two pairs of mandibular. The eyes are small or "piggy". The dorsal fin has 1 spine and 5 soft rays and the anal fin has 10-11 soft rays.

The species certainly is not as bad on the eye as some talking cats, its base colour of the body and head is chocolate brown (hence the common name of Chocolate Talking Catfish) overlaid with some almost creamy orange markings almost forming a stripe which leads from the head into the lateral line and body scutes; whilst giving some blotchy markings over the rest of the body which are mainly on the ventrolateral region of the body. The fin spines are coloured as are the fins themselves.

As with all the other doradids that I have had the pleasure to keep over the years, I've found this species to be omnivorous and readily accepts a mixed and varied diet which they search through the substrate for. I personally feed all of my doradids on sinking catfish pellets, good quality flake foods, granular foods, cultured whiteworm, earthworms, aquatic snails which they relish and frozen foods such as bloodworm to name but a few.

I would suggest a minimum size of 36" x 15" X 12" for a shoal of these fascinating catfish. The preferred substrate for keeping these catfish should be good quality aquarium sand such as BD Aquarium Sand, or very smooth rounded gravel in order to prevent their barbels from being damaged. The aquarium should provide some shelter in the form of rocks, bogwood and aquatic plants. As with all other species of fish, water quality and general husbandry is very important, and I would recommend that a minimum of 25% water is changed on a fortnightly basis.

Wherever possible I would recommend that the aquarist keep these catfish in small groups of four to six specimens, assuming that they are available in these numbers; failing this they are quite happy to shoal with other members of the family Doradidae.


Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Acanthodoras cataphractus  (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s) Chocolate Talking Catfish
Chocolate Raphael, Gemeiner Dornwels (Germany), Milky Catfish
Type Locality America.
Synonym(s) Callichthys asper, Cataphractus americanus, Doras blochii, Silurus cataphractus
Pronunciation ah KAN tho door ass - cat ah frak tuss
Etymology Acanthodoras: From the Greek akantha, meaning thorn, and doras, meaning skin (also a word commonly used in forming generic names for doradids); in reference to the spines on the bony scutes along the lateral line. The species name, cataphracta/us, means armoured or mail-clad.
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 115mm (4.5") SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The only genus of doradid with a fully rounded caudal fin.

This fish is almost never a direct import can be be found by the aquarist with a discerning eye as bycatch among shipments of the more common Platydoras armatulus (often labelled P. costatus). In P. armatulus, the white markings along the flank connect above the eyes forming a 'V.' The markings of A. cataphractus do not connect on the head. In P. armatulus, the white flank stripe continues down the body and onto the caudal fin. The caudal fin of A. cataphractus lacks the white stripe and is mottled.
Sexing Females typically larger with a more full, or 'plump', appearance.
General Remarks The above specimen on the right was captured using a ten foot seine net on the banks of a small Amazon tributary on the Peruvian side of the Amazon across from Leticia Colombia.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution In tributaries of the main rivers in Amazon River basin, coastal drainages of French Guiana and Suriname: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru and Suriname.
Amazon (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Guyana Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Guyana Waters, Coastal Rivers of Guyanas, Suriname Coastal Rivers (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
pH 6.4 - 7.4
Temperature 22.0-26.0°C or 71.6-78.8°F (Show others within this range)
Other Parameters There are reports of this species from river mouth areas, but it is unlikely these are exported, those that do find their way into aquaria prefers softer water.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding An opportunistic feeder that eats live, frozen and dry aquarium foods. It usually only comes out to feed after lights out.
Furniture A very shy retiring fish that, once released in the aquarium, is rarely seen again. Provide plenty of caves and other hiding places. In the wild, they typically hide among thickets of submerged plants.
Compatibility A good choice for the medium to large community tank. The above specimen was caught alongside the doradids Platydoras armatulus, Agamyxis pectinifrons, and Amblydoras hancockii in submerged terrestrial vegetation. Also collected at the site were Brochis splendens and several Corydoras spp.
Suggested Tankmates Anything but the smallest species. Good with other doradids. A peaceful community resident.
Breeding Acanthodoras cataphractus are documented as having been spawned in aquaria. Both parents were observed digging a depression in the substrate into which the eggs were deposited. The eggs were guarded by both fish. The eggs hatched after 4-5 days although unfortunately the young did not survive beyond the fry stage of development.
Jump to next section Further Information
References Systema Nat. ed. 10v. 1 - pp307
Burgess, W. E. (1989) An Atlas of Freshwater and Marine Catfishes. TFH.
Registered Keepers (1) TP, (2) kcmt01, (3) Silurus, (4) Daniel Machado, (5) lene.keiserud, (6) pressureflip, (7) catfish hippy man DS (p: 2), (8) Martin S, (9) ali12345 (k: 2), (10) Reginator, (11) jippo, (12) Greggyfest (k: 4), (13) Junttis, (14) JamieH (k: 2), (15) Bijn (k: 4), (16) Industrial, (17) NC24, (18) wrasse (k: 3), who also notes: "Amazing... pattern, spikey, spiney, armour. Eats anything", (19) Phyllonemus, (20) jac (k: 5), (21) Tamcon83 (k: 2).

Click on a username above to see all that persons registered catfish species. You can also view all "my cats" data for this species.
Breeding Reports None.
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Last Update 2013 Jul 19 14:23 (species record created: 2007 May 08 18:20)

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