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Catfish of the Month Right Arrow August 2010 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded August 21, 2010



Eigenmann's Talking Catfish, Orinoco Talking Catfish - Orinocodoras eigenmanni   Myers, 1927

It's a pleasure to write about a species I am keeping at the time of writing and indeed have been keeping for some time. I have a group of five Orinocodoras and they are a very straightforward catfish. There are also straightforward in being monotypic; that is to say there is but one species of Orinocodoras.

As the generic name suggests, this species is found in the Orinoco river basin. The Orinoco is one of south America's longest rivers with around three quarters of that length to be found in Venezuela and the remainder in Colombia. Exports of this species are usually from Colombia and sometimes from Venezuela or indeed Peru. In the past they had been mixed in with shipments of Platydoras that share the basic colouration. It strikes me as something of a halfway house between Platydoras (similar patterning, overall shape, scute base) and Rhinodoras (similar fleshier mouth, adipose fin, more elongate). However it is most commonly confused with Platydoras.

The basic colouration is a little more mottled with shades of dark gray and black rather than the more uniformly coloured relative. The eye catching lateral white stripe is also a bit thinner. However, these features are unreliable especially when comparing different sized individuals. A much better guide is the longer muzzle and, best of all, long low adipose fin of Orinocodoras compared to the higher and more rounded adipose fin found in Platydoras.  In larger fish, the more pronounced side of body scutes which are wonderfully architected are also more evident. These external bony lumps are best viewed from above.

It's to the muzzle that the aquarist should direct their attention. This species is much more of a digger that the more common Platydoras. It is built to root around softer substrate and sand.  The do this to great effect being also a little more evident during the day than Platydoras.

In my group there is a significant size differential between males and females. Females being at least a third larger in length and I would suspect at least the same ration in terms of overall mass. I am keeping them in a 30"x18"x15" aquarium which is moderately lit and has a single large terracotta pipe masked from the view of the keeper by a pile of bogwood. The substrate is very fine gravel and they are kept in a moderate current at 78F. They all live together in the pipe without sign of injury and, while on that subject, the heater in the tank is placed out in view and is fitted with a guard. This species is one that will burn itself (usually its soft belly)  on badly placed heaters.

Feeding is simple. Anything is taken. They are more active the hungrier they are and, if kept alone, only need feed every three or four days. I have kept this fish with smaller fishes and I think even fish a tenth of the size of this fish would be safe in their company. My group co-exist with cherry shrimp, and while the crustaceans are not reproducing exponentially (as is their want), there are not wiped out either. If it wasn't for the current, I think the tank would do well with some floating plants.

Exporters and importers are getting wise to the novelty value of this species and the days where you could scour batches of Platydoras for the odd Orinocodoras are pretty much gone.  On the plus side, that means this species is often sold as the correct name and obtaining a group is easier.

This species comes recommended for a gentle or robust tank, it's only requirement being that enough food reaches it. Their gregarious nature means a larger tank for a group is suggested. All food is taken to the point the fish looks obese. So, perhaps a good analogy from the dog world would be the black Labrador. Friendly, good looking and prone to overeating!


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 Orinocodoras eigenmanni  Myers, 1927
Common Name(s) Eigenmann's Talking Catfish
Orinoco Talking Catfish
Type Locality Caño de Quiribana near Caicara, Venezuela.
Pronunciation or in oko DOOR ass - ay gen MAN eye
Etymology Orinocodoras: From the Orinoco River and doras, meaning skin (also a word commonly used in forming generic names for doradids); in reference to the distribution. Species named in honour of Dr. Carl H. Eigenmann, Professor of Ichthyology in Indiana (1863-1927).
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 200mm (7.9") SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Can be distinguished from Platydoras armatulus, the striped or humbug talking catfish, as follows: snout is more pointed, whereas P. armatulus has a rounded snout. Eyes of O. eigenmanni are smaller. O. eigenmanni has a longer adipose fin. The skin of O. eigenmanni looks less plated and in almost like sandpaper in areas. Generally, the 'Orinoco' is by far the most elegant fish of the two.

Soemtimes imported under incorrect names. Anyone who is interested in O. eigenmanni must look carefully through shipments of P. armatulus, for that is where they may be. And if so, you will easily spot them.
Sexing Males are smaller and slighter. In larger fish a top view may give something away: males are more slender, adult females are more than 25% larger than similarly mature males. Differences in belly colouration have little to do with gender.
General Remarks A monotypic genus.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution The Orinoco drainage system, Venezuela.
Orinoco (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 6.0 - 7.8
Temperature 22.0-27.0°C or 71.6-80.6°F (Show others within this range)
Other Parameters A hardy fish that will adapt to most conditions. Moderate current is preferred.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding Will eat anything; particularly fond of bloodworms and pellets or tablets. Is very visible when fed, even during the day.
Furniture Driftwood for hiding places. However, as the fish grows quite large, see to it that it remains able to swim. If necessary redecorate. Will not ruin plants. Ensure heater is not used as a hiding place.
Compatibility A community fish for medium to larger aquariums; not suited for life with very aggressive fish or very, very small fish, the later may accidentally be regarded as food.
Suggested Tankmates Goes very well with other peaceful catfish and characins. Can be kept alone, as a pair but best in a small group.
Breeding Unreported.
Jump to next section Further Information
References Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool.v. 68 (no. 3) - pp124
Burgess Atlas page 585 misnamed as Megalodoras sp.
Mayland: Welse aus aller Welt page 72
Mayland: Welse aus allen Erdteilen page 108
Sands: Vol.4 page 38
Franke: Welskunde page 192
Not in Mergus volumes so far.
Maximum lengths in the above mentioned books are between 12 and 16 cm, but aquarist report them as getting larger. Perhaps only females.
Registered Keepers (1) Dave Rinaldo, (2) ali12345, (3) lazymf, (4) vyperboy, (5) big_tank_boy, (6) Mike C (k: 4), (7) Wiccatfish, (8) MatsP (p: 2, k: 8), (9) JamieH (k: 2), (10) knifegill, (11) Jools (k: 5), (12) tijani, (13) maynard1982, (14) Sam (k: 4), (15) DeepFriedIctalurus (k: 5), (16) ilikefishme, (17) james gilbertson, who also notes: "Never see this fish much, only when i turn the lights on in the morning", (18) MattP (k: 4), (19) Junttis (k: 2), (20) jc_jc, (21) Misiak, (22) miguel mitchel, (23) dmcat (k: 3), (24) Malek.

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Breeding Reports None.
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Last Update 2013 Jul 19 17:56 (species record created: 2010 Aug 21 05:49)

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