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  • Clarias liocephalus
Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Clarias liocephalus  Boulenger, 1898
Common Names Smoothhead Catfish
Sagkopbaber (South Africa)
Type Locality Kinyamkolo, Lake Tanganyika
Synonym(s) Clarias carsonii, Clarias neumanni, Clarias ornatus, Clarias phillipsi, Clarias submarginatus liocephalus, Clarias youngicus
Pronunciation klar ee ass
Etymology Clarias: From the Greek chlaros, meaning lively; in reference to the ability of the fish to live for long periods out of water. The specific epithet is from the Greek words lio and cephalus meaning "soft head" in reference to the reduced casque (reduced dermal bones behind the orbits).
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 282mm or 11.1" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Clarias species are characterized by having an elongated body; a soft rayed dorsal fin extending to, or nearly to, the caudal fin base; a soft rayed anal fin extending from just behind the anus to the caudal fin base; pectoral fins each with a serrated anterior bony spine; head depressed, covered largely by firmly sutured, surface sculptured bony plates forming a protective helmet; four pairs of flagellate barbels (nasals, maxillaries, inner and outer mandibulars); air breathing organs derived from the 2nd and 4th epibranchials within a superbranchial chamber.

Dorsal soft rays : 67 - 79; Anal soft rays: 53 - 67; Vertebrae: 55 - 58. Pectoral fin spine with serrations on the inner and upward directed on the outer side. Head oval to rectangular dorsally; snout broadly rounded; eyes more laterally located. Frontal fontanelle intermediate between `knife-shaped' and `sole-shaped'; occipital fontanelle long and oval-shaped. Supraorbital and `dermosphenotic' bones generally joined above 150 mm SL and more dorsally placed. Tooth plates relatively broad. Pectoral spine relatively short; its outer side strongly serrated over entire length. Gill rakers short and far apart. Openings of secondary sensory canals regularly arranged on flanks. Colouration is usually dark brownish to nearly black on the back and flanks, lighter to whitish on the belly.The barbels are blackish as well.
Sexing The genital papilla, which is to the right of the anus as you look at the fish with its head to the left, is elongated and pointed in males while it is round and relatively larger (and larger than the anus) in females. In ventral view especially, females are much broader in the body than males of equal age and rearing practices.
General Remarks Air breathing allows Clarias liocephalus to penetrate deep into hypoxic papyrus swamps where there is limited competition from other species of fish. This air breathing does increase the threat of aerial predation and studies have shown that C. liocephalus has become a synchronous air-breather so that the risk is shared between multiple individuals during the surfacing period.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution Africa: Lake Victoria, Edward, George, small lakes of Uganda, Lake Kivu, smaller lakes of Rwanda, Lake Tanganyika, Bangweulu-Moero system, in Malawi, Kagera, Malagarazi, Ruzizi and Tana Rivers. Cunene, Okavango, upper Zambezi, and Kafue systems, Zambian Congo, Central Africa Great Lakes
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Victoria (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Edward (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Tanganyika, Ruzizi, Kivu (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Edward, George (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Tanganyika (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Congo, Upper Congo, Lualaba, Mweru, Luapula, Bangweolo (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Congo, Upper Congo, Lualaba, Mweru (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Victoria, Kagera (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Zambesi, Malawi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Tanganyika, Malagarasi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Okavango (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Western Rift Valley Lakes, Tanganyika, Ruzizi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Tana (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Cunene (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Zambesi, Upper Zambesi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Congo, Upper Congo, Chambeshi (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Status Least Concern
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding In the wild it feeds on insects, fish, frogs, crustaceans and worms. In the aquarium it will be a typical clariid and be omnivorous and predatory and will eat virtually anything that can be considered edible.
Furniture Occurs in marginal water-lily and papyrus swamps as well as in marginal weed beds. Abundant in high mountain streams and torrents and on the bottom among stones. It therefore appears to be an adaptable species so very well rooted plants and structures such as pipes that provide some shade and hiding places or maybe a setup with rocks and good flow.
Compatibility Should be be housed with lively, robust large fish.
Suggested Tankmates Large Cyprinids, taking into consideration the cooler water required by this fish.
Breeding Unreported.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Jump to next section Further Information
References The Fishes of the Lake Rukwa Drainage, Seegers pg.210
Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London 1898 (pt 3)
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Last Update 2013 Jul 19 18:20 (species record created: 2009 Apr 08 23:31)