Catfish of the Month Right Arrow July 2001 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded July 01, 2001

Zamora Woodcat, Midnight Catfish, Zamorawels (Germany) - Auchenipterichthys coracoideus   (Eigenmann & Allen, 1942)

The midnight catfish, or to use its other common name, Zamora woodcat is a secretive fish not prone to spending long spells in front of a camera. Many of the images on this site are from fish that I collected in the Peruvian Amazon. Indeed the name Zamora woodcat stems from the region of Peru it is commonly encountered within - although this one was collected in the Loreto region.

This catfish belongs to the family Auchenipteridae, known to aquarists as the driftwood catfish or woodcat family. Whether the names come from the fact that many of the species resemble bits of wood, or it alludes to their preferred refuge during the day, I cannot tell you. Either way they are notorious amongst hobbyists (and perhaps scientists too) because of the scientific names of many of the fish in the family. If you think Auchenipterichthys is bad, try twisting your tongue around Tocantinsia or Trachelyopterichthys!

The fish pictured is a little pale. It had just been captured (using the old catfish in the pipe trick - more on this later) and placed into a small photo tank. Photo tanks are useful for the more nocturnal species but it does have the downside that you have to move the fish to take the photo in the first place. My fish room has a single actinic blue light which allows me to view the fish at night, but it is still hard to photograph these catfish as they wheel energetically around a planted aquarium. Two nights and no good photos prompted the use of the photo tank.

The pipe trick, alluded to above, is really quite simple. Most of my aquaria have PVC pipes in them and most of these pipes have catfish in them. I deploy black or dark grey pipes of varying diameter and length to suit the catfish in each aquarium. Aside from giving cheap, configurable refuge for pretty much any catfish, they have an added benefit - they do not displace nearly as much water as say, for example, a pile of rocks. To a degree more water means more fish and it certainly means more leeway when it comes to the water change rota.

The pipes also double as an effective catfish trap. By quickly clamping your hands around both ends of the pipe and removing it from the aquarium you can easily (and without ruining nets and damaging fish) remove individual fish to new premises with minimum fuss. It takes a little practice, especially with bigger fish and can be quite perturbing when they thrash around and "tickle" the palms of your hands while in transit. It might sound silly to say, but when moving fish you really have to know where you are going to put them BEFORE you start the move. The pipe trap method is no exception. Larger pipes (and larger catfish) can be dealt with by covering one end of the pipe with a suitably sized plastic bag - often the fish ends up in this when you start moving the pipe - then moving the other end of the pipe towards and up an aquarium wall. Experiment at your leisure, but it really does cut down on injuries, not least to the catfish keeper!

You don't really get a good impression of the beauty of this catfish from the photo above. They will come out during the day but usually only once settled in an established tank and even then only for food. When undisturbed they sport a beautiful inky blueish black colour that, in combination with many pin-prick white spots, do give the impression of a clear tropical sky at midnight. Each of the fishes fins are also works of art. The caudal fin is trimmed beautifully in black velvet, the light coloured vertical band in the tail shimmers gold making a shoal of these fish in motion is quite a sight. The dorsal fin exhibits a sporty, shark-like black top and all the remaining fins are finished in the fine black markings. These markings are most pronounced on a mature male fish; the individual pictured is a young female.

I couldn't reproduce pictures of this for you, eventually Johnny Jensen paid me a visit and I got a real photographer to take the shot at the top of this article; hopefully you'll now not have to take my word for it and can see that these fish are lovely once settled. The best way to achieve this is to add a group to a reasonably established aquarium and forget about them. At some point of the next year or so you'll eventually catch glimpses of them in all their finery.

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 Auchenipterichthys coracoideus  (Eigenmann & Allen, 1942)
Common Names Zamora Woodcat
Midnight Catfish, Zamorawels (Germany)
Type Locality Iquitos, Upper Amazon, Peru.
Synonym(s) Trachycorystes coracoideus
Pronunciation awk en NIP terr ICK thiss - core ah koy dee uss
Etymology Auchenipterichthys: From the Greek, auchenos, meaning neck, pteron, meaning fin and ichthys, meaning fish; in reference to the long cranial shield, which gives the appearance that the dorsal fin originates at the neck region. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 110mm or 4.3" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Commonly referred to as A. thoracatus, a study in 2005 corrected the long standing misidentification of this species which is the most commonly available in the hobby.

When undisturbed they sport a beautiful inky bluish black colour that, in combination with many pin-prick white spots, do give the impression of a clear tropical sky at midnight hence the common name.
Sexing As with all woodcats, mature males exhibit a modified anal fin similar to the gonopodium found on many live-bearing toothcarps such as the guppy, platy, molly etc.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution A widespread Amazonian species that also occurs in the upper Essequibo River.
Amazon (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Guyana Waters, Coastal Rivers of Guyanas, Essequibo (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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pH 6.0 - 7.2
Temperature 23.0-25.0°C or 73.4-77°F (Show species within this range)
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding In the wild this fish is an insectivore, its diet probably stretches to small invertebrates and crustaceans. In captivity bloodworm appear favourite although it will readily accept flake food and sinking pellets. Food is often taken in mid-water as well as from the bottom.
Furniture Some plants can be used to provide shelter but this fish loves to cram itself into small spaces, preferably in wood, during the daylight hours. If you really want to go all out for this fish drill woodcat sized holes into a large lump of bogwood - but remember to check them for inhabitants if you ever need to remove the wood!
Compatibility Certainly a peaceful, surprisingly robust, catfish suitable for most community aquaria. Not to be trusted with very small fish as this fish is an effective hunter.
Suggested Tankmates Groups of tall-bodied smaller Characins (Hyphessobrycon etc) and Corydoras catfish perfectly compliment this catfish and their shoaling helps relax the midnight catfish in its surroundings, leading to better colouration and more frequent sightings.
Breeding Bred by German hobbyists, details (in English at least) are presently unavailable. Egg fertilization is internal and the eggs can be laid by the female in isolation from the male.
Breeding Reports There are 2 breeding reports, read them all here.
Jump to next section Further Information
References Fishes West. S. America 120. See also Catfishes of the genus Auchenipterichthys (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes: Auchenipteridae); a revisionary study. Carl J. Ferraris Jr., Richard P. Vari, and Sandra J. Raredon.
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Last Update 2013 Jul 19 15:36 (species record created: 2001 Jul 01 11:22)

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