Catfish of the Month Right Arrow October 1999

Giraffe Catfish, Afrikanischer Augenfleckenwels (Germany), Girafmalle (Denmark) - Auchenoglanis occidentalis   (Valenciennes, 1840)

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded October 01, 1999.

Certainly a catfish for life, not just for Christmas! This month's featured catfish are adorable as juveniles, but their real character comes with age. Also with age will come a few tank upgrades as this fish is a big one.

The main drawback with a catfish of this size is its destructive capability within the confines of an aquarium. Think elephant in a greenhouse. Even when young this fish will innocently uproot plants not secured by way of plastic pots. Once past the foot long stage it will dig up the pots too in the continual search for food. Catfish, as a whole, are often considered (in unenlightened aquatic circles) as "scavengers", the diet of which doesn't require consideration as they will eat whatever is left lying around. While as a general rule this is a great falsehood, with this fish it is actually 100% true. This fish will eat anything in or around the substrate and will soon learn and react to the feeding regime. It will eat in quantity too, so a powerful filter (or filters) is a requirement for success with these fish as they grow.

The fish takes it's common name from the attractive pattern it exhibits most clearly as a youngster (pictured below). Sadly with age this distinctive appearance fades a little into two-tone mottled brown. This cosmetic failing is tempered by the fishes gregarious nature.

The giraffe catfish is found throughout-out Tropical Africa and has successfully established itself in many different habitats. As different, for example, as strong rivers and deep lakes. In the aquarium this adaptability manifests itself as a fish that can thrive in a wide range of water conditions; particularly in relation to pH. As with many of the larger catfish in their natural habitat, this fish is an important part of the locals diet and a large freshly caught full-grown Giraffe Catfish will grace many an African dinner table.

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

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