Catfish of the Month Right January 2012

Chiloglanis pretoriae
Shortspine Rock Catlet, Kortstekel-suierbekkie (South African), Limpopo Rock Catlet, Shortspine Suckermouth - Chiloglanis pretoriae   Van Der Horst, 1931

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded February 04, 2012.

"Go to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, and find out." — Rudyard Kipling — The Elephant's Child — Just So Stories — 1902.

It seems remarkable now, but it was five years ago that I travelled to South Africa. This was not my first visit to this beautiful country, but it was the first one where I had intentions of getting into some rivers to collect fishes. We based ourselves in Pretoria, the administrative capital in the north east of the country. Several trips were made and many fishes were encountered. For me, and collecting cohort Shane Linder, there was one stand out species and it is the subject of this month's article.

Like the young and insatiably curious elephant in Kipling's story, we headed towards the Limpopo drainage. To be more precise: the Crocodile River which is one of the larger tributaries of the great Southern African river. The Crocodile River itself forms from three lesser tributaries. They join, like the prongs of trident almost at the same point. Once joined, the main river flows north to join the Limpopo main channel at and along the border with Botswana.

Much of the Crocodile River flows through private land. Access requires permission or a stretch of the river that is accessible from the road. So, collecting fishes requires some homework and reconnaissance. After some of both, we found a nice spot and parked the Land Rover under an acacia tree - perhaps as much for shade as for a classic photo opportunity.

We unpacked some nets, tubs and photo tank leaving the photographic kit in the car. Access to the river was comfortable through long, thankfully soft, green grass. The river was sometimes shaded by low trees but was mostly bordered by this grass. The river course was flowing fast and medium shallow only occasionally higher than my upper thigh. The current was strong enough to restrict movement to very slow wading or moving only on all fours: but not too strong as to sweep one away. Unless, of course, a slippery rock or distraction caused a lack of concentration - in that case, it would was flowing with sufficient vigour to take you for a ride.

Collecting in this cool water might be initially refreshing, but it is tiring. It's also very hard work for one person and even as a duo. We collected one or two Chiloglanis at every second or third attempt. They live in head size or small rounded rocks that were slippery with golden brown mulm. Collecting them involved setting a net downstream of an area rocks to be kicked or pushed and then water was then strong enough to keep any fishes in the net. Worth noting here, that we found the tiny gravel huts built by caddis fly larvae all over these rounded rocks. It seemed to me a likely foodsource.

Upon introduction to aquarium life, these fishes adapt to considerably less current and will eat frozen bloodworm at least. They are active during the day and can usually be seen searching for food in a less frenzied way than when it is actually introduced. Despite being a good aquarium fish, C. pretoriae is not exported for the trade. Such infrastructure doesn't exist in South Africa. Members of this genus are found for sale from time to time but have something of a reputation of being a bit delicate. In my opinion, this is partly because they can be confused with other more delicate suckermouth mochkokids, partly because they are treated like (but are not) algae eaters and party because they are not handled very well in transit.

In the past year I encountered a trio of Chiloglanis for sale at Ferrybridge Aquatics in the North of England. They were clearly in good condition at the point of sale and have turned out to be a great buy. Lively and interesting, they almost give me hope of finding something out about the reproductive habits of this genus. Reproduction in these fishes is a mystery and is a subject which should not fail to attract the insatiably curious catfish keeper.

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

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Chiloglanis pretoriae  Van Der Horst, 1931
Common Names Shortspine Rock Catlet
Kortstekel-suierbekkie (South African), Limpopo Rock Catlet, Shortspine Suckermouth
Type Locality Crocodile River, Pretoria District, Transvaal [now Gauteng], South Africa.
Pronunciation Kee low glan iss
Etymology Chiloglanis: From the Greek cheilos, meaning lip, and glanis, meaning catfish; in reference to the oral morphology. Pretoriae, a reference to Pretoria.
Down Species Information
Size 65mm or 2.6" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The second largest catfish genus in Africa after Synodontis. They are characterized by jaws and lips modified into a sucker or oral disc used for adhering to and feeding upon objects in fast-flowing waters. Generally reasonably small at 100 mm SL or less. species with forked caudal fins can show sexual dimorphism and is usually species-specific. Other characteristics in this hard-to-ID genus are the size of the adipose fin, the position of the adipose fin relative to pelvic and ventral fins, size of barbles, eyes and dorsal fin. Only a handful of species are identified on colouration. They can be distinguished from other African suckermouth catfish (of the genera Euchilichthys and Atopochilus) by their circular suckermouth disc. This is more elliptical in the other two genera.

Dark brown with small lighter patches on back and a distinctive series of verticle spots along body. Coloration is somewhat variable between populations. Turns a golden-yellow overall when stressed.
Sexing Males possess a distinct genital papilla.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Africa: Limpopo, Incomati River systems and from the middle and lower Zambezi, Pungwe and Buzi systems.
African Waters, Limpopo (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Pungwe (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Zambesi, Middle Zambesi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Zambesi, Lower Zambesi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Buzi (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Least Concern, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2017.
pH 6.7 - 7.6
Temperature 22.5-25.0°C or 72.5-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters High oxygen levels. This fish greatly appreciates water movement and will always seek out the strongest currents in the aquarium.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding Live and frozen foods. Specimens kept for sometime in captivity may eventually take small amounts of flake foods. User data.
Furniture Occurs in shallow rocky reaches, riffle, and rapids. Fry are found along submersed vegetation along the river's banks.
Compatibility A peaceful fish.
Suggested Tankmates Cool water cyprinids.
Breeding Unreported.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Annals of the Transvaal Museum v. 14 (pt 3), pp 248, Fig. 2.
Registered Keepers There is but a single registered keeper, view all "my cats" data.
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There is but a single wish to keep this species, see who wants what.
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There are 3 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2020 Sep 19 05:42 (species record created: 2012 Feb 04 23:09)

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