Catfish of the Month Right Arrow November 2007 • Article © Chris Ralph, uploaded November 05, 2007

Ornate Bagrid, Afrikanischer Marmor-Stachelwels (Germany), Broderimalle (Denmark), Mottled Catfish - Chrysichthys ornatus   Boulenger, 1902

The Ornate or Mottled Bagrid, Chrysichthys ornatus, belongs to the family Claroteidae from Africa; specifically the great Congo River. This catfish is documented as being from the Congo River system below Stanley Falls. It is also documented that this catfish can be found in Cameroon and the Congo Democratic Republic.

C. ornatus is a species that I have had the pleasure to keep. This is not a catfish which is commonly available although it is worth looking out for and is ideal for a medium to large sized aquarium. This catfish has evil written across its face, but is one which is full of character. The one I kept for many years would often try to eat pieces of trout, which were far too large for it to eat and resulted in this particular fish trying to ram the food into its mouth by crashing into the end of the aquarium! This catfish was, until around 1991, documented as belonging to the family Bagridae, following a revision of this family the majority of the so-called African Bagrids now belong to the family Claroteidae.

In terms of keeping this fish in an aquarium, I would suggest a minimum size of 36” x 18” X 18” for two or three of these catfish, with plenty of hiding places amongst bogwood and plants. The ideal aquarium substrate to use with these catfish is aquarium sand such as BD Aquarium Sand. As with all other species of fish, water quality and general husbandry is very important, and I would recommend that a minimum of 25% water is changed on a weekly basis.

This catfish has often been confused with Goeldiella eques, a South American catfish belonging to the family Pimelodidae despite being from two different continents, they are remarkably similar. The South American species lacks a pair of nasal barbels, has a longer adipose fin and noticeable different head and dorsal fin shape when compared to Chrysichthys ornatus.

Thanks to Chris Ralph for this month's featured species article.

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 NameChrysichthys ornatus  Boulenger, 1902
Common NamesOrnate Bagrid
Afrikanischer Marmor-Stachelwels (Germany), Broderimalle (Denmark), Mottled Catfish
Type LocalityMonsembé, Upper Congo and Ubangi R. at Banzyville.
Synonym(s)Amarginops ornatus
Pronunciationcry sick thiss - or nat uss
EtymologyChrysichthys: From the Greek chrysos, meaning golden and ichthys, meaning fish; in reference to the golden-yellow color (of the type species, C. auratus). The specific epithet means ornate or decorated.
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 252mm or 9.9" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationThe body is described as being elongate and compressed. The dorsal fin is described as having a hard ray and six soft rays, the anal fin is described as having 11-13 soft rays, and both fins are described as being short. The dorsal and pectoral fins are described as not having stout spines. The ventral fins are described as being inserted behind the dorsal fin. The adipose fin is present and is relatively short. This catfish has 4 pairs of barbels; one pair nasal, one pair maxillary and two pairs mandibular. The jaws are described as having teeth arranged in bands. The teeth are described as being ‘palatine’. The base colour of the body and head is described as being pale yellow to brown with large dark brown to black coloured irregular blotches, and pale yellow to brown coloured blotches along the flanks of this catfish. These coloured blotches have dark coloured spots amongst them. The fins are described as being pale in colour with irregular dark spots. The caudal lobes are described as having a blurred dark longitudinal band. The ventral region is described as being dirty white in colour.
SexingWhilst there are not documented sexual differences, as with most other species of catfish, the males tend to be more slender than the females.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionAfrica: Congo River system below Stanley Falls.
African Waters, Congo, Lower Congo (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)
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
pH6.5 - 7.2
Temperature20.0-25.0°C or 68-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersHardness up to 17°dGH
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingReadily accepts a mixed and varied diet which includes meatier foods such as pieces of fish, prawns, mussels, earthworms, sinking catfish pellets and tablet foods to name but a few.
CompatibilityIt is not recommended that the aquarist keep these catfish in a community aquarium due to their predatory nature. Whilst these catfish fare well when kept on their own they can be kept together.
Suggested TankmatesThese catfish should be kept with other medium to large species of fish which are peaceful, such as cichlids and some larger species of barbs. In their natural habitat Chrysichthys ornatus would be found in relatively large shoals.
BreedingThere are documented reports of aquarium spawnings.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesAnn. Mus. Congo (Ser. Zool.)v. 2 (fasc. 2) - pp39 - Pl. 11 (fig. 2)
Registered Keepers(1) Chrysichthys (k: 3), (2) Benjamin, (3) Attu, (4) Moomoo, (5) andy.cole94 (p: 2), (6) malawiman1 (p: 2), (7) jippo, (8) matt12, (9) jscoggs27, (10) Junttis, (11) maynard1982 (k: 2), (12) syno-kev, (13) jabones, (14) N0body Of The Goat, who also notes: "Very fast growing, only species I have that grew quicker is my Auchenoglanis! Moved to own tank 22/3/15, too worried about that huge mouth at ~21cm SL!", (15) jprp (p: 3), (16) Sean B, (17) CL27, (18) chalamala, (19) Tanganyikafreak, (20) CatfishPownage63, (21) Kif, (22) dmcat.

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Breeding ReportsNone.
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Last Update2013 Jul 19 17:45 (species record created: 2007 Nov 05 09:11)

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