Catfish of the Month Right Arrow June 2000 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded June 01, 2000

Common Walking Catfish, Clarias Catfish, Albino Walking Catfish, Piebald Walking Catfish, Vandremalle (Denmark) - Clarias batrachus   (Linnaeus, 1758)

Forced to name a fish that I thought the most hardy, indestructible catfish I have encountered, then this month's featured cat would be it. They are incredibly adaptable and resilient in conditions in which virtually all other fish would perish.

There are two intermingled reasons for this hardiness. The first is that this fish can breathe air - literally. Notice its relatively underdeveloped gills? Well, this is because the fish has evolved a method of utilizing air "breathed" from the surface. In fact, so ineffective are its gills that many report these fish will soon die if unable to reach the water surface of the aquarium.

The second reason provides the fish with its common name. Should water conditions get really bad then it leaves! Walking catfish can leave water behind and go on a cross-country expedition! Providing the land is relatively damp and the fish doesn't dry out these catfish can roam the land searching for better places to swim. During these excursions the fishes gills clamp shut both to protect their delicate membranes from drying out and to minimize water loss. Additional pores produce mucus around the body of the fish which also aids in the battle to stay wet.

Needless to say this fascinating behavior is all very good in the wild, but make sure you have a tight fitting lid on your aquarium. These fish are real escape artists and if you don't take precautions, they are likely to leave your living room aquarium and go walk-about carpet-side.

This fish is also found as an "illegal alien" in a number of places where it shouldn't be. Florida and Hawaii are two good examples. Because of the fishes fairly large size and certainly its enormous appetite and growth rate, they can become unwanted pets very quickly. In error many, usually inexperienced, aquarists feel that the "best thing to do" is to release this fish into the wild. This is a terrible mistake. Harsh as it may seem, given no other feasible course of action, unwanted tropical fish should always be humanely destroyed. Unleashed, these "aliens" are capable of wiping out entire populations of local fish who have never seen a predator the likes of the walking catfish.

The risk of and damage caused by such introductions has driven many governments to ban the import of these fish. This sadly necessary action deprives many responsible aquarists of keeping fish that are both interesting and rewarding.

The picture above shows the mottled or marbled colour variety. More commonly available is an all pinky/white form. From time to time you also see the "orginal" brown with white belly wild form. If you live in a part of the world where they are available for sale, the common walking catfish is worth a look for that "big-fish" tank."

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 NameClarias batrachus  (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common NamesCommon Walking Catfish
Clarias Catfish, Albino Walking Catfish, Piebald Walking Catfish, Vandremalle (Denmark)
Type LocalityAsia.
Synonym(s)Clarias assamensis, Clarias assamensis, Clarias punctatus, Silurus batrachus, Silurus batrachus
Pronunciationklar ee ass - bat rah chus
EtymologyClarias: From the Greek chlaros, meaning lively; in reference to the ability of the fish to live for long periods out of water. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 400mm or 15.7" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationClarias 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.

Shown above are the mottled or marbled colour variety and also the more commonly available pinky-white form. From time to time you also see the ''original'' brown with white belly wild form.
SexingMature males have small spots along the dorsal fin; it is not known if this also applies to the albino colour variant.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionSri Lanka, Eastern India to Malaysia
Sri Lanka Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Indian waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Myanmar Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Thailand Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Bangladesh Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Indonesian Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Pacific, Malaysia Waters (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
pH5.6 - 8.0
Temperature20.0-26.0°C or 68-78.8°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersUnimportant, the fish will prosper in a wide range of PH and water hardness.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingAnything; this fish is totally omnivorous and will gorge itself on most offerings.
FurnitureVery well rooted plants and large structures that provide some shade. Appropriately sized clay pipes seem to provide a readily accepted, if less cosmetically pleasing, hideaway for these fish.
CompatibilityKeep with large robust fish; anything small enough will be eaten. These should be fast growing or introduced as semi-adults. The walking catfish grows very fast indeed and although purchased at a ''safe'' size for it's co-inhabitants, this ratio will rapidly change to the danger of the smaller fishes.
Suggested TankmatesLarge Cyprinids (Silver Sharks, Tinfoil or Spanner Barbs for example) or Central American Cichlids.
BreedingSee Shane's World article.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesSystema Nat. ed. 10v. 1 - pp305
Registered Keepers(1) cymrucat (k: 3), who also notes: " I couldn't believe these lovely things were on sale ! They had arrived at the shop due to an error in the order too ! I love their vertical floating. they have now grown and are getting a bigger tank,very relaxing to watch. And boy don't they grow!", (2) juree, (3) LUISGOREY, (4) miller, (5) MADRacing, (6) zedogz (p: 9), (7) doesdavid (k: 4), (8) Shovelnose, (9) miles44 (k: 2), (10) straitjacketstar (k: 5), (11) Reginator (k: 2), (12) paul, (13) jessey, (14) Redtailrob (k: 2), (15) TheSmurfinator, (16) jscoggs27 (k: 7), (17) Irish Goliath, (18) Yellowpieslinger, (19) Mezel (p: 2), (20) Jaesyr, (21) arapaimag (k: 2), (22) diikis (p: 5, k: 5), (23) Sargy60, (24) james gilbertson, who also notes: "Love this greedy beast, its growing like crazy and my sons best fish", (25) agusmeteor (k: 7), (26) Cristoffer Forssander, (27) merit, who also notes: "Was piebald, one of the best fish in general. Very smart, i sold him for its size!! Never forgot this fish, now i'm searching for a smaller specie of clarias.", (28) r4heel, (29) Harford2073, who also notes: "It is called Desmond, but is it a boy or a girl? Looking for a bigger tank and some company for it now.", (30) liamirons, (31) mikemaes, who also notes: "Ate a lot of tetra's, 3 Baby Bala Sharks, 2 baby Barbs, a couple of Kuhli's, started feeding it mussels and white bate fish, he also love's cichlid sticks, granulate and mini catfish pellets. Amazingly he does'nt seem to eat my Japonica Shrimps. grew 5cm in 3 months and got more bulk, i created a cave complex and build the entire tank to his needs, great fish, does'nt trash everything because he has his own cave, despite many plants in the aquarium", (32) dethmann, (33) Animusartificio, (34) NickFishnut, (35) protopterus, (36) datfish (k: 2), who also notes: "Insanely aggressive feeder, out competes giant gourami, oscar, and distichodus.", (37) The Pfusch (k: 2), (38) angerygrover.

Click on a username above to see all that persons registered catfish species. You can also view all "my cats" data for this species.
Breeding Reports(1) Cristoffer Forssander (b: 38).
Article - Shane's World Reproduction Successful spawning of the wonderful WanderWels, Clarias batrachus
Article - Shane's World Reproduction Triggering reproduction with the Walking Catfish (Clarias batrachus)
More on Clarias batrachus
Look up AquaticRepublic.comLook up Clarias batrachus on
BBCode (use in forum posts)
(species permalink)
Look up FishbaseLook up Clarias batrachus on Fishbase
Get or print a QR code for this species profile, or try our BETA label creator.
Hits12232 hits.
Last Update2013 Jul 19 13:18 (species record created: 2000 Jun 01 11:22)

Hits: 12232

Back to Catfish of the Month index.