Catfish of the Month Right November 2012

Horabagrus brachysoma
Eclipse Catfish, Bullseye Catfish, Mondfinsternis-Stachelwels (Germany), Solar Catfish, Sun Catfish - Horabagrus brachysoma   (Günther, 1864)

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded December 10, 2012.

The sun cat, as it is most commonly but certainly not exclusively referred to, has become one of those sometime seen species in the past seven or eight years. It is within the lifetime of the forum of this site that we saw its initial regular introduction around 2005 replaced by a significant influx of farm raised fish and now it appears to have settled into that aforementioned “sometimes seen” category of catfish available for sale.

Back in 2001, I introduced Horabagrus brachysoma’s sister species, H. nigricollaris. Since then there appears to be a move towards agreement that these two species belong in a catfish family of their own having some differences from the Bagridae family from whence they came. Both species hail from Kerala, India.

In the aquarium these are hardy and robust fish that grow quite large but not unmanageably so. Typically they are offered for sale at around 3-4” (7.5 — 10cm) standard length size but sometimes you will encounter a large individual which is often the result of inadequate research on the part of the fishes previous owner. As catfish go they are not especially fast growers but you can expect them to grow several centimetres a year from the small size they are typically offered for sale at.

The fish itself is an attractive golden to olive green body with nice black markings on the fins, the remainder of which can colour up to a nice translucent red colour. Its stand-out feature, giving rise to its eclipse catfish common name is a roughly round disc of black surrounded by a circle of white behind and slightly above the fishes gills. This gives the head of the fish an attractive look and is really rather unusual.

In terms of temperament, reports differ. Some keepers will swear this is a fairly sociable species that will share a cave or similar refuge with its own kind or other catfish. Others report a territorial bully that will bite and nip fishes away from its lair. Perhaps this is to do with how the fishes are raised (together or alone) and perhaps this is also a gender thing. The one “nasty” Horabagrus I actually had the opportunity to have a good look at was an 8” (20cm) adult male. It would not seem unreasonable to purchase a group of three or four youngsters, provide them with a couple of caves each and see what happens. If needed, the group can be thinned out over time, but I suspect their rearing together will help keep the peace.

Although reproduction in the home aquarium is, to my knowledge, not documented. Fish farm breeders in the US, Indoneisa and perhaps elsewhere produce these fishes en masse for the ornamental fish trade using egg striping and artificial fertilisation techniques. Naturally, the species is an egg scatterer and, as such, produces thousands of small eggs presumably in sluggish vegetation dense side waters. The artificial technique produces an equally high number of viable eggs and young are comparatively simple to raise to saleable size. Adult males have obvious genital papillae and females are nearly twice the girth of the slender and more brightly coloured up males.

They are peaceful catfish; even a boisterous individual will not harm the free swimming inhabitants of its tank. It is a slower water, heavily vegetated reasonably main river predator and will eat small fishes but even a 8” (20cm) well fed adult is safe with fishes down to about 2” (5cm) in size. It is, therefore, an ideal fish to keep with medium to large sized barbs and larger Rasbora and perhaps some Crossocheilus or Sewellia to keep activity, colour and intrigue well served in the one tank. However, if you’re not as fussy about keeping your fishes together in groups of animals that would naturally find similar species together in the wild then this catfish would be a good addition to a medium sized cichlid or indeed rainbowfish tank.

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 Horabagrus brachysoma  (Günther, 1864)
Common Names Eclipse Catfish
Bullseye Catfish, Mondfinsternis-Stachelwels (Germany), Solar Catfish, Sun Catfish
Type Locality Cochinchine [? southern Vietnam or Cochin].
Synonym(s) Horabagrus melanosoma, Pseudobagrus brachysoma
Pronunciation HOE ra BAG russ - brack ee SO mah
Etymology Horabagrus: Named after SL Hora, the Indian ichthyologist, and bagrus, the name of a catfish genus frequently used to form generic names. 
Down Species Information
Size 450mm or 17.7" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Young fish are similar to H. nigricollaris particularly if unsettled. In H. nigricollaris the black collar stripe extends from mid-body around to the top of the fishes head, whereas in H. brachysoma it remains a distinct spot. Baensch reports the maximum length as 130mm. Imports have been recorded larger than this size and the maximum size given elsewhere in hobby literature is 450mm.
Sexing Females can be identified by their big, soft and distended belly with a swollen and reddish-pink vent and males by their reddish genital opening.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Asia: Kerala, India.
Indian waters, Kerala State Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Indian waters, Maharashtra State Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Indian waters, Karnataka State Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Indian waters, Western Ghats Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Vulnerable, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2010.
pH 6.0 - 7.5
Temperature 23.0-25.0°C or 73.4-77°F (Show species within this range)
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding An easy fish to feed. All prepared and frozen foods are greedily taken. User data.
Furniture A light shy catfish which will only be venture forth during the day in dimly lit tanks. Caves (or lots of plants for smaller individuals) are required.
Compatibility Peaceful with other and it's own species. Not to be trusted with smaller fish though.
Breeding Unknown.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Catalogue of the fishes in the British Museum v. 5, pp 86.
Registered Keepers There are 103 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There are 2 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 19 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2020 Sep 16 02:01 (species record created: 2012 Dec 10 22:40)

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