Catfish of the Month Right Arrow November 2012 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded December 10, 2012



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

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.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific NameHorabagrus brachysoma  (Günther, 1864)
Common NamesEclipse Catfish
Bullseye Catfish, Mondfinsternis-Stachelwels (Germany), Solar Catfish, Sun Catfish
Type LocalityCochinchine [? s. Vietnam].
Synonym(s)Horabagrus melanosoma, Pseudobagrus brachysoma
PronunciationHOE ra BAG russ - brack ee SO mah
EtymologyHorabagrus: Named after SL Hora, the Indian ichthyologist, and bagrus, the name of a catfish genus frequently used to form generic names. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 450mm or 17.7" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationYoung 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.
SexingFemales can be identified by their big, soft and distended belly with a swollen and reddish-pink vent and males by their reddish genital opening.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionKerala and Karnataka, Southern 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)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
IUCN Red List StatusVulnerable
pH6.0 - 7.5
Temperature23.0-25.0°C or 73.4-77°F (Show species within this range)
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingAn easy fish to feed. All prepared and frozen foods are greedily taken.
FurnitureA 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.
CompatibilityPeaceful with other and it's own species. Not to be trusted with smaller fish though.
BreedingUnknown.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesCat. Fishes v. 5 - pp86
Registered Keepers(1) natefrog, (2) biggestmike, (3) Daniel Machado, (4) Silurus, (5) gage, (6) Freakdaddy (k: 4), (7) fishie650, (8) kntrygrl4lyfe, (9) Greer, (10) Kjlossman, (11) Nikita, who also notes: "Kept in a 72 x 24 x 24 aquarium (at the mo), black sand substrate, mopani and bog wood for hidey-holes. Kept with cory cats, a syno, a pearl cat, plecs and large barbs. Called George. Currently 11" TL and growing slowly.", (12) LindsayB, (13) Occellatus, (14) icekiki, (15) orspearo666, who also notes: "rescued it from a lady who bought the tank it was housed in. 9.5 inches long", (16) RedTail Cat, (17) Argentum (k: 3), (18) Tim D, (19) alderfish (k: 3), (20) Plunt, (21) Guanlong_wucaii, (22) San, (23) SalmonAfrica, (24) blurock (k: 2), who also notes: "8" and 3"", (25) Moosipher, (26) GixxerBabe, (27) tezr (k: 2), (28) zedogz, (29) doesdavid, (30) Moomoo, (31) ahodge84 (k: 2), (32) willis30, (33) carolynkline, (34) SoCalDiscus, (35) pickles4601 (p: 2), (36) phenix, (37) Hoyo12, (38) jessey (k: 2), (39) Greggyfest (k: 2), (40) PangasiusSutchi37 (k: 3), (41) 0210Miyo, (42) Shovelnose, who also notes: "Collected from the Chalakuddy River in Kerala. ", (43) Viktor Jarikov, who also notes: "Burmese sun catfish? Sold as Eclipse Catfish. Used to be somewhat active, with bigger fish present started to hide a lot. Good eater. Hides in plants too at various levels.", (44) rodrigd2, (45) drplec (k: 2), (46) steve_ansell1, (47) nature_lover, (48) highoctane500 (k: 4), (49) Bimmerboy12 (k: 10), (50) Bisclavret, (51) shivamotiram, (52) andy.cole94, (53) slayer5590 (k: 5), who also notes: "Picked up 3 short bodied pcs on 01/23/2014 from petsmart.", (54) arapaimag (k: 4), (55) Seagirt, who also notes: "He swims with the other cat and all the koi.", (56) minipol (k: 6), (57) knifegill, (58) bigamefish, (59) MrGT500, (60) CDM, (61) henward, (62) Gunna623 (k: 2), who also notes: "2 of my favorite fish. I never get to see either eat. And although approaching a year of ownership I havent noticed much growth.", (63) jtpleco, who also notes: "Bought a 3 incher for a 20G with the maximum size stated to be 6 inches. Figures afterwards I learn it grows to 3 times that. It is already 7 inches and has eaten a combined total of 1 foot of its tankmates. It ate one loach, four zebra danios, ten juvenile mystery snails, and possibly a 1" upside down catfish. It is now the sole inhabitant of a 20G aquarium. I plan to put a 4" common pleco with him to keep the algae from taking over the tank. The fish absolutely will not tolerate any light. It remains in its PVC pipe until the lights have been out at least ten minutes. Whenever this is removed for cleaning, the skin pales to a pinkish color. Tolerates virtually every tank condition and survived when the heater malfunctioned and kept the tank at 96 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank is currently at a normal 78 degrees.", (64) CatfishPownage63 (k: 2), (65) Chiroptera, (66) thereverendturtle (k: 6), (67) Walkie-TalkieCatfish, (68) in_the_seance (k: 3), (69) linuxrulesusa (k: 2), (70) Dudders, (71) TDMG82, (72) drako57, (73) booitsme3109, (74) wwajfd, (75) jmtjoy, (76) thecameraguy, (77) xShovelnose, who also notes: "- Purchased for $30 -Purchased alongside My Florida Gar -Hides in rock cavern. -used to never come out but has lately became a regular thing for him and since 2 weeks ago he ALWAYS comes out for feeding!", (78) festaedan, (79) Sean B, (80) greenterror66, (81) ad88, (82) Nolapete (k: 5), who also notes: "Seems that the leopard achara catfish were stunting these guys. They have gained some size recently.", (83) Brett1998, (84) CowBoYReX, (85) justarn, (86) Fishkeeperneo, (87) Altifrons, (88) reverendturtle (k: 5), (89) MEGADETH1111, (90) TheFishGuy, (91) Dice1790, (92) Cecibella (k: 2), (93) dopey66.

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Last Update2014 Nov 07 07:46 (species record created: 2012 Dec 10 22:40)

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