Catfish of the Month Right Arrow May 2002 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded May 01, 2002

Ornate Pimelodus, Schmuckantennenwels (Germany), Smykkemalle (Denmark) - Pimelodus ornatus   Kner, 1858

Pimelodus ornatus is an old friend of mine. One of the first dream catfish I hunted for in my local fish shops (LFS), and one, today, I still greatly enjoy encountering. I think I am not alone in this regard. The image above was taken at an export station in Peru, the one below in a far eastern LFS; testimony to its enduring, and worldwide, appeal.

The popularity, or at least, desirability of this fish stems from its bold colouration. As with many catfish this reclusive fish is rarely seen during the day in all its glory; however it does have the distinct plus point of maintaining its characteristic pattern into old age. Many catfish lose colouration with time but this species does not.

To the catfish fan young specimens are, simply, downright cute. They exhibit the puppy-dog appeal of an inquisitive youngster that's all floppy ears and disproportionately oversized paws (or, at least, the catfish equivalent of whiskers and fins).

With age the fish attains an impressive size yet, more significantly, does not become unmanageable. This affords the aquarist the opportunity to keep a group of animals in surroundings that would cramp or even kill larger members of this family. Why keep a stunted tiger shovelnose when you can have a shoal of these guys with some room to spare? In addition, we know little of the social behavior of the medium sized pims and will only learn more when someone starts keeping them in groups.

Cosmetically, the fish is appealing. Its gun-metal grey, large, sloped head is adorned by two large, deep blue eyes. Young fish display a pearly sheen to their fins, adults a more golden yellow. The dorsal and mid-body markings are bold and pleasing to the eye as the fish streaks past. Watching groups of these sleek fish gives a strange impression, a mixture of elegance and speed one might easily associate with marine sharks - but without the malice. Perhaps malice seems absent because of the fishes quizzical , almost comic, expression. The characteristic antennae-like barbels common to many members of this family also soften its appearance. Often the shorter, downward pointing barbels give the impression of a single hand wandering along the substrate, feeling its way with sensitive fingers.

A great catfish to have in your tank then? Great unless you are a small fish that is. If this catfish has a downside it is that its all pimelodid and, as such, will eat other fish given even half a chance. All Pimelodus spp. have surprisingly large mouths; certainly anything less than a third of the size of these fish is in danger. Take this and the fishes reasonably swift growth rate into account when planning ahead on co-inhabitants for this species; they should be at least half the size of the pim at all times and have roughly equal growth rates.

Don't be put off by a price that you'd gladly pay for a pleco with the same colouration, this "king pim" is as well worthy of your pounds (dollars, yen etc.) as any other.

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 NamePimelodus ornatus  Kner, 1858
Common NamesOrnate Pimelodus
Schmuckantennenwels (Germany), Smykkemalle (Denmark)
Type LocalitySuriname; Rio Negro and Cuiabá, Brazil.
Synonym(s)Megalonema rhabdostigma
Pronunciationpim ee LOW duss - or NAT uss
Etymology(Greek)Pimele=Fat + (Greek)odous=teeth. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 280mm or 11" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationA real show fish and a distinctive member of the genus making it difficult to confuse with others. Has a larger head than most other Pimelodus.
SexingNot known.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionSouth America: Peru, Surinam, Northern Brazil
Guyana Waters, Coastal Rivers of Guyanas, Essequibo (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Guyana Waters, Coastal Rivers of Guyanas, Suriname Coastal Rivers, Corintijns (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Amazon (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Orinoco (click on these areas to find other species found there)
La Plata, Paraná (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Guyana Waters, Coastal Rivers of Guyanas, Essequibo, Rupununi (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)
pH6.0 - 7.2
Temperature24.0-25.0°C or 75.2-77°F (Show species within this range)
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingAn unfussy omnivore. Most prepared foods are taken and the fish will happily gorge itself on live or frozen foods. Bloodworm induces a feeding frenzy and is good for acclimatizing new, smaller acquisitions. The fish will eat huge amounts in one day, its belly swelling to resemble a marble and can comfortably live off this for up to a week.
FurnitureThese fish will be considerably more active if given lots of cover at the sides of the aquarium that they can dart into when spooked. Floating plants are also a good idea as water current is unimportant.
Suggested TankmatesLarger active fish such as tetras, most barbs and gouramis. They can also be kept in groups but do not suffer from being kept singly. Angelfish and other ''graceful'' fish are sometimes bothered by this species' barbels particularly during ''lights-out''.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesSitzungsber. Akad. Wiss. Wienv. 26 (s. 373) - pp411 [41] - Pl. 6 (fig. 18)
Ros, Wolfgang (2008): Ein Schmuckstück im Aquarium: Der Raubwels Pimelodus ornatus, Aquaristik-Aktuell (4): 54-57.
Registered Keepers(1) synoguy (k: 2), (2) Freakdaddy, (3) daniel60 (k: 5), (4) Dave Rinaldo (k: 2), (5) Plunt, (6) Tasplec (k: 2), (7) maddrell, (8) zigster (p: 2), (9) fusco, (10) markhinch, (11) Firestorming, (12) maynard1982, (13) JamesStuddart (k: 2), (14) arapaimag, (15) TimWheatley (k: 3), (16) bigamefish, (17) Blackguard (k: 3), (18) syno-kev (p: 2), (19) miguel mitchel, (20) Sean B, (21) Redtailrob, (22) Arron_N, (23) Sabaji, who also notes: "Has his place in a large cave, only comes out when feeding time. Friendly with all other tankmates", (24) mcaquatic, (25) Aqua_Bankie.

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 ReportsNone.
Article - Shane's World Species Pimelodus ornatus: A piece of jewellery in the aquarium
More on Pimelodus ornatus
Look up AquaticRepublic.comLook up Pimelodus ornatus on
BBCode (use in forum posts)
(species permalink)
Look up FishbaseLook up Pimelodus ornatus on Fishbase
Get or print a QR code for this species profile, or try our BETA label creator.
Hits10251 hits.
Last Update2011 Oct 05 12:11 (species record created: 2002 May 01 11:22)

Hits: 10251

Back to Catfish of the Month index.