Catfish of the Month Right June 2003

Silurichthys indragiriensis
Asian Leaf Catfish - Silurichthys indragiriensis   Volz, 1904

Article © Heok Hee Ng, uploaded June 01, 2003.

Heok Hee returns with another, very welcome, catfish of the month article while your webmaster is running around like a headless chicken in the attempt to move house.

Unlike their more famous cousin, the glass catfish (Kryptopterus minor), many species of the Siluridae are not commonly encountered, or well-known in the aquarium trade. One such rarity, the Asian leaf catfish (Silurichthys indragiriensis), is the subject of this month's article.

The Asian leaf catfish is found in blackwater habitats throughout the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and Sumatra. They are generally mottled brown in color, somewhat reminiscent of a miniature version of the European wels (Silurus glanis). However, their mouths are not as upturned (and very much smaller, fortunately for aquarists) and their anal and caudal fins are fused (this last feature is the most distinctive and is unique to the genus). A recent revision of the genus recognizes eight species, of which the most commonly encountered in the trade are Silurichthys hasseltii and S. indragiriensis.

The two species inhabit different habitats, and thus have different water requirements. The Asian leaf catfish (S. indragiriensis) is found only in blackwater habitats such as peat swamps, where the pH of the tea-colored, tannin-rich, extremely acidic water can dip to as low as 4, whereas the Hasselt's leaf catfish (S. hasseltii) is a denizen of (whitewater) forested streams with a more typical (for tropical fishes) pH of 5 to 6. It is not particularly easy to tell the two species apart, but the Asian leaf cat has a much longer caudal fin and is generally darker brown in color.

A relative rarity in the aquarium trade, the Asian leaf catfish is only encountered occasionally as anincidental import. Ideal for the community aquarium, they are shy and retiring and get along well with almost any other community fish. Unlike glass cats, leaf catfishes do not spend all their time swimming in midwater. During the day, they rest by lying on their sides under the protection of cover, a relatively unusual position for resting since most other silurids rest either by hovering in midwater or lie on their bellies. They swim with very un-silurid, sinuous movements of their bodies - somewhat reminiscent of eel cats. They are also fairly gregarious fish and are often seen schooling together.

In the wild, the diet of leaf catfishes consists mainly of terrestrial insects that have fallen into the water; however, in the aquarium they are catholic in their choice of food and will readily take most live, frozen or processed food. They have hearty appetites and, given the chance, will eat to the point of bursting. To this date, no aquarium breeding has been reported, but it is possible to sex them by looking at the pectoral spines. The males have more prominent serrations on the pectoral spines than the females. This form of sexual dimorphism is common in many other silurid genera (e.g. Ompok, Kryptopterus), though the purpose of the serrations in the pectoral spines of the males is not clear. Females are also generally larger.

Because of the nature of its habitat, the Asian leaf catfish does best in blackwater tanks, although they are known to do fairly well in regular acidic water tropical systems. Good filtration is essential because they are very sensitive to changes in water quality. The slightest sign of deteriorating water quality rapidly causes fatal infection, which is manifested as sores on the body and mouth.

Although a rather dull-colored fish that is not seen much during the day (a description that will fit a large majority of catfishes), the Asian leaf catfish still provides plenty of challenge for the catfish connoisseur and is a fascinating addition to any blackwater tank.

Silurichhys indragiriensis

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 Silurichthys indragiriensis  Volz, 1904
Common Name Asian Leaf Catfish
Type Locality Kwantang R., near Djapura (Indragari), Sumatra, Indonesia.
Pronunciation Seel loo reek thees - in drah jee ree an seess
Etymology From Silurus and the Greek ichthyos, meaning fish; in reference to the general resemblance to members of the genus Silurus. The specific epithet comes from the Indragiri River, the type locality of this species.
Down Species Information
Size 105mm or 4.1" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Easily confused with other congeners. Can be distinguished by its very long and narrow caudal fin and a somewhat less mottled body.
Sexing Males are smaller and possess serrations on posterior edge of pectoral spine.
General Remarks Unlike most other silurids, which are mid-water fish, this fish spends more of its time near the bottom or lying on its side.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Asia: known at present from central Sumatra, Bintan, Bangka, Billiton and Peninsular Malaysia (Johor, Selangor, Perak, Trengganu).
Pacific, Greater Sunda Island Rivers, Borneo Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Pacific, Malaysia Waters, Peninsular Malaysia Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Pacific, Greater Sunda Island Rivers, Sumatra Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)

Log in to view data on a map.
IUCN Red List Category Near Threatened, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2019.
pH 4.0 - 6.0
Temperature 20.0-25.0°C or 68-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters This species is restricted to the highly acidic, tannin-stained blackwaters of Southeast Asian peat swamps. It is much more susceptible to fatal infections when kept in less acidic conditions.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding Will eat all manner of live, frozen and prepared foods. User data.
Furniture The substrate should be underlain with at least 1/2'' of peat. Provide plenty of driftwood as hiding places. They also enjoy a layer of leaf litter to burrow into.
Compatibility A peaceful, schooling species that is compatible with most fish.
Suggested Tankmates Should be kept in groups of three or more individuals. Ideal tankmates include pearl (Trichogaster leerii) and chocolate (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides) gouramies, clown rasboras (Rasbora kalochroma), two spot catfish (Mystus bimaculatus), bar-bellied spiny eels (Macrognathus circumcinctus) and other Asian blackwater fish in a biotope tank.
Breeding Not reported.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Revue Suisse de Zoologie v. 12 (no. 2), pp 464.
Registered Keepers There is but a single registered keeper, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There is no wish to keep this species.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 3 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
Forum BBCode
More on Silurichthys indragiriensis
Look up Look up Silurichthys indragiriensis on
Look up on Fishbase Look up Silurichthys indragiriensis on Fishbase
Look up on Encyclopedia of Life Look up Silurichthys indragiriensis on Encyclopedia of Life
Look up on Global Biodiversity Information Facility Look up Silurichthys indragiriensis on Global Biodiversity Information Facility
Silurichthys indragiriensis QR code LFS label creator
Last Update 2020 Oct 25 01:04 (species record created: 2003 Jun 01 11:22)

Back to Catfish of the Month index.