Tandan, Australsk Ferskvandsmalle (Denmark), Dewfish, Eel Tail Catfish, Freshwater Catfish, Tauwels (Germany) - Tandanus tandanus   (Mitchell, 1838)

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded May 03, 2018.

Wombats, Kangaroos and Quolls - the beautifully preposterous Duck Billed Platypus; these are just a very few of the better-known mammals of Australia. They are remarkably different from anything found elsewhere in the world. In aquatic circles, Australasian fishes, especially the Melanotaeniidae (Rainbowfishes) are well known and perhaps not quite as odd in comparison to the mammals I mention. Thankfully, Australian catfish are a welcome return to wacky form. They are odd looking indeed.

Catfish from this region belong to the family Plotosidae, a few species are marine or brackish but the majority are freshwater fish and, from time to time, exports are made. Tandanus tandanus are now protected in South Australia and Victoria states.

T. tandanus is larger catfish and is a valued food fish because of its flavoursome meat. Moreover, it is reasonably easy to catch although transferring from hook to plate is not without risk. Their sharp dorsal and pectoral spines will, if carelessly handled, puncture the skin and cause disproportionate pain for hours, and if not treated a few days or more.

Tandanus have an uninterrupted anal fin which is connected to the caudal fin and ends just posterior behind the dorsal; this gives an eel like appearance in young fishes although more mature fish are way too stocky to be thought of as a classic eel shape. In any stage of life, these fins and the six short, thick barbels and large eyes provide an unusual and appealing look. Although colouration is by no means striking being a mottled rusty-brown to olive green over the back and side three quarters, the underside is a plain creamy white. Colouration changes depending on surroundings and mood.

In its native habitat, they feed on insect larvae, prawns, crayfish, molluscs and small fish. In captivity, growing these fishes up to their large adult size is rewarding and straightforward. They readily eat prepared food in addition to similar food items to that which they encounter in the wild. Fed well, they grow quickly and are neither territorial nor aggressive. At any age, they are inquisitive and active fishes - ensure a tight-fitting lid and robust decorations and can be considered a true pet fish that will live for a decade or more.


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