Freshwater Catfish, Tandanus tandanus (Mitchell 1838)


Other Names: Catfish, Cattie, Dewfish, Eeltail Catfish, Eel-tail Freshwater Catfish, Eel-tailed Catfish, Freshwater Jewfish, Jewfish, Kenaru, Tandan, Tandan Catfish

Freshwater Catfish, Tandanus tandanus. Source: Gunther Schmida / http://www.guntherschmida.com.au. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

Summary:

An olive greenish, greyish to brown eel-tailed catfish often with pale yellowish mottling on the rear of the body, and a whitish underside. Juveniles have darker mottling. The Freshwater Catfish has 4 pairs of barbels surrounding the mouth, and sharp serrated dorsal- and pectoral-fin spines which are venomous and can cause a very painful wound.

Although once widespread in eastern Australia, Freshwater Catfish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin have declined significantly since the 1980s.

Video of a pair of Freshwater Catfish in a dam on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.


Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2016, Tandanus tandanus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Nov 2017, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/2769

Freshwater Catfish, Tandanus tandanus (Mitchell 1838)

More Info


Distribution

Known only from House Creek QLD (16°15’S) to Sydney, NSW, in coastal rivers and throughout Murray-Darling system inland.

Freshwater Catfish were once widespread in eastern Australia, however, populations have suffered severe declines in both distribution and abundance since the 1980s. The species remains relatively common in coastal catchments from the Hunter River (NSW) north, whereas it is considered endangered in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Usually inhabits slow-flowing streams and lakes. A relatively sedentary solitary species, although juveniles sometimes form loose aggregations.

Features

Meristic features: First dorsal-fin I, 6 (or fewer); Continuous dorsal-caudal-anal fin rays 150; Pectoral-fin I, 10; Pelvic-fin I, 5; Gill rakers 23-32.

Body elongate, slender, laterally compressed and tapering posteriorly; tail pointed; head broad and flattened; mouth large; lips thick, fleshy; four pairs of barbels around the mouth, 2 pairs below the upper lip and 2 pairs above; lateral line well defined and straight; nostrils tubular, on front border of upper lip; vomerine teeth small, conical, arranged in a semi-circular patch.

Scales absent, body covered in smooth, slimy skin.

First dorsal fin small, moderately elevated with a stout, serrated spine and 6 or fewer soft rays; 2nd dorsal and anal fins confluent with caudal fin, originating on middle of back; caudodorsal fin base about 50% SL; pectoral fin with sharp spine on outer edge.

Size

Maximum size to 90 cm TL, commonly to 45 cm.

Colour

Grey, brown, reddish-brown, purplish or olive-green, whitish on belly and underside of head. Individuals under about 30 cm TL frequently have light grey or tan mottling on the sides.

Feeding

An opportunisitc carnivore - feeds mostly on aquatic insects, yabbies, prawns, microcrustaceans, molluscs and some small fishes, taken from the bottom.

Biology

Sexually mature at 3-5 years. Spawning occurs during spring and summer when water temperatures rise to between 20 and 24°C.

Males construct a circular gravel and pebble nest with a central depression into which females lay large, spherical non-adhesive eggs (~3 mm diameter). The larvae hatch after about 7 days, and measure about 7.0 mm TL, and the barbels are well formed by 12 mm. Freshwater Catfish are known to spawn multiple times during a season.

Fisheries

Although once popular with recreational anglers and considered excellent eating, fishing for Freshwater Catfish is now banned in many areas and severely restricted in others. For information on current regulations, please refer to the respective State Fisheries websites.

Conservation

Numerous factors are thought to have contributed to the decline of Freshwater Catfish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin since the 1970s. These include habitat degradation and barriers to movement, and increased predation by and competition with introduced species such as Common Carp (which has similar feeding habits) and Redfin.

The Freshwater Catfish population in the Murray-Darling Basin is listed as:

  • New South Wales Fisheries Management Act 1994: Endangered
  • Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988: Threatened (Action Statement)
  • South Australian Fisheries Management Act 2007: Protected
  • Remarks

    Species Citation

    Plotosus (Tandanus) tandanus Mitchell, 1838, Three expeditions into the interior of Eastern Australia 1: opp. 44, 95, Pl. 5 (fig. 2). Type locality: lagoon near Tangulda, Namoi River, NSW and a river between Gwydir River and MacIntyre River, NSW.

    Author

    Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2016

    Freshwater Catfish, Tandanus tandanus (Mitchell 1838)

    References


    Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls.

    Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

    Cadwallader, P.L. & Backhouse, G.N. 1983. A Guide to the Freshwater Fish of Victoria. Melbourne : F.D. Atkinson Government Printer 249 pp. figs.

    Clunie, P. & Koehn, J. 2001. Freshwater catfish: A recovery plan. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Heidelberg, VIC.

    Clunie, P. & Koehn, J. 2001. Freshwater catfish: A resource document. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Heidelberg, VIC.

    Davis, T.L.O. 1977. Reproductive biology of the freshwater catfish, Tandanus tandanus Mitchell, in the Gwydir River, Australia. Gonadal cycle and fecundity.Aust J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 28: 159-169.

    Davis, T.L.O. 1977. Food habits of the freshwater catfish, Tandanus tandanus Mitchell, in the Gwydir River, Australia, and effects associated with impoundment of this river by the Copeton Dam. Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 28: 455-465.

    Ferraris, C.J. 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418: 1–628.

    Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

    Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

    Hammer, M.P. & Walker, K.F. 2004. A catalogue of South Australian freshwater fishes, including new records, range extensions and translocations. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 128(2): 85-97

    Hill E, Ingram B, Rourke M, Mitchell J and Strugnell J (2015) Genetic diversity and population structure of the threatened freshwater catfish, Tandanus tandanus, in Victoria, Australia. Conservation Genetics 16(2): 317-329.

    Hungerford, R. 1981. Freshwater Fishing in Australia. Sydney : Jack Pollard Publishing Pty. Ltd. 108 pp.

    Jerry, D.R. 2005. Electrophoretic evidence for the presence of Tandanus tandanus (Pisces: Plotosidae) immediately north and south of the Hunter River, New South Wales. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 126: 121–124

    Jerry, D.R. 2008. Phylogeography of the freshwater catfish Tandanus tandanus (Plotosidae): a model species to understand evolution of the eastern Australian fish fauna. Marine and Freshwater Research 59: 351–360.

    Jerry, D.R. & Woodland, D.J. 1997. Electrophoretic evidence for the presence of the undescribed 'Bellinger' catfish (Tandanus sp.) (Teleostei: Plotosidae) in four New South Wales mid-northern coastal rivers. Marine and Freshwater Research 48: 235-240.

    Koster, W.M., Dawson, D.R., Clunie, P., Hames, F., McKenzie, J., Moloney, P.D. & Crook, D.A. 2014. Movement and habitat use of the freshwater catfish (Tandanus tandanus) in a remnant floodplain wetland. Ecology of Freshwater Fish (online early) DOI: 10.1111/eff.12159

    Leggett, R. & Merrick, J.R. 1987. Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. Artarmon : J.R. Merrick Publications 241 pp. 142 figs.

    Lintermans, M. 2007. Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin - An Introductory Guide. Canberra : Murray-Darling Basin Commission 157 pp. [MDBC Publication Number 10/07]

    Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs.

    Mitchell, T.L. 1838. Three Expeditions Into the interior of Eastern Australia, with descriptions of recently explored regions of Australia Felix and the present colony of New South Wales. London : Boone Vol. 1 351 pp. figs.

    Musyl, M.K. & Keenan, C.P. 1996. Cryptic speciation and low genetic variability in Australian freshwater eel-tailed catfish Tandanus tandanus Mitchell (1838) (Teleostei: Plotosidae). Copeia 1996(3): 526–534

    Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp.

    Pollard, D.A, Davis, T.L.O. & Llewellyn, L.C. 1996. Family Plotosidae: Eel-tailed catfishes. pp. 109-113 in McDowall, R.M. (ed.). Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Sydney : Reed Books 247 pp.

    Prokop, F. 2002. Australian Fish Guide. Croydon South, Victoria : Australian Fishing Network 256 pp.

    Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Arthington, A.H. 2004. Freshwater Fishes of North-eastern Australia. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 684 pp.

    Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Bird, J. 2000. Fishes of the dune fields of Cape Flattery, northern Queensland and other dune systems in north-eastern Australia. Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwater 11(1): 65-74.

    Rourke, M. & D. Gilligan. 2010. Population genetic structure of freshwater catfish (Tandanus tandanus) in the Murray-Darling Basin and coastal catchments of New South Wales: Implications for future re-stocking programs. Industry & Investment NSW. 73 pp.

    Unmack, P.J. 2001. Biogeography of Australian freshwater fishes. Journal of Biogeography 28: 1053-1089.

    Welsh, S.A., Jerry, D.R. & Burrows, D.W. 2014. A New Species of freshwater eel-tailed catfish of the genus Tandanus (Teleostei: Plotosidae) from the wet tropics region of eastern Australia. Copeia 2014(1): 136-142. http://dx.doi.org/10.1643/CI-13-067.

    Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

    Quick Facts


    CAAB Code:37192006

    Danger:Venomous spines

    Fishing:Recreational fish

    Habitat:Freshwater

    Max Size:90 cm TL

    Native:Endemic

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