Common name: Eeltail catfishes


Medium-sized scaleless catfishes with a long tapering body; mouth surrounded by 4 pairs of barbels; soft dorsal, caudal and anal fins continuous; dorsal and pectoral-fin spines venomous. 
Eeltail catfishes are found throughout the Indian Ocean and western tropical Pacific, in freshwater, estuarine and coastal marine habitats. Little is known about the natural history of Australian species.

Cite this page as:
Eeltail catfishes, PLOTOSIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 27 May 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

Family Distribution

Eel-tailed catfishes are distributed throughout the Indian Ocean and western tropical Pacific in freshwater, estuarine and coastal marine habitats.

Family Description

The freshwater species are distinctive in lacking a dendritic organ protruding from the anus that is characteristic of marine species.

Family Size

Species in Australia range in maximum size from 15 cm to 1.4 m.

Family Feeding

Some species prey on aquatic invertebrates.


Allen, G.R. (1998). A review of the marine catfish genus Paraplotosus (Plotosidae) with the description of a new species from north-western Australia. Raffles Bull. Zool. 46(1): 123–134 figs 1–4

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia.  Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Ferraris, C. (1999). Family Plotosidae.  pp. 1880–1883 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes.  Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397–2068

Gomon, J.R. & Taylor, W.R. (1982). Plotosus nkunga, a new species of catfish from South Africa, with a redescription of Plotosus limbatus Valenciennes and key to the species of Plotosus (Siluriformes : Plotosidae). Spec. Publ. Smith Inst. Ichthyol. Rhodes Univ. 22: 1–16 figs 1–2 pls 1–2

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

Nelson, J.S. (1994). Fishes of the World.  New York : John Wiley & Sons 3rd Edn  600 pp.

Tilak, R. (1970). Siluroid fishes of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. Family Plotosidae. Ann. Zool. 27: 261–273 figs