Highfin Catfish, Neoarius berneyi (Whitley 1941)

Other Names: Berney's Catfish, Fork-tail Catfish, High-fin Catfish, Lesser Salmon Catfish

Illustration of a Highfin Catfish, Neoarius berneyi. Source: Gilbert H. Whitley. License: Copyright expired


Identifying features:
Body stout with a bony head shield, snout rounded and slightly pointed, eye relatively large;
Mouth with 3 pairs of long barbels;
Dorsal and pectoral fins with robust venomous spines, dorsal fin tall, about equal to head length;
Silvery-bronze to dark grey, paler below.

The fin spines are venomous and may inflict a very painful wound.

Cite this page as:
Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray, Neoarius berneyi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 05 Jul 2020,

Highfin Catfish, Neoarius berneyi (Whitley 1941)

More Info


Found in northern Australia from the Reynolds River, Northern Territory, to the ARcher River, Cape York, Queensland. Found elsewhere in New Guinea. usually inhabits freshwater rivers and stream, preferring slow-moving, turbid waters; also occasionally found amongst mangroves in brackish estuarine habitats.


Meristic features:
Dorsal-fin spines/rays: I, 7
Anal-fin rays: 16-19
Pectoral-fin spines/rays: I, 9-11
Gill rakers: 15-20

Body stout, head ovate, snout rounded and slightly pointed, especially noticeable in juveniles; a crescent-shaped groove often present on snout between posterior nostrils; head 3.2-3.8 in SL; eye rounded, large (mean 4.3 in HL); 3 pairs of barbels around the mouth; barbels long and slender reaching back past the dorsal fin (2.1-3.1 in SL); gill rakers developed on the back of all gill arches; palatal teeth villiform, in transverse band of 3-4 patches, smaller inner patches at an oblique angle with outer patches, all patches joined on mid-line in larger fish. Scales absent, covered in smooth skin. Dorsal fin tall, fin height equal to head length.


To around 45 cm TL


Silvery-bronze to dark grey overall and paler below.


Omnivorous, feeds on prawns, insects, fish, worms, plant material and detritus.


Spawns during the late dry season from September to October, sometimes extending into February, during the middle of the wet season. Males incubate the developing eggs in their mouths. Eggs large, 1.1-1.4 cm diameter.

Similar Species

Most similar to Ariopsis graeffei but with a taller dorsal fin, slightly larger eye and difference in the shape of tooth patches on the roof of the mouth. The outer patches are larger than the inner in A. graeffei, but are about the same size in A. berneyi.

Species Citation

Tachysurus (Pararius) berneyi Whitley, 1941, Aust. Zool. 10(1): 9, fig. 8(5). type locality: Flinders River, near Hughenden and Richmond, QLD


Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray

Highfin Catfish, Neoarius berneyi (Whitley 1941)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37188012

Biology:Mouth brooder

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Venomous spines

Habitat:Freshwater, occasionally estuaries

Max Size:45 cm SL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map