Boofhead Catfish, Sciades leptaspis (Bleeker 1862)

Other Names: Freshwater Forked Tailed Catfish, Lesser Salmon Catfish, Salmon Catfish, Triangular Shield Catfish

Boofhead Catfish, Sciaedes leptaspis. Source: Freshwater Fish Group & Fish Health Unit, Murdoch University. License: All rights reserved


The Boofhead Catfish was previously referred to as Neoarius leptaspis.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020, Sciades leptaspis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Boofhead Catfish, Sciades leptaspis (Bleeker 1862)

More Info


King River, WA, to Cape York, QLD, including Horn Island, QLD (11°S, 142°E). Found elsewhere in New Guinea.


Dorsal fin I, 7; Anal fin 16-20; Pectoral fin I, 9-11.

Body robust, elongate; anterior profile straight, moderately steep, elevated slightly before dorsal fin; snout rounded to squarish; mouth moderately broad and curved; head not greatly flattened; upper lip moderately fleshy, extending just beyond mouth gape; eyes lateral and rounded; maxillary barbel extending well past head, often beyond base of pectoral fin (22-51% SL); gill rakers on first arch 13-22; palatal teeth villiform, in transverse band of 4 rounded or oval patches, inner patches only slightly smaller than outer; head shield extensive and finely granulated. Scales absent, covered in smooth skin. Pelvic fin shape variable, in males base narrow, fin rays rarely reaching anal fin origin; in females base broad, inner elements become thickened and develop a pad or hook with sexual maturity.


To around 60 cm, commonly to 35 cm SL


Dark grey, blackish, bronze or dark copper with vertical rows of tiny golden spots across back and upper sides, a cream to white belly and a white margin on dorsal, anal and caudal fins.


Omnivore - feeds on fishes, arthropods, plant material and detritus.


Breeds between September to January in coastal lagoons and flooded swamps. Males incubate the eggs in their buccal cavity until hatching and guard the fry for around 4 weeks afterwards. Male usually incubates up to 60 large, yolky eggs. Hatch after 2-4 weeks at temperatures up to 32° and commence feeding soon after. Juveniles from 6 weeks feed readily on live zooplankton and the yolk sac is completely absorbed by 6-8 weeks (60 mm TL).

Species Citation

Hexanematichthys leptaspis Bleeker P. (1862) Atlas Ichthyologique des Indes Orientales Néerlandais, publié sous les auspices du Gouvernement colonial néerlandais. Tome 2. Siluroïdes, Charcoïdes et Hétérobranchoïdes. Amsterdam: Fréd. Müller 112 pp. South-west New Guinea.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020

Boofhead Catfish, Sciades leptaspis (Bleeker 1862)


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.

Allen, G.R., Storey, A.W. & Yarrao, M. 2008. Freshwater Fishes of the Fly River Papua New Guinea. Tabubil, Papua New Guinea : Ok Tedi Mining 216 pp.

Bleeker, P. 1862. Atlas Ichthyologique des Indes Orientales Néerlandaises, publié sous les auspices du Gouvernement colonial néerlandais. Tome 2. Siluroïdes, Charcoïdes et Hétérobranchoïdes. Amsterdam : Fréd. Müller 112 pp. pls 49-101.

Burgess, W.E. 1989. An Atlas of Freshwater and Marine Catfishes — a preliminary survey of the Siluriformes. Neptune City, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 783 pp.

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

Hitchcock, G., Finn, M.A., Burrows, D.W., & Johnson, J.W. 2012. Fishes from fresh and brackish waters of islands in Torres Strait, far north Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 56(1): 14-24.

Kailola, P.J. 1999. Family Ariidae. pp. 1827-1879 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.

Kailola, P.J. 2004. A phylogenetic exploration of the catfish family Ariidae (Otophysi: Siluriformes). The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 20: 87-166

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. 1990. Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1. Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs.

Marceniuk, A.P. & Menezes, N.A. 2007. Systematics of the family Ariidae (Ostariophysi, Siluriformes), with a redefinition of the genera. Zootaxa 1416: 1-126.

McDowall, R.M. (ed.) 1980. Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Sydney : A.H. & A.W. Reed 208 pp., figs, 32 pls.

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

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 Freshwaters 11(1): 65-74.

Taylor, W.R. 1964. Fishes of Arnhem Land. Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land 4: 44-307 figs 1-68

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37188006

Biology:mooth brooder

Habitat:freshwater to brackish estuaries

Max Size:60 cm

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map