Silver Cobbler, Neoarius midgleyi (Kailola & Pierce 1988)

Other Names: Lake Argyle Catfish, Lake Argyle Silver Cobbler, Midgley's Catfish, Midleys Catfish, Ord River Catfish, Shovelhead Catfish, Shovel-nosed Catfish

A Silver Cobbler, Neoarius midgleyi. Source: Glynn Ayland. License: All rights reserved

A large robust catfish with a broad-squarish snout when viewed from above, and a broad mouth. The species is often dubbed 'squarenose' or 'shovelnose' or 'shovelhead' by anglers.
The Silver Cobbler must be handled carefully, as the dorsal and pectoral-fin spines are venomous and can inflict a very painful wound.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017, Neoarius midgleyi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Silver Cobbler, Neoarius midgleyi (Kailola & Pierce 1988)

More Info


Endemic to northern Australia from the Carson and Ord Rivers, Kimberley, Western Australia, to the Alligator River, Northern Territory. 

Inhabits clear to very turbid freshwaters in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, billabongs, deep pools and even drying-out waterholes. Usually found in water 23-35°C with a pH between 7.0-8.7.


Dorsal fin I, 7; Anal fin 16-19; Pectoral fin I, 9-11; Caudal fin 7+8.

Body robust, compressed, tapering posteriorly; head profile rectangular and narrow; jaw symphyses inclined slightly upwards; mouth subterminal, broad; lips rubbery, thin at front of jaws and thick at corners; snout truncate in profile; head oblong; predorsal profile straight; nostrils ovate, placed well forward; eye rounded to almost oblong, dorsolateral; head shield granular, usually concealed by skin and mucus; gill openings broad; gill rakers on first arch 15-17; gill rakers on last arch 16-19; free vertebrae 47-50; palatal teeth villiform, in transverse band of 4 oval patches (sometimes fused), inner patches slightly smaller than outer; barbels thin and short, rarely reaching beyond pectoral fin base and less than 25% SL; maxillary barbels short, 4.1-6.0 SL. Scales are absent, covered in smooth skin. Fin spines sharp, thick, compressed; dorsal fin high; pectoral fin reaching to below posterior dorsal rays; adipose fin oblong and high, opposite middle of anal fin; anal fin moderately elevated anteriorly, with concave outer margin; caudal fin forked, lobes long, broad basally, slender distally; ventral fin moderately broad in females with thick pads on 5th and 6th inner rays; ventral fin in males and juveniles narrow.


Maximum size 140 cm, usually to 50 cm SL


Varies from reddish brown to dark bluish brown above and whitish below; occasionally piebald or albino forms occur.


Predominantly predatory but becoming a facultative omnivore during the dry season; feed on fish (often bony bream); aquatic and terrestrial insects and their larvae; beetles and crustaceans.


Breeds only in freshwater from November to March; eggs are incubated in the mouth of the male for 5-6 weeks, brooding males form groups in deeper water. Eggs large. Juveniles grow quickly attaining 20-30 cm TL in their first year.


Fished commercially in Lake Argyle, a large man-made freshwater lake in the north-east Kimberley region of Western Australia. Silver cobbler are specifically targeted in the Lake Argyle Freshwater Catfish Fishery and are caught in gill nets. This is the only commercial freshwater fishery in Western Australia, and the catch is mostly marketed in Western Australia and interstate. The fishery is closed for two months during the wet season breeding period of November and December.


Named midgleyi for Hamar and Mary Midgley who first informed the authors of the existence of this species, and for their enthusiastic and dedicated study of the fresh waters of northern Australia.

Species Citation

Arius midgleyi Kailola & Pierce 1988, Rec. West. Aust. Mus. 14(1): 75, Figs. 1-2, 5-6. Type locality: Wickham Gorge, Victoria River, NT.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Silver Cobbler, Neoarius midgleyi (Kailola & Pierce 1988)


Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls. (as Arius sp 1)

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

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

Kailola, P.J. 2000. Six new species of fork-tailed catfishes (Pisces, Teleostei, Ariidae) from Australia and New Guinea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 16: 127-144 (as Arius midgleyi)

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 (as Ariopsis midgleyi)

Kailola, P.J. & Pierce, B.E. 1988. A new freshwater catfish (Pisces: Ariidae) from northern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 14(1): 73-89 figs 1-8 PDF available

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

Morgan, D.L. 2010. Fishes of the King Edward River in the Kimberley region, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 25: 351–368

Morgan, D.L., Allen, G.R., Pusey, B.J. & Burrows, D.W. 2011. A review of the freshwater fishes of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Zootaxa 2816. 1-64

Unmack, P.J. 2001. Biogeography of Australian freshwater fishes. Journal of Biogeography 28: 1053-1089 (as Arius midgleyi)

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

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37188010

Biology:Mouth brooder

Danger:Venomous spines

Fishing:Commercial & recreational fish


Max Size:50 cm SL


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CAAB distribution map