Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus (Thunberg 1791)

Other Names: Catfish Eel, Eel-tailed Catfish, Lined Catfish, Striped Catfish Eel, Striped Eel Catfish

Juvenile Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus, on South Cottesloe Reef, Perth, Western Australia, April 2020. Source: jmartincrossley / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial


A distinctive striped catfish with an eel-like body and mouth surrounded by 4 pairs of barbels. The stripes become less distinct in adults. Brightly-striped juveniles often form dense schools of hundreds of individuals that appear to move as one. Juveniles form dense schools. 

The serrated dorsal and pectoral-fin spines are highly venomous and can inflict a very painful wound.

Video of Striped Catfish at Ambon, Indonesia.

Juvenile Bluespotted Trevally have been seen schooling with juvenile Striped Catfish in Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi,  Indonesia (Smith-Vaniz et al. 2018) - video can be accessed at

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Plotosus lineatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus (Thunberg 1791)

More Info


Widespread in Australia from Rockingham, SW Western Australia, around the tropical north to Bendalong, south of Jervis Bay, New South Wales, including offshore reefs of Western Australia, and reefs in the Coral Sea; also at Lord Howe Island, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Norfolk Island, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea. Elsewhere the species is widespread throughout the tropical Indo-West Pacific. Striped Catfish have also been recorded from the Mediterranean Sea.

Striped Catfish inhabit coral and rocky reefs, estuaries, tide pools and coastal areas in depths to 76 m. Tight schools of juveniles are often seen feeding over sandy areas, while adults often shelter beneath ledges during the day.


Dorsal fin I, 85-105; Anal fin 70-81.


To 32 cm TL


Head and body dark brown to greyish-brown with two pale stripes along the sides.The stripes become less distinct in large adults.


Feeds mostly on benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs, polychaete worms - and the occasional fish. Individuals move over sandy areas probing the sediment in search of prey.


The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Although females lay demersal eggs, the larvae are planktonic. Males construct a nest under rocks and large pieces of debris, and guard the eggs until the larvae hatch.

While adults are usually solitary or form small groups, juveniles are usually seen in dense ball-shaped schools, sometimes containing hundreds of individuals.


Fished many parts of its range. Taken as bycatch in Australia and caught by recreational anglers.


Striped Catfish must be handled with extreme caution. The sharp serrated fin spines are highly venomous and rare fatalities have occurred. People may also develop secondary infections if the spine tips break off in a wound.

Similar Species

The similar Eel Catfish, Plotosus canius, has long nasal barbels that extend beyond the eyes.


Plotosus is from the Greek plotos meaning "swimming". The species is named lineatus in reference to the stripes along the body.

Species Citation

Silurus lineatus Thunberg 1787, Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, Stockholm 2 8: 31, footnote 13. Type locality: Eastern Indian Ocean.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus (Thunberg 1791)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

Bloch, M.E. 1794. Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische. Berlin : J. Morino Vol. 8 174 pp. 361-396. (described as Platystacus anguillaris)

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp.

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 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 1397-2068 pp.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2 

Golani, D. 2002. The Indo-Pacific eel catfish, Plotosus lineatus (Thunberg, 1787), a new record from the Mediterranean. Scientia Marina 66: 321-323.

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). Special Publication of the J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology Rhodes University 22: 1-16 figs 1-2 pls 1-2

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

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth: Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Larson, H.K. & Williams, R.S. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. pp. 339-380 in Hanley, H.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds). The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp.

Oliveria, C., Diogo, R., Vandewalle, P. & Chardon, M. 2001. Osteology and myology of the cephalic region and pectoral girdle of Plotosus lineatus, with comments on Plotosidae (Teleostei: Siluriformes) autapomorphies. Journal of Fish Biology 59(2): 243-266

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Smith-Vaniz, W.F., DeLoach, A. & DeLoach, N. 2018. Juveniles of the Bluespotted Trevally, Caranx bucculentus (Teleostei: Carangidae), schooling with venomous catfishes (Plotosidae): a new case of mimicry. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation 30: 82–84.

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

Thunberg, C.P. 1787. Beskrifning pa Trenne Skóld-paddor. Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps-Academiens Nya Handlingar, Stockholm 2 8: 178-180

Thunberg, C.P. 1791. Tvänne utländska fiskar. Kongliga Vetenskaps-Academiens Handlingar, Stockholm 12 (for 1791): 190-192, Pl. 6.

Whitley, G.P. 1941. The catfish and its kittens. Australian Museum Magazine 7(9): 306-312 9 figs (as Plotosus flavolineatus)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37192002

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:0-76 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:35 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map