Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus (Thunberg 1791)

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

A Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus, at Talikud Island, Samal, Philippines, November 2013. Source: Blogie Robillo / / License: CC BY Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives


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.

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

Video of Striped Catfish at Ambon, Indonesia.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Plotosus lineatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Apr 2020,

Striped Catfish, Plotosus lineatus (Thunberg 1791)

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Found in tropical and subtropical waters of Australia from the Perth region, Western Australia, around the tropical north to Sydney, New South Wales; also at Lord Howe Island, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Norfolk Island, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, Rowley Shoals in Western Australia, and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Elsewhere widespread throughout the tropical Indo-West Pacific. The Striped Catfish was recently recorded from the Mediterranean Sea.

Striped Catfish inhabit coral and rocky reefs, estuaries, tied pools and areas along the coast in depths of 0-76 m. This is the only species of catfish to occur on coral reefs.


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.


Carnivore - feeds mostly on benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs, polychaete worms - and the occasional fish. Individuals search for food in sandy bottoms.


The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Although females lay demersal eggs, the larvae are planktonic.

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.


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.


Dianne J. Bray

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. & 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.

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.

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

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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.

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.

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

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

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37192002

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:0-76 m

Habitat:Marine, estuarine

Max Size:35 cm TL

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