Dwarf goonch catfish, Bagarius bagarius

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The Dwarf goonch catfish, Bagarius bagarius, is an unusual sisorid catfish that's best suited to specialist fishkeepers, says Matt Clarke.

Scientific name: Bagarius bagarius

Size: There's a little dispute over the eventual size of this fish. According to fish taxonomist Dr Maurice Kottelat, reports that this species can reach 2m/6'6" are incorrect. An adult size of 40cm/16" is more likely.

Origin: Bagarius bagarius is found in various parts of Asia including the Ganges in India, and the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins in Thailand.

Habitat: Predominantly large rivers, but also recorded from Chilka Lake.

Water: Occurs in both freshwater and brackish water with a pH of 6.5-7.8, 12-18GH, 12-17.5C/54-64F. The temperature shouldn't be too high and the water should have plenty of dissolved oxygen. This fish was being kept at room temperature in an unheated aquarium.

Aquarium: It needs a big tank, ideally 150 x 60 x 60cm/5' x 2' x 2' or bigger. Furnish with smooth, water-worn boulders, and use hefty filtration and extra circulation pumps to maintain high oxygen levels.

Diet: As the big mouth suggests, this is a predator. Wild specimens feed on insects, fish, shrimps and even frogs. Captive specimens can be weaned onto frozen foods such as lancefish and whole shrimp. Do not keep with smaller fishes.

Availability: If you're lucky, your dealer might be able to order one for you, but I wouldn't hold your breath. We found this one at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Harlestone Heath, which imported it from India.

Notes: Sometimes known as the Dwarf goonch, this is one of a handful of Bagarius species, including: B. sutchus, B. rutilus and B. yarrelli. The other three are even rarer in the hobby.

B. rutilus was described by Heok Hee Ng and Maurice Kottelat in 2000 from Laos, Vietnam and China and reaches around 1m in length. Some fishkeeping writers claim that yarelli is not a valid species, and has been considered a synonym of Bagarius in the past. However, Kottelat regards the species as valid. It is listed as valid in FishBase, ITIS and Eschmeyer.

Rarity rating: This is one of the most common sisorid catfishes, but it's still hardly ever seen for sale. It is quite a specialist fish, though, with some specific requirements.

Price: A bargain at only £17.50!

This article was first published in the Christmas 2003 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.