Sisor rhabdophorus

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World famous catfish expert Heok Hee Ng looks at Sisor rhabdophorus, a sisorid that's recently appeared in the UK aquarium trade.

Common name: Indian whiptail catfish

Scientific name: Sisor rabdophorus Hamilton, 1822

Origin: Indian subcontinent: Ganges River drainage in India and Nepal.

Size: Up to 18 cm/7"

Diet: Shows a marked propensity for live or frozen food. It may be possible to wean this fish off such foods, but as far as I know, this has not been done with any success.

Water: pH 6.5-7.5, GH 4-10, temperature 14-22C/57-72F. These figures are recommendations only, and it may be possible to maintain this species outside of the values given here. As a general rule of thumb, close to neutral water is ideal.

Aquarium: A fine sandy substrate is very much preferred, since these fish will spend a considerable amount of time burrowing into the substrate. Sisor typically inhabit large rivers with fine sandy bottoms and fairly swift current. This species is sensitive to temperature and oxygen levels, so the water should be on the cool side and well-oxygenated, preferably with a moderate to strong current. Additional tank decor can be in the form of large driftwood and/or rocks. A peaceful species that should thrive in a hillstream-type biotope tank.

Identification: There are several species of Sisor that superficially resemble S. raabdophorus very much. Sisor chennuah, S. rheophilus, and S. torosus can be distinguished from S. rabdophorus by subtle differences in the shape of the nuchal plates (the bony shield in front of the dorsal fin), and by the number of lateral line ossicles (tiny bones embedded along the lateral line) in some cases. As far as is known, S. rabdophorus is the only member of the genus that is exported with any regularity.

Availability: This fish was on sale at Wildwoods in Middlesex in January 2006.