Wild Fact #67 – From Water To Air – Sharptooth Catfish

Sharptooth Catfish


Cool Facts About The Sharptooth Catfish

  • A  large, eel-like fish found throughout Africa, the Sharptooth Catfish has dark brown to black colouring and an average adult length of 1 to 1.5 m (3.2 to 4.9 ft) with a weight of around 29 kg (63.9 lbs) although larger Sharptooth Catfish have been caught
  • The North African Catfish is the second largest fish species in Africa surpassed only in weight by the Vundu.
  • Like the Lungfish, Sharptooth Catfish can not only breathe oxygen but they also have an accessory breathing organ above their gills, which allows them to breathe the oxygen directly from the air.
  • Greatly distributed throughout southern Africa, the North African Catfish is not at risk, but due to its large size, it is routinely targeted by recreational anglers.   Furthermore, the African Catfish is utilized in aquaculture programs throughout Central and Western Africa.

A Shallow Adaptation

Because of it developed an accessory organ that allows them to breathe oxygen from the air, the Sharptooth Catfish can slither short distances over land provided the ground is slightly damp.  Even grass wet with morning dew has enough moisture for them to wiggle and squirm their way to a new watering hole.   This adaptation is a result of living in shallow bodies of water that dry up during certain times of the year.  Even with a small amount of poorly oxygenated water, these Catfish are capable of surviving thanks to their unique breathing apparatus. Who says a fish needs live in the water in order to survive…I mean I guess it helps but apparently it isn’t necessary. Sharptooth Catfish

Swimming In The Rain

The Sharptooth Catfish begins breeding in the shallow, vegetated areas after the heavy summer rains.   The female attaches her eggs to plants or other debris in the water, and within two days, the eggs are already hatching.  Spawning is normally completed during the night after aggressive courting by the male Catfish.  Site selection is pivotal for the survival of the young since neither parent offers any protection and opt instead to deposit the eggs in the shallow waters and swim away quickly.


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