by Erik Schiller, Neumarkt i. d. Oberpfalz
The Catfishes (Siluriformes) are an order of bony fishes that is one of the most diverse orders in the world, with over 2,800 species. The catfishes include 35 families, 446 genera and over 2800 species. Furthermore, there are about 200 as yet undescribed species. The catfishes thus make up more than ten per cent of the bony fish species.
Almost all catfish species live in freshwater, only a few species from the families of the crucian catfish (Ariidae) and the eel and coral catfish (Plotosidae) also live in brackish water or in tropical seas. Their range extends to South, Central, North America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. The only species native to Central Europe is the river catfish (Silurus glanis), also called catfish, which belongs to the true catfish family and can grow up to three metres long. Most species live bottom-oriented.
The mostly crepuscular and nocturnal fish, however, use almost all habitats and a wide range of food. Many species engage in brood care, and some of them have highly interesting strategies for leaving as many or as vigorous offspring as possible to posterity.
The majority of catfish kept in our aquariums belong to the families of the Callichthyidae (armoured catfish) and the Loricariidae (loricariid catfish). Only a small part is devoted to catfish families from Africa or Asia. But especially here there is still a lot of aquaristic news. The new descriptions of Asian catfishes also show an increasing tendency.
The proportion of catfish in the IG BSSW e.V. is very large, and the variety of animals kept is also remarkable. This is also reflected in the stock list of the Catfish Division. Every second year such a list is called for. Here not only the species that are kept are listed, but also the species of which offspring exist. Some figures from 2006 should give a short overview. In 2006, 13 families and 11 subfamilies with 102 genera and a proud 423 species of catfish were registered in the IG BSSW e.V. stock list. In about 135 different species juveniles/offspring were listed!
Catfish are by no means residual eaters or “waste eaters”. They are highly specialised fish that have a very broad food spectrum within the species. Catfish, regardless of species, are interesting and lovable creatures that should not be missing in any aquarium.