Electric Catfish, also known by its scientific name Malapterurus electricus, is a bulky fish with six whisker-like structures around its mouth and a single fin on its back near the round tail fin.
It produces and controls electric shocks up to 450 volts for hunting prey and self-defense.
This fish usually lives among rocks or roots in slow-moving or still water. It’s active at night and feeds mostly on other fish that it stuns using electric shocks.
This electric ability comes from an organ derived from the pectoral muscle that covers most of the fish’s body.
The strength of these electric discharges depends on the size of the fish.
Electric catfish reacts to changes in light, showing increased electrical activity after sunset and decreased activity after sunrise.
When exposed to higher temperatures (15°C to 30°C), their shock duration decreases.
Electric Catfish Interesting Facts
- Electric catfish produces shocks up to 450 volts for hunting and self-defense.
- This fish’s electric ability comes from an organ derived from its pectoral muscle.
- Increased electrical activity occurs after sunset, with decreased activity after sunrise.
- Male electric catfish may care for eggs, and surprisingly, the fry are not harmed by their parents’ shocks.
Electric Catfish Habitat
Electric catfish is found in Africa, specifically in areas like the Nile River (excluding Lake Victoria), Lake Turkana, Lake Chad, Senegal basins, the Niger River system, and smaller rivers flowing southward in West Africa.
However, it’s not found in the Congo basin. This fish lives in freshwater environments and swims near the bottom of rivers and lakes.
They’re known to migrate within the river systems. The ideal water conditions for this species have a pH level between 7.0 to 8.0 and a hardness range of up to 20 dH.
They prefer water temperatures between 73.4°F to 86°F (23°C to 30°C), which are typical of tropical climates found between latitudes 35°N to 30°S.
|Water Temperature:||73.4°F to 86°F (23°C to 30°C)|
|Water pH:||7.0 to 8.0 pH|
Electric Catfish Physical Characteristics
Size: 48 inches (122 centimeters)
Electric catfish grow up to 48 inches (122 centimeters) and weigh up to 20 kg (44 lbs).
In Lake Chad, they have been found measuring up to 44 inches (112 centimeters) in length, but most specimens collected from the Nile River are smaller, reaching around 16 inches (41 centimeters).
Electric catfish can live for around 10 years. Their body shape is spindle-like, with a deep, cylindrical head and a slightly sticking-out lower jaw.
This fish has no dorsal or anal spines, but it has 9 to 11 anal soft rays and 38 to 41 vertebrae.
The pectoral fin is located near the middle depth of the fish’s body. Both adults and young have large spots and blotches on their skin, some even larger than their eyes.
The tail fin typically has many spots in adult fish. The color of this fish varies from tan to light gray on top, with lighter tan below.
There are scattered spots and blotches along its back and flank that may merge or overlap towards the rear end.
Its belly is usually spot-free or may have a few small spots. Fins may also display small spots on larger individuals (over 15 cm/6 inches long).
The tail fin carries dark bars with a pale crescent base in both young and old fish. However, it may be less developed in older ones.
Electric Catfish Reproduction
Adult electric catfish form pairs during the breeding season and lays eggs in dug-out cavities or holes.
Some people say that the male fish even holds them in his mouth.
Surprisingly, the baby fish (fry) don’t get hurt by their parents’ electric shocks.