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Neosilurus hyrtlii (Family Plotosidae)

Hyrtl's Catfish


Hyrtl's Catfish are the third most widespread freshwater fish in Australia. They occur from around Brisbane north and west to the Pilbara region as well as in the Lake Eyre Basin, Barkley Tablelands and northern parts of the Murray-Darling Basin. (SA, NSW, QLD, NT, WA).


Hyrtl's Catfish is a medium sized, elongated fish that grows to 350 mm, but it is rarely over 200 mm. They are variable in colour and may be silvery with a yellow tinge on their fins, brown with lighter speckling along their sides, or relatively dark all over. They have a concave head with a more rounded caudal fin. Catfishes can be distinguished from most other fishes by their barbels. Most catfishes also posses an adipose fin, although this family does not.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Hyrtl's Catfish are found in most waterbody types including large, permanent desert waterholes, smaller ephemeral creeks, large tropical rivers and rainforest streams. They are moderately migratory, particularly during floods. They feed on invertebrates including insects, snails and shrimps. Spawning occurs in the wet season during flooding when temperatures are over 26°C. They scatter between 1600 and 15,300 eggs, which settle on the bottom. Eggs are 2 to 3 mm in diameter. Hatching occurs in 2 to 3 days and they probably reach maturity in 1 or 2 years.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Larger specimens may be angled and are probably good eating. They are kept in aquaria, and they make good pets, as they are quite peaceful and typically do not get too large. They are not formally listed as threatened due to their widespread occurrence.

Other Comments:

Neosilurus hyrtlii was named by Steindachner in 1867. The genus is based on Greek, neo meaning new or recent and silurus meaning catfish. The species is named hyrtlii after Joseph Hyrtl, a Hungarian physician, educator and author.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J. R. (1987). Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. J. R. Merrick Publications. Sydney. 245pp.

Orr, T. M. & Milward, N. E. (1984). Reproduction and development of Neosilurus ater (Perugia) and Neosilurus hyrtlii Steindachner (Teleostei: Plotosidae) in a tropical Queensland stream. Australian Journal of Freshwater and Marine Research. 35: 187–195.

Unmack, P. J. (2003). Australian Desert Fishes.

Wager, R. & Unmack, P. J. (2000). Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of Central Australia. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. 90pp.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Neil Armstrong.

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