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Neosiluroides cooperensis (Family Plotosidae)

Cooper Creek Catfish


The Cooper Creek Catfish has a limited geographical distribution; it is restricted to the Cooper Creek drainage within the Lake Eyre Basin (SA, QLD).


The Cooper Creek Catfish is a large elongated fish that grows to 600 mm. Colouration varies depending upon water clarify and mood of the fish. They may be light brown or tan to bluish black with darker and lighter mottling along their side. They have a blunt head relative to other Australian catfishes with a distinctively underslung mouth and small eyes. Catfishes can be distinguished from most other fishes by their barbels. Most catfishes also possess an adipose fin, although this family does not.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Cooper Creek Catfish are usually found in large, more permanent waterholes. They are known to eat snails, and probably also prey upon other invertebrates, shrimps and fishes. Nothing is known of their breeding biology. Cooper Creek Catfish smaller than about 150 mm have never been found in the wild. They have the lowest fecundity by body weight of any fish in central Australia. A female 450 mm was estimated to have 1000 eggs that were 3 to 4 mm in diameter.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species is commonly angled and is good eating. They are rarely kept in aquaria, however they make great pets if you have a large enough aquarium! Cooper Creek Catfish are very aggressive though and need to be kept on their own. They are not formally listed as threatened, although they do have a limited range. They could easily become threatened if additional exotic fishes became established in Cooper Creek.

Other Comments:

Neosiluroides cooperensis was named by Allen and Feinberg in 1998. The name is based on Greek, neo meaning new or recent; silurus meaning catfish, oides meaning resembles and cooperensis after the name of the creek where the species is found.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R. & Feinberg, M. N. (1998). Descriptions of a new genus and four new species of freshwater catfishes (Plotosidae) from Australia. Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology. 3: 9–18.

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

Unmack, P. J. 1996. The unique Cooper Creek catfish from central Australia. Fishes of Sahul. 10: 460–464.

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: Ross Felix.

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