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Neosilurus gloveri (Family Plotosidae)

Dalhousie Catfish



The Desert Catfish is found in Dalhousie Springs on the edge of the Simpson Desert in northern South Australia (SA).


The Desert Catfish is a small sized, elongated fish that grows to 120 mm. They are usually brown in colour. They have a concave head with a more rounded caudal fin. Compared to related species they have a small dorsal 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:

The Desert Catfish inhabits around 14 springs. These are typically larger springs with large warm pools and outflows. Desert Catfish can usually be found actively foraging at night along the bottom. Little is known of their ecology. Desert Catfish eat algae, small invertebrates such as snails and insects, and fishes. It is not known whether breeding occurs seasonally or year round. Females are mature by 44 mm but it is not known when males mature. Based on aquarium observations they scatter non-adhesive eggs across the substrate. At least 600 eggs may be released. Offspring probably mature within 6 months. Desert Catfish can be found in the wild in temperatures up to 40°C. Temperatures above this are actively avoided.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species is not commonly kept in aquariums mostly due to the difficulty in obtaining them. They make excellent pets though and can be bred in captivity. Their habitat was incorporated into Witjira National Park in 1985. Previously it was part of Mount Dare cattle station. They are formally listed as restricted due to their limited range. The main long-term threat is lowering of groundwater pressure. Additional threats could come from the introduction of exotic fishes into the springs such as Gambusia holbrooki (Damnbusia), which may prey upon and compete with Desert Catfish. Nearby flowing bores have been capped which should help to prevent groundwater pressure lowering.

Other Comments:

Neosilurus gloveri was named by Allen and Feinberg in 1998. The genus name is based on Greek, neo meaning new or recent and silurus meaning catfish. The species is named gloveri after John Glover, former curator of fishes at the South Australian Museum.

Further Reading:

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. (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. pp. 90.

Zeidler, W. & Ponder, W. F. (1989). Natural History of Dalhousie Springs. South Australian Museum, Adelaide. pp 125.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Ross Felix.

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Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 59595 bytes Distribution of Neosilurus gloveri

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