African Sharptooth Catfish

African Sharptooth Catfish
African Sharptooth Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) – Mlondozi Ford, S129 Road North of Lower Sabie, Kruger NP, SOUTH AFRICA

Worth knowing about the African Sharptooth Catfish

The African Sharptooth Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) belongs to the class of the catfish (Actinopterygii), of the order Siluriformes, the family Claridae (the airbreathing catfish or lungfish), and the genus Clarias. These animals are airbreathing catfish. They are also called “gill bag catfish” or “African catfish”. In German this fish is called “Afrikanischer Waller” and in French, it is called “silure africain”.

(Article about “The African sharptooth catfish:  a robust survivalist and crafty invader” on

In 1822 this fish was named “Clarias gariepinus” by the author Burchell.


Clarias capensis, Clarias depressus, Clarias guentheri, Clarias lazera, Clarias longiceps, Clarias macracanthus, Clarias malaris, Clarias microphthalmus, Clarias micropthalmus, Clarias moorii, Clarias mossambicus, Clarias muelleri, Clarias notozygurus, Clarias orontis, Clarias robecchii, Clarias smithii, Clarias syriacus, Clarias tsanensis, Clarias vinciguerrae, Clarias xenodon, Clarius gariepinus, Heterobranchus anguillaris, acropteronotus anguillaris, Macropteronotus charmuth, Silurus anguillaris, Silurus gariepinus

Specific feature

  • This catfish was introduced to aquaculture in the 1980s. Breeding experiments were also conducted to see whether this fish would be suitable for consumption.
  • This fish should never be kept in an aquarium because anything smaller than itself will be irrevocably eaten by it. Since the animal has a largemouth, a lot fits in there!
  • With their large slender body and a dark gray to black back color, they look a bit like the eel. The color becomes increasingly pale to white towards the belly.
  • It has a flattened head (notably flatter than in the genus Silirus) with 8 jaw wires (4 pairs of barbels).
  • The African Sharptooth Catfish has extra respiratory organs that allow them to survive in low-oxygen, dry conditions. The breathing organs are composed of modified gill arches. However, this fish cannot live in cold water temperature and would certainly die during the winter.
  • They grow to between 90 centimeters and 1.7 meters. The average length of an adult animal is 1-1.5 m. Unlike many other fish species, the males here grow larger than the females.
  • The fish can become quite heavy with a maximum of 60 kg.
  • In the wild, this fish can live up to 8 years (and sometimes older).
  • The animal can produce a sound very similar to the crow’s voice.

 Pictures of African Sharptooth Catfish

Congregating here in huge numbers in the algae-rich shallows of the lake
Afrikanische Raubwels
Afrikanische Raubwels (Clarias gariepinus, Engl. African Sharptooth Catfish) – Chobe Nationalpark, Botswana (Nov. 2015)
Renuka Lake
Renuka Lake, Sirmaur District, Himachal Pradesh, India
Sudafrica, zona del Kruger
Sudafrica, zona del Kruger. South Africa, Kruger district
Lake Panic Hide
Lake Panic Hide, S42 Road, Kruger NP, Mpumalanga, SOUTH AFRICA
Location: Hula
Location: Hula
The location: Hula
The location: Hula
Another one in Hula
Another one in Hula
Also an African Sharptooth Catfish
Also an African Sharptooth Catfish

Where can you find the African Sharptooth Catfish?

As the name suggests, this fish is found in Africa, more precisely in the rivers The Nile and The Niger, but they also spread further into Southern Africa. The catfish was also released in Europe and the Middle East and is certainly not doing badly there (in some cases way too well …). The countries where they do very well include Brazil, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

They are freshwater fish that like to live in rivers, lakes, and swamps. The fish can also easily live in wetlands created artificially by humans, such as an oxidation pond (also called a lagoon or stabilization pond). They are also sometimes found in trout ponds.

Overgrown Oxidation Pond
Overgrown Oxidation Pond – Kariba, Zimbabwe

When a pool dries up, the African Sharptooth Catfish can even move by crawling on the ground to another destination. (the eel does this too). This happens during a good rain shower.

It may seem strange, but these fish mainly thrive in areas that are subject to seasonal droughts, which is why Africa is of course the main habitat.

Their nutrition

The African Sharptooth Catfish is an animal that is active at night, like most catfish. They mainly hunt live animals, but they will also like to eat waste from dead animals. While growing up, they naturally also eat finer plankton species, worms, insect larvae, and amphibians.

Its large mouth allows it to swallow even fairly large prey completely. There are even known cases where a waterbird such as a ‘Common Moorhen’ was eaten.

Common Moorhen
Common Moorhen

How do these animals mate?

As soon as the dry season is over and the water starts to rise again, the African Sharptooth Catfish will start spawning. And this is mainly because of the rivers and lakes that reach their original water level and sometimes even go far beyond their banks. The animals react automatically and immediately to this rise in the water level.

Mating itself occurs in these flooded areas with aggressive males fighting to be chosen. Once fertilized, the female spreads the eggs by swinging her tail vigorously. This way the eggs are distributed over a large area. The parents don’t really take care of the newborn, but they do take them to a suitable place to survive. As soon as the young larvae hatch, they will have to survive completely independently and immediately start looking for food.

Spawning is in line with the method used by the European pike. In the wet season, these fish may spawn several times over a longer period of time.

The animals spawn at a water depth of 20 to 50 cm whereby the eggs are deposited between and on the grass blades. Depending on the bodyweight of the female, we are talking about the number of eggs between 5000 and 20000.

Do people eat the African Sharptooth Catfish?

This fish species is indeed farmed for consumption. However, one will never find their own name in a fish shop as they are sold under the name “Tilapia”. That sounds better and therefore it is also sold a lot. The fish has a wonderful taste. They are also really to be sneezed at when smoked (like the smoked eel), but with much less fat. Straight from the smoker, they are a true delicacy.

To fish for the African Sharptooth Catfish, various types of bait are used such as chicken pieces (chicken heart), worms, shrimps, Morio worms, and catfish pellets. However, there are countless other species that can be used because this fish is a glutton and certainly not picky.

Unlike many other fish, this catfish also remains active during warmer temperatures and can therefore easily be caught. It is not even necessary to fish from a great distance because the animal likes to stay close to the bank.

Catching the smaller animals is fairly easy and can be done within a minute. The bigger ones, however, can sometimes fight for fifteen minutes before you can overtake them.

To let the catfish die a painless death, the captured animals can be placed in a cool box with frozen parts on top. As soon as the temperature drops below 15 ° C, the fish goes into a coma and thus dies humanely without using knives or clubs.

The enemies of this catfish

The African Sharptooth Catfish has few natural enemies. Well-known predators that do hunt them are crocodiles, birds, leopards, fish eagles, marabou storks, and of course humans …

Endangered species?

The catfish is not yet on the list of endangered fish species.


Hopefully, you found this an interesting article. If you still have questions, comments, or additional information, you can always let me know. Thanks in advance!

(News Article: fishing-news-09-12-2022 – Giant Catfish Catches Rule Mississippi River Tournament Near St. Louis

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