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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 16:36 EDT

Stinging catfish or Fossil catfish, Heteropneustes fossilis

The Stinging catfish or Fossil catfish, (Heteropneustes fossilis), is a species of Airsac catfishes, from the Heteropneustidae family. It inhabits freshwater ponds and rivers in and around Bangladesh, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but has also been seen in brackish (salty) marshes. Because of its wide range, the inhabitants of each region know the Stinging catfish by many names depending on the local language.

The Stinging catfish often grows to about 12 inches in length and its color ranges from a reddish or purplish brown, but often looks black when it matures. Like a cat, it has whisker-like antennae protruding from its snout, and, as its name implies, it can carry a painful sting with its venomous spines attached to the pectoral fins located just behind its gill chambers.

The Heteropneustes fossilis gets its name from its use of air sacs that run lengthwise on each side behind the gill chambers. This unique feature gives the catfish the ability to live in low oxygenated ponds, ditches, swaps and marshes and even allows it the ability to leave the water for a short time to find another more favorable body of water.

The Stinging catfish reaches maturity in twelve months and breeds mainly during the monsoon months where there is plenty of accumulated stagnant water. It is also farmed in local commercial fisheries.

The Stinging catfish is used as a food source, but valued more for medicinal purposes for patients recovering from malaria. This catfish is also desired for the aquarium trade, but because of its ability to eat almost anything, it only works well in large aquariums with larger fish.

Image Caption: Saccobranchus fossilis = Heteropneustes fossilis. Credit: Sir Francis Day/Wikipedia

Stinging catfish or Fossil catfish Heteropneustes fossilis