Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Heteropneustes fossilis

Stinging catfish

Stinging catfish, Heteropneustes fossilisStinging catfish, Heteropneustes fossilis
Photos by Andy Rapson


Heteropneustes: Greek, heteros = other + Greek, pneo = to breath

General Notes:

Heteropneustes fossilis is a very lively fish which needs a good amount of open swimming space and lots of places in which to hide. Heteropneustes fossilis can be kept with similar sized catfish and other robust fish which are at least as big as the catfish or a little larger. Stinging catfish are generally quite peaceful but any fish small enough to be eaten - will be. As suggested by its common name - stinging catfish, Heteropneustes fossilis can deliver a painful sting via the spines on its pectoral fins. So keep handling to a minimum and be careful during tank maintenance. Heteropneustes fossilis can become quite tame and will learn to associate its keeper with food, although tempting to teach these fish to come and take food from your fingers it isn't a good idea to do so because of their venomous spines. If these fish become hand tame they will seek your hands out during tank maintenance and may go unnoticed until it is to late!!!.


Worms, crustaceans and small fish make up the diet of Heteropneustes fossilis living in the wild. In captivity they should be fed using frozen whole fish such as white bait, lancefish ect. There is no need to use live fish. Prepared worms and insects such as crickets. Suitably sized pelleted food will also be taken.


When adult the females are more rounded and heavier than the males.


Both parents will choose a spawning site and lay their eggs in the substrate. Both parent will then guard the brood until the fry gradually move away as they become more independent.

Wild status

The wild status of Heteropneustes fossilis is very healthy and under no threat.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 5 - 30
Temperature: 21 - 25°C (70 - 77°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 30cm (12in)
Min tank size: 675 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Species / Community
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Stinging catfish, Heteropneustes fossilis

Origin: Asia: Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Myanmar

Habitat: Found mainly in ponds, ditches, swamps and marshes, but sometimes occurs in muddy rivers. Can tolerate slightly brackish water.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Heteropneustidae
Genus: Heteropneustes
Species: H. fossilis, (Bloch, 1794)

Common name:
Stinging catfish

Synonyms: Saccobranchus fossilis, Saccobranchus microcephalus, Saccobranchus singio, Silurus biserratus, Silurus fossilis, Silurus laticeps, Silurus singio.