The Ariidae or ariid catfish are a family of catfish
Catfishes are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores...

 that mainly live in marine
Marine (ocean)
Marine is an umbrella term. As an adjective it is usually applicable to things relating to the sea or ocean, such as marine biology, marine ecology and marine geology...

 waters with many freshwater
Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and...

 and brackish water
Brackish water
Brackish water is water that has more salinity than fresh water, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing of seawater with fresh water, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root "brak," meaning "salty"...

 species. They are found worldwide in tropical to warm temperate zones.


The relationships of this family are not yet clear. By some sources, Doiichthys has previously been classified in its own family, Doiichthyidae. Two of the genera
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

, Gogo
Gogo (genus)
Gogo is a small genus of catfishes of the family Anchariidae. It includes four species.Gogo species are all endemic to freshwater rivers in eastern Madagascar; they are primarily found in highland habitats with clear, swift water. G. arcuatus is found in the Sandrananta River basin and G. ornatus...

and Ancharius, have been moved to a separate family called Anchariidae
Anchariidae is a family of catfishes order. This small family contains two genera, Ancharius and Gogo. Anchariids are a strictly freshwater group endemic to Madagascar. Anchariids are characterized by the presence of fringed barbels and a reduced anterior nuchal plate.Traditionally, Ancharius is...

. Ariidae is divided into two subfamilies: Galeichthys
Galeichthys is a genus of catfishes of the family Ariidae. The only genus in the subfamily Galeichthyinae, this genus includes three species, G. ater, G. feliceps, and G...

is the only genus classified in the subfamily Galeichthyinae, while the rest of the genera are classified in the subfamily Ariinae.

Previously, Ariidae has been grouped in the superfamily Doradoidea, but then it was moved into Bagroidea (along with Austroglanididae, Claroteidae
The Claroteidae are a family of catfish found in Africa. This family was separated from Bagridae. However, the monophyly of the family is sometimes contested....

, Schilbeidae
The schilbid catfishes are a family of catfishes native to Africa and southern Asia. These fish tend to swim in open water....

, Pangasiidae, Bagridae
Bagridae are a family of catfish that originate from Africa and Asia from Japan to Borneo. These fish are commonly known as naked catfishes or bagrid catfishes.Large Bagrids are important as food fish. Some species are kept as aquarium fishes....

, and Pimelodidae
Pimelodidae, commonly known as the long-whiskered catfishes, is a family of catfishes .-Taxonomy:Pimelodidae has undergone much revision. Currently, the family contains about 30 genera and about 90 recognized and known but unnamed species...

. It has also been classified in a superfamily Arioidea containing Ariidae and Anchariidae.

Distribution and habitat

Ariids are found worldwide in tropical to warm temperate zones. Ariids are unusual among catfish in that they live primarily in the sea
A sea generally refers to a large body of salt water, but the term is used in other contexts as well. Most commonly, it means a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, and is commonly used as a synonym for ocean...

; the majority of catfish families are strictly freshwater
Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and...

 and have little tolerance for brackish or marine conditions. Ariid catfish are found in shallow temperate and tropical seas around the coastlines of North
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. They are absent from Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Antarctica.

Many species are also present in freshwater habitats; some species only occur in freshwater. In North and South America about 43 species extend into brackish water or are found exclusively in freshwater. Doiichthys is another freshwater species that is found in New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...


Appearance and anatomy

Ariidae catfish have a deeply forked caudal fin. There are usually three pairs of barbel
Barbel (anatomy)
A barbel on a fish is a slender, whiskerlike tactile organ near the mouth. Fish that have barbels include the catfish, the carp, the goatfish, sturgeon, the zebrafish and some species of shark...

s. They possess some bony plates on their head and near their dorsal fins. At least some species have venomous spines in their dorsal and pectoral fins.


Ariid catfish have sometimes been called crucifix catfish because their skull (left) resembles a a crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

. This is an example of pareidolia
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse...



Beyond their maritime habitat, ariid catfish have a number of unique adaptations that set them apart from other catfish. Most, if not all species, are mouthbrooding
Mouthbrooding, also known as oral incubation and buccal incubation, is the care given by some groups of animals to their offspring by holding them in the mouth of the parent for extended periods of time. Although mouthbrooding is performed by a variety of different animals, most notably Darwin's...

 fish, with the male carrying a small clutch of a few dozen, golf-ball sized eggs for about two months until they eggs hatch and the fry become free-swimming.

Relationship to humans

One well known ariid catfish is the hardhead catfish
Hardhead catfish
The hardhead catfish is a saltwater species of catfish similar to the gafftopsail catfish. It is one of thirteen species in the genus Ariopsis. The common name, hardhead catfish, is derived from the presence of a hard, bony plate extending rearward toward the dorsal fin from a line between the...

, Ariopsis felis, abundant along the Western Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Mexico. Although hardhead catfish reach a weight of about 5.5 kilograms (12.1 lb) and are good eating, they have a mixed reputation as game fish
Game fish
Game fish are fish pursued for sport by recreational anglers. They can be freshwater or marine fish. Game fish can be eaten after being caught, though increasingly anglers practise catch and release to improve fish populations. Some game fish are also targeted commercially, particularly...

 and are often considered nuisance bait stealers.

A less abundant species, more highly regarded as a game and food fish, is the Gafftopsail catfish
Gafftopsail catfish
The gafftopsail catfish, Bagre marinus, is found in the waters of the western central Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It has long venomous spines which can cause painful wounds. It feeds on crustaceans and other fish. The male of the species fertilizes the eggs...

, Bagre marinus. The range of the gafftop extends further south, to Venezuela.

The smaller ariid catfish have minor value as public and home aquarium
An aquarium is a vivarium consisting of at least one transparent side in which water-dwelling plants or animals are kept. Fishkeepers use aquaria to keep fish, invertebrates, amphibians, marine mammals, turtles, and aquatic plants...

 fish. In 1972, the Shedd Aquarium
Shedd Aquarium
The John G. Shedd Aquarium is an indoor public aquarium in Chicago, Illinois in the United States that opened on May 30, 1930. The aquarium contains over 25,000 fish, and was for some time the largest indoor aquarium in the world with of water. The Shedd Aquarium was the first inland aquarium with...

 in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 received worldwide acclaim for the first successful breeding of Ariopsis felis in captivity, a feat they have repeated several times since. The Colombian shark catfish Sciades seemanni (until recently Hexanematichthys seemanni) is a fairly popular aquarium fish, though it has been traded under a variety of spurious names, such as Arius jordani and Arius seemani. Less commonly traded aquarium species include Arius berneyi and Arius graeffei.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.