Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Siluriformes
(Catfish) > Malapteruridae
Etymology: Malapterurus: Greek, mala = a lot of + Greek, pteron = fin + Greek, oura = tail (Ref. 45335); electricus: The electric discharging capacity of this electric catfish is described by the specific epithet (Ref. 44050).
Environment / Climate / Range
Freshwater; benthopelagic; pH range: 7.0 - 8.0; dH range: ? - 20; potamodromous (Ref. 51243). Tropical; 23°C - 30°C (Ref. 1672); 35°N - 30°S
Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 122 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. 3850); max. published weight: 20.0 kg (Ref. 3799); max. reported age: 10 years (Ref. 7248)
soft rays: 9 - 11;
Vertebrae: 38 - 41. Diagnosis: tooth patches narrow; pectoral fin placed near body mid-depth; 7-8 branched caudal fin rays; adults and young marked with large spots and blotches, some up to 4-5 times an eye diameter; caudal fin usually well-spotted in adults; caudal saddle and bar pattern poorly developed in all ages (Ref. 44050).
Africa: typical Sudanian distribution; occurs in much of the Nile system (exclusive of Lake Victoria), Lake Turkana (Ref. 44050), Lake Chad and Senegal basins, Konkouré, throughout the Niger system, and in smaller southward flowing basins in west Africa (rivers Sassandra and Bandama through Volta) (Ref. 44050, 57130).
Occur among rocks or roots; favors sluggish or standing water. Active at night, feeding mainly on fish stunned by electric shocks. The electric organ, capable of discharging 300-400 V, is derived from pectoral muscle and surrounds almost the entire body. It is used both for prey capture and defense. Electric organ discharge (EOD) is intermittent and the amplitude increases with size of the fish (Ref. 10011). Responds immediately to cyclic light changes, exhibiting maximum EOD activity shortly after sunset and lowest activity just after sunrise (Ref. 10798). Its EOD duration decreased from 1.5 to 0.3 ms in response to increased temperature from 15 to 30°C (Ref. 10838). Adults form pairs and breed in excavated cavities or holes (Ref. 7248). Maximum size in Lake Chad reported as 1125mm SL, but most museum specimens much smaller (maximum 400mm SL, Nile River)(Ref. 57130).
Life cycle and mating behavior
Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae
It is assumed that the male tends the clutch. Others report that the male takes the eggs into his mouth. It is also unknown how the fry is immune to the electric shocks by the parents (Ref. 1672).
Roberts, T.R., 2000. A review of the African electric catfish family Malapteruridae, with descriptions of new species. Occas. Pap. Ichthyol. 1:1-15. (Ref. 34006)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)
CITES (Ref. 94142)
Fisheries: subsistence fisheries; gamefish: yes
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5000 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.01072 (0.00732 - 0.01569), b=2.99 (2.89 - 3.09), based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 2.9 ±0.38 se; Based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (tmax=10; Fec < 1,000).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): High to very high vulnerability (74 of 100) .