The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Clarias gariepinus
Clarias gariepinus
(Sharptooth catfish)

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Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822)

Common name: Sharptooth catfish

Synonyms and Other Names: Clarias lazera Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1840; North African catfish, African catfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Injurious: This species is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as injurious wildlife.

Identification: Members of Clarias are distinguishable from all other North American catfishes by the absense of a dorsal fin spine and adipose fin, and presence of long dorsal and anal fins that extend nearly to, but are separate from, the caudal fin. Clarias gariepinus can be distinguished from other species of Clarias by an elevated number (24-110, depending on size) of long, thin gill rakers on the first gill arch (Teugels 1986).

Size: Maximum size is 700 mm total length, although specimens up to 1.5 m have been reported (Teugels et al. 2007).

Native Range: Africa, nearly pan-African in distribution; Israel, Syria, southern Turkey (Teugels 1986).

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Two specimens were collected from the Canal de Patillas in Guayama, Puerto Rico, in October 2018 (Rodriguez-Barreras and Zapata-Arroyo 2019).

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Clarias gariepinus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
PR201820181Southern Puerto Rico

Table last updated 5/28/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Inhabits lake, river, and shallow floodplain environments. Extremely varied omnivorous diet, comprising zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fishes with incidental consumption of detritus, filamentous algae, and macrophytes (Spataru et al. 1987, Winemiller and Kelso-Winemiller 1996, Dadebo 2009, Dadebo et al. 2014). Breeding within the native range generally occurs during rainy season (Dadebo 2000).

Means of Introduction: Unknown; potential pathways include aquarium release and escape from aquaculture ponds (Rodriguez-Barreras and Zapata-Arroyo 2019). Widely introduced around the world primarily for aquaculture (FAO 2010, Weyl et al. 2016).

Status: Unknown.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range in the US and associated territories. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Worldwide, there has been limited direct research on impacts to ecosystems invaded by C. gariepinus. Most impacts to native communities have been inferred from presence of native species (e.g., fishes) in diet studies, although there is limited experimental evidence that C. gariepinus can alter invertebrate community composition (reviewed by Weyl et al. 2016).

Remarks: Widely introduced in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America for aquaculture (FAO 2010)

References: (click for full references)

Dadebo, E. 2000. Reproductive biology and feeding habits of the catfish Clarias gariepinus (Burchell) (Pisces: Clariidae) in Lake Awassa, Ethiopia. SINET: Ethiopian Journal of Science 23(2):231-246. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/sinet/article/view/18168

Dadebo, E. 2009. Filter-feeding habit of the African catfish Clarias gariepinus Burchell, 1822 (Pisces: Clariidae) in Lake Chamo, Ethiopia. Ethiopian Journal of Biological Sciences 8(1):15-30. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ejbs/article/view/89769

Dadebo, E., D. Aemro, and Y. Tekle-Giorgis. 2014. Food and feeding habits of the African catfish Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822) (Pisces: Clariidae) in Lake Koka, Ethiopia. African Journal of Ecology 52(4):471-478. https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/aje.12146

FAO. 2010. Cultured aquatic species information programme: Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822). http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Clarias_gariepinus/en. Created on 01/01/2010. Accessed on 02/07/2019.

Rodriguez-Barreras, R., and C. Zapata-Arroyo. 2019. The first record of the African catfish Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822) in Puerto Rico. International Journal of Aquatic Sciences 10(2):98-100. http://www.journal-aquaticscience.com/article_81042.html

Spataru, P., W.J.A.R. Viveen, and M. Gophen. 1987. Food composition of Clarias gariepinus (= C. lazera) (Cypriniformes, Clariidae) in Lake Kinneret (Israel). Hydrobiologia 144:77-82. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00008053

Teugels, G.G. 1986. A systematic revision of the African species of the genus Clarias (Pisces; Clariidae). Annales Du Musée Royale de l'Afrique Centrale (série Zoologie) 247:1-199.

Teugels, G.G., D. Adriaens, S. Devaere, and T. Musschoot. 2007. Clariidae. Pages 653-691 in Stiassny, M.L.J., G.G. Teugels, and C.D. Hopkins, eds. The fresh and brackish water fishes of lower Guinea, west-central Africa. Volume 1. IRD Éditions. Paris, France.

Weyl, O.L.F., V.S. Daga, B.R. Ellender, and J.R.S. Vitule. 2016. A review of Clarias gariepinus in Brazil and South Africa. Journal of Fish Biology 89:386-402. https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jfb.12958

Winemiller, K.O., and L.C. Kelso-Winemiller. 1996. Comparative ecology of catfishes of the Upper Zambezi River floodplain. Journal of Fish Biology 49:1043-1061. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1095-8649.1996.tb01777.x

FishBase Summary

Author: Neilson, M.E.

Revision Date: 10/2/2019

Citation Information:
Neilson, M.E., 2024, Clarias gariepinus (Burchell, 1822): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=3257, Revision Date: 10/2/2019, Access Date: 5/30/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [5/30/2024].

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