Eel Tailed Catfish

Scientific Name

Tandanus tandanus

Other Common Names

Tandan, jewfish, freshwater catfish, catfish

Size

Commonly to 500 mm, 1.8 kg; to 900 mm, 6.8 kg

Photo of an eel-tailed catfish

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

Habitat

Lakes and sluggish turbid streams with fringing vegetation.  Lives and feeds largely on the bottom.  Solitary, although small individuals often form loose schools.

Distribution

Once common throughout the warmer waters of the the Murray-Darling basin, populations now severely effected.  It is believed by some that the introduction of carp is implicated in this decline due to direct competition for feeding sites (as carp and eel-tailed catfish have similar feeding habits) and due to disruption to catfish breeding sites.  Still common in a number of smaller lakes in North Western Victoria and Western New South Wales.

Reproduction

Late Spring to mid summer.  Prefers gravel river bed to mud.  Builds nest 1 to 2 weeks before spawning,  If nest exposed by lowered water levels it is abandoned and another built.  Elaborate courtship behaviour.  One parent, sometimes both, attend nest and aerate and protect eggs until after hatching.

Catfish have been bred artificially and released into a number of impoundments for angling purposes.

Diet

Yabbies, shrimps, molluscs and other organisms from the bottom.

Angling

Despised by some anglers in the past, catfish have a reputation for being dirty fighters.  Certainly, given the opportunity they are quick and efficient at "busting off" on snags.  In reality eel-tailed catfish have a lot to offer the angler, they fight well and are good to eat.

Catfish are usually caught on bait: shrimp or scrubworms being the go.

Be careful when handling the fish, whether for release or not, as the leading edge of the fins have spines that can give you a nasty jab.

On the table

Considered by some to be the finest freshwater fish of all to eat, eel-tailed catfish have white flesh and an excellent, delicate flavour.  Like any fish, do not over cook.

In the aquarium

Eel tailed catfish make interesting specimens and are often available through the aquarium trade.  Not suitable for community tanks, but a pair of smaller fish may be kept quite successfully in one larger tank.  Can be a bit of an escape artist, so tanks should have close fitting, heavy, lids - catfish can fit through a remarkably small hole, so be warned!

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