Catfish walking on land!?

(AKA Clarias batrachus)


Common Name: Claria's Catfish, Freshwater Catfish

Phylum/Division: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Siluriformes

Family: Clariidae Genus

Subfamily: Catfish


They are scale-less, are typically a uniform shade of gray or gray-brown with many small white spots along their sides. The head is flat and wide and the body tapers to the tail. The eyes are very small and the mouth is broad with fleshy lips and numerous small pointed teeth in large bands on both the upper and lower jaw. There are four pairs of barbels, one pair each of maxillary and nasal barbels and two pairs of mandibal barbels. The fish has a lengthy dorsal and anal fin that each terminate in a lobe near the caudal fin. The pectoral fins, one on each side, have rigid spine-like elements. To move outside of water, the fish uses these "spines" and flexes its body back and forth to "walk". The walking catfish is easy to distinguish from many of the other North American catfish because it doesn't have an adipose fin.

Site and Date of Introduction

1960's in Florida

Mode of Introduction: Walking catfish have been imported into the US to be sold as pets. Once in the US, they either escape from their environment or are purposefully let go.


Original Distribution:
  • The walking catfish are a widely distributed species found across Southern Asia including Pakistan, Eastern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Borneo, Laos and the Philipines. It's hard to determine, though, to what extent this distribution comprises the native range. In Southeast Asian this fish in valued for food and it's probable that human activity is responsible for the presence of this species in parts of its current range.

  • Current Distribution: Specimens have been collected in multiple locations across California, the All American Canal in Arizona, widely separated bodies of water in Connecticut, the Flint River in Georgia, a lake in Massachusetts and a spring in Nevada. They are found across southern Florida. The only established, wild population is in Florida.


The walking catfish can survive extended periods out of water. In its native areas, this makes it an attractive food fish which easily can be sold and traded live. The species is fished by subsistence fisherman as well as managed at commercial farming operations.



Walking catfish have been know to invade aquaculture farms and eat large amounts of fish stock. Fish farmers in Florida have had to put up fences or build levees to keep them out. An additional threat to catfish fisheries, specifically, is the fact that wild walking catfish carry the disease enteric septicemia (ESC) caused by the bacterium Edwadsiella ictaluri. Wild walking catfish could infect farmed catfish with the disease.

What makes them better than other native species?

Walking catfish are hardy fish which can thrive where many other fish struggle to survive. In addition to lakes and rivers, they can be found in brackish waters or warm, stagnant, often hypoxic waters such as muddy ponds, canals, ditches, swamps and flooded prairies. They can remain dormant through periods of drought and go several months without eating. When they do eat, they consume a wide variety of prey.

Is it out of control?

Control Level Diagnosis: I rank this threat as medium priority. In Florida, the population is established and it's northern migration is slowed by freezing temperatures. However, it is crucial to keep this fish out of other areas where it could flourish.

How do we control the freaky catfish?

Control Method: Numerous countries have "blacklisted" the walking catfish. The United States has classified all members of the family Clariidae as injurious wildlife, illegal to possess without a federal permit. It is important to keep this fish contained because, once out in the wild, the population growth could be explosive in areas where there is a mild climate. In addition, the walking catfish is very hardy. It can survive months without food, and live in water that other fish would find intolerable. Poisoning it would be very difficult because it could walk elsewhere to avoid the poisons.

CatFish on land!?

This is not a real event, if you REALLY thought it was, you need help.

What can they do for the environment??

Walking catfish are devouring, exploit chancing feeders who are mainly active at night. They consume a wide variety of prey including eggs and larvae of other fishes, small fishes, a number of invertebrates including crustaceans and insects and sometimes plant materials. In densely populated drying pools, these fish become even more indiscriminate and quickly consume most other species present.