Vermiculated sailfin catfish

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus

Common name:

Vermiculated sailfin catfish

Scientific name:

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus

Alternative common names:

Liposarcus disjunctivus.

The vermiculated sailfin catfish has rows of armour plating covering its body; the abdomen is almost completely covered in small plates. Colour pattern is generally dark brown with either darker spots or lighter spots (or vermiculations). The adult size can range from about 50–70cm. Environmental impacts of vermiculated sailfin catfish are not fully understood, but in locations where they are introduced and abundant, their feeding behaviours and burrowing activities can cause considerable disturbance.

Additional Info

  • Where does this species come from?

    Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay River basins.

    What is its invasive status in South Africa?

    NEMBA Category 1b.

    Where in South Africa is it a problem?

    KwaZulu-Natal.

    How does it spread?

    On escape from captivity, this fish established first in the Mhlathuze River and then spread to the Nseleni River via an inter-basin water transfer in KwaZulu-Natal.

    Why is it a problem?

    It destabilises the environment by digging out river banks to create burrows, leading to an increased rate of erosion.

    What does it look like?

    Description: The vermiculated sailfin catfish has rows of armour plating covering the body; the abdomen is almost completely covered in small plates. Colour pattern is generally dark brown with either darker spots or lighter spots (or vermiculations). Habitat: Freshwater in sluggish streams, floodplain lakes and marshes. Breeding: Males excavate tunnels into mud banks where eggs are laid. Female lays about 2,000 eggs in shoreline burrows, holes generally between April and September; nests guarded until eggs hatch.