General information: Neosilurus Ater, aka Black Catfish and Narrow Fronted Catfish are an Australian native fish found in Northern Australia, from the north of WA to northern QLD. They are part of the family Plotosidae, the eel tailed catfishes. They are usually either fully black in colouring, or a dark greyish colour with a honeycomb texture. This can change to their surroundings so sometimes they are also seen in quite light grey colours. When in breeding condition, both sexes of this fish can display a quite attractive golden colour on their flanks. The photo below is my own Neo showing this off.
Identification: N. Aters can be hard to identify at times as there are several different similar looking eel tails. Luckily there are multiple ways to identify them. N. Aters have a pretty easy to distinguish colour scheme. Look for darker greys than an average tandanus, and solid colours. Solid colours are an easy giveaway of an N. Ater, although at times they CAN be in a honeycomb colour scheme. Neos also have differently shaped bodies. Neos have much thinner bodies and heads than a tandanus, which are chunkier. Tandanus usually have a bit of a bump around there eyes when looking side on, while Neos usually have a sharp straight line going down. Neos also have significantly different fins. The easiest is the cordal fin. While tandanus' caudal fin (the tail fin which wraps around the rear of the catfish) wraps from around the stomach near to the dorsal fin, a Neosilurus' caudal fin stops just after the tip of their tail. Neosilurus also have a longer dorsal fin than a tandanus, but this can be hard to tell at times. Below I have attached a photo which helps explain.
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Size and Behaviour: They can grow to a max of roughly 55cm, but 45cm is the average size. Each individual fish can have different attitudes. Most Neosilurus Ater are shy, but friendly catfish. Some specimens can however be quite aggressive and even kill other fish of similar sizes, including their own species. This happened to myself and another who observed this behaviour in a minority when he was supplying over 50 of them. This behaviour doesn't seem common so probably not too much of a worry when considering keeping this fish. Here is a video of my Neo attacking a toga when it was with the previous owner:
Activity: Neosilurus Ater are usually lazy during daytime usually laze around taking cover under driftwood and in caves and occasionally swimming around. Driftwood, rocks and pipes / caves are all good sources of cover for them in tanks.
Conditions: Neos require a fairly large tank when adults due to their size. 5x2 is probably a good start. They don't seem too picky with tank parameters other than the obvious ones, like most other native fish. A lower pH is probably closer to their natural water conditions however. They should be kept in tropical water (Roughly 21ºc to 27ºc is best). They can tolerate some salt in the water, although no more than 8ppt (8grams per litre) would be best.
Breeding: N. Ater breed between December and March, where adults migrate upstream into shallow riffle zones to lay demersal eggs in crevices on the bottom of the riverbed. Females produce around 8000 eggs of about 2mm diameter which hatch 2-3 days later. No breeding has been recorded in an aquarium.
Lifespan: You can expect your Neo to live for 9+ years.
Edited by Leichardti, 22 May 2017 - 08:41 PM.