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Bagarius yarrelli - (Sykes, 1839)

Illustration of young goonch, Bagarius yarelli. Henry Sullivan Thomas, 1897. Wikipedia.


This Asian catfish has a mythical reputation, growing to enormous sizes and believed by some to have attacked and eaten humans. See: Tabloid Science: Attack of the Maneating Catfish. It is officially reported to reach sizes of 200 cm (6 ft. 7 in.), and fishermen report weights of up to 113 kg (250 lbs.), but there are anecdotal tales of much bigger specimens living in the vicinity of Buddist shrines, where it is considered a sacred fish.

Young specimens occasionally enter the aquarium trade, but their predatory nature and potential adult size make them off limits to most home aquarists. Fanciers of large catfishes find them fascinating but usually impossible to keep in the long term.

Biologist Jeremy Wade with Goonch on British Channel 5. Photo.

Its primary diet is freshwater prawns, and it has a massive jaw rimmed with pointed teeth.

Its own yellow flesh is sold in native markets, but it is notoriously laced with sinew and spoils rapidly, often resulting in food poisoning.

A better bet for aquarists captivated by the gooch mystique is the scaled-down Dwarf Goonch, Bagarius bagarius.

Family: Sisoridae

Other common name(s):

Native range:

Habitat: Large rivers, often in powerful currents and among boulders in whitewater rapids. Moves upstream in schools in an annual spawning migration during the monsoon season.

Maximum length: 200 cm (79 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 10000 L (2,642 gal)

Water: Freshwater 22 °C (72 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: Bottom.



Aquarium Compatibility

The Goonch will eat virtually all other tankmates as it grows in size and appetite.

Special Care

Not recommended as a home aquarium fish.

Text credit: JL