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Walking catfish

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The walking catfish, Clarias batrachus, is a species of freshwater airbreathing catfish found primarily in Southeast Asia, so named for its ability to “walk” across dry land, to find food or suitable environments. While it does not truly walk as most bipeds or quadrupeds do, it has the ability to use its pectoral fins to keep it upright as it makes a sort of wiggling motion with snakelike movements.[1] It can survive using this form of locomotion as long as it stays moist.[1] This fish normally lives in slow-moving and often stagnant waters in ponds, swamps, streams and rivers (Mekong and Chao Phraya basins), flooded rice paddies or temporary pools which may dry up. When this happens, its “walking” skill comes in handy for moving to other sources of water.

Walking catfish are around 30 cm (a foot or so) in length and have an elongated body shape. Often covered laterally in small white spots, the body is mainly colored a gray or grayish brown.[2] This catfish has long-based dorsal and anal fins[2] as well as several pairs of sensory barbels. The skin is scaleless but covered with mucus, which protects the fish when it is out of water.

One main distinction between the walking catfish and native North American Ictalurid catfish is the walking catfish’s lack of an adipose fin.[2]

This fish needs to be handled carefully when fishing it out due to its hidden embedded sting or thorn like defensive mechanism hidden behind its fins (including the middle ones before the tail fin).

A certain collective species of walking catfish found primarily in the vicinity of the Panama islands and southern America are large enough that they use their long whiskers as tentacle-like mechanisms. Some walking catfish use these “tentacles” to prey on smaller marine animals and even use them in their aid of walking”. Some rumors suggest that these catfish use their tentacle-like whiskers to pry open wires protecting private bodies of water to enter and prey on unsuspecting fish.

The walking catfish is a native of South East Asia including Malaysia, Thailand, eastern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, Singapore, and Borneo. It was probably introduced into the Philippines but now it is common elsewhere in this country. During its season in the Philippines, it is widely distributed throughout the country and many consumers buy this product alive. The catfish is a tropical animal and prefers a water temperature in the range of 10 – 28°C.