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Introducing a Catfish Fancier’s Dream: the Frog Mouth or Angler Catfish, Chaca bankanensis – Part 2

Click: Introducing a Catfish Fancier’s Dream: the Frog Mouth or Angler Catfish, Chaca bankanensis – Part 1, to read the first part of this article.

The Natural Habitat
The waters in which the frog mouth naturally dwells are almost always located within rainforests, and are quite acidic and soft (“black water”, in the trade). This habitat supports far fewer species of bacteria than most, a fact that may explain this fish’s susceptibility to bacterial and other infections in captivity.Animals hailing from low-bacteria environments lack immunities to micro-organisms that are commonly encountered outside of their natural habitats. I have faced similar problems when rearing other animals from unique habitats – desert-adapted tortoises and penguins are both very delicate in this regard.

Establishing the Frog Mouth Catfish in the Aquarium
I strongly recommend using Marc Weiss Co. Keta-Peat Nuggets in the frog mouth aquarium. Added to the filter, this product will help soften the water, reduce bacterial and algal growth, and create a “black water” environment for your fish. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals pH Down will help to maintain an acidic environment. The waters from which this species originates average 3-4 in pH, but a pH of 6 works well in captivity.

Light and Shelter
The aquarium should be dimly lit, as the frog mouth naturally inhabits muddy waters and is uncomfortable in bright light.

A bed of oak leaves thick enough to hide the catfish is essential if it is to adapt and behave normally. The leaves mimic the cover under which this fish spends most of its time, and will also assist in maintaining a low pH. The frog mouth catfish is most comfortable at temperatures of approximately 77°F.

The frog mouth is a sizable fish that consumes large prey, and so likely produces a good deal of nitrogenous waste. Careful attention should be paid to filtration – the fact that it inhabits muddy waters does not indicate a tolerance for poor water quality. However, the filter’s outflow should be slow, as these fish are not strong swimmers and are native to still and slow- moving waters.

In terms of diet, the frog mouth is a fish specialist, although it has been reported to feed upon earthworms and tadpoles as well. Neither I nor those I have spoken with could induce it to accept earthworms, but an aquarist in Japan reported that her frog mouth fed readily upon freshwater shrimp.

As this fish is still considered a delicate captive, and rarely if ever spawned in captivity (the related Chaca chaca has occasionally been bred), you might consider adding aquarium fishes hailing from Southeast Asia to the diet, along with guppies, minnows, goldfish, platies, mollies and other easily bred species. Until we learn more about its needs, dietary variety will remain an important key in maintaining this fish in captivity.

Due to this specie’s extreme sensitivity to diseases and pathogens that might be carried, unnoticed, by other fishes, I pre-treat all feeder fish with Methylene Blue.

Research Needed
It has been reported, anecdotally, that the frog mouth catfish wiggles the barbels near its mouth in order to lure fish within striking range. Certainly the barbels do move about, but to my eye this seems to be a sensory rather than food-luring behavior. Documenting true luring, as in the manner of a marine anglerfish, would be an interesting project for the aquarist fortunate enough to acquire one of these fascinating animals.

The Standard Catfish Warning!
Please be aware that the spine next to the dorsal fin can inflict a painful wound.

We have a great deal to learn about this fascinating catfish and its relatives…please write in with any observations or questions you may have. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

You can read more about the natural history of this fish and view a picture at:

Introducing a Catfish Fancier’s Dream: the Frog Mouth or Angler Catfish, Chaca bankanensis – Part 1

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

Those who believe that one must look to the sea for really bizarre aquatic life forms have no doubt missed the frog mouthed catfish. If ever a freshwater fish were to qualify as a true oddity, something along the lines of a marine anglerfish, it is certainly this Southeast Asian native. In its appearance, movements (“walking” rather than swimming) and ability to vocalize (the sound it makes, “chaca-chaca” has given rise to the Genus’ name), this unusual creature seems to straddle the line between fish and amphibian.

Catfish Heaven
I first came upon the frog mouth catfish in a book translated from Japanese. As I learned upon visiting Japan, catfishes of all types are incredibly popular there – one store I frequented had over 50 tanks of various species! The fact that Prince Akishino (son of Emperor Akihito) studies catfishes has increased public awareness and appreciation of these often over-looked creatures.

Fortunately, I had a number of contacts in Japanese pet stores and public aquariums…this was paradise for me, and I was able to learn a great deal about catfishes that I had not encountered before, including the frog mouth.

Description and Range
The frog mouth catfish is a squat, mainly brownish fish, possessing a huge mouth that gives a square shape to the head. The tiny eyes are nearly invisible, and from the wide head the body tapers sharply. Cutaneous flaps of skin help to break up the body’s outline and add to the camouflage effect as the fish lies on the river bottom waiting for prey.

Native to southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo, the frog mouth catfish is not common in the US pet trade but is becoming increasingly available. Best kept by those with some aquarium experience, it is well worth searching for.

A Shy and Sedentary Captive
Although not an active fish, the frog mouth does require quite a bit of room, as it reaches nearly 1 foot in length and is stressed by close confinement. A 30 Long Aquarium is the minimum that I would recommend for a single animal, with a 55 Gallon Aquarium sufficing for a pair or possibly a trio. It spends most of its time hunkered down on the bottom of the aquarium, preferably under cover of some sort, and even at night does not actively hunt for food.

The frog mouth catfish is best kept alone, as it can swallow prey nearly half its own length. Also, it is very prone to stress and does not do well in aquariums housing actively swimming fish.

Click here: Introducing a Cafish Fancier’s Dream: the Frog Mouth or Angler Catfish, chaca bankanensis – Part 2, to read the rest of this article.