The fish is found throughout South America (Sands, 1997), from the East coast to the base of the Andes: 3,000 feet above sea level (Burgess, 1989). Although no reports were found offering evidence of Oxydoras niger outside of the Amazon River system, Burgess (1989) states that the doradids' range includes the Orinoco and the Parana systems as well. Therefore, it is possible that this fish also exists there.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
According to Sands (1997), maximum total length is 600 mm (24 inches). However, I have personally observed specimens much larger than this: approximately 1 m total length. Similar large sizes have also been reported by Nomura (1m)(1984) and by Burgess (1.2 m)(1989).
The genus contains only one or two species besides O. niger, and can be differentiated by possessing a body width at the clavicles that is less than the head length. Eyes are located on the back half of the head and on the sides - not on the top. The adipose fin is a keel: long and very low and connected to the dorsal body surface throughout its length. It greatly resembles the genus Oxydoras and differs by possessing between 17 and 25 (Nomura, 1984) or between 16 and 23 (Burgess, 1989) scutes on each side, while Oxydoras has up to 40 (Burgess, 1989). In addition, Pseudodoras has fleshy appendages hanging from the roof of its mouth, presumably to taste food particles amoungst river muck (Burgess, 1989).
Color is variable and can range from jet black dorsally with a lighter underbelly to a uniform light gray.
Range length: 1.2 (high) m.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Oxydoras niger prefers large rivers (Sands,1997). Silvano, et. al., (2000) were able to catch them only in the main channel of the Jurua River, and not in tributaries or neighboring lakes. Here, they were only captured during the dry season and were not observed in the wet season. However, this finding contraticts the opinions of the local fishermen that were interviewed. They stated that O. niger was usually caught in the wet season as opposed to the dry season (Begossi,1999).
While many doradids were found to occupy either a blackwater or whitewater habitat exclusively, O. niger was found in both river types (Saint-Paul et. al., 2000). In this study, O. niger was observed as the ninth most common species caught in gill nets in white water (Lago do Prato of Rio Solimoes) out of 148 species. Out of 172 species caught in blackwater habitat, they were not among the fifty most common. In the whitewater habitat, they were caught with nearly equal frequency in flooded forests as in open lake habitat (adjacent to the main river channel).
Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; rivers and streams
These catfish eat crustaceans, snails, and other inverebrates, seeds, and fruits (Sands, 1997).
Lowe-McConnell (1987) has taken data from Marlier and classified O. niger as an insectivore. Indeed, chironomid midges, mayflies, and small crustaceans have been reported as stomach contents (Burgess, 1998). However, so have mud and decomposing leaves (Burgess, 1998), which would classify the fish as a detritivore.
In the aquarium, it has been observed eating boiled oatmeal, trout and koi pellets, rabbit pellets, frozen peas, flake foods, beef heart and liver, brine shrimp, tubificid worms, earthworms (Burgess, 1989).
Animal Foods: insects; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans
Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Parasitism: O. niger is commonly host to parasitic nematodes. Five new species were recently described (Kritsky et. al, 1986), resulting from a revision of helminths. A new species living in its intestine was also described two years later (Ferraz, 1988).
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Diseases and Parasites
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
No information could be found regarding the breeding of this animal, except that inferred from its migration pattern (see 'Behavior').
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Oxydoras niger
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Oxydoras niger
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
CITES: no special status
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
No negative effects on humans could be found regarding this fish.
Zaret (1984) lists O. niger as being a "main food fish species" in the Central Amazon, but not in the Orinoco, Guyana, Mogi Guacu, or Parana Rivers. They have been commonly observed in the fish markets of Santarem, a Brazilian city on the lower Amazon (Ferreira, 1996).
They are occasionally kept in aquariums by fish enthusiasts.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food
The ripsaw catfish (Oxydoras niger) or cuiu cuiu is a species of thorny catfish native to the Amazon, Essequibo and São Francisco basins in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela. This species grows to a length of 100 centimetres (39 in) SL and weights up to 13 kilograms (29 lb). This species is a minor component of local commercial fisheries. Has lateral thorns that can damage a potential predator or handler. It feeds by shifting through sand and detecting eatable parts with the taste receptors in the roof and floor of his mouth.
O. niger occurs over mud in streams and lakes. It is known from temperatures ranging from 24–29.8°C (75–85.6°F), pH range of 5–9, and an alkalinity range of 42–142. It is known to form schools. This species feeds on detritus, chironomid and ephemeropteran larvae, and crustaceans.
In the aquarium
O. niger is a popular aquarium fish species. In the hobby, it goes by many names, including black talking catfish, razorback catfish, mother of snails catfish, ripsaw catfish, and black doradid. This species grows to a large size and are often bought by unsuspecting aquarists when small. They will rapidly outgrow smaller tanks, so the aquarium should be as large as possible. O. niger is especially light shy and should be provided with sheltered areas to hide. Although these fish are peaceful, very small tankmates are still at risk of being eaten. This species readily accepts prepared foods. O. niger has not been bred under aquarium conditions.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Oxydoras niger" in FishBase. December 2011 version.
- "PlanetCatfish::Catfish of the Month::February 2001". PlanetCatfish.com. 2006-04-12. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
- Axelrod, Herbert R.; Emmens, C.; Burgess, W.; Pronek, N. (1996). Exotic Tropical Fishes. T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 0-87666-543-1.
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