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Vulture Catfish (Calophysus Macropterus)

Updated on January 7, 2013
Looks can be decieving.
Looks can be decieving.

This is my Vulture or Machete catfish. His coloration is really starting to show through. This fish truly has a bad reputation. It is said that this fish is a scavenger, and if pushed into starvation will bite chunks out of other fish. This may be true in the wild, but I would think it is hard to find a catfish, or fish period that matches the character of this one in an aquarium. The Vulture Catfish is a hearty predatory fish that is by all accounts a survivor. They grow to a maximum length of around 20-24". The maximum scientifically documented specimen was around 19.5". These gorgeous fish are said to do better in a group as they do shoal in the wild. Also in the wild a shoal will form for mass feedings. They have a single row of blade-like teeth that they use to tear chunks out of their prey. They readily accept a variety of foods, hence the moniker Vulture catfish. Tales of fishermen pulling out their catch of larger species of catfish, just to have these and other scavenger type catfish boring their way into the body of their catch is abundant. For a catfish this one has larger eyes than expected for it's size, the barbels(whiskers are exceptionally long extending sometimes beyond the caudal(tail) fin. It is a powerful swimmer which can be seen from the deeply forked and very strong caudal fin lobes. The adipose fin is also exceptionally long. This fish is closely related to Pimelodid catfish, but the unique dentary, and unique swim bladder suggest that it exist close, but outside this family. The dorsal fin spine is rather weak, but still has small, and sharp spines on the pectoral fins as in other catfish.

Beautiful even from above!
Beautiful even from above!

This fish has a great personality and once it becomes accustomed to it's owner and feeding schedule will swim at the surface almost begging for food! One might be tempted to hand feed this fish, but a word from the wise please do not(that means don't) hand feed this fish no matter how tempting it may be. Remember the teeth of this fish are well hidden under the lips, but trust me they are sharp and can leave a very nasty bite as a member of the forum MonsterFishKeepers found out. We both got a fish from the same catch, and he began to hand feed his. I warned him of the teeth, but he persisted. once his fish realized that his hand=food it was all over. The keeper put his hand in the tank to clean and "WHAM" he got bit on his had by the thumb. This fish had zoned in on his hand expecting food since that is what usually brought it food. The damaged caused was minimal. It was a circular bite and you could clearly see that the cut was rather clean like someone had sliced his skin lightly with a razor in a circular fashion. Luckily for him this fish decided his hand was not food after biting and immediately let go. Had it not let go it could have rolled and took with it a quarter sized chunk of flesh!!!! That would be one incredibly painful wound and would require a trip to the local emergency room. Since this incident any thoughts I had of hand feeding this fish have went out the wind and I will rather just enjoy watching it from safety outside the tank!

As for how it interacts with other fish? It has not bothered a single fish in my tank thus far and has been in there a month so far. It keeps to itself and waits in the current in the typical tripod stance of the pimelodid family. The pattern is incredibly gorgeous on this little known fish. i would recommend this fish to anyone that has a large aquarium and would like to add a catfish to it. Varied reports do exist of this fish taking scales from scaled fish as well, but I wouldn't know as i only keep catfish currently. :)

Don't let the evil look in his eyes fool you, but to be safe if you must hand-feed this fish please be safe and use a pair of feeding tongs or a feeding stick!!!! This fish will also eat pellets from the surface so an automatic fish feeder is a good choice as well.


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