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Related Catfish FAQs: Chaca Catfishes Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction

Related Articles: Catfishes

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

The Squarehead, Angler, Frog-Mouth or Chatty Chaca Catfishes,  Family Chacidae


Bob Fenner  

    For such a small (one genus, three species) way out of place distributed (India to Borneo) family, the chacids are well-known to many freshwater aquarists. Maybe it's their easy shipping, usually hardy arrival, verrrry laid-back personalities, or fantastically flat appearance that endear them to us. With their broad, depressed heads, and large terminal mouths it's easy to see where they got the name "squareheads". Watching them use their small maxillary barbels at times for fishing lures, the comparison to marine antennariiform fishes (anglers) is obvious. The last common name I like to apply due to these fishes capacity (albeit not alone in the catfish world) to produce noise.... that sounds like "chaca, chaca, chaca...", their scientific nomen as well from the Bengali.

    With very little care these fishes can be kept in many freshwater systems, given neither too eager-eating tankmates, nor ones that will be gulped in during day or night.


    Though not large fish, and definitely not over-active... chacids need bottom space and should have a good ten to fifteen gallons of system alotted per individual you wish to keep. They can/will adapt to most any "normal" freshwater aquarium water quality, but near neutral pH water of low hardness is appreciated. If the tank is more or less their own, fine sand (no undergravel filter) and some boiled peat (a bit messy at first) for them to nestle and sort through is ideal for a substrate.


    Here again are species of catfish that do best just kept to themselves. Other fishes, if kept with them, must be at least half their length or greater in size, or risk becoming meals. On the flip-side, their tankmates must not be too over-eager in their feeding habits, lest they starve their sedentary cats below.

Species: Mainly told apart by fin ray counts...

Chaca bankanensis Bleeker 1852, the Angler Catfish. Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo. To eight inches in length. Natural water cond.s: pH 6-7.2, DH 10, temp. 24-28 C. The quieter of the species of chacids, and the most commonly imported/sold species of chacid in the aquarium trade, . http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=12013&genusname=Chaca&speciesname=bankanensis


Chaca burmensis  Brown & Ferraris 1988, the Burmese Chaca Cat. Asia: Myanmar. To eight inches in length. Rarely, if ever seen in the trade.  http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=24971


Chaca chaca (Hamilton 1822), the Squarehead Catfish. Asia: India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaya and Indonesia. To eight inches in length. Natural water cond.s: pH 6-8, DH 4-25, temp. 22-24 C. The second most commonly imported/sold species of chacid in the aquarium trade, and the "chattiest".  http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=10258



    Some folks have had luck training their Chaca cats to take foods other than live fishes... worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, alive and not; but others have no success in training these fishes off a steady fare of "feeder" fishes. Be prepared to supply either your own or store bought live foodfishes if you try these cats.



    Eckstein (1996) cautiously relates an incidence of aquarium spawning. This account reads as very anecdotal. "Eggs laid in a pipe... parental care by (likely) the male"

Other Biology of Note:

    Watch out for these fishes short, but stout anterior dorsal fin spine, they're venomous! A painful wound can ensue if you should get poked by mishandling these fishes. Take care to support them from underneath if you should find yourself trying to get them to "chat" by lifting them out of water.


Bibliography/Further Reading:

Catfishes on the Internet: http://phylogeny.arizona.edu/tree/eukaryotes/animals/chordata/actinopterygii/siluriformes/siluriformes.html


Planet Catfish: http://www.planetcatfish.com/core/index.htm

Burgess, Warren E. 1989. An Atlas of Freshwater and Marine Catfishes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications. NJ, USA. pp. 786.

Eckstein, Ginny. 1996. Chaca chaca. It got its name for the sounds it makes. AFM 11/96.

Finley, Lee. 2000. Chaca... how odd? TFH 10/2000.

Nelson, Joseph. 1994. Fishes of the World, 3d ed. John Wiley & Sons, the World. pp.600.

Roberts, Tyson. 1982. A revision of the South and Southeast Asian angler-catfishes. Copeia 1982(4):895-901.

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