Shockingly Interesting

The Electric Catfish may look like a big sausage but you won't find anything else like it

by Mike McEwan

The Electric Catfish is an oddball fish best suited to a large display tank. It has a cylindrical, gray-brown to pinkish body, with a few dark spots and blotches. The lips of the fish are thick, fleshy and are surrounded by six barbels. The pectoral fins have no spines, and it lacks a dorsal fin.

As its common name suggests, the Electric Catfish has the ability to shock and stun its enemies. The electric organ of the fish is present on the whole body, giving the fish the ability to efficiently shock its prey or larger predators. Each charge weakens the electric ability of the fish until it has adequate time to rest and "recharge".

Tank Setup

Malapterurus electricus is a nocturnal fish that likes to hide during the day, thus rocky formations should be present. Due to its adult size of up to three feet, it must be housed in a large aquarium. Electric Catfishes can be injured easily because of their lack of scales and bony plates. This may lead to the fish burning itself against a hot aquarium heater or sharp rocks, so care must be taken when housing the tank. This is an aggressive species that shouldn't be kept with any other fish, especially its own kind.


Electric Catfish are carnivorous predators that have huge appetites. They will eat most anything, especially when fed at night. Favorite foods are anything meaty such as beef heart, earth worms, fish meat or shrimp.

Water Chemistry

Malapterurus electricus is a very hardy fish that can adapt to a variety of aquarium conditions. The pH can be kept anywhere from 7.0 to 8.2 and the temperature from 74-85 degrees F. Keep the water hard, around 20 dGH.


Breeding attempts in captivity have been unsuccessful.

Electric Catfish

Sci Name:
Malapterurus electricus
West Africa
Max Size:
74-85 F.
Tank Size:
135 Gallons