Aquaculture Feed and Fertilizer Resources Information System

Striped catfish - Pangasionodon hypophthalmus

(Sauvage, 1878) [Pangasiidae]

FAO official common names: Fr - Silure requin; Es - Tiburón pangasio

Local Vietnamese name: Tra catfish

Figure 1. Striped catfish (courtesy of Loi Xuan Tran)

Biological features:

The striped catfish is a migratory riverine fish species that makes long-distance migrations of  more than several hundred kilometers between its upstream refuges and spawning habitats and its downstream feeding and nursery habitats. The life cycle of striped catfish is intimately tied to the annual monsoon flood cycle, with spawning taking place in May to June at the start of the monsoon season (FAO, 2010–2011). In the dry season, this and other species congregate and shelter in the deeper refuge areas. The spawning habitat consists of rapids and sandbanks interspersed with deep rocky channels and pools. The eggs are sticky and are deposited onto the exposed root systems of rheophilic tree species such as Gimenila asiatica (Touch, 2000).  The striped catfish is a facultative air-breather (Lefevre et al., 2011a,b). The air breathing organ of this fish consists of tiny blood vessels located around the palate. In oxygenated waters, it uses its gills for respiration, while under hypoxic conditions it can take air directly at the water surface.

Distinguishing characters

Characteristics used for identification of the striped catfish include the large mouth, an upper jaw that is completely hidden by the lower jaw when the mouth is closed, and a pelvic fin with 8 spines. The number of gill rakers on the first gill arch increases with increasing fish size. For example, there are 9–15 gill rakers in small fish (Total length or Lo = 108–140 mm), and 29–38 in larger fish (Lo = 427–459 mm) (Pham, 1996).

At fingerling size, the head is nearly square in shape. In larger fish, the ratio of mouth width to standard length is less than 10 percent. The striped catfish has two pairs of barbels, one pair on the upper jaw and another on the lower jaw; in young fish, these barbels are longer than the head length, but in older individuals they are shorter. There are 45–46 vertebrae in the body of this fish (Robert and Vidthayanon, 1991).

The dorsal surface of the striped catfish is grey in color with a little dark-blue. Its sides are  rather silver-blue cast, with a slight yellowish tinge at the pelvic fins, black-grey at the dorsal and caudal fins, and a bit of red at the distal end of the caudal fin. The length of this fish can reach to 1.3 m and the weight approximate 17 kg  (Robert and Vidthayanon, 1991).


Striped catfish are native to Mekong, Chao Phraya, and Maeklong basins of Southeast Asia, occurring in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam (Robert and Vidthayanon, 1991; Poulsen et al., 2004). It has been introduced to several Asian countries for aquaculture development, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (FAO, 2010–2011). In recent years, Viet Nam has become the top producer of striped catfish (Nguyen and Dang, 2009).