Ariopsis seemanni – Mini Haai

Ariopsis seemanni or Tete Sea Catfish is often offered in the shop as a small cute fish. They quickly grow large (up to 40cm) and need brackish water!

Ariopsis seemanni – Tete Sea Catfish

Ariopsis seemanni was first described by Albert Günther. in 1864. Their common name is Tete Sea Catfish.

This species has known quite a few scientific names. The best known of these are Arius seemanni and Arius jordani. This name is often found in books but also on the internet.


These active catfish have the same silver gray color as sharks. The fins are black like some shark species. It is a very active catfish that glides gracefully through the water.

Ariopsis seemanni - Tete Sea Catfish - Close up
Ariopsis seemanni – Tete Sea Catfish – Close up

Above their mouth, they have two large threads. Under the mouth, there are another four threads. They use these to search for food.

With proper care, Tete Sea Catfish reach a total length of about 40 centimetres. So it will be a big catfish. The difference between males and females is very difficult to see. In adult animals, the female is somewhat plumper than the male.


The habitat of Ariopsis seemanni is in Central America and the far north of South America. They live along the coasts of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

They typically inhabit the brackish water transition zone of the rivers that flow into the Pacific. They are highly resistant to pure seawater, which allows them to migrate along the coast to other rivers. Adults sometimes migrate up the river for many kilometres, but soon return to the brackish water. They usually can’t stay in freshwater for very long.


The Tete Sea Catfish’s diet consists mainly of small fish, crayfish, small crabs, shrimp, other invertebrates and insects.

In the aquarium, you can feed the young Ariopsis seemanni with live food such as mosquito larvae, tubifex and other live food. They often do not (yet) eat dry food such as flakes or granulate. They really have to get used to this food before they want to eat it. Adult animals also eat larger live or frozen food. Think of earthworms, mussels, shrimps and granulate or tablets that sink to the bottom.

The Aquarium

Young Ariopsis seemanni are available in the shop as freshwater fish and advertised as Mini sharks for the freshwater aquarium. They can survive temporarily in freshwater, but in time this species really needs to be kept in brackish water. So it is a species that is not suitable for many enthusiasts.

The young fish grow up in freshwater, but as they age they need more salt in the water. Adults live in brackish and full seawater. They do not get old in the normal freshwater aquarium. Add to that that they can reach an adult total length of about 40 centimetres, they should be kept in a school and you understand that this species needs a large specialised aquarium.

The minimum size for the aquarium is about 250 centimetres in length. Decorate the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. Place some wood in the aquarium to mimic the natural habitat. This can be mangrove roots, but also beech branches, as long as you remove the bark.

Most plants do not survive the brackish water. They are not often kept in a brackish water aquarium.

(Brackish) Water Parameters

When the fish grow a bit larger, from about 10 centimetres, they need salt in the water. Increase the salinity to about 1,005. Adults are resistant to even higher salt concentrations.

Because the fish occur along the coasts, the water is always moving. Ariopsis seemanni certainly appreciates good aeration of the water.

The temperature of the water is best kept between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. Keep the pH between 7 and 8.5 and the hardness between GH 10 and 30. The addition of salt to the water automatically increases the hardness.

Ariopsis seemanni – Tete Sea Catfish
Ariopsis seemanni – Tete Sea Catfish

Breeding Ariopsis seemanni – Tete Sea Catfish

While mating, the male takes the eggs in the mouth to hatch. He swims with the eggs in his mouth to freshwater. There he releases the hatched fry to grow up. After releasing the fry, the male swims back to the brackish or saltwater area. Because of their migration with the eggs, it is almost impossible to breed them in captivity. Just one report is known with a successful spawn. This involved changing the water from salt- to freshwater and back over the course of a year.


Take special care when removing Ariopsis seemanni from the aquarium. The first fin ray of the dorsal fin has venom glands. This hard fin ray acts as a defence weapon and looks more like a spine. When your skin is punctured, the spine injects some venom. The skin swells and the pain quickly takes on severe forms. You can neutralize the venom by holding your hand in very hot water, as hot as you can tolerate. Also, contact the doctor directly for further treatment.



Jan Bukkems – Aquavisie
John de Lange

Copyright images

John de Lange


Back to Nature Gids voor Meervallen – David Sands – 1997 – blz. 25

Additional information






Arius assimilis, Arius jordani, Arius seemanni, Galeichthys eigenmanni, Galeichthys gilberti, Galeichthys jordani, Galeichthys seemanni, Galeichthys simonsi, Hexanematichthys jordani, Hexanematichthys seemanni, Hexanematichthys simonsi, Sciades seemanni, Tachisurus jordani, Tachisurus seemanni, Tachysurus eigenmanni

Common name

., Tete Sea Catfish

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Breeding behaviour


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