The golden cave catfish is a type of air-breathing, cave-dwelling catfish. To date, they are only known to live within the Dragon's Breath Cave or Aigamas Cave in Namibia, as part of a limited ecosystem. Their ability to take oxygen directly from the air allows them to survive within the cave despite the oxygen deficiency within it. Moreover, due to their surfacing, they tend to remain within the subterranean water level. The cave itself was only discovered in 1986. Due to being found in one place only, they have a very limited population, which is rapidly decreasing due to water extraction.
Living in the dark has caused them to evolve and grow a layer of skin on top of their eyes. They are also devoid of skin pigment. This gives them a white or fleshy pink color that seems golden when light falls on it. Like other catfish species, they are not active hunters but prefer to feed on carcasses or prey that fall into the lake.
The golden cave catfish is a type of freshwater fish species found in Namibia.
What class of animal does a golden cave catfish belong to?
The golden cave catfish belongs to the Actinopterygii class of ray-finned fishes.
How many golden cave catfish are there in the world?
It is estimated that there are only 200–400 mature individuals of golden cave catfish in the world.
Where does a golden cave catfish live?
The Clarias cavernicola is a Critically Endangered species found in only one place, the Aigamas Cave located in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. The Aigamas Cave is an underwater freshwater cave. Also known as the Dragon's Breath Cave, it goes 171 ft (52.1 m) deep and experiences little to no sunlight.
What is a golden cave catfish's habitat?
They are found living on the rocky substrate of the subterranean waters of the Aigamas Cave in Namibia. The golden cave catfish dwells only in freshwater. They prefer temperatures of around 77 F (25 C) and live in shallow waters that are not more than 45 ft (13.7 m) deep.
Who do golden cave catfish live with?
Not much is known about the social behavior of this species. However, catfish, in general, live in small schools with a few species preferring to live solitary lives.
How long does a golden cave catfish live?
The lifespan of the Clarias cavernicola fish is not known.
How do they reproduce?
Researchers have tried to observe this fish in captivity, however, any attempts to breed it have failed. As such, the reproduction of the golden cave catfish has not been studied. They are found at shallow water levels but only in caves. This underwater cave-dwelling, dark environment makes it difficult to observe them in their natural habitat. It is known that they spawn from eggs laid by a mature female. A female lays eggs on a rocky substrate or scatters them freely. Neither parent remains to look after the eggs. Catfish are generally monogamous during the breeding season.
What is their conservation status?
The golden cave catfish has been listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. This is due to the fact that they only exist in one location (amidst a desert) and are being impacted negatively by water management systems and water extraction that are reducing the water levels of their lake. Today this species occurs within a protected area in Namibia and there are limits to water extraction and release into this lake.
Golden Cave Catfish Fun Facts
What do golden catfish look like?
The Clarias cavernicola species is a Critically Endangered cave-dwelling fish that lacks both sight and a skin pigment. Their eyes are covered with skin which renders them useless. These eyes are only visible as a lumpy pass on either side of its head. Their lack of skin pigmentation gives their skin a peachy color that looks yellowish-golden. This lack of pigmentation is a common trait found in cave-dwelling fish.
How cute are they?
With their barbel-like whiskers that are similar to the blue catfish and their golden skin that gleams in the sun, this species is quite cute. Their rounded mouth and covered-with-skin eyes are certainly unusual and their streamlined shape gives them a playful appearance. On the whole, they are a cute fish breed.
How do they communicate?
As it is blind, the golden cave catfish mainly uses its barbels to sense things. These barbels can sense nearby predators and taste food. Generally, catfish have well-developed auditory senses and can determine both sound direction and pitch. They can also produce some drumming sounds or vibrations by rubbing their body parts together.
How big is a golden cave catfish?
The Critically Endangered Clarias cavernicola fish can grow as much as 6.3 in (16 cm) in length. Hence, it is three times the size of a cory catfish.
How fast can a golden cave catfish swim?
Catfish in general are quite fast and agile swimmers. However, it is not known exactly how fast the golden cave catfish can swim.
How much does it weigh?
The exact weight of the Clarias cavernicola fish is not known.
What are their male and female names of the species?
Both males and females of the Clarias cavernicola species are called catfish.
What would you call a baby golden cave catfish?
A baby golden cave catfish is called a fry.
What do they eat?
This blind golden cave catfish species mainly feeds on bat droppings, worms, terrestrial insects, and other invertebrate carcasses left behind on the substrate. Sometimes invertebrates might fall into the lake and be consumed by this species.
Are they poisonous?
Around 1,600 catfish species are poisonous and can sting. However, their toxin has no effect on humans. They do however have spiny fins that can cut a human's hand if you do not hold the fish properly. Whether the Critically Endangered golden cave catfish specifically is poisonous or not is not known.
Would they make a good pet?
The golden cave catfish species is Critically Endangered with a very limited population. They are also known to live in a singular spot (the iconic golden catfish cave), which makes them extremely susceptible to changes in temperature, location, and environment. Attempts to breed them by professionals in captivity have failed so we cannot keep them as pets. You can however keep many other catfish species in an aquarium. They are friendly and will keep the aquarium clean.
Did you know...
The golden cave catfish is known to be one of the strangest and rarest fish in the world.
Are golden cave catfish blind?
The golden cave catfish does in fact have small eyes. However, they are covered with skin which makes them non-functional. Thus, the catfish is blind and finds food using alternative senses. All cave-dwelling fish live in a dark environment and have thus evolved to either not have eyes at all or have small eyes covered with flesh.
Why are golden cave catfish endangered?
The golden cave catfish is found within the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. The water body it occurs in is one of the very few sources of fresh water in an otherwise dry and arid region. Due to water extraction from the golden catfish Dragon's Breath Cave, there has been a dip in the water level here, which has impacted the ecosystem within it. The limited ecosystem also makes these fish more dependent on insects and food that might fall into the lake.
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