Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Ictalurus punctatus
(channel catfish)

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Datasheet

Ictalurus punctatus (channel catfish)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ictalurus punctatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • channel catfish
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • I. punctatus, commonly known as the channel catfish, is a long slender fish with a native range extending from southern Canada and central USA to Mexico. Cultured worldwide, it has been introduced in more than...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Ictalurus punctatus (channel catfish); adult.
TitleAdult
CaptionIctalurus punctatus (channel catfish); adult.
Copyright©Carole R. Engle
Ictalurus punctatus (channel catfish); adult.
AdultIctalurus punctatus (channel catfish); adult.©Carole R. Engle

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque, 1818)

Preferred Common Name

  • channel catfish

Other Scientific Names

  • Ictalurus anguilla Hildebrand and Towers, 1928
  • Ictalurus punctatus Hay, 1881
  • Silurus punctatus Rafinesque, 1818

International Common Names

  • English: catfish; catfish, channel; channel catfish; graceful catfish
  • Spanish: azul; bagre de canal
  • Russian: pyatnistyi

Local Common Names

  • Belarus: somik kanalnyj
  • Bulgaria: kanalen som
  • Canada: gatfish
  • Czech Republic: sumecek teckovany
  • Denmark: kanalmalle; plettet dværgmalle
  • Estonia: kanalisaga
  • Finland: pilkkupiikkimonni
  • France: barbue de rivière
  • Germany: getüpfelter gabelwels
  • Italy: pesce gatto punteggiato
  • Lithuania: katzuve
  • Mexico: azul; bagre de canal
  • Romania: somn de canal; somn patat
  • Sweden: prickig dvärgmal
  • USA: blue cat; chucklehead cat; fiddler; Great Lakes catfish; lady cat; lake catfish; northern catfish; spotted cat; spotted catfish; white cat; willow cat

Summary of Invasiveness

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I. punctatus, commonly known as the channel catfish, is a long slender fish with a native range extending from southern Canada and central USA to Mexico. Cultured worldwide, it has been introduced in more than 32 countries including Italy, Brazil, China, Japan and Russia for aquaculture and recreational fisheries. It has been introduced for aquaculture and recreational fisheries to over 32 countries, and widely throughout the USA, and has established itself in most waters to which it has been introduced. Its omnivorous, piscivorous and opportunistic feeding habit, high fecundity and tolerance to a range of extreme environmental conditions contribute to its success in establishing itself wherever it is introduced (Tucker and Hargreaves, 2004). Introduced channel catfish can exert a major negative effect on populations of native and endangered species, and commercial fisheries, through competition for food, habitat or through predation. A study by Olden and Poff (2005) describes the channel catfish as one of the fastest expanding invaders in the Lower Colorado River Basin, with Hawkins and Nesler (1991) identifying it as one of the most invasive in terms of its negative impacts on native fish communities some years earlier.  

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Siluriformes
  •                         Family: Ictaluridae
  •                             Genus: Ictalurus
  •                                 Species: Ictalurus punctatus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is a member of the family Ictaluridae in the order Siluriformes. Members of the order can be found in fresh and salt waters throughout the world. According to Wellborn (1988), there are at least 39 species of catfish in North America. Details of taxonomy and nomenclature can be found in the texts by Moyle (1976), Becker (1983), Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) and Etnier and Starnes (2001).

Description

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Detailed accounts of the physical features of I. punctatus can be found in the texts by Moyle (1976), Becker (1983) and Etnier and Starnes (2001). The adult channel catfish is blue, olive, grey or black on the upper part of its body, with dark spots along the flank and a white ventral surface. The colour appears to be dependent on the colour of the water it inhabits. In clear water it may appear almost black, while in muddy water it may be olive to a light yellowish-white. Young channel catfish have dark spots on their sides, the spots tending to fade or disappear in adults. Very large or very small individuals have fewer spots or lack them altogether. The channel catfish has a stout, cylindrical body with a broad flattened head and large terminal mouth, the upper jaw extending or protruding beyond the lower jaw. It has eight long and unequal barbels around its mouth, 4 are on the chin, 2 on the snout and one in both corners of the mouth. It has a scale-free slimy body, an adipose fin and a deeply forked tail, with the top of the fin being larger than the rounded bottom portion. This deeply forked tail distinguishes the channel catfish from other catfishes except the blue catfish (I. furcatus). The dorsal and pectoral fins have spines while the curved anal fin has 24-29 rays. Taste buds are present on the interior of the mouth and over the body. Males generally have larger heads and a darker coloured body than females. 

Distribution

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The channel catfish can live in fresh, salt and some brackish waters (Scott and Crossman, 1973). Its reported native distribution extends from the southern Canadian Prairie Provinces south to the Gulf States, west to the Rocky Mountains, and east to the Appalachian Mountains (Trautman, 1957; Miller, 1966; Scott and Crossman, 1973).

Although documented as being native to North America and southern Canada, according to Etnier and Starnes (2001), the exact native range of the channel catfish is uncertain. The northern boundary of its range on the Atlantic coastal plain is uncertain, with Page and Burr (1991) considering it possibly native to the Susquehanna River. According to Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) the channel catfish is native to the Florida peninsula, and introduced in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In Canada, it is found in the St Lawrence River and its tributaries from southern Quebec through to Ontario including the Ottawa River and its tributaries, all the Great Lakes except Lake Superior, in southwestern Ontario and the southern part of Manitoba (Scott and Crossman, 1973).  A listing of Ontario water bodies known to contain channel catfish as of January 2003 is given by Kerr (2003). Channel catfish have been widely introduced outside their native range and can today be found almost everywhere in the USA, in all the Pacific and Atlantic drainages (Scott and Crossman, 1973).

Imported to Europe in the nineteenth century, the channel catfish was eventually introduced to many countries around the world. It is now established in Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, the Netherlands, with established self-sustaining populations in Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Belarus, Russia, Spain and Romania. Katano et al. (2010) investigated the status of I. punctatus in Japan, which, introduced in 1971, is now widely distributed in the Abukuma, Tone and Yahagi River systems, as well as in Lake Shimokotori. Several specimens have also been caught in Lake Hinuma and the Miya and Seta Rivers in 2008 and 2009 (Katano et al., 2010).

There appears to be some disagreement regarding the presence of the channel catfish in Turkey; Cildir (2001) reported that its introduction into Lake Egirdir was unsuccessful. However, it is listed as being present in a report listing its use in aquaculture and stocking operations (Olenin et al., 2008) and in reservoir systems (Innal and Erk’akan, 2006; Innal, 2012).

It has been widely introduced for sport fishing throughout the USA; its large size and excellent taste make it a popular target of anglers. Its high fecundity, tolerance of extreme environmental conditions, and resistance to diseases, not only make this species suitable for commercial cultivation but also contributes to its success in establishing itself in areas where it has been introduced (Tucker and Hargreaves, 2004). Cultured worldwide today, it has been introduced in more than 32 countries including Italy, Brazil, China, Japan and Russia for aquaculture and recreational fisheries (Welcomme, 1988). It was introduced to Europe for the purpose of aquaculture in the 1990s (Elvira and Almodovar, 2001); in Italy for instance, the channel catfish was introduced to increase the source of aquatic food and as a resource for the sport fishing sector (Copp et al., 2005).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

ArmeniaPresentIntroducedGabrielyan , 2001; Froese and Pauly, 2004Introduced from Russia for aquaculture; reported in Araks River, and within Ararat Valley
ChinaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1984Tan and Tong , 1989; Ma et al., 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004Introduced for aquaculture into Central China
IndiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Csavas , 1995; Molar and Walker, 1998; Singh and Lakra, 2011Attempt by Hindustan Lever to culture using seed imported from the USA failed to produce desired results
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroduced Not invasive Singh and Lakra, 2011Limited occurrence
-West BengalPresentIntroduced Not invasive Singh and Lakra, 2011Limited occurrence
IndonesiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Eidman , 1989Introduced for research
JapanWidespreadIntroduced1971 Invasive Chiba and et al. , 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Matsuzaki et al., 2011Tonegawa River system, Kasumigaura, Kitaura and Biwako Lakes, Shimane, Fukushima, Gifu and Aichi Prefectures
Korea, Republic ofAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1972 Not invasive Welcomme, 1988; Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004Introduced for aquaculture, thought to be unsuccessful
MalaysiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre Malaysia, FFRCSuccessful spawning reported in laboratory trials
PakistanPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced2003 Not invasive Rab et al., 2007Trials to culture channel catfish conducted, no further reports on culture or presence in the wild
PhilippinesPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1974 Not invasive Juliano and et al. , 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2004Introduced into reservoirs; no other natural populations known since
TaiwanAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1974-1975 Not invasive Liao and Lia , 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2004Unpopular as cultured fish, not suited to local conditions
ThailandPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1989 Not invasive Csavas , 1995; Vidthayanon, 2005
TurkeyLocalisedIntroduced1990sFAO, 1997; Cildir, 2001; Olenin et al., 2008Introduced into Lake Egirdir, thought to be unsuccessful
UzbekistanPresentIntroduced Not invasive Salikhov and Kamilov, 1995Established

Africa

Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroduced Not invasive Welcomme, 1988
EgyptPresentIntroduced1982 Not invasive Welcomme, 1988
NigeriaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004

North America

CanadaPresentNative Not invasive Scott and Crossman, 1973; Froese and Pauly, 2004Great Lakes
-AlbertaPresentNative Not invasive Contreras and Escalante , 1984
-ManitobaPresentNative Not invasive Contreras and Escalante , 1984
-OntarioPresentNative Not invasive Contreras and Escalante , 1984
-QuebecPresentNative Not invasive Contreras and Escalante , 1984
-SaskatchewanPresentNative Not invasive Contreras and Escalante , 1984
MexicoPresentContreras and Escalante , 1984; Lyons et al., 1998; Zambrano and Macias-Garcia, 2000; Froese and Pauly, 2004Native to northern Mexico, introduced to southern parts for aquaculture
USAPresentNativeFroese and Pauly, 2004
-AlabamaPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced1903Minckley , 1973; USGS, 2013
-ArkansasPresentWellborn , 1988; USGS, 2013
-CaliforniaWidespreadIntroduced1891, 1922Smith , 1896; Dill and Cordone, 19971891 introductions were failures
-ColoradoPresentIntroduced Invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-ConnecticutPresentIntroduced Not invasive Behnke and Wetzel , 1960; USGS, 2013
-DelawarePresentIntroducedLee and et al. , 1976; USGS, 2013
-District of ColumbiaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-FloridaPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedBrock , 1960; Froese and Pauly, 2004; USGS, 2013
-IdahoPresentIntroduced1893, 1940Linder , 1963; Wydoski and Whitney, 1979; USGS, 2013Although 100 fish introduced into Boise River in 1893 by US Fish Commission, no evidence of reproduction from this stocking; introduced again in 1940 by Idaho Fish and Game Department to Little Wood River, Snake River at Burley and Snake River between Glenns Ferry and Weiser
-IllinoisPresentNative Not invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-IndianaPresentNative Not invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-IowaPresentNative Not invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-KansasPresentIntroduced Not invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-KentuckyPresentNative Not invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-LouisianaPresentNative Not invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-MarylandPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-MichiganPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-MinnesotaPresentIntroducedUSGS, 2013
-MississippiPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-MissouriPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-MontanaPresentUSGS, 2013
-NebraskaPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-NevadaPresentIntroducedUSGS, 2013
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedMorse , 1905; USGS, 2013
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-New YorkPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-North DakotaPresentNativeLee and et al. , 1976; USGS, 2013
-OhioPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-OklahomaPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-OregonPresentIntroducedSmith , 1896; USGS, 2013
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-South DakotaPresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-TennesseePresentNativeLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-TexasPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-UtahPresentIntroduced Invasive Lee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedSmith , 1896; USGS, 2013
-West VirginiaPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013
-WyomingPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1980; USGS, 2013

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedCam, 2011
CubaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Sugunan, 1997; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced1954-1955Welcomme, 1988; Chakalall , 1993; Froese and Pauly, 2004
HondurasPresentIntroduced1960sMatamoros et al., 2009
PanamaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Pérez et al., 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Puerto RicoIntroducedFroese and Pauly, 2004; Neal et al., 2009

South America

BrazilPresentIntroduced1980 Invasive Welcomme, 1988; Piedras, 1990; Froese and Pauly, 2004Assessed to have a high invasive potential - recommended for listing on a black list and its use in aquaculture prohibited
-ParanaPresentIntroduced Invasive Pérez et al., 2003
ChilePresentIntroduced1995Contreras and Escalante , 1984; Pérez et al., 2003; Iriarte et al., 2005Parral Region VIII
ParaguayPresentPérez et al., 2003
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedNava, 2007

Europe

BelarusPresentIntroducedShumak and Mischenko, 1989; Olenin et al., 2008Lake Beloe
BelgiumPresentIntroducedFAO, 1997; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Verreycken et al., 2009; DAISIE, 2013Reported to be acclimatised to local conditions
BulgariaPresentIntroduced1975Froese and Pauly, 2004; Uzunova and Zlatanova, 2007; Olenin et al., 2008; Hadjinikolova et al., 2010Primarily in Ovcharitza and Kardzhali reservoirs
CyprusPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Dill, 1990; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Olenin et al., 2008Introduced into lowland reservoirs
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004; NOBANIS, 2005; Olenin et al., 2008Reported to be established
EstoniaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced2002NOBANIS, 2005Not known to be established but reported to be potentially invasive
FrancePresentIntroducedHolcík , 1991; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Cowx and Nunn, 2008
GermanyPresentIntroducedCowx and Nunn, 2008
GreecePresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Economou et al., 2007Reported but unconfirmed occurrence in the Evros and Arachthos basins
HungaryPresentIntroducedHolcík , 1991; Olenin et al., 2008; Froese and Pauly, 2013
ItalyLocalisedIntroducedAmori and et al. , 1993; Copp et al., 2005; Ligas, 2007; Cowx and Nunn, 2008Northern and central Italy, in particular the Po, Arno and Ombrone River; reported to be established
LithuaniaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1975 Not invasive NOBANIS, 2005; Olenin et al., 2008Not known to be established
MontenegroPresentIntroducedOlenin et al., 2008
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedCowx and Nunn, 2008
RomaniaPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedFAO, 1997; Olenin et al., 2008; DAISIE, 2013
Russian FederationPresentIntroducedHolcík , 1991; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Olenin et al., 2008; DAISIE, 2013
SerbiaPresentIntroducedOlenin et al., 2008
SlovakiaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Olenin et al., 2008
SpainPresentIntroducedFroese and Pauly, 2004; Cowx and Nunn, 2008
UKPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Maitland, 2004; DAISIE, 2013
UkrainePresent, few occurrencesIntroducedDAISIE, 2013
Yugoslavia (former)PresentIntroduced Not invasive Welcomme, 1988

Oceania

French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Eldredge , 1994
GuamPresentIntroduced1966 Not invasive Welcomme, 1988; Eldredge , 1994

History of Introduction and Spread

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The channel catfish was widely stocked by the United States Fish Commission (USFC) and state authorities as a food and sport fish. The USFC shipped stocks of channel catfish to more than twenty states in 1892 and 1893, including Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin, Colorado and Idaho (Dill and Cordone, 1997). According to Page and Burr (1991), the channel catfish has now been introduced to much of the USA, including the Delaware River, San Francisco Bay, the Hudson River, the Columbia River and the Connecticut River. It has been introduced in at least 30 states and reported to be established in most (Page and Burr, 1991; Fuller et al., 1999). It has also been introduced to more than 32 countries throughout the world (Welcomme, 1988). Channel catfish have been introduced to Belgium, Cyprus, the former Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, UK, former USSR and the former Yugoslavia (Holcik, 1991; Kosco et al., 2004). Wild populations have reportedly established themselves in the lower Ebro (Spain), River Oglio and Pavia Province (northern Italy) and in the lower Kuban and Don drainages (Russia) (Doadrio, 2002; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007; Hermoso et al., 2008). Savini et al. (2010) identified the channel catfish as one of 27 aquatic alien fish species, first introduced to Europe in 1900 for the purpose of food production and sport fishing, with established feral populations in four countries not identified in the report. Although some reports (Innal and Erk’akan, 2006; Olenin et al., 2008) indicate its presence and a recent survey (Innal, 2012) of alien fish species in Turkey lists the channel catfish in reservoir systems, Cildir (2001) described attempts to introduce channel catfish into Turkish waters as being unsuccessful.

The channel catfish was introduced in Japan in 1971 for aquaculture and by the early 1990s was detected in natural water bodies around Lake Kasumigaura, an important commercial fishery. The population of I. punctatus which invaded the lake in the early 1980s increased slowly from 1995; a dramatic increase was then reported from 2000 (Hanzawa, 2004), with the increase in population ceasing in 2004, and I. punctatus abundance declining gradually ever since. Escapes from aquaculture facilities and illegal releases are believed to be responsible for the establishment of the channel catfish in the wild in Japan. I. punctatus has recently been documented to have invaded other water bodies that support Japanese commercial fisheries such as the River Tone, Lake Hinuma and Lake Biwa (Katano et al., 2010). Several specimens were caught in Lake Hinuma and the Miya and Seta Rivers in 2008 and 2009. In Japan, there are now restrictions on the import, transport and maintenance of channel catfish.

Channel catfish were introduced into central China to be cultured in cages in inland waters for food, and quickly became one of the most efficient aquaculture species (Tan and Tong, 1989; Ma et al., 2003).

Introduced for aquaculture in Brazil, the first report of the channel catfish was in the middle Paranapanema river by Zanata et al. (2010), believed to have been associated with the expansion of cage culture in the Chavantes Reservoir. Orsi and Agostinho (1999) noted that the first specimen of channel catfish collected in the lower Paranapanema River may have originated from fish farms sited along the river basin. According to several reports (Orsi and Agostinho, 1999; Vitule, 2009), Brazil seems to be highly vulnerable to invasion and successful spread of the channel catfish; it has been recommended for listing on a black list, and its use in aquaculture prohibited. Reports of occasional occurrences of I. punctatus in southern Brazilian inland waters have been documented since 2008 (Cruz et al., 2012).

In Honduras, it was introduced in the early 1960s for aquaculture by the United Fruit Company, with escapes into the Ulúa and Chamelecón Rivers following Hurricane Fifi in 1975  (Matamoros et al., 2009).

Channel catfish were introduced from North America to Belarus in 1979 for aquaculture in the Pripyat river basin (Shumak and Mischenko, 1989) and have been reported in fish farms. Although unable to reproduce in Belarus under natural conditions it has established a self-sustaining population in the warm waters of Lake Beloe, which serves as a power plant cooling reservoir (Kunitskiy, 2001). I. punctatus has been assessed as having a medium risk of becoming invasive in Belarus on the basis of the FISK assessment tool which yielded a score of about 15. The tool ranked fish species as having low, medium or high risk of being invasive (Copp et al., 2009): <1 indicates low risk; 1-18.9 medium risk; and 19 to a maximum of 54 indicates high risk.

The channel catfish was introduced to Chile for aquaculture in 1995 and though listed as an exotic species in the fresh waters of Chile in a survey by Iriarte et al. (2005); it is not listed as invasive in a list tabulated of such species. 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Arizona 1973 Unknown No No Minckley (1973); Minckley (1973)
Armenia Russian Federation   Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Gabrielyan (2001); Gabrielyan (2001)
Belarus USA 1979 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Shumak and Mischenko (1989) Confined to Lake Beloe
Belgium USA 1884, 1968 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown Yes No FAO (1997); Verreycken et al. (2009)
Brazil USA 1971, 1980 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Unknown No No Piedras (1990); Welcomme (1988)
Bulgaria USA 1975 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Yes No Uzunova and Zlatanova (2007)
California 1891 Unknown No No Smith (1896)
Chile USA 1995 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Pérez et al. (2003)
China USA 1984 Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Ma et al. (2003)
Connecticut 1960 Unknown No No Behnke and Wetzel (1960)
Côte d'Ivoire USA   No No Welcomme (1988)
Cuba Mexico 1979 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Welcomme (1988)
Cuba Russian Federation 1984 Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Welcomme (1988)
Cyprus USA 1975 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Unknown No No Dill (1990); Welcomme (1988) Probably established
Czech Republic USA 1985 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Yes No NOBANIS (2005); Welcomme (1988)
Delaware 1976 Unknown No No Lee and et al. (1976)
Dominican Republic USA 1954-1955 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Chakalall (1993); Welcomme (1988)
Egypt USA 1982 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Welcomme (1988)
Estonia USA 2002 No No NOBANIS (2005)
France USA   Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Welcomme (1988)
French Polynesia   Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Eldredge (1994); Eldredge (1994)
Guam USA 1966 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Eldredge (1994); Eldredge (1994); Welcomme (1988)
Hawaii 1960 Unknown No No Brock (1960); Brock (1960)
Honduras 1960s Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Matamoros et al. (2009) Report of reproducing population on a fish farm
Hungary USA 1975 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No Yes Froese and Pauly (2013); Holcík (1991); Holcík (1991) Continuously restocked as not established
Idaho 1893 Unknown No No Linder (1963)
India USA 1985-1989 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Csavas (1995); Csavas (1995); Molar and Walker (1998) No reports so far on its presence
Indonesia USA 1986 Research (pathway cause)Unknown No No Eidman (1989); Eidman (1989)
Italy USA 1976 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown Yes No Amori and et al. (1993); Copp et al. (2005); Copp et al. (2005b); Ligas (2007)
Japan California 1971 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Aquarium trade (pathway cause)
Unknown Yes No Chiba and et al. (1989); Chiba et al. (1989); Katano et al. (2010); Welcomme (1988)
Korea, Republic of USA 1972 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Welcomme (1988) Collected but not known to be established
Lithuania USA   No No DAISIE (2013); NOBANIS (2005)
Malaysia USA   Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Freshwater Fisheries Research Centre Malaysia (FFRC) (2001)
Massachusetts 1980 Unknown No No Lee and et al. (1980); Lee et al. (1980)
Mexico USA 1933 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Fisheries (pathway cause)
Yes No Froese and Pauly (2013); Zambrano and Macias-Garcia (2000)
Netherlands USA   No No Cowx and Nunn (2008)
New Jersey 1905 Unknown No No Morse (1905)
Nigeria USA 1970 Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Welcomme (1988)
Nigeria 1970 Unknown No No Welcomme (1988)
Oregon 1896 Unknown No No Smith (1896)
Pakistan USA 2003 Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Rab et al. (2007)
Panama USA 1981 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Welcomme (1988)
Philippines California 1974 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Aquarium trade (pathway cause)
Unknown No No Juliano and et al. (1989); Juliano et al. (1989) No known natural population
Puerto Rico USA 1938 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes No Neal et al. (2009); Welcomme (1988)
Romania Russian Federation 1978 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No DAISIE (2013); FAO (1997); Froese and Pauly (2004)
Russian Federation USA   Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Bogutskaya and Naseka (2002); DAISIE (2013) Escaped into wild
Serbia   No No Cowx and Nunn (2008)
Slovakia USA 1985 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Welcomme (1988) Probably established
Spain USA   Yes No Welcomme (1988)
Taiwan USA 1975-1976 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Liao and Lia (1989); Liao and Lia (1989); Liao and Liu (1989); Welcomme (1988) Warmer climate was found to be unsuitable, thus it is no longer cultured
Thailand USA 1989 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No Csavas (1995); Csavas (1995); Vidthayanon (2005)
Turkey USA 1989 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Unknown No No Cowx and Nunn (2008); FAO (1997)
UK USA 1968 Aquarium trade (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Unknown No No Welcomme (1988)
Ukraine Russian Federation   No No DAISIE (2013)
Uzbekistan USA   Yes No Salikhov and Kamilov (1995)
Washington 1896 Unknown No No Smith (1896)
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) USA 1971 Unknown No No Welcomme (1988) Naturally reproducing in two farms

Risk of Introduction

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Stocking of the channel catfish for sport fishing and food in lakes, reservoirs and ponds outside its native range has resulted in the expansion of its distribution due to the network of canals and drainage systems connecting water bodies. In Brazil, the culture of channel catfish in fish farms or fish cages located in river floodplains, river channels or marginal ponds, has resulted in fish escapes during periods of flooding (Orsi and Agostinho, 1999; Zanata et al., 2010).

When introduced to ecosystems where there is overlap in food niches of native species, competition for the same food resources by channel catfish can lead to significant impacts on native species. As adult channel catfish prey upon a variety of species, the potential risk to affect all native species exists (Tyus and Nikirk, 1990).

Habitat

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The channel catfish can be found in clean, rocky, well-oxygenated, medium to large rivers and streams, as well as still waters or slow flowing rivers and muddy waters (Becker, 1983). Etnier and Starnes (2001) reported that channel catfish are also able to adapt to habitats such as small to large creeks, reservoirs, natural lakes, swamps, oxbow lakes, farm ponds and larger trout streams. They may enter brackish water but appear to be limited by salinities of 1.7 ppt (Scott and Crossman, 1973), although specimens have been collected from waters with salinities of 11 ppt (Ross, 2001) and 11.4 ppt (Perry, 1968).  

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Brackish
Estuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Freshwater
Freshwater Principal habitat Natural
Freshwater Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Irrigation channels Principal habitat Natural
Irrigation channels Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Lakes Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Ponds Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

Age at maturity appears to vary according to geographic location. For example, in Texas ponds individuals mature 18 months after hatching (Carlander, 1969), whereas in the coastal regions of Louisiana, at salinities of 3.5 ppt, specimens mature by the second or third year at 330-339 mm total length (TL) in males and 350-359 mm TL in females (Perry and Carver, 1973). In Lake Erie, half the males were mature when they reached 290 mm TL and half the females when they reached 250-255 mm TL (DeRoth, 1965). According to Appelget and Smith (1951), maturity is generally reached only when a total length of 305 mm is reached; in northern regions, channel catfish may only mature when 2-5 years of age or later (DeRoth, 1965).

Reported optimum spawning temperatures for channel catfish include 21°C (McMahon and Terrell, 1982), 21.7°C (McClellan, 1954), 23.8°C (Appleget and Smith, 1951), 23.9°C (Katz, 1954), 20.6°-23.3°C (Smith, 1974) and 21.1°-29.5°C (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 1988). Spawning occurs in late spring and early summer when water temperatures reach 16-24°C (Appleget and Smith, 1951). Males generally select a suitable spawning site, usually in sheltered areas such as among stones, hollow logs, under banks or other suitable cover. Eggs are then laid in a nest excavated by the female after which males guard and fan the water over the nest for 5-10 days when the eggs hatch. Spawning takes 4-6 hours, with as many as 8000 eggs being laid (Appleget and Smith, 1951). Eggs require 15.5° to 29.5°C for development to occur, being unable to develop below 15.5°C, with optimum development occurring at 27°C (McMahon and Terrell, 1982). Fertilized eggs hatch in 6 days at 25°C and in 10 days at 15.6°C. Toole (1951) reported eggs hatching in 5-10 days in Texas ponds. 

Longevity

Channel catfish generally live 6 to 10 years although longer life spans have been reported with fish more than 14 years of age being reported in several waters. In Colorado, specimens reaching 22 years of age have been reported in an introduced population (Tyus and Nikirk, 1990) while in Canada, a specimen as old as 40 years of age has been recorded (Carlander, 1969).

Activity Patterns

According to Becker (1983), channel catfish may travel upstream or downstream in rivers to spawn. Movement of reservoir populations increases during or soon after periods of increased river flow. Duncan and Myers (1978) and Dames et al. (1989) observed that reservoir and river populations of channel catfish tend to migrate upstream in spring and downstream in the fall.

Nutrition

The channel catfish is an omnivorous, opportunistic feeder, feeding on both living and dead matter. It feeds by touch, and taste; taste buds located on the barbels help in the detection of prey (Joyce and Chapman, 1978). Channel catfish usually feed at night, and only at water temperatures above 15.6°C (Becker, 1983). Larval stages feed on midge larvae and pupae. Channel catfish smaller than 102 mm total length (TL) feed primarily on insects; while those larger than 102 mm TL continue to feed on aquatic insects, they also begin to feed on large species of mayflies and caddis flies. Larger fish tend to feed on terrestrial insects, seeds (from elm and cottonwood trees), crayfish, aquatic insect nymphs, snakes, birds, spiders and plant matter (Becker, 1983). Other plant food items include wild grapes, wild fruits, weed seeds and other plant matter falling into rivers and streams from overhanging branches. A high incidence of aquatic vegetation was reported in the stomachs of channel catfish sampled from a Missouri River reservoir, which included Ranunculus aquatilis, Ceratophyllum demersum, Potamogeton crispus, Myriophyllum spicatum, Spirogyra spp. (Dagel et al., 2010). In coastal areas, small crustaceans (amphipods, isopods, xanthid crabs), midge larvae and pupae and organic detritus form the diet of fish larger than 76-119 mm. Menzel (1945) reported channel catfish feeding on plants such as filamentous green algae. Species of fish consumed by large channel catfish depend on their availability: minnows (Cyprinidae), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), crappie (Pomoxis spp.), yellow perch (Perca flavescens), hickory shad (Alosa mediocris), gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), eels (Anguilla spp.), and green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) (Bailey and Harrison, 1945; Robinette and Knight, 1981). Flooding of steams allows channel catfish to consume terrestrial prey such as earthworms, crickets, centipedes and even mice and rats as they make their way onto flooded plains (Robinette and Knight, 1981). The stomach contents of one adult channel catfish from Canton Reservoir in Oklahoma reportedly contained an adult bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) (Buck and Cross, 1952), while cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) have been reported in stomachs of channel catfish from a lake in Oklahoma (Heard, 1958). It is not known if the channel catfish had been feeding on live rats swimming on the surface or on drowned rats on the bottom.

Environmental Requirements

Survival in brackish water appears to be limited by salinities of 1.7 ppt, although specimens have been collected at 11 ppt (Ross, 2001). Although channel catfish prefer a temperature range of 28-30°C (Cheetham et al., 1976), they can survive higher temperatures; Allen and Strawn (1968) noted the upper lethal temperature for the species ranges from 36.6-37.8°C for acclimation temperatures of 26-34°C. They are known to survive at water temperatures close to freezing as well since channel catfish ponds in northwest Mississippi periodically freeze in winter (Moss and Scott, 1961). While dissolved oxygen levels greater than or equal to 7 mg/ml are optimum for growth and survival, levels of 5-7 mg/ml are considered acceptable; lethal levels of dissolved oxygen concentrations have been reported to be 0.95-1.08 mg/l (Meisenheimer, 1988). Dissolved oxygen levels less than 3 mg/ml retard growth, with feeding decreasing at less than 5 mg/ml (Randolph and Clemens, 1976). According to Becker (1983), embryonic and larval development will be affected if oxygen levels are too low, and that the deleterious effects of low oxygen levels are dependent on water temperature.

Juveniles prefer depths of 50-70 cm while adults go for the deepest water possible (Holland and Peters, 1992); both juveniles and adults prefer areas of slow to moderate currents e.g. less than 60 cm/sec (Holland and Peters, 1992). McMahon and Terrell (1982) however report that current velocities of less than 15 cm/sec are preferred in deep ponds and backwaters and optimal turbidity levels of below 100 ppm. 

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Insect larvae, pupae Larval
Insects, detritus, crayfish, fish, snakes, birds Adult
Plankton, aquatic insects Fry
zooplankton Larval 75

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Tolerated Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
27-51

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 10 21
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 40
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 0

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) <0.2 Harmful Adult as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) <0.2 Harmful Broodstock as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) <0.2 Harmful Egg as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) <0.2 Harmful Larval as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) <0.2 Harmful Fry as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Adult as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Broodstock as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Egg as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Larval as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Fry as nitrogen
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0 0.2 Harmful Tucker (2000)
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Adult
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Broodstock
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Egg
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Larval
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 0 Optimum Fry
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 3.8 Harmful Adult
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 3.8 Harmful Broodstock
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 3.8 Harmful Egg
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 3.8 Harmful Larval
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 3.8 Harmful Fry
Carbon Dioxide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Adult depends on dissolved oxygen
Carbon Dioxide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Broodstock depends on dissolved oxygen
Carbon Dioxide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Egg depends on dissolved oxygen
Carbon Dioxide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Larval depends on dissolved oxygen
Carbon Dioxide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Fry depends on dissolved oxygen
Chloride (mg/l) 100 Optimum Adult
Chloride (mg/l) 100 Optimum Broodstock
Chloride (mg/l) 100 Optimum Egg
Chloride (mg/l) 100 Optimum Larval
Chloride (mg/l) 100 Optimum Fry
Chloride (mg/l) 800 Harmful Adult
Chloride (mg/l) 800 Harmful Broodstock
Chloride (mg/l) 800 Harmful Egg
Chloride (mg/l) 800 Harmful Larval
Chloride (mg/l) 800 Harmful Fry
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Harmful Adult
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Optimum Larval
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Harmful Fry
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Optimum Fry
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Optimum Adult
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Harmful Broodstock
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Optimum Broodstock
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Harmful Egg
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Optimum Egg
Chlorine (mg/l) 0 Harmful Larval
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 20 Harmful Adult
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 20 Harmful Broodstock
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 20 Harmful Egg
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 20 Harmful Larval
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 20 Harmful Fry
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5-15 Optimum Adult
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5-15 Optimum Broodstock
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5-15 Optimum Egg
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5-15 Optimum Larval
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5-15 Optimum Fry
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5 15 Optimum Meisenheimer (1988); Tucker (2000)
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 1 20 Harmful
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) >400 Harmful Adult
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) >400 Harmful Broodstock
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) >400 Harmful Egg
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) >400 Harmful Larval
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) >400 Harmful Fry
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 20-400 Optimum Adult
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 20-400 Optimum Broodstock
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 20-400 Optimum Egg
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 20-400 Optimum Larval
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 20-400 Optimum Fry
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) <0.01 Harmful Adult as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) <0.01 Harmful Broodstock as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) <0.01 Harmful Egg as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) <0.01 Harmful Larval as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) <0.01 Harmful Fry as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Adult as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Broodstock as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Egg as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Larval as sulphur
Hydrogen sulphide (mg/l) 0 Optimum Fry as sulphur
Nitrite (mg/l) 0 Optimum Adult depends on chlorine
Nitrite (mg/l) 0 Optimum Broodstock depends on chlorine
Nitrite (mg/l) 0 Optimum Egg depends on chlorine
Nitrite (mg/l) 0 Optimum Larval depends on chlorine
Nitrite (mg/l) 0 Optimum Fry depends on chlorine
Salinity (part per thousand) 8 Harmful Adult
Salinity (part per thousand) 8 Harmful Egg
Salinity (part per thousand) 8 Harmful Fry
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.5-2.0 Optimum Larval
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.5-3.0 Optimum Adult
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.5-3.0 Optimum Broodstock
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.5-3.0 Optimum Egg
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.5-3.0 Optimum Fry
Salinity (part per thousand) 20 Harmful Broodstock
Salinity (part per thousand) 3.0 Harmful Larval
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.1 12 Harmful Tucker (2000)
Salinity (part per thousand) 0.5 4 1.7 Optimum Tucker (2000)
Water pH (pH) >9 Harmful Adult
Water pH (pH) >9 Harmful Broodstock
Water pH (pH) >9 Harmful Egg
Water pH (pH) >9 Harmful Larval
Water pH (pH) >9 Harmful Fry
Water pH (pH) 6-9 Optimum Adult
Water pH (pH) 6-9 Optimum Broodstock
Water pH (pH) 6-9 Optimum Egg
Water pH (pH) 6-9 Optimum Larval
Water pH (pH) 6-9 Optimum Fry
Water pH (pH) 10 4.5 Harmful Tucker (2000)
Water pH (pH) 9 5.5 Optimum Tucker (2000)
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 28 30 Optimum Cheetham et al. (1976); minimum of 21°C and maximum of 28°C for reproduction
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 36.6 37.8 Harmful

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Anax junius Predator All Stages not specific
Anguilla rostrata Predator All Stages not specific
Ardea herodias Predator All Stages not specific
Buteo jamaicensis Predator All Stages not specific
Dytiscus Predator All Stages not specific
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Predator All Stages not specific
Ichthyomyzon castaneus Predator All Stages not specific
Lepomis macrochirus Predator All Stages not specific
Micropterus salmoides Predator All Stages not specific
Notemigonus crysoleucas Predator All Stages not specific
Notophthalmus viridescens Predator All Stages not specific
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos Predator Adult/Fry Glahn and et al. , 1995
Perca flavescens Predator All Stages not specific
Phalacrocorax auritus Predator Adult/Fry Glahn and et al. , 1995
Pomoxis nigromaculatus Predator All Stages not specific
Pylodictis olivaris Predator All Stages not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The large adult size and presence of spines means predation on channel catfish is likely to be limited to the younger stages. Young channel catfish are vulnerable to predation by insects, other fish and fish-eating birds. Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), herons (Ardea herodias) and pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) cause serious losses on catfish farms (Glahn et al., 1995; King et al., 1995; Wywialowski, 1999; Glahn et al., 2002). 

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Aircraft Yes Yes
Aquaculture stock Yes Yes
Water Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Fisheries / aquaculture Positive
Other Negative
Trade/international relations Negative

Economic Impact

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Channel catfish in the James River estuary in Virginia were reported to prey on blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) and white perch (Morone americana) and are known to eat the spawn of many other commercial sport and fishery species, including Atlantic shad (Alosa sapidissima), blueback herring (A. aestivalis), alewife (A. pseudoharengus) (Menzel, 1945). McGovern and Olney (1988) found M. americana eggs and M. saxatilis eggs and larvae in gut contents of juvenile channel catfish from the Pamunkey River in Virginia.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

Channel catfish were first introduced into the Upper Colorado River Basin in 1892 (Tyus and Nikirk, 1990) and are now common to abundant throughout much of the upper basin (Tyus et al., 1982; Nelson et al., 1995). It is one of the most prolific predators in the upper basin and, among the nonnative fishes, is thought to have the greatest adverse effect on endangered fish species (Hawkins and Nesler, 1991; Lentsch et al., 1996; Tyus and Saunders, 1996), primarily as a result of predation on juveniles and resource overlap with subadults and adults. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) suggested that the introduction of channel catfish and other large predatory fishes (Micropterus salmoides, M. dolomieu) may have contributed to the extirpation of the native species Percina caprodes (logperch) in the Potomac river and Percopsis oniscomaycus (troutperch) in the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. The channel catfish is a major predator of razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) in the Gila River (Marsh and Brooks, 1989) and along the Colorado River in California (Langhorst, 1989). Intense predation by channel catfish led to the failure of efforts to re-establish the critically endangered razorback sucker (X. texanus) in the Gila River Basin (Marsh and Brooks, 1989).  Lentsch et al. (1996) identified the channel catfish as one of six non-native species in the upper Colorado River basin that is a threat to the razorback sucker; it is also the principal non-native threat to juvenile, subadult and adult Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) in the San Juan River in New Mexico. As adult Colorado pikeminnow use the same habitats as adult channel catfish, there is a potential for negative interactions, particularly during periods of limited availability of resources (Wick et al. 1985; Tyus and Karp 1989; Nesler, 1995). In the James River estuary it preys upon Callinectes sapidus and Morone americana (white perch) and feeds on the spawn of M. americana, Alosa sapidissima (Atlantic shad), A. aestivalis (blueback herring) and A. pseudoharengus (alewife) (Menzel, 1945). The channel catfish hybridizes with the threatened Yaqui catfish (Ictalurus pricei) in Mexico (Sublette et al., 1990; Kelsch and Jensen, 1997) while in New Mexico, it hybridizes with the native headwater catfish (I. lupus) (Kelsch and Hendricks, 1990). 

There are reports of the endangered Colorado squawfish (Colorado pikeminnow), Ptychocheilus lucius, choking on introduced channel catfish while trying to feed on them (McAda, 1983; Pimental et al., 1985). The predatory habit of the channel catfish is thought to be responsible for the decline of the razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) (Marsh and Brooks, 1989) and the Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis) in Arizona (Rosen et al., 1995) and the humpback chub (Gila cypha) in the Little Colorado River (Marsh and Douglas, 1997). The channel catfish is also believed to have contributed to the extirpation of an isolated population of trout perch, Percopsis omiscomaycus, in the Potomac River in Virginia and Maryland (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). A decrease in crayfish numbers due to predation by channel catfish in mesocosm experiments (Adams, 2007), implies it could be responsible for the decline in native crayfish populations in habitats where the channel catfish has been introduced. In Japan, invasion by channel catfish of Lake Kasumigaura, an important inland commercial fishery, is thought to be the major cause of the decline in populations of native species and subsequent damage to commercial fisheries (Hanzawa, 2004; Hanzawa and Arayama, 2007; Arayama, 2010; Katano et al., 2010). 

Impact: Biodiversity

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Ictalurus punctatus are an important sport species in many states of the USA and are actively managed in at least 31 states (Vanderford, 1984). Fuller et al. (1999) cites observations related to I. punctatus preying on small and large endangered species. FishBase (2004) lists catfish as a potential pest although there is little literature on impacts of introductions.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Gila cyphaEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)ArizonaPredationMarsh and Douglas, 1997
Ictalurus priceiEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered)HybridizationVarela-Romero et al., 2011
Percopsis omiscomaycusLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)Maryland; VirginiaPredationJenkins and Burkhead, 1994
Xyrauchen texanus (razorback sucker)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesArizonaPredationMarsh and Brooks, 1989
Rana chiricahuensis (Chiricahua leopard frog)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)ArizonaPredationRosen et al., 1995

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Changed gene pool/ selective loss of genotypes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Increases vulnerability to invasions
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Hybridization
  • Predation
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Bait/attractant

General

  • Laboratory use
  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Research model
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Genetic importance

  • Gene source

Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Although I. punctatus resembles the headwater catfish, I. lupus, it has more than 25 anal fin rays (less than 25 for I. lupus), and the caudal fin in younger specimens is deeply forked. I. punctatus can be distinguished from the blue catfish (I. furcatus) by the presence of a shorter rounded anal fin (the margin of the anal fin being almost straight in I. furcatus) (Sublette et al., 1990).

In Brazil, the introduced channel catfish is often confused with the native silver catfish jundia (Rhamdia quelen). The native silver catfish, however, has 3 pairs of barbels while the channel catfish has 4 (Wellborn, 1988); the first ray of the dorsal fin of the channel catfish exists as a rigid spine while in the silver catfish, it is soft. 

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

Careful consideration of an introduction before it occurs reduces the potential risks of intentional introductions of non-indigenous species. Several protocols have been developed to evaluate proposed introductions, and address environmental concerns, such as the ICES Code of Practice and the American Fisheries Society protocol (Elvira, 2001). When a proposal to introduce channel catfish into New Zealand for aquaculture was made, a review team considered the environmental risks posed. As the evidence obtained from the North American experience indicated that one or more valued species was likely to suffer a decline in abundance or distribution if channel catfish were introduced, the review team concluded that the environmental risk posed by the introduction of the channel catfish was unacceptable (Townsend and Winterbourn, 1992). Education programmes that promote a general awareness of the consequences of the introduction of non-indigenous species and means of minimising the risks of introduction, and the enforcement of existing legislation are vital in preventing the spread of introduced fish species. 

Fish screens could be installed to prevent the escape of channel catfish from ponds and reservoirs into rivers where they might interact with native fishes. Screening reservoir outlets, berming ponds to prevent nonnative fishes from escaping into rivers, and working with state authorities as in the United States, to regulate stocking of nonnative fishes are some of the measures being taken to regulate channel catfish populations (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 2004). In the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, channel catfish is stocked in lakes that are not connected to main stem rivers to prevent further spread of the species into unrestricted waterways (Boersma et al., 2006). Regulation of escapes from aquaculture and illegal introductions is also necessary, along with a need for more comprehensive monitoring to reduce the future expansion of I. punctatus from lakes to connecting rivers.

Eradication

While chemical measures would harm endangered species which occupy the same or adjacent habitat, mechanical removal (active and passive netting) is not only expensive but impossible for total removal, according to Tyus and Saunders (2000). Nonetheless, mechanical removal of channel catfish has been proposed as a long-term, efficient means of removing channel catfish to suppress its abundance. There have been short-lived individual removal efforts in the Upper Colorado River Basin lasting 2-3 years, targeting the channel catfish, involving the use of electrofishing, netting and angling (Brooks et al., 2000; Jackson and Badame, 2002; Modde and Fuller, 2002; Davis, 2003).

The use of intensive fishing has also been proposed as larger catfish are vulnerable to fishing and angling has all but eliminated larger specimens in some regions e.g. Wyoming (Gerhardt and Hubert, 1991). Unfortunately, commercial fishing of channel catfish in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers has been so effective that fishing had to be stopped or size restrictions imposed to enable the populations to recover. According to Pool (2007) no known programme exists to control wild populations of invasive channel catfish in the Pacific Northwest region.

In Japan, to prevent further ecological and economic damage by I. punctatus in Lake Kasumigaura, steps were taken by the authorities to reduce their numbers. From 2005, Ibaraki Prefecture, with the help of local fishermen, initiated an I. punctatus removal project, which required them to remove I. punctatus caught as a by-product when fishing with stationary nets. Matsuzaki et al. (2011) suggest that more proactive and intensive stationary netting may be an effective method for reducing I. punctatus populations in Lake Kasumigaura. 

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Further research is required to quantify the extent of the interaction between the channel catfish and native species where the former has been introduced, and investigate its potential for establishment in the wild and possible environmental consequences.

References

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Adams SB, 2007. Direct and indirect effects of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) on native crayfishes (Cambaridae) in experimental tanks. American Midland Naturalist, 158:85-96.

Allen KO, Strawn K, 1968. Heat tolerance of channel catfish, Ictalurus puntalatus. Proceedings of the Southeast Association of Game and Fish Commission, 21:399-411.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Animal Diversity Webhttp://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html
DAISIE Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europehttp://www.europe-aliens.org/
Environmental Impacts of Alien Species in Aquaculture (IMPASSE)http://www2.hull.ac.uk/science/biology/research/hifi/impasse.aspx
Florida Natural History Museumhttp://www.flmnh.ufl.edu
National Exotic Marine and Estuarine Species Information Systemhttp://invasions.si.edu/nemesis/
NOBANIS (2011)http://www.nobanis.org/default.aspThe European Network on Invasive Alien Species
Non Indigenous Aquatic Species (NAS)http://nas.er.usgs.gov/
The Catfish Institutehttp://www.catfishinstitute.com
The Catfish Journalhttp://www.catfishjournal.com
USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Servicehttp://www.nass.usda.gov

Contributors

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22/10/13 Updated by:

Uma Sabapathy Allen, CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8DE, UK 

Main Author
Carole Engle
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Aquaculture/Fisheries Cent of Excellence, Woodard Hall, Room 219, 1200 N. University Drive, Mail Slot 4912, Pine Bluff, AR 71603, USA

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