Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Hoplosternum littorale
(armoured catfish)



Hoplosternum littorale (armoured catfish)


  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Hoplosternum littorale
  • Preferred Common Name
  • armoured catfish
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock, 1828)

Preferred Common Name

  • armoured catfish

Other Scientific Names

  • Callichthys albidus Valenciennes, 1840
  • Callichthys chiquitos Castelnau, 1855
  • Callichthys laevigatus Valenciennes, 1936
  • Callichthys littoralis Hancock, 1828
  • Callichthys melampterus Cope, 1872
  • Callichthys subulatus Valenciennes, 1840
  • Cascadura maculocephala Ellis, 1913
  • Cataphractops melampterus (Cope, 1872)
  • Hoplosternum laevigatum (Valenciennes, 1836)
  • Hoplosternum littorale daillyi Hoedeman, 1952
  • Hoplosternum littoralis daillyi Hoedeman, 1952
  • Hoplosternum schreineri Miranda-Ribeiro, 1911
  • Hoplosternum shirui Fowler, 1940
  • Hoplosternum stevardii Gill, 1858
  • Hoplosternum thoracatum cayennae Hoedeman, 1961

International Common Names

  • English: atipa; atipa; brown hoplo; hassar
  • French: atipa; atipa bosco; bosko; cascudo

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: tamboatá; tamoatá; tamuata
  • Denmark: atipa-pansermalle
  • Finland: rantamonni
  • French Guiana: atpa; bata; kaliwalou; kareou; katina kouikoui; katrina kwikwi; katuuba kuikui; kwikwi
  • Germany: küstenschwielenwels; lehmpanzerwels
  • Suriname: pantservis; soke kwi-kwi

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Siluriformes
  •                         Family: Callichthyidae
  •                             Genus: Hoplosternum
  •                                 Species: Hoplosternum littorale


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H. littorale has a bony armour consisting of two rows of large hard scales forming plate-like armour along each side; dark brown to black in colour with two pairs of long barbels on the chin. The barbels are used to detect the presence of food. Breeding males possess enlarged bright red pectoral spines, with hooks at the tips, which are used as weapons in aggressive territorial bouts (Nico et al., 1996). Eyes are not well developed. A maximum size of 218 mm (standard length) has been reported for this species (Winemiller, 1987). Males grow to a maximum of 200 mm and females to about 150 mm. As the gills are underdeveloped in H. littorale, gill breathing is supplemented by its ability to breath air via the intestinal epithelia (Boujard et al., 1990; Ramnarine, 1994a, b; Brauner et al., 1995; Nico et al., 1996).


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Over its native range, this species occurs in lowland areas of Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil (Nico et al., 1996). For the Gulf of Mexico states, H. littorale has been reported in the Indian River Lagoon system, Brevard county, Florida, USA (Nico et al., 1996).

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.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

North America

Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
United StatesPresentCABI (Undated a)Present based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroducedCABI (Undated)Original citation: Nico and et al. (1996)

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
BoliviaPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
BrazilPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
-Sao PauloPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
ColombiaPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
EcuadorPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
French GuianaPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
GuyanaPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
ParaguayPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
PeruPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
SurinamePresentNativeFishBase (2004)
UruguayPresentNativeFishBase (2004)
VenezuelaPresentNativeFishBase (2004)

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceFood Source DatasheetLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
aquatic dipterans Adult
detritus Adult
terrestrial insects Adult


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A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Fresh meat
  • Frozen meat
  • Live product for human consumption
  • Whole


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Azevedo C; Matos E, 1989. Some ultrastructural data on the spore development in a Henneguya sp. parasite of the gill of a Brazilian fish. Parasitology Research, 76(2):131-134.

Boujard T; Keith P; Luquet P, 1990. Diel cycle in Hoplosternum littorale (Teleostei): Evidence for synchronization of locomotor, air breathing and feeding activity by circadian alternation of light and dark. Journal of Fish Biology, 36:133-140.

Brauner CJ; Ballantyne CL; Randall DJ; Val AL, 1995. Air breathing in the armoured catfiosh (Hoplosternum littorale) as an adaptation to hypoxic, acidic and hydrogen sulphide-rich waters. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 73:739-744.

FAO (FAO Fishery Information; Data and Statistics Service), 1993. Aquaculture production (1985-1991). FAO Fish. Circ. 815, Rev 5. 213 p.

FishBase, 2004. Entry for Hoplosternum littorale. Main ref. Reis RE, 1997. Revision of the neotropical catfish genus Hoplosternum (Ostariophysi: Siluriformes: Callichthyidae), with the description of two new genera and three new species. Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwat. 7(4):302-305. Online at Accessed 13 October 2004.

Giamas MTD; Alexandrina AC; Farias EC; Vermulm Junior H; Barbieri G; Campos EC, 2000. Caracteristicas morfologicas das gonadas do tamboata (Hoplosternum littorale, hancock, 1828) (Siluriformes, Callichthyidae), durante o ciclo reproductivo. Revista Brasileira de Medecina Veterinaria, 22:63-70.

Giamas MTD; Vermulm Junior H; Barbieri G; Campos EC, 2000. Reproduction dynamics aspects of "tamboatá" Hoplosternum littorale Hancock, 1828 (Callichthyidae, Osteichthyes). Revista Brasileira de Medicina Veterinária, 22(4):154-159.

Hostache G; Mol JH, 1998. Reproductive biology of the neotropical armoured catfish Hoplosternum littorale (Siluriformes - Callichthyidae): a synthesis stressing the role of the floating bubble nest. Aquatic Living Resources, 11(3):173-185.

IMA (Institute of Marine Affairs), 2004. Aquaculture and Technical Services, Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago. Online at Accessed 10 May 2004.

Kenny JS, 1995. Views from the bridge: a memoir on the freshwater fishes of Trinidad. Maracas, St. Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago, 98 p.

Klinkhardt M; Tesche M; Greven H, 1995. Database of fish chromosomes. Westarp Wissenschaften, 179 pp.

Le Bail PY; Keith P; Planquette P, 2000. Atlas des poissons d’eau douce de Guyane (tome 2, fascicule II). Publications scientifiques du MNHN, Paris, France, 307 p.

Luquet P; Moreau Y; Medale F; Kaushik SJ, 1991. Utilization of the principal nutrients for routine metabolism in atipa (Hoplosternum littorale) on starvation. Journal of Aquaculture in the Tropics, 6(1):69-77.

Machado-Allison A, 1986. Aspectos sobre la historia natural del "curito" Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock, 1828) (Siluriformes - Callichthyidae) en el bajo llano de Venezuela: Desarollo, alimentacion y distribucion espacial. Acta Cientifica Venezolana, 37:72-78.

Mol JH, 1993. Structure and function of floating bubble nests of three amoured catfishes (Callichthyidae) in relation to the aquatic environment. In: Ouboter PE (ed), The freshwater ecosystems of Suriname, Dordrecht, Netherlands, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 167-197.

Mol JH, 1994. Effects of salinity on distribution growth and survival of three neotropical armored catfishes (Siluriformes - Callichthyidae). Journal of Fish Biology, 45:763-776.

Moreau Y; Médale F; Boujard T; Luquet P, 1993. Energy resources in "Atipa", Hoplosternum littorale. A neotropical air breathing catfish. Fish nutrition in practice: 4th international symposium on fish nutrition and feeding. Biarritz, France, June 24-27, 1991., 803-805; [Les Colloques No. 61].

Nico LG; Walsh SJ; Robins RH, 1996. An introduced population of the South American callichthyid catfish Hoplosternum littorale in the Indian River Lagoon system, Florida. Florida Scientist, 59:189-2000.

Pascal M; Hostache G; Tessier C; Vallat P, 1994. Cycle de reproduction et fecondite de l’atipa, Hoplosternum littorale (Siluriforme) en Guyane Francaise. Aquatic Living Resources, 7:25-37.

Ramnarine IW, 1994. A field trial of the semi-intensive culture of the cascadu, Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock, 1828). Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad), 71:135-138.

Ramnarine IW, 1994. Larval culture, development and growth of the cascadu, Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock 1828: Callichthyidae). Aquaculture, 126:291-298.

Ramnarine IW, 1995. The effects of varying dietary protein levels on growth, feed conversion, protein retention, and body composition in the armoured catfish, Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock, 1828). Journal of Aquaculture in the Tropics, 10(2):159-165; 19 ref.

Ramnarine IW, 1996. Early development of the cascadu Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock; Osteichthyes, Callichthyidae). Journal of Aquaculture in the Tropics, 11(2):97-104.

Ramnarine IW, 2001. Hatching trials with eggs of the armoured catfish Hoplosternum littorale (Hancock). Aquaculture, 198(1/2):123-127.

Torres A; Matos E; Azevedo C, 1994. Fine structure of Henneguya amazonica (Myxozoa) in ovarian follicles of Hoplosternum littorale (Teleostei) from the Amazon river. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 19(3):169-172.

Winemiller KO, 1987. Feeding and reproductive biology of the curito, Hoplosternum littorale in the Venezuelan llanos with comments on the possible functions of the enlarged male pectoral spines. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 20:219-227.

Distribution References

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

FishBase, 2004. Entry for Hoplosternum littorale. Main ref. Reis RE, 1997. Revision of the neotropical catfish genus Hoplosternum (Ostariophysi: Siluriformes: Callichthyidae), with the description of two new genera and three new species. In: Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwat. 7 (4) 302-305.

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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Main Author
Uma Sabapathy Allen
Human Sciences, CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK

Distribution Maps

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