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Species: Ariopsis felis, Hardhead Catfish, Hardhead Sea Catfish

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head groove long, reaching level rear 1/2 eye
D2 black
rear edge 1st 2 gill arches - with rakers
gill rakers 1st arch 13-16, 2nd arch 13-17, 29-32 combined
female: pads on pelvic bases
pelvics pale

Ariopsis felis (Linnaeus, 1766)

Hardhead Catfish, Hardhead Sea Catfish

Head rounded, only slightly flattened, rounded when viewed from above; bony head shield very rough, covered with thin skin, extends to opposite eyes at front, with a long central narrow longitudinal groove that extends forwards to opposite rear halves of eyes, a broad based bony process with a slight central keel on rear process, narrrows and extends back to meet a crescent-shaped bone plate at base of dorsal fin; 2 pairs of close-set nostrils; no fleshy furrow extends across snout and connects rear nostrils; mouth under snout; 3 pairs of barbels (on chin and both jaws); no fleshy furrow between rear nostrils; gill opening wide, membranes not adhering to breast; teeth on roof of mouth in two patches on each side, 2 small round, usually narrowly separated patches in center (sometimes 1 or both missing), and 2 large oval patches on sides, these teeth never molar-like; 3-5 tiny rakers on upper rear surfaces of first two gill archea; 1st gill arch with 13-16 rakers on side, 2nd arch with 13-17, 31-36, rarely 37 for both arches combined); mature females have fleshy protuberances on pelvic fins; tail fin deeply forked; a complete lateral line, with branches to top and bottom base of tail fin, no scales.

Dark brown to blue above, shading to whitish below; pelvic fins pale; 2nd dorsal black.

Reaches 70 cm.

Turbid muddy bottoms, along coastlines and in estuaries; brackish to marine, occasionally in freshwater.

Depth range: 10-110 m.

N Carolina to Honduras.

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  • Brackish
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
  • Inshore
  • Inshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Bottom
  • Soft bottom only
  • Estuary
  • Freshwater
  • Mud
FishBase Habitat
  • Demersal
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Data
  • Bony fishes
  • Mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs)
Egg Type
  • Brooded
  • Data
  • No pelagic larva
  • No pelagic phase
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Greater Caribbean endemic
  • West Atlantic Endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Continent
  • Continent only
  • Extends North of GC
  • GC endemic
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Least concern
  • Listed
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 70
Depth Range Min
  • 10
Depth Range Max
  • 110