Pale Catfish

Pale Catfish, Rhamdia guatemalensis

The Pale Catfish, Rhamdia guatemalensis, whose common Spanish name is juil descolorido, is a member of the Seven-finned Catfish or Heptapteridae Family, known collectively as juiles in Mexico. Globally, there are seven species in the genus Rhamdia, all of which are found in the freshwater systems of mainland Mexico.

The Pale Catfish have elongated and easily recognizable “catfish-like” bodies with three pairs of barbels. They are dark gray dorsally, dusky on their sides, and white ventrally with golden tinges throughout. Their caudal and dorsal fins are dusky and their other fins are white with yellowish tinges. They vary in color based on location and some populations have a dark stripe on their sides. They have exceedingly long barbels that extend from their head to beyond the pelvic fin origin. Their adipose fin is long and originates before the anus; it is closer to the dorsal fin than to the caudal fin. Their caudal fin is deeply forked with wide lobes. Their pectoral fins are serrated on both the anterior and posterior margins.

The Pale Catfish are a demersal species found in a wide variety of freshwater habitats at elevations from sea level up to 2,700 feet in tranquil waters without high water flows and with an abundance of plant material and heavy substrate such as rocks and stones which they use as shelter during the day. They reach a maximum length of 23.0 cm (9.1 inches). They have an acute sense of smell. They are opportunistic feeders and active carnivorous scavengers that consume aquatic insects, crustaceans, terrestrial invertebrates, and small fish. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters, the Pale Catfish are found in all freshwater systems in southern mainland Mexico in both the Atlantic and Pacific drainages.

The Pale Catfish is fairly similar to the six other Rhamdia catfish found in Mexican freshwater systems but has the longest barbels and its pectoral fins are serrated on both margins.

The Pale Catfish are small and of limited interest to most. They have not been evaluated from a conservation perspective but should be considered of Least Concern.

Pale Catfish, Rhamdia guatemalensis. Fish caught from Barton Creek, Belize, October 2012. Length: 12.0 cm (4.7 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Josh Leisen (lifelistfishing.com), Gaylord, MI.

Pale Catfish, Rhamdia guatemalensis. Fish caught from Barton Creek, Belize, October 2012. Length: 20.0 cm (7.9 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Josh Leisen (lifelistfishing.com), Gaylord, MI.