Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Synbranchiformes
(Spiny eels) > Mastacembelidae
Etymology: Mastacembelus: Greek, mastax, -agos = bite + Greek, emballo = to throw oneself (Ref. 45335). More on author: Boulenger.
Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range
Freshwater; demersal; pH range: 7.4 - 8.4; dH range: 7 - 30. Tropical; 23°C - 27°C (Ref. 12468)
Africa: Lake Victoria through Lake Tanganyika and their associated catchment basins to the Upper Zambezi and Okavango Rivers (Ref. 6060). Also in the upper Congo River basin in Democratic Republic of the Congo (Ref. 2970, 45616, 93587) and Zambia (Ref. 246, 27609, 45616), in the Zambezi in Zimbabwe (Ref. 94654) and in eastward flowing rivers of Tanzania (Ref. 4967, 41366).
Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 40.0 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. 80296)
(total): 29 - 35;
soft rays: 67 - 80;
Vertebrae: 95 - 96. Anterior nostril in the form of a short tentacle. Snout produced as a fleshy appendage. The anal fin with 2 separate spines. Color extremely variable, ground color brown with a variable reticulated and blotched pattern (Ref. 34290).
Mainly riverine species, but also occurs in lakes near river mouths and in vegetated fringes and in swamps (Ref. 80296). Also found in rapids where it hides among rocks (Ref. 85214). Essentially a sedentary fish, nocturnal and usually waiting for its prey to swim or drift within range whereupon fish will dart out of its shelter to seize it (Ref. 89002). Feeds on aquatic insect larvae (Ref. 80296), lithophilic insects (Ref. 12526), fish (Ref. 13624, 27292), shrimps (Ref. 246, 80296), oligochetes and occasionally vegetable matter (Ref. 80296, 89002). Breeds during flood season, in inundated areas (Ref. 80296). Eggs yellow and large, probably spawned among water weeds (Ref. 89002).
Life cycle and mating behavior
Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae
Travers, R.A., G. Eynikel and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde, 1986. Mastacembelidae. p. 415-427. In J. Daget, J.-P. Gosse and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde (eds.) Check-list of the freshwater fishes of Africa (CLOFFA). ISNB, Brussels; MRAC, Tervuren; and ORSTOM, Paris. Vol. 2. (Ref. 6060)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 120744)
CITES (Ref. 115941)
Threat to humans
ReferencesAquacultureAquaculture profileStrainsGeneticsAllele frequenciesHeritabilityDiseasesProcessingMass conversion
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5000 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00295 (0.00138 - 0.00633), b=2.92 (2.73 - 3.11), in cm Total Length, based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)family-body shape (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 3.9 ±0.63 se; Based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (Preliminary K or Fecundity.).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Moderate vulnerability (42 of 100) .