IV. The African Glass Catfish



a.k.a. the “Debauwi” Catfish – which it is not. 

Unlike the Asian Glass Catfish, this fish is not nearly all transparent, but is silvery with black stripes, with some transparency especially along the belly, back and side muscles of the fish.  Like the Asian fish called by a similar name, it is strongly diurnal (day-active) and very strongly
schooling with its own kind.  Also like the Asian fish, it has suffered
major name confusion and error.  The real name (at least at the moment)
Pareutropius buffei .  It has been called for years in the trade either Pareutropius debauwi or Eutropiellus debauwi and is commonly labeled “Debauwi” catfish for sale.  Unfortunately, the true fish of that name is a near relative, larger than this fish, and rarely imported.


the fish sold under that name is one of the best catfish for tropical
tanks.  It is also one of the most “normal” catfish, as the “Catfish of
the Month” entry on Planet Catfish
(2) points out.  It is “normal” in that it is shaped like a standard fish
(say a bit like a Rasbora, and quite unlike so many oddball catfish.
It is normal in being day-active.  It is strongly schooling with its own
kind, also norm
al for many hobby tank tropical fishes.  It has no strange or special requirements on foods, taking most prepared flakes and pellets, along with many frozen/thawed/rinsed foods and/or
their live counterparts.  It has no issues with other fish, tending to
ignore their existence.  It is not at all a bashful feeder either –
which may short-change any bashful fish co-housed with these cats.  It
makes a rather oddball catfish just because it is such a normal fish.
It never hides in wood or rock piles or hangs onto the glass.  It swims,
and swims, and swims.  Have I mentioned that it is very graceful and
almost constantly active without being in a great hurry
, except at feeding times? 




If these catfish have any flaw, it is that they are not showy in color.
Silver and black is not something that sends hobbyists running for the
store gripping their charge cards.  But they are peaceful, trouble-free,
non-aggressive, constantly active but only hyper at feeding time.  In
short they are hardy, peaceful but not cowardly schooling fish with no
quirks.  If they have any quirk, it is that they among the most normal
tank fish available and definitely one of the very
best schooling fish in captivity.  As I like schooling fish, so I
am a sucker for these and have not been without them in decades.  If I
need to relax and calm down, a cup of coffee or a few chocolates or both
while sitting in front of the
debauwi tank will fix me up just fine.
If I am completely frazzled, I might substitute a single-malt.  This is
my “home” or baseline tank.  It is not exciting, but it is never




Debauwi cats do have barbels (three pairs), but they are not easily seen as they are shortish and fine, generally folded along the head/body.  Sometimes the one slightly longer pair can be seen if you have sharp eyes. But they are never prominent 




minimum school size for these fish should be at least six individuals.
They do hang together extremely well. Larger schools are of course
  If you think that Tetras are decent schoolers, wait until you keep diurnal catfish.  These fish really define schooling fish in captivity for me. The standard length (nose to caudal peduncle) is just over three inches (~ 3.2”), so even in size these are “normal” hobby fish.  The Asian glass catfish is just about the same at ~3.1” standard length, but much lighter in total mass and thus in bioload than these African Glass Catfish.    




The tank set-up which is ideal for them would be identical to that planted tank described in some detail for Asian Glass Catfish in an earlier article here (1) add URL please.  These fish, like the Asian cats already described, also do like some cover at the surface, and in light stronger than ~2 WPG NO (3) output absolutely require it.  At and above ~3 WPG NO output they will go nocturnal without heavy surface cover in my tanks 




If you must have mixed tanks, almost any small and non-nasty standard so-called community fish will mix with these day-active cats without problems from or to the cats.  I admit that I prefer them as a species tank with a few helpers for glass, algae, and substrate scanning duties.  My debauwi tanks tend to serve as albino bristlenose pleco breeding tanks as well. Then
debauwis tend to ignore the rather large fry, but will eat small
free-swing fry such as rainbowfish fry.  But so will most other
so-called community fish eat such small fry. 
same tank sizes would apply – they show best for me in 30 or 40
long-style tanks or 50, 55, or 75 gallon tanks.  I admit that I started
with these fish in a 30, now have them in a 55, and the next Debauwi
tank just might be one of the big tanks
if I get the nerve to bring those back out.    




As with the Asian fish discussed earlier, temperature anywhere in the 70sF is fine, the mid-70s likely ideal.  Warmer
is not good for these fish either.  No water parameter special
requirements are known, but standard upkeep applies to these fish as
well – ordinary good t
ank care is good for this ordinary but very special fish. 




their Asian counterparts, the African Glass Catfish can be bred in
captivity.  It is not particularly easy but also not any great problem.
They are pretty much standard egg-scatterers among the plants.  They
will eat the eggs if
the adults are left in the breeder tank after spawning.  Several (2-3, depending on tank size) females and a single male, separated for conditioning, are suggested.  Hatch is around the third day and the fry can take newly hatched brine shrimp immediately, so infusoria is not required.  They are commonly imported in quantity (from SE Asia, where they are apparently pond bred.  No technical details on this are available), so are not expensive fish at all. Home breeding is not going to make you wealthy. But keeping such “normal” fish is definitely good for you – or it is for me at least. These are long-lived fish (schools average over ten years in my essentially species tanks). Nearly constantly active, these are undemanding normal fish which are attractive and easy, and among the most graceful fish in my tanks. You would hardy think of them as catfish if you did not know better. 




1. (Insert/Add TPF Library URL for Asian Glass Catfish article)  








3. WPG = watts per gallon; NO = normal output fluorescent light. 




Robert T. Ricketts, Jr.  a.k.a. RTR


Published by

Robert T. Ricketts

Retired research scientist (biochemistry and physiology, pharmaceutical development) and senior process analyst. Started fishkeeping in the dark ages (1950s), first SW tanks in the mid-60s, first puffers in the early 60s. Started with two tanks and never less than multi-tanked excepting some periods in college and grad school. Specialty if any would be filtration and water management. Primarily species tanks, planted whenever possible/practical and some where it not really practical. Ran something on the order of >150 tank-years* in studying optimum tank conditions for F-8 puffers, the largest tank study I have done. Other studies have been significantly less. Alternate canister use was mid-40s, OERFUG just over 60, veggie filters only about 25 to publication, but still going on less intently. If it had been known that the F-8s would live so long, it probably would not have been started at all. *One tank-year is one tank for one year.