The Hyrtl’s Catfish (Neosilurus hyrtlii) are the only eel-tailed catfish in the Finke River. Catfish earn their name by the whisker like barbels around the mouth, and one of the Arrernte names for this fish means ‘mouth beard’ (pronounced ir-REEN-ginya).

They are widespread in the Finke as well as northern and inland Australia. Although not often seen, they can be the most abundant species in a waterhole. The best way to spot one is at night using a torch. Handle these fish with care as they can inflict an etremely painful sting from poisonous spines in their fins. In the Finke they can change in colour from yellow to grey-black. Sometimes they grow to longer than 30 cm, but are more typically around 10 to 20 cm.

Source: Northern Territory Government

Heavy rain in Central Australia brought floodwater, with former dry rivers filling and flowing over the roads and in some places traffic was cut off. Some travellers along these routes were able to witness fish swimming with the flow of the water, over flooded roadways.

At Jay Creek that cuts across Namatjira Drive, the Hyrtl’s Catfish were seen swimming across the flooded roadway, against the flow of the river. These photos of the fish were taken to identify the fish and then they were released back into the river.

Common name
Hyrtl’s catfish, Glencoe Tandan, Hyrtl’s tandan, Inland Catfish, Common Eel-tail Catfish, Moonfish, Moony, Morton’s Tandan, Mottled Tandan, Salmon Catfish, Silver Moonfish, Straight-backed Catfish, White Tandan, Yellow Fin Tandan, Yellow-finned Catfish.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Siluriformes
  • Family: Plotosidae
  • Genus: Neosilurus
  • Species: N. hyrtlii
  • Binomial name: Neosilurus hyrtlii

Footnote & References

  1. Neosilurus hyrtlii, (last visited Oct. 24, 2021).
  2. Neosilurus hyrtlii Steindachner 1867, Hyrtl’s catfish, Australian Desert Fishes, by Peter J. Unmack,
  3. Lets Go Fishing – Fish of the Lake Eyre Basin, Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club, July 2012,