Air Breathing Catfish – Pangasius Sutchi

air breathing catfish

Last updated on August 12th, 2022 at 06:19 pm

You may be surprised to know that air breathing catfish, also known as Pangasius sutchi, exist and thrive in the waters of Southeast Asia. Pangasius sutchi are catfish that are native to fast-moving rivers and streams, found primarily in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. As they live mostly in water, you may wonder how they can breathe air at all; well, it’s true that these fish are able to breathe air when oxygen levels drop in their water habitats.

A Catfish in the Mekong River? That’s right! Pangasius sutchi, also known as the air breathing catfish, can be found in the Mekong river basin in Thailand and Vietnam. This fish has a specialized respiratory system that allows it to breathe air from the surface of the water. Unlike most other types of catfish, Pangasius sutchi is able to survive in both freshwater and saltwater environments because of this respiratory adaptation.

Origin and descriptions

air breathing catfish

Air breathing catfish are native to Southeast Asia, China, and India. These fish thrive in tropical, freshwater habitats with lots of vegetation such as swamps and rice paddies. They have been introduced to many other parts of Southeast Asia as well as North America’s southernmost states. This species is currently being farmed for consumption in many areas including China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Alabama.

The air breathing catfish is a fish that can take on oxygen directly from air. It lives in flooded areas and can survive out of water for some time. In appearance, it looks like other catfishes; however, these have a more elliptical outline than that of typical members of the family Clariidae.

This also has small scales and three pairs of barbels (whiskers) on its chin. Air breathing catfish is an important food fish because it is cheap to produce and easy to farm. However, there are concerns about over fishing of the species. In many parts of Asia and Africa, air breathing catfish are farmed intensively.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum (Silver Arowana)

Because pangasius are bottom feeders, they compete with native species for zooplankton as well as being potential hosts of disease-causing parasites.

Species profile

air breathing catfish

Pangasius is a species of fish in the family Clariidae, It is named for panga, a Malay word meaning catfish. It was originally placed in genus Parakysis but has been moved to genus Pangasius. Of its close relatives, two (Pangasius hypophthalmus and Pangasius rostratus) are also commonly used as food, while others are occasionally seen on menus or used in aquariums.

They have long barbels near their mouths. In addition, they have strong odontodes covering most of their body and fins, which give them quite a formidable appearance when they flare out these odontodes – especially when they are juvenile; however, they tend to lose these odontodes with age.


An air breathing catfish has a unique gill structure with a huge membrane surface area where diffusion of oxygen into and carbon dioxide out of the blood is accomplished by simple diffusion across these membranes. Air breathing catfishes are found in lakes and rivers throughout tropical Asia, and also in some parts of Africa.

Usually, they prefer slow-flowing lowland areas but have been observed in still waters as well as tidal estuaries. This is probably due to their being able to tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions including high salinity and alkalinity; extremes in pH can be tolerated provided there is an abundance of dissolved oxygen available.

Air breathing catfish size

This fish species are very large and can grow up to 51 inches (130 cm) in length.

Do catfish have lungs

air breathing catfish

Yes, they do. They don’t have gills. In fact, catfish are a group of fish that don’t have gills as a rule. They have paired respiratory organs called branchial chambers on either side of their heads that look like small, fleshy lungs and function as gills. It is from these structures that they draw oxygen from water into their bodies to allow them to breathe underwater.

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Do fish have heart

It seems that there is a lot of mystery about fish and whether or not they have a heart. Fish do have a heart, although it is more complex than that of land animals. In many ways, it is like our circulatory system; fish use their gills to get oxygen from water, and their hearts pump blood through their bodies in a very similar way to humans. It’s just that they don’t breathe with lungs but with gills instead.

Can catfish breathe out of water?

air breathing catfish

Yes, but not for very long. They are air breathers and do come out of the water to breathe, but only for a few minutes. While they can breathe air, they don’t have lungs. Instead, they use their gills. When you hold your catfish in your hands or on dry land, you will see them move their lips or mouths in an effort to get air.

If left out of water too long, they will actually suffocate, as though they were drowning because there is no way for them to take oxygen from the water when they are out of it.

How do catfish survive in mud?

Catfish generally breathe using gills, which extract oxygen from water. In most cases, catfish use these gills to breathe in both fresh and saltwater environments. When water levels in a pond or lake drop to a low level, however, catfish may require an additional way to breathe under certain conditions; they have developed a mechanism that allows them to temporarily transition into an air breathing organism until water levels return to normal.

This process is known as catadromy. Air breathing catfish are also referred to as climbing catfish, due to their ability to climb out of water when necessary. As with all air breathers, extra caution should be taken when dealing with any climbing fish species.

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Are betta fish air breathers?

Most people have heard of Betta fish also known as Siamese fighting fish, as one of those annoying tropical aquarium fish. However, did you know that betta fish are actually a member of a much larger species of catfish commonly referred to as air breathing catfish?

As a side note, Siamese fighting fish come from southeast Asia and live in warm shallow waters. Although they were used for fighting back in the day, today, they’re more commonly kept as pets.