Electric Catfish

Electric catfish have very small eyes and have poor eyesight. They hunt and locate food using their electric fields to sense their surroundings. In nature they are generally found in waters of low visibility.

The mouth of the electric catfish look small, but they can actually open up widely, enabling them to eat fish up to almost half their body size. If you observe it long enough and you are lucky, you might even see one flex its mouth muscle backwards much like a wide grin. Like all catfish, electric catfish are hardly and non picky eaters and does not require an all live food diet.

Any tankmate can be shocked by it's electricity, so if you want to give it some friends, be prepared for the worst. However, many people have had success in keeping them with big fish in a large enough tank and giving them enough hiding spaces.

Electric Catfish Cures

Electric Catfish was once used for treatment for sick people. Because of this fascinating fact, I did some research on this area and the following is what I found. (Indenmity: see the doctor if you are sick, don't self medicate and especially don't use a fish!)

The Egyptians [took] electric catfish out of the Nile and, unbeknownst to them, what they were probably doing was electrically stimulating the tissues to stimulate those touch and pressure fibers,” says Warfield. Now, there is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a method of applying low-voltage electricity within tissue using a beeper-sized, battery-powered device with leads connected to electrodes attached to the skin. ( src: http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/110525.html under 'Stimulation-induced analgesia')

The use of electricity to treat diseases is among the earliest recorded medical procedures. Physicians in ancient Egypt used jolts from an electric catfish native to the Nile River, to reduce the pain of arthritis. ( src: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health_medicine/1281016.html under 'By implanting electronic circuits and living tissue, surgeons undo the damage caused by stroke, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.')

It is not clear when electricity was first used to treat illness but electric catfish native to the Nile are portrayed in Egyptian murals several thousand years old suggesting medical applications. The Roman physician Scribonius Largus used a live torpedo fish to treat a patient with gout and wrote in 46 AD that headaches an d other pains could be cured by standing in shallow water near these electric fish. ( src: http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/chris/2004/09/16/bioelectromagnetic_medicine_the_book.htm under 'Preface to Bioelectric Medicine-A Brief Historical Perspective' )

Indian physicians of general medicine, for example, also employed them in all diseases characterized by excessive heat, and Ibn-Sidah, a Muslim doctor of the eleventh century, believed a live electric catfish to have beneficial effects when placed on the brow of a person suffering an epileptic fit (Kellaway 1946). Many others, until the end of the renaissance continued to cite recipes for the torpedo and its ilk. Marcellus Empiricus, Aetius of Amida, Alexander of Tralles, and Paulus Aeginata listed it among the specifics for various cephalgias and arthralgias. Serapion called it Pisces stupefaciens. The Arabians emphasised the virtues of the sleep, which followed the jolting contact with fish. Haly Abbas referred to the latter as the Pisces dormitans. Avicenna and Averhoes thought it efficacious when placed on the brow of persons afflicted with migraine, melancholy, or epilepsy. Persistence of this belief to the sixteenth century is exemplified by Dawud al Antaki's statement that:- "If the torpedo is brought near, while alive, to the head of an epileptic, the latter will be thoroughly cured... it removes chronic headache, unilateral headache, and vertigo even in desperate cases" (Dawud al Antaki 16C in Schechter 1971/Stillings 1975/a). ( src: http://www.paintechnology.com/051.htm under 3.2 'Early Developments in Electroanalgesia' but the whole page is a great read. )


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