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Silver tandan

Other common name(s): 
Silver catfish; Central Australian Catfish
Scientific name: 
Porochilus argenteus
Zietz, 1896
Dave Wilson
Threatened but recovering


A small eeltailed catfish, maximum length 350mm TL, commonly ~70–150 mm. Silvery-white or silvery-grey in colour, lighter on the belly. The fins are translucent silvery-white to golden. The body is slender with a small and relatively short dorsal fin. The anal fin originates fairly well forward on the body, and is joined with the caudodorsal fin, ending in a fairly pointed tip. The head-snout profile is concave, and the eyes are set relatively low on the side of the head. The mouth is small and the four pairs of barbels are relatively long and slender.

The species can be distinguished from Rendahl’s tandan by the lack of serrations or bumps on the back of pectoral fin spines. Distinguished from Hyrtl’s tandan which has a rounder snout, eyes higher up on the sides of the head, and a longer caudodorsal fin.  

Biology and Habitat

Almost nothing is known of this species ecology in the Basin, due to its very recent discovery within the MDB. Outside the MDB it is commonly found in turbid waterholes in smaller creeks through to larger rivers, but has been collected from a wide variety of habitats including ring tanks, flowing bores, and pools associated with artesian springs. Like many desert fishes, it is highly mobile on flood or high flow events, allowing it to utilise suitable ephemeral habitats such as the floodplain when formerly isolated waterholes are connected. The species has been recorded aggregating below road culverts and other barriers.

Nothing is known of the diet, or breeding biology within the Basin. In Cooper Creek waterholes it has a relatively restricted diet during dry times, feeding on predominantly aquatic groups such as microcrustaceans (50%), detritus 16%) chironomid larvae (18%) and algae (9%). However, the diet broadens and changes during high-flow ‘boom’ times to incorporate less microcrustaceans (1–2%), detritus and algae (each 0%) and dramatically increased chironomid (30–55%) and beetle larvae (10–45%). It is thought to spawn during floods, and small juveniles 15–20 mm length have been recorded from outside the MDB in October and December during minor flooding.  

Distribution and Abundance

This species was first recorded in the Basin in 2016 and is only known from a single location on the western edge of the Paroo catchment. The collection locality is a tributary of Bindegolly Lake near Thargomindah. The species is commonly found outside the MDB in northern Australia in Gulf of Carpentaria and Barkly Tableland drainages the NT and Qld, and the Lake Eyre Basin of western Qld, and north-eastern SA. No individuals have been recorded from the Sustainable Rivers Audit (2004–2013) or the MDB Fish Survey (2014/15–2021/22).

Potential Threats

None known. The only collection locality also has Eastern gambusia present.

General References

Allen et al. 2002; Arthington et al. 2005; Balcombe et al. 2005; Herbert & Peters 1995; Huey et al. 2006; Larson & Martin 1989; Merrick & Schmida 1984; Wager & Unmack 2000; P. Unmack unpubl. data.

This species account is an extract from Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin (second edition) and should be cited as "Lintermans, M. 2023, Fishes of the Murray–Darling Basin, Australian River Restoration Centre, Canberra."

Other Fish in this family

Front book cover of Fishes of the Murray–Darling Basin

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Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin

The second edition of Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin by Mark Lintermans is available now! This edition has been fully revised, incorporating new ecological knowledge on each species and additional species accounts.

Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin remains the only book of its kind, devoted exclusively to the fishes of Australia’s largest river system, containing rigorous information on the identification, habitats, biology and distribution of the freshwater fish of the Murray-Darling Basin, as well as background information on the threats to fish and aquatic ecosystems. It is an invaluable resource for naturalists, students, fishers, scientists and anyone else interested in the life within our rivers.

Discover related content on the Finterest website, your home for stories about our Australian Freshwater Native Fish.

Since 2013, Finterest has been sharing great stories and information about the work being undertaken across Australia to bring back our native fish, particularly across the Murray-Darling Basin. It's a great source of inspiration and knowledge for anyone interested in Australian freshwater fish and native fish, and is updated with new stories regularly.
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