Bagrus docmak (Forsskål, 1775)
Status: Accepted name

Select Map

Common names:
Semutundu, Sudan catfish
Lunyara/Lukenyi/Ludope: Mboli Lango: Obanga Lunyankole: Omukora Lugungu: Oreko Jonam: Ombala North-Eastern Uganda: Ebileng

Taxonomic tree
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
Order: Siluriformes (catfish)
Family: Bagridae (naked catfishes)
Genus: Bagrus
Species: Bagrus docmak (Forsskål, 1775)
Number of Occurrancies: 543

Etymology (based on Sharpf & Lazara, 2018) 

  • Bagrus: latinization of bagre, a Portuguese word for catfish used in Brazil (possibly first applied to the marine ariid Bagre bagre)

  • docmak: local name (Arabic = dogmak or docmac) for this catfish along the Lower Nile river delta, Egypt (type locality) 

Synonyms: click here to view synonyms

Type locality: Lower Nile river delta, Egypt. No types known

Distinguishing characters for the genus

  • Moderately elongate, slightly compressed, body

  • Short dorsal and anal fins, the former comprising a spine and 8-11 branched rays

  • A long adipose fin

  • Four pairs of circum-oral barbels

Distinguishing characters for the species

  • Dorsal fin rays not filamentous

  • Broad head, its width contained 1.33-1.6 times in head length

  • Last ray of dorsal fin in advance of the vertical from the last ray of the pelvic fin

  • Dorsal surface of the head smooth (compared to the ridged surface in B. bajad).

  • Generally grows to a bigger size compared to B. bajad

Distribution in Uganda: Widespread in major lakes (Victoria, Kyoga, Nabugabo, Albert, Edward and George, including Kazinga channel) and affluent rivers; the Victoria Nile; the Semliki river; Murchison and Albert Niles and many minor lakes, and swamps

Occurence: Native

Habitat: Benthopelagic, living and feeding in waters just above the bottom as well as midwaters; widespread in both deep and shallo waters.

Feeding: Fishes above 18 cm total length (TL) primarily piscivorous, feeding on small fishes (particulary haplochromines and Silver cyprinid). Insect larvae, crustacea (prawns) and molluscs are also eaten, the former especially by young fishes, until they reach ~50 cm after which they are exclusively piscivorous.

Biology: The species attains a large size, specimens measuring over 100 cm total lenth have been recorded from Lakes Victoria and Edward. Males can easliy be recognised by the presence of an elongate genital papilla in front of the anal fin. Reproduction is througout the year, with slight peak during rainy season (August -September). Spawning fishes have been found upstream in rivers during the rainy season. Nursary grounds include exposed rocky shores and sandy beaches. Size at first maturity ranges between 20-24 cm fork length, and females appear to mature earlier than males. Fecundity ranges between 2,000-88,000 eggs in fishes above 45 cm long. Growth rate ranges between 4.7-2.1 cm per year for age clases 3-14.

Economic importance/End use: Moderately important as a subsistence fishery in Lakes Victoria and Kyoga. However, in lakes such as Edward, George, and Albert, this species is highly targeted and contribute significantly to to the total catches and local trade. The main fishing gear is gill nets The flesh is very palatable and makes good eating. Preparation for human food is mainly by boiling, smoking, or deep frying.

IUCN conservation status: click here to view conservation status

Threats: Predation by Nile perch and competition with Nile perch (for haplochromines). In lakes without Nile perch, the species is largely threatened by overfishing.

Main references

  • Greenwood PH. 1966. The fishes of Uganda. The Uganda Society, Kampala. 131 pages.

  • Sharpf C, Lazara J.K. 2018. Fish Name Etymology Database v13.

  • Witte F & van Densen W.L.T. 1995. Fish Stocks and Fisheries of Lake Victoria: a handbook for field observations. Samara Publishing Limited, Netherlands


Leave a Comment


Natugonza, V. & Musinguzi, L. (editors) 2021. Freshwater Biodiversity Portal for Uganda., version (01/2021).


National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
P.O Box 343, Jinja, Uganda
Telephone: +256 434 121369 / +256 434 120484
General Inquiries:
Technical Support:,
Physical Location: Nile Crescent, Opposite the wagon ferry Terminal, Plot 39/45, Jinja, Uganda