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Common names:
Giraffe catfish
Lunyoro/Lugungu/Arul: Bubu Jonam: Orukwe

Taxonomic tree
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
Order: Siluriformes (Catfish)
Family: Auchenoglanidae (Giraffe Catfishes)
Genus: Auchenoglanis
Species: Auchenoglanis occidentalis (Valenciennes, 1840)
Number of Occurrancies: 29

Etymology (based Sharpf & Lazara, 2017)

  • Auchenoglanis: In reference to the replacement name for Auchenaspis Bleeker 1858 (preoccupied in fossil fishes), auchenos, neck and aspis, shield, referring to broad nuchal shield (forming a Girafee-like neck), and glanis, meaning sheatfish (Silurus glanis), now used as a general term for catfish.

  • occidentalis: latin, meaning from the western, referring to its westernly distribution compared to congeners known at the time

Synonyms: Check here for synonyms

Type locality: Senegal. Holotype at Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (MNHN)

Distinguishing characters for the genus

  • Body moderately elongate, feebly compressed

  • Massive head, the heavily sculptured bones clearly visible beneath the skin

  • Short dorsal and anal fins, but long adipose fin

  • Only three pairs of unbranched curcum-oral barbles (the nasal barbels are absent)

Distinguishing characters for the species (only 1 species occurs in Uganda)

The characters used to identify the genus above suffice to identify the species in Ugandan waters. Briefly,

  • the species has a small terminal mouth, with the lips thickened and papillose;

  • the hind margin of adipose fin is rounded; the snout is long and pointed snout, about half the length of the head;

  • the maxillary barbel reaches the middle of the eye, or, in small fishes, as far as the posterior border;

  • the outer mandibular barbles as long as, or somewhat longer than the maxillary barbles, almost twice as long as the inner mandibular barbels;

  • a strong spine, granulate on its outer face, strongly serrated on its inner face.

  • Color is olivaceous brown, darker above, often with large, black, or dark spots which extend onto the dorsal and caudal fins. Spotting is more intense in small fishes, and is invariably present

Distribution in Uganda: Lake Albert, Murchison and Albert Nile, Aswa river

Occurence: Native

Habitat: Dermersal, living and feeding at the bottom; common in shallow inshore waters especially with muddy bottom; potamodromous.

Feeding: Omnivore, but predominantly feeds on insect larvae, worms and small Crustacea.

Biology: The average length of specimens collected from Uganda is 50 cm, but the fish can grow up to 100 cm. Information on breeding for Uganda populations is not available although it is suggested that breeding may take place in Murchison Nile and around the shores of the lake. Elsewhere, breeding takes place during flood seasons, where eggs are laid in nests that are guarded and brooded by the male parent.

Economic importance/End use: In Lake Albert, the species is not abundant in catches and forms a local subsistence fishery, especially in seine nets and gillnets. Initially bubu flesh was not attractive as it was thought to be poisonous, but the perception has changed and is consumed by riparian communities.

IUCN conservation status: Check here for conservation status

Threats: Unknown

Main references

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

  • Sharpf C, Lazara J.K. 2017. Fish Name Etymology Database v13.

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


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