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What is a Catla?

By J.L. Drede
Updated May 17, 2024
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The catla is the only fish of the Gibelion genus from the carp family of Cyprindae. It has three scientific names — the Gibelion catla, Cyprinus catla and catla catla. In its native India it is often referred to as the Bhakur. Other countries the fish is native to include Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The catla can grow to be 6 feet (182 cm) in length and weigh up to 83 pounds (38 kg). It has oddly large scales and a very long pectoral fin. The entirety of the body is dark gray/green. Its most recognizable feature is its large lower jaw which forces its lower lip to be upturned, covering its mouth. It is harmless to humans.

In the wild, this freshwater fish is only found in rivers, lakes and ponds. It is omnivorous and will eat insects, plankton and any other assorted biological material that is floating on the surface of the water. It is mostly a surface-dwelling fish, and prefers very warm waters in the 64 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 28 Celsius) range. During monsoon season, usually May until August depending on the region, the fish will partake in its spawning migration, moving towards shallow waters.

The fish is a popular food fish in India, and has been introduced to ponds and other bodies of water for farming purposes. Many times it is introduced in fish farms with multiple carp species, as it eats the organic material that floats on the surface of the water that most other fish will not. The fish is usually harvested when it weighs 2 to 4 pounds (1 to 2 kg) and is then sent off to local markets where it is sold fresh.

After it is purchased the fish can be prepared in any number of ways, and it often fried or baked, mixed in with vegetables and other foods. Compared to many other types of fish in India it is very cheap and plentiful, but the market for exporting it to other countries and regions is slim because of the costs involved with moving large quantities of freshly caught fish. Because of this it is not often exported to other countries outside of India.

Populations of catla are very large throughout India and every country it is native to. Despite this it is rarely caught by sports fishermen. Large catches are even rarer, making the fish a prized and sought-after catch for many sport fishermen who visit the area looking for unusual and one-of-a-kind catches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Catla fish and where can it be found?

Catla, scientifically known as Catla catla, is a freshwater fish native to rivers and lakes in South Asia. It thrives in the waters of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar. Catla is a significant aquaculture species, particularly in South Asia, due to its fast growth and palatability.

How can you identify a Catla fish?

A Catla fish can be identified by its large, broad head, upturned mouth, and shiny silver body with a slightly protruding lower jaw. It has a distinctive arched dorsal fin and large, conspicuous scales. Adult Catla can reach impressive sizes, often weighing over 20 kilograms, making them easily distinguishable from other carp species.

What is the typical diet of a Catla fish?

Catla is primarily a surface feeder and consumes a diet rich in phytoplankton. It prefers zooplankton, aquatic insects, and small invertebrates found near the water surface. Their feeding habits contribute to their rapid growth, making them a preferred species for aquaculture.

What is the economic importance of Catla fish?

Catla is highly valued in the aquaculture industry due to its fast growth rate and market demand. It's a major source of protein for millions of people and supports livelihoods through fishing and farming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Catla is among the most farmed fish species in South Asia, contributing significantly to the region's economy.

How is Catla fish farmed and what are the best practices?

Catla fish farming involves stocking fingerlings in ponds or cages and feeding them a balanced diet to ensure rapid growth. Best practices include maintaining optimal water quality, regular monitoring of fish health, and employing sustainable feed management to minimize environmental impact. Integrated farming systems with rice or vegetables are also becoming popular for their efficiency and eco-friendliness.

What are the challenges faced in Catla fish farming?

Challenges in Catla farming include disease outbreaks, water pollution, and competition for resources with wild fish populations. Overfishing and habitat destruction also threaten natural stocks. Addressing these issues requires improved management practices, such as selective breeding for disease resistance and implementing stricter regulations to protect natural habitats and ensure sustainable farming.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By JessicaLynn — On Aug 22, 2011

@indemnifyme - That's a good idea in theory, but I think the problems with poverty in India extend pretty far. For example, even if the catla could be caught easily, where are poor people going to get the fishing equipment?

But back to the catla: I'm amazed at it's large size. I always think of fish as small, so it surprises me this fish can be 6 feet long. It sounds pretty intimidating to me!

By indemnifyme — On Aug 21, 2011

This is very interesting. I know that starvation is a big problem in India, so it's unfortunate that the catla is hard to catch!

If people were able to catch catla, they could basically eat fish for free. I think this could go far in helping the starving people of India.

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