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Noturus gyrinus, the Tadpole Madtom

Article by M Binkley ©2000

Click here to see photos of Noturus gyrinus, the tadpole madtom

The tadpole madtom catfish is probably one of the best North American catfishes for the aquarium. The larger catfishes of the family Ictaluridae, the bullheads, channel cat, white cat, blue cat and especially the flathead cat, grow large and are predatory on other fishes. Many of the other madtoms (genus Noturus) are adapted to the flowing riffle areas of streams. The tadpole madtom prefers quiet waters and can be found in lakes and backwater areas with soft substrates. The species often inhabits hiding places such as leaf litter or dead wood on the bottom or in dense vegetation. In the aquarium, it appreciates the inclusion of many hiding places in the form of caves and dense plantings.

In general, the North American catfishes are most active at night. Noturus gyrinus is no exception. But once the fish is comfortable in its aquarium home, and doesn't feel threatened, it will usually be active at feeding time and at other times during the day. Unlike the bullheads and larger ictalurids, the tadpole is not inclined to swallow its tankmates at night while they're asleep. Like most fishes, though, it may eat anything that will fit into its mouth. In the wild, adult tadpole madtoms feed on midge, mayfly and caddisfly larvae, isopods and amphipods. Younger tadpoles also feed on cladocerans, copepods and ostracods. In the aquarium, tadpole madtoms will eat most meaty foods including dry prepared foods. Live foods such as cut up earthworms and other invertebrates will be relished. Frozen and freeze dried foods are a convenient way to provide a varied diet.

A few captive spawnings of the species have been reported. However the details are not well documented. Like the other madtoms, males will develop a wider, flattened head as they come into spawning condition. The abdomen of females will become enlarged as eggs ripen. It is likely that a cool period with shortened daylight hours (less than eight hours of light), followed by a lenghthening day (to at least 12 hours of light), and warming are needed to bring the fish into spawning condition. Success has been reported by keeping the fish in an outdoor and allowing them to spawn there in the base of potted plants. In the wild, the peak spawning time is probably in June. Thus warm temperatures are most likely to induce spawning. Clutches of about 50 eggs may be laid in tin cans, and under boards or flat objects. Most tadpole madtoms will not be sexually mature until they reach two years of age. The life span in the wild is three to four years. Two to three year old fish average 2 to 2.25 inches long (50 to 56 mm). The maximum length is about 4.5 inches (114 mm).

The native range of Noturus gyrinus is confined to North America in the Atlantic and Gulf slope drainages from New Hampshire to east Texas, the St Lawrence River and Great Lakes, the Mississippi basin from southern Quebec to southern Saskatchewan, and south to the Gulf of Mexico. The species does not occur in the Appalachians and Ozarks, being confined to lower gradient waters. There are non-native populations in Nebraska, in the Columbia River in Washington, and in the Snake and Boise Rivers in Idaho and Oregon. Populations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are considered non-native.

Click here to see photos of Noturus gyrinus, the tadpole madtom

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