Sciades couma

Common Name

Couma Sea Catfish

Year Described

Valenciennes, 1840


Dorsal Fin: I, 7
Anal Fin: 17-20
Pectoral Fin: 10-11 rays
Pelvic Fin: 6
Caudal Fin: 13 branched (6 upper, 7 lower)
Gill Rakers: 17-21 (second arch)

Sciades is defined by the combination of the following characters described in Marceniuk & van der Steen (2017): medial fleshy groove absent or present, a tiny fenestra between frontal and lateral ethmoid, posterior cranial fontanel closed, epiooccipital projecting into dorsal shield, occipital process short and tapering posteriorly, nuchal shield small/medium sized and crescent-shaped, vomerine tooth patch present, accessory tooth plates long, and adipose fin as long as anal fin.

Body elongate and robust with a strongly arched back. Head slightly flattened. Greatest body depth at dorsal fin. Snout broadly rounded or squared off. Nostrils connected by a conspicuous furrow. Anterior nostril fleshy and posterior covered by a flap. Cephalic shield large and very rough; extends well forward to between eyes with a shallow indent in the middle of the head. Supraoccipital process moderate but wide at the base, without a defined keel and tapering posteriorly. Nuchal plate a thick crescent and rough. Mouth subterminal. Eye relatively large. There are three pairs of barbels (one maxillary and 2 mental) with the maxillary barbel reaching well past the pectoral fin base. A single arched patch of villiform teeth cross maxillary. Vomerine tooth patch present. Accessory patches with moderate posterior extensions in adults and fused to vomerine patch. Dorsal fin high with a strong serrated spine. Pectoral fins about the same size as dorsal fin with strong, weakly serrated spines. Pelvic and anal fins located far back on body. Adipose fin as long as anal fin. Caudal fin strongly forked. No rakers on rear of gill arches. Body naked.


Body dark to medium gray on the dorsum and flanks. Belly grades abruptly to whitish. Edge of opercle white. Fins dark gray.


Maximum size to 100cm TL but mostly under 50cm TL.


Found in fresh, brackish, and marine waters in estuaries and river mouths.


Eastern Venezuela (Gulf of Paria) to eastern Brazil.


Acero, A. 2002. Ariidae (pp 831-852). In: Carpenter. 2002. The living marine resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Vol. 2: Bony fishes part 1 (Acipenseridae-Grammatidae). FAO Species Identification Guides for Fisheries Purposes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Special Publication No. 5.

Marceniuk, A.P. & van der Steen, P. 2017. Family Ariidae. In: van der Sleen, P., & Albert, J.S. (Eds.). 2017. Field guide to the fishes of the Amazon, Orinoco, and Guianas (Vol. 115). Princeton University Press.

Other Notes

Species of Sciades are distinctive in having a deep groove (furrow) running between the posterior nostrils. Sciades couma and S. herzbergii are closely related but differ in gill raker count and the shape of the nuchal plate.