This predatory pack are often seen just outside the confined area and in the distance are often mistaken for an octopus or other bottom moving creature. They appear in groups and move in a fluid and constant motion, keeping their ‘pack shape’ whilst continuously jostling for position. Why? Let’s see……
Striped eel catfish are part of the larger catfish family, the Latin name being Plotosus Lineatus. If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them in the bay then you are staring at a group of up to 100 juveniles, as this ‘pack mentality’ behaviour is only seen in youngsters. Once they mature, they become essentially solitary, although they are spotted in small groups when resting on a sandy bottom.
Never heard of a cat fish in the Red Sea? Don’t feel too bad, this species is the only one of the family that is reef dwelling, and one of the few who live in salt water full time. (Most species spend at least some of their time in fresh water estuaries or rivers)
Whilst the juveniles are vividly patterned, white stripes on a brown background with white whiskers, as they mature they get a bit boring in comparison. They morph into a rather boring brown tone, playfully dubbed ‘a lovely shade of mud’.
When mature, they can reach lengths of 32cm, but regardless of size or age, the striped eel catfish is highly venomous. Its first dorsal and both pectoral fins contain a poisonous spine which has proven to be fatal in at least one case (maybe back off on the stroking of these fellas!)
So as is so often in the underwater world, the pretty things are often the most dangerous! Yet another reason to have a hand off approach when diving in the bay!