The walking catfish, Clarias batrachus, hails from Thailand, where it goes under the less-catchy title of Pla duk dam (dull colored wriggling-fish).  This walking catfish is indeed capable of leaving water to travel across dry land, which gives it a huge advantage over local fish who can’t escape pools and ponds that are drying out.  Additionally, the catfish is able to eat the tadpoles, insect larvae, and crayfish which live in seasonal pools and would ordinarily escape from fish predation.  In many ways it is analogous to snapping turtles and water tigers.

The catfish has spread across South East Asia, India, Australia, and the Middle East. It showed up in Florida in the 1960s (probably looking for a party).  Sometimes floods bring the catfish out of the storm sewers where they live and residents are shocked to find their gardens filled with writhing mustachioed fish.  They are successful despite the perils of living in populated areas:  route 41 occasionally becomes dangerously slippery because of all the smashed catfish.

Taking a Stroll through the 'Burbs

Although his catfishy head does look a bit insect-like, I find the walking catfish curiously endearing.  But don’t be taken in by his riverboat-gambler good looks!  The walking catfish (and all other members of the family Clariidae) have fallen afoul of the Feds.  They are classified as injurious wildlife and it is illegal to harbour them.  Some Floridians even devour them on sight, as in this picture which illustrates how society is protected by a thin blue line heron.