Pollution affects aquatic systems worldwide and there is an urgent need for efficient
monitoring. Fish are generally sensitive to their environment and are thus considered to
be valuable bioindicator species. The African Sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus) is particularly important in this respect because of its very wide distribution. In order to use C. gariepinus as a bioindicator species its baseline clinical chemistry must be defined. Existing data are scarce, and the objective of this work was therefore to establish clinical
chemistry parameters for C. gariepinus. Blood was collected from male and female catfish and a number of clinical chemistry parameters were determined. Plasma protein values, but particularly those of plasma albumin, were found to be very low, approximately half the value for dogs, but similar to the values in Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). Plasma urea values in Sharptooth catfish were found to bemuchlower than in dogs, but only marginally lower than in Channel catfish. Plasma creatinine in Sharptooth catfish, however, was only a
quarter of that of dogs and one third of that found in Channel catfish. These findings may have implications for using urea and/or creatinine as an index of renal glomerular filtration, as is done in mammals. Plasma enzyme activity ranges were much lower in Sharptooth catfish than in dogs, particularly for alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). By comparison, Channel catfish have an even lower ALT activity range but an ALP range that is very similar to dogs. The implications for using these enzymes as
markers for liver disease are not clear from these data, as factors such as plasma half-life and tissue distribution remain to be determined. The very low plasma thyroxine (T4) levels have important implications for laboratory personnel, who will have to set up calibration and standardisation adaptations for the methods that are generally designed for human samples. Although the sample size was too small for reliable comparisons, it appeared that
there was little difference in the parameters measured between male and female fish. The values obtained are a useful starting point for using C. gariepinus as a bioindicator species.