They are found throughout Africa and the Middle East, and live in freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps, as well as human-made habitats, such as oxidation pond or even urban sewage systems. The African sharptooth catfish was introduced all over the world in the early 1980s for aquaculture purposes, so is found in countries far outside its natural habitat, such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.
Clarias gariepinus were introduced from Thailand at 1986-1989 to Malaysia as an aquaculture purposes but considered as an invasive species.
Clarias gariepinus are readily recognized by their cylindrical body with scaleless skin, flattened bony head, small eyes, elongated spineless dorsal fin and four pairs of barbels around a broad mouth. The upper surface of the head is coarsely granulated in adult fishes but smooth in young fish.