Catfish of the Month Right Arrow December 2003 • Article © Heok Hee Ng, uploaded December 01, 2003

Clown Catfish, Assam Clownwels (Germany) - Gagata cenia   (Hamilton, 1822)

Over the years, the name “clown catfish” has been generally applied to species with a bold coloration and with highly active disposition. Nowhere is this name more apt than in the subject of this month’s article, Gagata cenia.

Unlike most other members of the Sisoridae, Gagata are highly active, schooling fish, but like other sisorids, they require cool, clean, well-oxygenated water, and enjoy the presence of a current very much. There is evidence to suggest that at least two different species of Gagata even form mixed schools in the wild. They are nervous bundles of energy, constantly twitching their fins and dashing about the tank madly at the first sign of stress (because of their schooling nature, individual fish do not fare very well in the aquarium). Consequently, they do not travel well, and newly imported fish sometimes arrive in a weakened state that leaves them prone to infections. Although they can adjust to prepared food, they seem to do much better with a feeding regime consisting of mostly live foods. The reduced jaw teeth and gill rakers of G. cenia seem to support the fact that they are suctorial detritivores, meaning they feed on fine organic matter by vacuuming it off the substrate.

The species of Gagata usually imported in the aquarium trade is G. cenia (from northern India). However, the growing number of fish imported from Myanmar (Burma) means that Burmese species such as G. gasawyuh, and more rarely, G. melanopterus, are beginning to show up in the trade. Gagata gasawyuh can be distinguished from G. cenia in having only four (vs. five) dark saddles on the head and body, and G. melanopterus can be distinguished from G. cenia in lacking any saddles on the head and body and having black pectoral, pelvic and anal fins.

Because of the delicate nature of these fishes, they are not suggested for the beginner. However, once they acclimatize to the aquarium, a school would provide plenty of bottom-feeding activity for a fast-water tank setup.

Thanks go again to Heok Hee Ng for this month's featured catfish, we sign off with a useless piece of trivia - this catfish and last months feature were described within a couple a years of each other (nearly 200 years ago) and were both considered Pimelodus at the time.

Gagata cenia

Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Gagata cenia  (Hamilton, 1822)
Common Names Clown Catfish
Assam Clownwels (Germany)
Type Locality Northern Bengal rivers.
Synonym(s) Pimelodus cenia
Pronunciation Gah gah tah - keen ee a
Etymology The generic name comes from the local name of the fish (keyakatta). The specific name also comes from the local name of the fish (sinia).
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 100mm or 3.9" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Dorsal with dark saddles extending ventrally only to lateral line. Caudal fin with transverse black bar across peduncle and round or square black spot on middle of each lobe. Dorsal fin with black spot on distal part of anterior rays. Anal fin with 4-5 simple rays, 9-11 branched rays. Upper jaw and 4th ceratobranchial toothless; lower jaw with few conical teeth in pocket or depression near symphysis. Snout tip acutely pointed in lateral view, with tip separated from the rest of the snout by distinct notch.
Sexing Not known.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution The Ganges, Indus and Mahanadi River drainages in the Indian subcontinent.
Indian waters, North Eastern India Waters, Padma, Ganges (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Pakistan Waters, Indus (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Indian waters, Mahanadi (click on these areas to find other species found there)

Log in to view species occurence data on a map.
IUCN Red List Status Least Concern
pH 6.0 - 7.0
Temperature 18.0-25.0°C or 64.4-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Requires well oxygenated water.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding Readily feeds on most foods, but live or frozen food is preferred.
Furniture A sandy/gravel bottom and enough rocks/driftwood to partially deflect the current and for the fish to hide in.
Compatibility A peaceful, shoaling species that should be kept in a group of at least 4. Best kept in a well-oxygenated tank, preferably with some current. Ideal tankmates include balitorine loaches such as Homaloptera, fast-swimming cyprinids such as Danio or Barilius, and smaller mastacembelids.€
Suggested Tankmates Ideal tankmates include balitorine loaches such as Homaloptera, fast-swimming cyprinids such as Danio or Barilius , and smaller mastacembelids.
Breeding Not reported.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Jump to next section Further Information
Reference An account of the fishes found in the river Ganges, pp 174, Pl. 31 (fig. 57).
Registered Keepers Keeping this species? Why not .
There are 4 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There is no wish to keep this species.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 4 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
More on Gagata cenia
Look up Look up Gagata cenia on
BBCode (use in forum posts)
(species permalink)
Look up Fishbase Look up Gagata cenia on Fishbase
Get or print a QR code for this species profile, or try our LFS label creator.
Hits 11941 hits.
Last Update 2019 Sep 20 00:23 (species record created: 2003 Dec 01 11:22)

Hits: 11941

Back to Catfish of the Month index.