Mystus carcio
Pyjama Catfish - Mystus carcio   (Hamilton, 1822)

Article © Balaji Vijaykrishnan, uploaded April 13, 2017.

The genus name Mystus draws up a bit of attention, mostly negative as most of them are assumed to gorge on tankmates and/or rip them to shreds. There is one species in this genus though, that defies all these stories, stands out as a dwarf species and is (almost) a schooling fish! I am talking of course about Mystus carcio, a dwarf bagrid native to north eastern India and Bangladesh.

Mystus carcio was described by Hamilton (in 1822) as Pimelodus carcio from ponds in the northern parts of Bengal (now West Bengal), India. After being buried in synonymy with M. vittatus and M. tengara, it was finally revalidated in 2010. Mystus carcio can be easily differentiated from its closest congers, M. vittatus and M. tengara by its small size (maxing out at a little over two inches TL) and a very short adipose fin. Mystus bleekeri, another striped species from is which can also be easily distinguished from M. carcio by its long adipose fin.

Although this species was available in the trade before 2010, it was mostly sold under the M. tengara moniker and escaped the attention it deserved. I got my first batch (of six) in mid 2011 from Dhubulia in West Bengal. These were kept with Rama chandramara, Pethia gelius and Parambassis lala in a standard 15 gallon tank. Substrate was fine river sand with smooth pebbles and driftwood for décor while filtration was through an 800 lph HOB. Although this was not really a planted tank, I had a bunch of Egeria densa to serve as additional cover. The tank temperature was maintained at around 27°C.

Compatibility worked well as all these species are quite timid. I relied heavily on live food (bloodworms and tubifex) but this species will readily take to processed food like Tetra Bits and other standard sinking aquarium food. Although the schooling behavior decreases once the fish settle in, it still was a sight to behold when it happened.

Overall, an easy fish to manage even for the entry level aquarist and certainly makes a splendid addition to all planted tanks!

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

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Mystus carcio  (Hamilton, 1822)
Common Name Pyjama Catfish
Type Locality Ponds of northern Bengal, India.
Synonym(s) Pimelodus carcio
Pronunciation miss tuss
Etymology The generic name is probably derived from the Latin mystax, meaning moustache, in reference to the long barbels. It was first used by Scopoli in 1777 making it a very old genus that has included many catfishes from throughout the world at one time or another. 
Down Species Information
Size 48mm or 1.9" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Fishes of the genus Mystus Scopoli are small to medium-sized bagrid catfishes occurring in South Asia. Roberts (1994) recognized Mystus to have an elongate cranial fontanel reaching up to the base of the occipital process, long maxillary barbel, very long adipose fin, 11–30 gill rakers on the first gill arch and 37–46 total vertebrae, about equally divided between abdominal and caudal regions. He included only eight species under the genus. Mo (1991) characterized the genus to have a thin needle-like first infraorbital, twisted and thickened metapterygoid loosely attached to the quadrate by means of ligament or a small extent of cartilage. Jayaram & Sanyal (2003) and Ferraris (2007) respectively listed 44 and 33 species of Mystus as valid.

Mystus carcio can be distinguished from other striped Mystus by its adult size (maturing at 44.0 mm SL) and a short adipose fin.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Bengal, India.
Indian waters, Bengal Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)

Log in to view data on a map.
IUCN Red List Category Least Concern, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2010.
Down Husbandry Information
Breeding Unreported.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference An account of the fishes found in the river Ganges, pp 181, 377, Pl. 23 (fig. 60).
Registered Keepers There are 7 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There are 3 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 8 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
Forum BBCode
More on Mystus carcio
Look up Look up Mystus carcio on
Look up on Fishbase Look up Mystus carcio on Fishbase
Look up on Encyclopedia of Life Look up Mystus carcio on Encyclopedia of Life
Look up on Global Biodiversity Information Facility Look up Mystus carcio on Global Biodiversity Information Facility
Mystus carcio QR code LFS label creator
Last Update 2019 Oct 13 03:34 (species record created: 2017 Apr 13 23:21)

Back to Catfish of the Month index.