Bumble Bee Catfish - Leiocassis micropogon   (Bleeker, 1852)

Article © Heok Hee Ng, uploaded May 24, 2014.

The name "bumblebee catfish" usually conjures up images of a brown-and-yellow banded catfish; though the subject of this month's article is frequently branded with this moniker, its brown and yellow irregularly-blotched color pattern looks nothing like that of a bee. The reason for this discrepancy becomes clearer once we look at the history behind its name. The genus Leiocassis was once used for the group of fishes now known collectively as (Asian) bumblebee catfishes (because many species possessed the brown-and-yellow banded pattern). In 1991, the genus was split into three, with nearly all of the bee-patterned species reassigned to the genus Pseudomystus. What was left in Leiocassis comprised long-snouted species with a color pattern that did not remotely resemble a bee, but the common name stuck for the want of a better alternative. The name used in some parts of Malaysia ("baung tikus", translated loosely as "mouse catfish" after the long, rodent-like snout) is perhaps more apt.

The members of the genus are difficult to identify accurately to species, and the information in this article is applicable to all members of this genus, rather than to any one species in particular. In general, the genus can be divided (by the aquarist's eye) into the stouter-bodied species (L. micropogon and L. poecilopterus being the more commonly encountered) and the slender-bodied species (L. hosii). They are occasionally encountered as single-species imports, although the ones I have seen frequently tend to be contaminants in shipments of black lancers (Bagrichthys macracanthus).

Leiocassis catfish are generally found in fast-flowing clear-water (slightly elevated) streams with a substrate of rocks or fine sand. This is the kind of habitat associated with species that are not necessarily rheophilic, but require a good amount of oxygenation in the water (e.g. nemacheilid loaches, rasboras). As long as water quality is kept reasonably good and ample oxygenation is provided, Leiocassis species are easy to maintain the in the aquarium. Like nearly all bagrids, they will readily eat all manner of live, frozen and prepared foods. They are not social fish, and conspecifics can tussle over territories (make sure your tank has enough room if you plan to keep more than one). Although larger-sized fish are rarely encountered as captive fish, nearly all species will reach to sizes slightly larger than your average community-tank inhabitant [at least to 8" (20 cm) and sometimes to 12" (30 cm) standard length]. As with most bagrid catfishes of similar sizes, tankmates that are too large to be eaten and too fast-swimming to be attacked will be left alone (larger barbs make excellent tankmates on this account).

For those that find the color pattern appealing, Leiocassis (aka the bumblebee without bands) is a less commonly-encountered alternative to consider for a community tank of mid- to large-sized fish.

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

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