Catfish of the Month Right Arrow September 2006 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded September 01, 2006

Silver Lancer, Hi Fin Mystus, King Bagrid, Koenigs-Stachelwels (Germany) - Mystus bocourti   (Bleeker, 1864)

As an occasional import, found for sale perhaps only every few years, all catfish fans must surely rate the King Bagrid as one of the fishes they'd love to see or perhaps even keep. Although the fish is not broadly unattractive, its gun metal colouration doesn't win many over on colouration alone. It's because of the fish's appearance that this is so and specifically because of the unfeasibly high dorsal fin this species has. For centuries, we've artificially created fishes with long fins, that's nothing new, but in today's pressured commercial world, it's nice to find one that nature created many millennia ago.

The Asian Lancers are so called because of these distinctive fins. Common names pay little respect to scientific classification and we find at least two genera that can be sold as "Lancers". In fact, it is only recently that the King Bagrid has been considered as a member of the genus Mystus, many of you will be more familiar with its previous placement in Heterobagrus. The name lancer obviously relates to the tall dorsal spine that I've always fancied originated from the impression of the cavalry lancers of the British Empire's colonial past mounted on a horse with the lance pointed vertically. Maybe I'm over thinking it; but the dorsal fin is a potent lance in this fish and of that there can be no doubt.

For some odd reason, many of the speciality species of Asian bagrid don't appear to command a high price. This is doubly odd as their infrequent availability (at least to aquarists in the west) would make you think that, when they are available, the price might be more than it usually is. Pricing on King bagrids can be wildly variable. Last year I saw this fish available at an adult size (say 4-5") at £40, smaller fish (around 2") at around £18. I've seen them much cheaper than that in the past, but, crucially, in over 20 years of looking, I've only seen them for sale three times. One also wonders that, like for example, the Asian upside down cat, Mystus leucophasis, or the Sun Cat, Horbagrus brachysoma, that they may be commercially farmed and become freely available at a few pounds after an initial stage of commanding higher prices. Albino individuals have turned up with some regularity (and they are expensive) and this would also suggest commercial farming too. Importers may be reticent to buy in these fishes at a higher price if they could get stuck with fish that will drop in price dramatically in the near future.

Anyone who actually keeps this fish will not be in for much of a surprise. The fish is secretive; the trio I have grows quite slowly (maybe 1" per year) and likes the cover provided by bogwood roots. Indeed the long barbels of this species are perfect for probing out into the current beyond the safety of shelter to taste the water for anything edible floating by.

I've kept these fish in a trio and my experience is that they are sociable, interspecies aggression can be a trouble with many bagrids and so it is with a little trepidation that I recommend trying a group of these fish. Certainly they are no trouble with other species and fit in well to a less than boisterous community set-up. Elegant and timid, these fish are however easy to keep in terms of water parameters and feeding requirements, just don't stick them in the hurly burly of a good sized cichlid tank and both aquarist and king bagrid will be happy for years.

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 NameMystus bocourti  (Bleeker, 1864)
Common NamesSilver Lancer
Hi Fin Mystus, King Bagrid, Koenigs-Stachelwels (Germany)
Type LocalityMé-Nam R. at Bangkok, Thailand.
Synonym(s)Heterobagrus bocourti, Prajadhipokia rex
Pronunciationmiss tuss
EtymologyThe 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. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 240mm or 9.4" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationFishes 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.

Distinguished from all other Mystus (indeed, from all other Asian Bagridae except Bagrichthys spp.) by its extraordinary high dorsal fin, involving great elongation of the non-serrate dorsal fin spine and first three or four soft rays.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionAsia: Chao Phraya and Mekong basins.
Mekong (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Thailand Waters, Chao Praya (click on these areas to find other species found there)
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IUCN Red List StatusVulnerable
pH6.5 - 7.2
Temperature22.0-25.0°C or 71.6-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersdH 10-20.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesVersl. Akad. Amsterdam v. 16 355 Pl.
Registered Keepers(1) Dave Rinaldo, (2) amiidae, (3) Shawnc (k: 4), (4) saphphx, (5) mikek, (6) arapaimag (k: 2), (7) Gulper.

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Breeding ReportsNone.
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Last Update2013 Jul 19 17:37 (species record created: 2006 Sep 01 11:22)

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