Catfish of the Month Right Arrow April 2017 • Article © Balaji Vijaykrishnan, uploaded April 13, 2017

Pyjama Catfish - Mystus carcio   (Hamilton, 1822)

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.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific NameMystus carcio  (Hamilton, 1822)
Common NamePyjama Catfish
Type LocalityPonds of northern Bengal.
Synonym(s)Pimelodus carcio
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 48mm or 1.9" 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.

Mystus carcio can be distinguished from other striped Mystus by its adult size (maturing at 44.0 mm SL) and a short adipose fin.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionBengal, India.
Indian waters, Bengal Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesAn account of the fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches.
Registered Keepers(1) paleatus, who also notes: "Deformity to tail area", (2) Shovelnose, (3) stealth77, (4) Miss-Pepper, (5) jodilynn (k: 3), who also notes: "Lovely lively little fish, were initially quite active but when I added more caves to the tank they became more shy. Still occasionally see them darting about. My very first Asian catfish!".

Click on a username above to see all that persons registered catfish species. You can also view all "my cats" data for this species.
Breeding ReportsNone.
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Last Update2013 Mar 20 09:43 (species record created: 2017 Apr 13 23:21)

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