Catfish of the Month Right Arrow March 2000 • Article © Shane Linder, uploaded March 01, 2000

Asian Upside-down Catfish, Burmese Upside-down Catfish, Großer Asiatischer Rückenschwimmender Erls (Germany), Sittang Mystus - Mystus leucophasis   (Blyth, 1860)

Shane provides us again with this month's featured catfish,Mystus leucophasis, which he certainly rates as one of his favorite Mystus cats.

The fish has a "general" catfish body shape and is a true inverted swimmer. It is entirly jet black with small white or silver flecks scattered along flanks. Talwra Jhingran (1992) describe this fish as olive green to yellow whitish dots on body. They list length as 12.5cm. Jayaram (1977) notes it as purple in life and black in preserved condition and gives 304mm, I would agree that the size of around about foot sl is right but I think the original writing was somehow confused. It should say the opposite (i.e. black in life). I believe subsequent authors have followed this misprint without verifying information.

Mystus leucophasis

These fish need secure hiding places that they can fit in and rest upside down. PVC pipe sections are ideal and are preferred over, for example, flower pots. There is a large hollow plastic log in the tank mine are in and this is the chosen residence of the dominant fish. These fish are often available for sale as ¾" juveniles (pictured) and will quickly outgrown and wreak total havoc in an otherwise peaceful community tank.

Tank parameters are unimportant. I have seen these fish thrive in tanks with Mbuna. Mine, at pH 7.5 hardness 110ppm, are growing and doing well. I keep the temperature at around 74 - 76°F (unheated tank). I suspect that anything between 72 and 80°F is fine. Lots of hiding places and only one male per tank are the keys to keeping a group of this rather aggressive fish.

Although to many aquarists this is a new import, they have been available to hobbyists sporadically for a very long time. For the bookworms out there, Axelrod and Emmens' book, "Catfishes" (published in the early 70's) shows an old photograph of this fish. They were among the first catfishes exported from India and it is not difficult to understand why. Aside from being extremely hardy, the sleek lines and beautiful small patch of diamond flecks on the flanks of the adult fish make it most appealing. Perhaps it's subsequent near disappearance from the scene is due to it's quarrelsome temperament.

All in all a beautiful catfish for the serious aquarist looking for a new challenge.

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 leucophasis  (Blyth, 1860)
Common NamesAsian Upside-down Catfish
Burmese Upside-down Catfish, Großer Asiatischer Rückenschwimmender Erls (Germany), Sittang Mystus
Type LocalitySitang and other Myanmar [Burma] rivers.
Synonym(s)Bagrus leucophasis, Macrones leucophasis
Pronunciationmiss tuss - loo koe fas iss
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 300mm or 11.8" 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.

A truly inverting catfish. All black with a handful of diamond flecks along the flanks of sub-adult or older fish.
SexingMales possess an elongate genital papilla which is located just fore of the anal fin and is quite predominant. Males also are thinner in the body and shorter in length at adult size (this is true of most Bagrids). Females are longer and heavier bodied.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionBurma; Sittang and other rivers
Myanmar Waters (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Myanmar Waters, Sittang (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
pH6.0 - 8.0
Temperature23.0-27.0°C or 73.4-80.6°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersWater parameters are generally unimportant for the species. Ideally the water would be neutral and soft. A good current is recommendable.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingNot a fussy feeder - all prepared foods are taken.
FurniturePVC pipe sections, one per fish, are required. These are preferred over, for example, flower pots and the like.
CompatibilityNot to be kept with small fish (i.e. anything less than three fourths the size of the catfish) will be quickly eaten.
Suggested TankmatesBoisterous cichlids (even Mbuna) and larger Loricariids are the best choice although some of the larger Cyprinids (Tinfoil barbs for example) are also possible. Avoid slow moving fish.
BreedingUnreported in the home aquarium, although (as the images above show) is mass breed by commercial breeders.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesJ. Asiatic Soc. Bengalv. 29 (no. 2) - pp148
Registered Keepers(1) Dave Rinaldo, (2) Trident2004, (3) Silurus, (4) Sandtiger, (5) Igowoof, (6) michael56, (7) GoGoCactus, (8) RobDoran1, (9) The-Wolf, (10) haxjester, (11) ianimal, (12) jippo, (13) luv4jjt, (14) joe.juice13, (15) GixxerBabe, (16) tjcher, (17) Shovelnose (k: 2), (18) le_fish, (19) ryguy713 (p: 3), (20) Moomoo, (21) Tracey, (22) LLLL (k: 2), (23) andy.cole94 (k: 2), (24) tezr, (25) Altifrons, (26) HaKkEr, (27) b.price, (28) PangasiusSutchi37, (29) 0210Miyo, (30) Redtailrob (k: 2), (31) FNW, (32) Bimmerboy12 (k: 2), (33) headbanger_jib, (34) rhibear (k: 2), (35) JamieH, (36) snakelover (p: 2), (37) Buddiechrist, (38) Birger, (39) dylanshariatpanahy (p: 4), (40) tropical, (41) Marisco1729, (42) minipol, (43) Mcjlance, (44) flipperfeet, (45) Blaki1, (46) Hedorah, (47) Iiriva (k: 2), (48), (49) superluckyninja, who also notes: "My mystus is an adult male name October. He is nocturnal and hates any form of light. he eats bloodworms, minnows and goldfish. i dont know where he came from as he was passed on to me. he woud love company if anyone has a link to a female.", (50) dmcat, (51) slayer5590, (52) pokemonrange, (53) cowturtle, (54) NickFishnut, (55) ryoverde, (56) Blackbullhead, (57) caninesrock, (58) BullFishkeeping, (59) Chilo_glanis.

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 Jul 19 13:13 (species record created: 2000 Mar 01 11:22)

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