Catfish of the Month Right Arrow December 2013 • Article © Heok Hee Ng, uploaded December 02, 2013

Mottled Bumblebee Catfish - Pseudomystus heokhuii   Lim & Ng, 2008

What? Another "obscure" catfish from deepest, darkest Sumatra? Yes indeed - because we love bagrids! This month, Dr. Heok Hee Ng introduces another small catfish that fans of a specialist nano aquarium might seriously consider setting up a tank for.

Bumblebee catfishes (whether of the Asian or South American persuasion) tend to be loners and do not take living in a group particularly well. This is also partly a function of size: the larger the fish, the more likely it would be intolerant of conspecifics. The subject of this month's article is a bumblebee catfish that is decidedly social and grows to only about 6 cm total length. The only catch? It requires low-pH blackwater to thrive.

Pseudomystus heokhuii is native to central Sumatra, where it is caught from peat swamp forests and periodically exported in the aquarium trade. It was previously misidentified as P. leiacanthus (a species that typically does not inhabit blackwater habitats), until it was described as a distinct species in 2008. Although superficially very similar to P. leiacanthus, P. heokhuii is easily distinguished by its more pointed head and pale midlateral stripe on the body interrupting the pale vertical bands on the body.

P. heokhuii does best in small groups of at least 4—6 individuals (the usual caveat of persistent bullying when schooling fish are kept in too few a group applies here), and will readily feed on most dry foods (although frozen/live food should be offered as an occasional treat). In the wild, they enjoy hovering and hiding just under overhanging roots/ vegetation, so a hiding spot of this nature would be much appreciated. The only problem is that P. heokhuii is an obligate blackwater species, requiring highly acidic (pH of about 4) water to thrive. This is not to say that they cannot be kept in less acidic conditions (they can be maintained in more “normal” pH-6 conditions), but they become more prone to infections (especially fungal infections) when not maintained under optimal conditions.

Being a small catfish, P. heokhuii is relatively docile and should do very well with most Asian blackwater fish species in a biotope setup. Just don't add any Paedocypris as tankmates.

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 NamePseudomystus heokhuii  Lim & Ng, 2008
Common NameMottled Bumblebee Catfish
Type LocalityBatang Hari drainage at Rantau Panjang, Jambi, Sumatra.
PronunciationSUE doh MIST uss
EtymologyFrom the Greek pseudos, meaning lie, and mystus, a genus of bagrid catfishes. In reference to the overall similarity of the two genera. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 52mm or 2" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationMembers of the bagrid genus Pseudomystus are small- to mid-sized freshwater catfish endemic to Southeast Asia.Pseudomystus are commonly found in swamps and rivers throughout Southeast Asia. They can be differentiated from Leiocassis by a relatively short snout and a subterminal mouth. Many Pseudomystus have a color pattern of contrasting vertical bars or blotches.

Distinguished by its somewhat mottled coloration and the presence of small pale spots on the head.

Previously misidentified as P. leiacanthus, this until recently undescribed species has been in the aquarium trade for at least a decade.
SexingMales are more slender and possess an elongate genital papilla in front of the anal fin.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Pacific, Greater Sunda Island Rivers, Sumatra 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)
pH4.0 - 6.0
Temperature22.0-27.0°C or 71.6-80.6°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersPrefers blackwater.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingReadily feeds on live/frozen foods and other prepared foods such as pellets.
FurnitureThe substrate should be underlain with at least 1/2" of peat. Provide plenty of driftwood as hiding places.
CompatibilityA peaceful, sociable species that is compatible with most fish. Keep in groups of at least three, if possible.

Ideal tankmates include pearl (Trichogaster leerii) and chocolate (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides) gouramies, clown rasboras (Rasbora kalochroma), two spot catfish (Mystus bimaculatus), bar-bellied spiny eels (Macrognathus circumcinctus) and other Asian blackwater fish in a biotope tank.
BreedingNot reported.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesZootaxa No. 1686, pp 38, Figs. 1, 2a, 3a, 4a.
Registered Keepers(1) The.Dark.One, (2) Shovelnose, (3) lilu, who also notes: "Favourite spot to hang out during the day is a 1" pleco cave or a coconut cave. Only comes out at night to feed.", (4) Narelle (k: 6), who also notes: "Got these from the 2016 Catcon auction, 4 female 2 male. I have had them for 2 years now (2018 update). These fish have grown well beyond the size listed here, closer to 3" SL for females and 2.5" SL for the males. They have readily eaten all offered prepared foods. Very easy to maintain and a delight to keep. Up until this year, they were maintained in a species tank, but I recently added some juvenile Betta rubra to the tank. The rubra were all around an inch in length, but the smallest two, just under 1", were eaten. The larger ones have been safe. The CotM article lists them safe with all but Paedocypris, but they are not safe with fish any less than 1".".

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 Update2014 Jun 09 09:28 (species record created: 2013 Dec 02 20:02)

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