Feeding these cats is easy—they’ll gobble
down flake or pellets seconds after being
taken out of the river. Care should be taken
when choosing tankmates, as anything that
can fit into the fish’s mouth will soon go
into the fish’s mouth.
As the word “torrent” in their name
implies, Amblyceps have a strong need
for current and oxygen in the aquarium.
Temperatures should also be on the cooler
side, around 70° to 74°F ( 21° to 23°C).
These fish are also known as the Indian
stinging or Indian biting catfish, a name
aquarists should keep in mind—the sharp
pectorals hurt a lot.
The clown catfish (Gagata cenia) has
not yet, to my knowledge, made it into the
American trade, though it is sporadically
available in Europe. These are neat little
fish. Their base color is white with a black
mottling, making me wonder why they
weren’t called “panda catfish,” though I
suspect it was to avoid confusion with the
popular cory cats that bear that name.
G. cenia is found in the Ganges, as well
as most of northern India and Pakistan.
Like many of our other South Asian cats,
they’re found in fast-flowing water, which
again should be mimicked in the aquarium.
They’re extremely rheophilic, so not only is
high oxygen a must, but they should have
a bit of current, as well as rocks, driftwood,
and other structure for shelter.
If you’re lucky enough to find this species,
definitely buy a group of them—they’re
shoaling fish, and a lone specimen will not
do well. They’re reportedly quite easy to
keep if they have plenty of current, and they
are extremely active.
Reaching a good size of about 4 inches
( 10 cm), clown catfish mix well with other
current-loving fish, such as the various
cyprinids of the genus Barilius, giant
danios and the like, or even rainbowfishes.
However, their keepers should ensure that
food is reaching the clown cats and that the
filters and powerheads creating the current
are not “eating” it before they have a chance.
The genus Mystus is typically represented
by the Asian upside-down catfish, M.
leucophasis, a relative behemoth that
reaches almost 10 inches ( 25 cm) in length.
However, there are several small members
of the genus, even if they don’t swim upside
down. A couple sometimes show up in
the trade, interchangeably labeled “striped
Indian catfish” or “pajama catfish.” They
appear to be M. tengara and M. carcio.
While M. tengara is more commonly
seen, it has a relatively small range in the
Ganges; M. carcio is found throughout
Bengal. Superficially, the fish are similar,
although M. tengara is lighter in color and
significantly larger. M. tengara will reach
about 3 inches ( 7. 5 cm), while M. carcio
will never exceed 2 inches ( 5 cm).
Both fishes are relatively unfussy in the
aquarium and are found in slow-moving
backwaters, so they will do best in a planted
aquarium with little current. They’re
shoaling fish and should be kept in a small
group. As with other members of the genus
Mystus, they should not be kept with bite-
sized fishes, though their small size also
means they can’t be kept with larger species
either. Larger rasboras, danios, and tetras
all mix well with this fish.
More to Come!
We’ve scarcely scratched the surface of
catfishes in South Asia. Next time, we’ll
discuss some of the other bottom-dwelling
fishes from this region, including the various
algae eaters and so-called “sharks,” as well
as the many, many loaches. Stay tuned! D
The clown catfish (Gagata cenia) is an active, shoaling fish that does best in a group.
Mystus carcio prefers a planted aquarium with minimal current.