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Leiocassis poecilopterus  (Valenciennes, 1840)    

hen I first came into the fishkeeping hobby more years ago than I care to remember my first 'wow' factor was discovering catfish and one of my first acquisitions was a much loved Leiocassis, namely stenomus which as you know is of course now
Pseudomystus. There is not a lot left now in the Leiocassis genera (12 species) but the first factsheet of 2017 celebrates this genus and our factsheet of the month, the not often seen Leiocassis poecilopterus. Pseudomystus was actually a subgenus of Leiocassis which K.C.Jayaram had placed stenomus in in 1968, but is now of course a full genus name.



Leiocassis poecilopterus


Leiocassis poecilopterus


Similar looking to L. micropogon. The main differences are that in L. poecilopterus the posterior tip of the  supraoccipital  process reaches the predorsal  (nuchal) plate, whereas in  L. micropogon it does not. This method of  identification is however made problematic for us aquarists with the recent  description of  L. aculeatus which is similar to both species. In L. aculeatus the supraoccipital  process also meets the nuchal plate (as in L. poecilopterus), but  L. aculeatus has a relatively longer  adipose  fin,  dorsal fin spine, and pectoral fin spines than L. poecilopterus. In addition, there are currently 6  or 7 species that have been tentatively deemed as synonyms of either L. poecilopterus or L. micropogon.


Also similar is Pseudomystus siamensis and perhaps the easiest way to tell them apart is that L. poecilopterus lacks the thin pale collar band, the bar in the caudal is nearer the outer margin, and the anal fin is barred. In the online Catalog of Fishes from the California Academy of Sciences this species is noted as Leiocassis poeciloptera.


This species inhabits small streams with gravel bottoms of the Kolok River. It lives under the rock crevices in 1.5-2.0 m depth.




From Bleeker, P., The Fishes of the Indian Archipelago described and elucidated. Volume 1 Silur. Batavia Typus Lange Et Co. 1858.






Head slightly compressed. Mouth small, subterminal position. Barbels short, maxillary barbel reaching only behind eye, maxillary barbel length 33.8-44.9 %HL, nasal barbel length 14.4-16.8 %HL, outer mandibulary barbel length 21.6-31.6 %HL and inner mandibulary barbel length 14.8-16.1 %HL. Adipose fin origin slightly anterior to anal fin origin. Depressed dorsal fin reaching adipose fin. Caudal fin forked; tip of upper and lower lobe pointed. Posterior border of anal fin slightly round. Head depth at eye 38.0-39.8 %HL, head width at eye 47.6-50.0 %HL. Snout produced, tip of snout pointed when look from below head, snout length 36.6-36.7 %HL.

Colour of body darkish or deep brown-reddish, with broad, transverse, irregular bands, deeply dark, the 1st band nucho-opercular, the 2nd dorso-ventral, the 3rd adipose-anal, the 4th caudal. The bands are crossed along the lateral line by a longitudinal, deep brown stripe. Fins deep brown-reddish, blackish-dark, with two broad blackish-dark double bands; iris blue.

Aquarium Care

Can only be kept with the same or larger species as this bagrid, common with many from this family, can eat smaller fish. Keep either 3-5 specimens in a large tank with plants to the background. Substrate should be sand and provide hiding places with good filtration.



Can be kept in a community tank but would watch if housing an adult with smaller Characins or Livebearers as they could be picked of at night when it starts cruising the tank. They can also nip the fins of larger species, so keep well fed with a feeding after lights out to curb this aggression.


Not reported, but they are oviparous, distinct pairing possibly like other members of the same family.

Sexual Differences

Not known.



Feeds on aquatic insects and small crustaceans in its narural habitat. A wide variety of foods can be given in the aquarium as this species is not fussy as long as it is fed, preferably after lights out. If you know where it hides out during the day you can drop tablet food, frozen food etc.into its resting place underneath stones/slates or bogwood.

Glossary of Terms

Supraoccipital  process: Unpaired bone at the back of the skull, usually with a crest..
Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.

Nuchal: Area between the skull and dorsal fin..
Anal fin: The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.
Caudal: The tail.
Synonym: Different name for the same fish.


Leiocassis: Smooth head.
poecilopterus: With mottled or variegated fins.


Ng, H.H. & R. K. Hadiaty, 2005 Two new bagrid catfishes (Teleostei: Bagridae)  from Alas River drainage, northern Sumatra. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp  83- 92, 10 figs., 2 tabs.
Grant, Steven
; pers. comm. Sept.2005.
Ferraris, C.J. Jr., 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418:1-628.
Saenjundaeng, Pasakorn; and Vidthayanon, Chavalit; First Record of the Bumblebee Catfish, Leiocassis poecilopterus (Valenciennes, 1840) from Thailand. The Natural History Journal of Chulalongkorn University 5(1): 17-19, May 2005 ©2005 by Chulalongkorn University.
Bleeker, P., The Fishes of the Indian Archipelago described and elucidated. Volume 1 Silur. Batavia Typus Lange Et Co. 1858.

Photo Credits

© Allan James @

Factsheet 247

Bagrus poecilopterus
Common Name:
High-headed smoothshield catfish
Asia: Java, Borneo and possibly elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Type locality: rivière de Hèbak à Java.
17cm. (6¾inch)
20-25°C (67-77°F)
6.0 - 7.2.
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