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Mystus leucophasis  (Blyth, 1860)

his Bagrid is the odd one out in this family as all other members of the Bagridae behave normally, be it swimming at break neck speed through the tank when food is dropped in or never being seen for weeks on end until the lights go out. The common name of the "Asian Upside Down Catfish" will maybe give you a further clue about the activities of this very pretty Asian bagrid.


Mystus leucophasis

As seen in the above image they like to cling to the underside of objects in the Aquarium and of course in their natural habitats too. It prefers this position and it will invert for al least 90% of the time. What it has going for it, forgetting its aggressive behavior, is the white flecks/spots which a scattered in a haphazard way on the body which makes it unique to this family.


A warning here! These catfish are usually seen in your local fish shop as 2ins babies and you may misidentify them as Synodontis species from the African continent with their Upside Down appearance. Most Synodontis are great aquarium fish but Mystus leucophasis can be belligerent of other fish and could cause big problems in your community tank as it grows. It will eventually eat your other smaller tankmates.

Mystus leucophasis


Provide hiding places in the aquarium such as driftwood and flowerpots so it can rest underneath them. Better to keep one specimen as any more than this and they will fight in the small confines of a fish tank, but if keen on a group you will only be able to keep one male. A minimum sized tank of 4ft long would be ideal for this species.



Three pairs of barbels, the longest of which are 1/2 to 3/4 the fishes body length. The upper lobe of the caudal fin carries an extension that may be as much as 3cm in length.

The whole of the body and fins except for the extreme outer edges of the caudal is an even jet black. The only deviation is along the flanks where there may be several white to silvery flecks.


Will need a large tank if keeping a few as they are territorial. Not to be trusted with smaller fish as they will undoubtedly be eaten. If kept with other fish, large Cichlids or Barbs such as the "Tinfoil Barb" would be better company. Provide hiding places large enough where they can rest upside down. May grow larger than the stated size of 30cm but this could take a few years to fulfill.


Not recorded but bred artificially in ponds in the Far East.

Sexual differences
Males possess a elongate genital papilla situated just in front of the anal fin. They also tend to be slimmer and shorter in length than the females.

Will eat most aquarium prepared foods such as flake, tablets, pellets, live and frozen.


Ferraris, C.J. Jr., 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418:1-628.
Catfish Study Group (UK) Information sheet No 3.


Mystus: "Mystax" meaning whiskered (hair on the upper lip) Mystus was first used by Belon in 1553 to describe all fish with whiskers.

Photo Credits

Top picture: ©  Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library

Bottom Picture: © Christian Hauzar

Factsheet 172

Bagrus leucophasis, Macrones leucophasis, Mystus (Aorichthys) leucophasis
Common Name:
Asian Upside Down Catfish


Asia: Irrawaddy and Sittang River basins, Myanmar. Type locality: Sitang and other Burma rivers.
30cm (12ins)
23-26°C (72-79°F) 
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                                                                                                  Factsheet 172 = updated December 14, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top