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Mystus mysticetus  Roberts, 1992    

actsheet no 239, May 2016 has us revisiting the Bagridae famaily of Asia and a much misidentified species in Mystus mysticetus.



Mystus mysticetus


Mystus mysticetus


The misidentified remark is based on other midstriped Mystus species such as M. vittatus, M. tengara, M. carcio and M. atrifasciatus. M. atrifasciatus differs due to it having less dark lines on the body and having a thinner, non indented fontanel and having a longer adipose fin. M. vittatus differs due to M. mysticetus’s large laterally placed eyes (this trait also includes M. atrifasciatus). Another similar species is M. multiradiatus which has a longer adipose fin and also the smaller eye. See images below.



Mystus multiradiatus



Mystus atrifasciatus
Mystus multiradiatus
Mystus atrifasciatus



Mystus mysticetus is often found in mixed schools with M. multiradiatus (above) which congregate around tree limbs and other solid objects, browsing the hard surfaces for zooplankton, aquatic insects, crustaceans and rotifers. They move into flooded forests during the rainy season and return to the rivers in November and December in the lower Mekong. Oviparous, distinct pairing possibly like other members of the same family.




Anal soft rays: 13 - 15; Vertebrae: 34 - 37. Differs from all other species of Mystus in having eyes lateral, rather than dorsolateral, so that they are about equally visible viewed either from above or from below head (in other species eyes usually cannot be seen at all from directly below). Mouth nearly terminal, less down turned than in any other species of striped Mystus. Serrae of pectoral spine smaller and less erect than in any other striped Mystus. Adipose fin short but very high, originating far behind dorsal fin, its length about twice and its height slightly less than eye diameter. Gill rakers increase in number throughout life faster than in any other Mystus. The anal fin has slightly more rays (13-15) than other striped Mystus of Thailand (usually 12 or less), and its posterior border is distinctly falcate. Cranial fontanel extends posteriorly to about midway between level of posterior border of eye and base of supraoccipital process. Maxillary barbel extends posteriorly to beyond anal fin or to end of middle caudal fin rays.

Side of body with 3 faint dark and 2 whitish stripes. Tips of anal and caudal fin are often black.

Aquarium Care

Apart from the confusion on this Bagrid...how do we keep it in the aquarium?. Not a problem as long as you keep four or more as they will do better in a group. This is a medium to small Bagrid but never the less it is better to keep species with them that are around about the same size, as after all they are from the Bagridae family and most (but not all) can be predatory. Furnish the aquarium with driftwood for hiding places and plants. Substrate is a personal choice.



Will do well in your medium to large aquarium with larger Tetra type fish and Barbs.


Not reported but oviparous, distinct pairing possibly like other members of the same family. This genus is known to be egg scatterers and may eat the eggs if they are not separated. Cold water changes may start a pair off if they are kept in a species tank on their own. There have been a couple of instances of successfull breeding attempts with Mystus species, notably M. armatus and M. vittatus.

Sexual Differences

Males have an elongate genital papilla in front of the anal fin. Females will be fuller bodied.



Flake food which will give them all the vitamins they desire. They should of course be fed a varied diet consisting of the former, tablet, pellet foods and frozen foods such as bloodworm.

Glossary of Terms

Fontanel: The space(s) between the bones on top of the skull covered by skin.

Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Caudal fin: The tail.
Anal fin: The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.
Pectoral fin: The paired fins just behind the head.
Gill rakers: Structure on the upper portion of the gill arches.
Falcate: When the anterior fin rays are prolonged.
Supraoccipital: Unpaired bone at the back of the skull, usually with a crest.
Maxillary: Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels)



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


Roberts, T.R., 1992. Revision of the striped catfishes of Thailand misidentified as Mystus vittatus, with descriptions of two new species (Pisces: Bagridae). Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwat. 3(1):77-88.

Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2004. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (10/2004).
Rainboth, W.J. 1996 Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong. FAO Species Identification Field Guide for Fishery Purposes. FAO, Rome, 265 p.

ScotCat Article: Grant, Steven; The striped catfishes of the genus Mystus Scopoli, 1777 (Siluriformes: Bagridae)

Serov, D.V., Nezdoliy V.K., Pavlov, D.S.; The Freshwater Fishes of Central Vietnam. Scientific Press Ltd. 363 p.

Photo Credits

© Allan James @ ScotCat

© Johnny Jensen @  Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library
Factsheet 239

Mystus vittatus (non Bloch) 
Common Name:
Asia: Mekong and Chao Phraya River basins
13cm ( 5¼ins)
22-28°C (71-83°F)
6.0 - 7.5.
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