Matt Clarke looks at the rarely seen Mochokiella paynei catfish from Sierra Leone.
Common name: Payne's catfish
Scientific name: Mochokiella paynei Howes, 1980
Size: 5cm/2" or so.
Origin: Sierra Leone in the far west of Africa. It was discovered in the Kassawe Forest Reserve, but it's also been recorded from near Mano.
Diet: Probably feeds on insects and zooplankton. Those I have kept in the past took bloodworms readily.
Water: No precise data available. Probably slightly acidic water would be preferable, but they normally acclimatise well to harder conditions. Low pollution water is essential.
Aquarium: This tiny catfish is ideal for the smaller community aquarium. It's normally a peaceful species and can be safely kept in small groups. However, despite its diminutive stature, I have heard reports of people losing tiny fish to these, so they're best kept with fish of a similar size. Suitable tankmates from the same general area include Anomalochromis thomasi, Pantodon buchholzi and larger Ladigesia roloffi (though not with the Pantodon).
Notes: As the appearance suggests, this is a small member of the Synodontis family Mochokidae. M. paynei is currently the only member of the Mochokiella genus. It was described by Gordon Howes formerly of the Natural History Museum. Adults loses the lovely yellow colour a little as they mature, becoming a darker golden brown colour.
Availability: This species has been available in the trade sporadically for many years, but it has never been commonly available. Its rarity in the trade is probably because it comes from Sierra Leone, which is not an area with a particularly large ornamental fish export trade. These ones were spotted on sale at Wholesale Tropicals in London in February 2007.
Price: Normally around a fiver.