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  1. #1

    Default Synodontis Catfish: A Primer


    0 Not allowed!
    From African waters come the Synodontis catfish, members of the Mochokidae family, a family of very 'catfish-like' fish. Many, many of them are attractively colored, and many have the quaint habit of swimming inverted, though some species do it far more than others. All make good community tank fish, though some grow large enough to be a danger to tiny fish. All are adaptable to pH and hardness levels, but of course they do have a preference toward their natural waters.
    In this post I'll stick to riverine and lake fish, as I've not kept those species that live in the hard, alkaline waters of the African Rift Lakes.
    Thus, most of them prefer water around neutral in PH, moderately soft to moderately hard. Though several of them don't come from plant-choked waterways, all of them, to my experience, deeply enjoy living in very well planted aquariums with driftwood and stones. All those I've kept in them have had deeper colors and more vitality than those I've kept in tanks with plastic plants and faux driftwood. I assume there's more food sources in planted tanks, like micro-crustaceans, that they eat, that improves the color and health so.
    All of them are quite long-lived, as 20 years or more are not unusual.
    You'll forgive me if I start the species list with my two favorites.

    ———

    Hailing from the Congo River, as do many in this list, is our first species - Synodontis angelicus - the Polka-Dot Catfish.
    This is one beautiful catfish for your soft water, acidic tank, with pH 6.5 to 6.8 ideal. Upon maturity in such tanks, the keeper is rewarded with a deep, velvety purple fish covered with small, bright white or in some populations, yellow, spots, and the color is repeated in bands on the tail, dorsal fin and strong lead rays of the pectoral fins. Like all Synodontis, the Polka-Dot Cat has a long pair of barbels on the corners of its mouth, and two more feathered barbels on its chin.
    Perfectly peaceful, given a place where it can retire. S. angelicus does reach 8 inches, so tankmates like larger tetras are the rule.
    Kept with Congo Tetras in a large tank, say over 75 gallons, S. angelicus feels right at home. In large enough tanks, say 100 gallons or better, you can keep your angelicus in groups, as long as there are sufficient hiding places for all.
    With enough hiding places, there will be no squabbling, and you may be one of the few to have your angelicus breed in your tank. They are egg scatterers among the plants. The single time they did so in my tank I was able to salvage enough eggs to raise 18 youngsters. To this day I don't know what triggered the breeding.
    Best growth and color in this fish is from good frozen and live food. They like insect larvae, plant debris and shrimp. Frozen Mysis, mosquito larvae and bloodworms are happily eaten. A high-quality pellet can be staple, but to get good growth, feed frozen foods several times a week.
    This species very occasionally swims upside down, usually either hanging under driftwood, or combing under plant leaves for tidbits. Other than running their whiskers along the leaves, I've never had S. angelicus or any Synodontis for that matter, nibble or eat live plants. Just so, a plant-based pellet may scratch their itch for plant debris.
    The first Synodontis species I kept, and perhaps my very favorite of the family.

    ———

    Called Pajama Catfish in the trade, and another true beauty, is Synodontis flavitaenitus, of the Eala watershed in Zaire.
    Rather shy and retiring at times, the Pajama Catfish sports a chocolate brown body with rich yellow stripes. The strong rays of the dorsal and pectoral fins are also yellow, and dark irregular stripes are all fins.
    This species often rests inverted.
    Reaching 8 inches long, S. flavitaenitus measurably deepens its color in planted aquaria with a dark substrate and with driftwood, coupled with good feeding.
    Sexes are easily told, as he's slimmer, slightly smaller, and deeper colored than his mate. They really do improve when frozen and live foods are a large part of their diet; perhaps 50 percent. Quality pellets from various manufactures can make up the other half. Like most if not all Synodontis, Pajama Cats thrive best when fed insect larvae and small crustaceans, like Gammarius species shrimp, coupled with greens, like algae or plant debris.
    This fish hides a bit more than the former, but that may be because I kept it alone. When I purchased this species, they were very expensive, even more so than angelicus. A cursory glance though the internet revealed Pajama cats still aren't to be considered cheap. An affable species, and quite attractive in health.
    To my knowledge they've not been bred in home aquariums, though it's one species that is worth developing a methodology for, due to its looks. It would be a quite popular catfish were it available as captive bred specimens.

    ———

    Almost cylindrical in body is Synodontis bricardi, another catfish from Zaire, this time from the stone-strewn rapids at Kinsuka.
    This catfish is another that does best in the soft, slightly acidic planted tank. Smaller than the former two species at a bit over 5 inches, bricardi really needs calm, non-aggressive tank mates, as it is easily intimidated and hurt. Rasboras would be ideal. Mid-70's in temps do them very well.
    Since it does come from flowing streams, a bit of current in the tank would not be amiss. Don't let the dissolved Oxygen level dip below 8 mg/l with these fish. If the aquarium isn't well planted, air stones should be employed to keep dissolved Oxygen levels high.
    The fish's long, cylindrically-shaped body is banded with wide, purple-brown bands and thin whitish ones. Bands of color are on all fins. Though the colors are modest, the effect in person is quite pleasing. A very attractive fish in health.
    In feeding they are easily satisfied. Frozen insect larvae, shrimp and quality pellets should be staple, though they do appreciate variety in their diet. They DO need vegetation, so stock up on cucumber, zucchini and leafy vegetables for your catfish. Soon as they are discovered, bricardi will nibble at them until they are gone.
    Blanching the zucchini is helpful, as it smashing the leaf spinach, etc. so the leaf flesh is visible.
    Properly fed and kept, this fish is quite hardy. A charming species; recommended.
    I kept them in groups with no problems. Mine never swam inverted in the years I kept the species.
    As above, several hiding places to retire to at night are very helpful.
    I know of no captive breeding of this species. They aren't as common in shops as they once were.

    ———

    The de facto leader in sales of Synodontis species is S. nigriventris - the Upside Down Catfish of the Stanley Pool in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    Strongly nocturnal in habit, S. nigriventris spends the vast majority of its time inverted, which is an adaptation to eating insect larvae off the surface of the water at night.
    Upside Down Cats are a species that deeply enjoys the company of it's fellows, and the more you have the more you'll enjoy them, and the better off your catfish will be. Since they are a smaller species, topping out at under 4 inches, eight in 55 gallon aquarium wouldn't be too many. Using a floating pellet as staple will allow you to observe natural feeding behavior. Floating pelleted foods are indeed best, but frozen food like mosquito larvae and Mysid shrimp will help mimic natural diet. They also should have a good vegetative pellet in their diet for optimum health.

    To Part 2
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  2. #2

    Default Part 2


    0 Not allowed!
    A pleasing mix of tans and browns, Upside Down cats will turn right side up to eat food that falls to the bottom. With age, the females pale in colors.
    They are a good catfish for the planted tank, and they rest and sleep under the leaves of broad-leaved plants, like the larger sword plant species. They do need over-hanging areas to sleep under; otherwise, your Upside Down Cats will not be at their best.
    They prefer their water slightly acid to just above neutral and moderately soft. About 77 degrees is perfect.
    They are commonly bred in aquariums; the only Synodontis that does so. The pair breed in plants; mine always chose fine-leaved plants like Cabomba. Both sexes guard the eggs until they hatch and the fry are free swimming. The fry can take baby brine shrimp right off and any tiny pellet that floats. Reduce the water level in the breeding tank to six inches when the fry are free swimming so they can develop the inverted feeding behavior that makes the species so famous.
    Parents do not eat their young. A cooling partial water change usually triggers spawning.
    Considering they are so easy to breed, one wonders why they are still wild caught by the 10s of thousands to this day.

    ———

    The species name - decorus (decorated), describes our next fish, the filament or clown Synodontis of the Congo.
    The tan-white background is liberally scattered with black polka-dots, and if thats not enough, a long, dark filament trails from the top of the dorsal all the way back to the tail fin. Fins are striped. Tiny dark reticulations are on the gill opercle.
    The base color really intensifies as the fish ages, turning a deep bronzy tan and the spots intensify markedly.
    This is one of the larger species of common Synodontis, reaching over 10 inches long. Affable fish, but their adult size prohibits them from having small tankmates.
    Though they are pleasant fish, they can easily hold their own against South American Cichlids, though they may lose that filament.
    Their size dictates a larger aquarium. Planted tanks are again ideal, since they do prefer the water parameters and stability of them. Small examples can and should be kept in groups, but larger individuals do need spots of their own to retire. Squabbles, though rare, result in no damage.
    Adults get more and more secretive as they age, and tend to do most of their food searches at night. Thus, feeding times may change during the lives of your catfishes.
    They are easily fed, and high quality pellets coupled with frozen foods, including shrimp and greens, will keep your catfish happy. Mid to upper 70's in temps, and like most Synodontis species, they do not do well above 79 degrees.
    As far as I know, decorus hasn't been captive bred in aquariums, thus most if not all available are wild caught.
    A striking fish, and one that always elicits admired comments.

    ———

    Native to the Sudan, specifically Lake No at the mouth of the White Nile River, hails another filamented species; Synodontis filamentosus.
    This catfish is particularly wide spread in Africa, and occurs also in the Chad, Volta and Niger River basins. It's particularly common in the Bénoué branch of the Niger.
    This species has a very variable body color pattern, depending on where they were collected. Small spots, larger irregular dots, and several other variations are seen on this catfish with a purple-grey ground. The ones I've had for some years now have many, many small, roughly circular dots with hundreds of tiny ones on the head. This species has a very long adipose fin, which helps with identification.
    Somewhat heavier bodied than the former species, these fish also reach 8 to 10 inches, depending on where they were collected, meaning a larger aquarium, say a 200 gallon, would be necessary to keep these fish, especially in groups like they deserve.
    They deeply enjoy planted aquaria with driftwood and stones, as they give them security and places to retire to. Large-leaved plants should be used, as although S. filamentosus doesn't spend a lot of time inverted, they do often rest that way. Providing low, overhanging driftwood of a suitable width and length is very helpful.
    Though they do need places to rest and sleep under, this fish does need swimming room.
    This catfish likes his water soft and a pH just under or just over 7. Temps are 75 to not over 79 degrees.
    In feeding they are easily satisfied with insect larvae via frozen foods, and small shrimp Gammarius size are happily eaten. A variety of pelleted foods, including at least one designed especially for herbivores, will help give your fish a complete diet.
    A very attractive catfish in health, and is often active without being annoying.
    They get their 'filamentosus' species name for the long, flowing dorsal filament this species possesses. If anything it's longer and somewhat fuller than the previous species.

    ———

    Some fish go through color changes as they age, but no Synodontis does it so dramatically as S. eupterus of the White Nile, the Chad Basin and the Niger River.
    Called 'Feather Fin Synodontis' in the trade, this catfish starts life wearing worm-like reticulations on a cream ground and carries a high, sharp dorsal fin. Next, past 2.5 inches, the ground color slowly changes to a medium blue with a green head, and the reticulations turn into black spots. The dorsal grows wider, and several top rays start to extend. It's those rays that earn the fish the common name.
    Once they pass five inches the adult rainments gradually replace the juvenile colors and the ground turns an attractive mossy olive green. The raised dorsal rays are quite long now, given a feathery effect as the fish moves. The adipose fin turns whitish as the fish ages, which is perfectly natural.
    Reaching just under nine inches, the Feather Fin spends a good deal of his time inverted.
    This is another Synodontis that can be kept in groups, as long as each member of the school has a place to hang under. A large piece of driftwood with many branches and arms is ideal.
    This catfish also enjoys the planted aquaria, but swimming room should be allowed at the front of the tank, as these fish do like to swim at night hunting for tidbits. They are quite striking under 'moonlights' doing their evening rounds. These catfish love running up and down the leaves of larger aquatic plants.
    Tankmates should be large enough not to be eaten by these catfish. They aren't fish eaters by nature, but like any larger fish, they will eat much smaller ones.
    The natural diet is insect larvae, plant debris and crustaceans, which is easily duplicated with frozen foods. Pelleted foods, both meaty and green, are taken with gusto.
    These catfish are perfectly peaceful, despite their size, to tankmates too large to eat and to members of its group. Temps are 75 to 79, and no higher.
    You may see young feather fins for sale with a 30 gallon tank recommended, but don't you believe it. These fish do reach nearly nine inches long, and need at least a six-foot tank to live in, and do their evening strolls in.
    To my knowledge they haven't bred in home aquariums, though I believe they are farmed, given their recent surge in local fish stores.
    Quite a attractive fish, one of my favorites.

    ———

    Riverine Synodontis Catfish aren't as common in shops as they used to be and some need larger tanks than the norm, but they are beautiful fish in their unique way. I encourage you to research those you're interested in, and consider a group of Synodontis for your next aquarium.

    Dave
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  3. #3

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    thank you dave......would you be able to help me with an id?? i know my catfish is a synodontis n something if i post a picture would you help me id him? its my oldest boy in my tank and ive had him for 5 years someone did tel me his full id but its hard to remember it
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by angelcakes; 06-26-2008 at 09:59 AM.
    angelcakes (penny)
    "The big fish eats the small one."
    -- Sephardic saying

    chat link
    http://theaquaticlounge.chatango.com/

  4. Default


    0 Not allowed!
    what a neat article. Excellent write up...

  5. #5

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by angelcakes
    thank you dave......would you be able to help me with an id?? i know my catfish is a synodontis n something if i post a picture would you help me id him? its my oldest boy in my tank and ive had him for 5 years someone did tel me his full id but its hard to remember it
    What are his colors, Angel? The spotted adipose fin puts me in the mind of S. nigrita. If he's a really dark grey with so many small spots he looks even darker, and is about 8 inches long, it's him.
    But I'll wait for your color information to be sure.

    Dave
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  6. #6

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    thank you hes dark brown and has faint black spots on his finnage and even fainter on his body,hope that helps ps any idea how long they live??? hes been going years (which is great)
    angelcakes (penny)
    "The big fish eats the small one."
    -- Sephardic saying

    chat link
    http://theaquaticlounge.chatango.com/

  7. #7

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Angle,
    Twenty years easily, or more. Had my group of angelicus since '86.
    Sounds a whole lot like nigrita.
    Planet catfish has two shots of adult nigrita.
    The brown fellow at the bottom of the first row of pictures, and the one on the far right with the word 'adult' under it.
    That your boy?

    Dave
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  8. #8

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave66
    Angle,
    Twenty years easily, or more. Had my group of angelicus since '86.
    Sounds a whole lot like nigrita.
    Planet catfish has two shots of adult nigrita.
    The brown fellow at the bottom of the first row of pictures, and the one on the far right with the word 'adult' under it.
    That your boy?

    Dave
    it sure is!!! thank you dave,very grateful....now im writing it in a book what hes called so i dont forget
    20 years easily wow.......glad about that my tank would look very odd without him and he would be badly missed,im not even shore how old he is,but he was brought has an adult and ive had him 5 years,hes quite active day and night and still acts like a young fish,and very comical at times,so could still be young
    angelcakes (penny)
    "The big fish eats the small one."
    -- Sephardic saying

    chat link
    http://theaquaticlounge.chatango.com/

  9. #9

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Great write-ups!

    And superb job with the successful spawning of the s. angelicus, it such a rarity for them to breed in captivity!
    African cichlid and saltwater aquariums

    http://www.rowelab.com/AquaControlle...9&scope=last24

  10. #10

    Default


    0 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by kaybee
    Great write-ups!

    And superb job with the successful spawning of the s. angelicus, it such a rarity for them to breed in captivity!
    Thanks kaybee, but like I said on their entry, I've no idea what triggered it. Just happened to see them toward the end of the act, thus I was able to siphon out a number of eggs before their tankmates ate them. The angelicus had been in the tank I believe six years when they spawned.
    Pair were in the process of breaking up (they'd locked fins) when I walked in the room.

    Dave
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

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