Synodontis Care Guide!

Discussion in 'Freshwater Fish' started by Boywithafishtan, May 15, 2014.

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  1. Boywithafishtan

    Boywithafishtan Coral Banded Shrimp

    Jan 11, 2013
    Hjallerup, Denmark
    Hey everyone, this is Boywithafishtank!

    Today I just wanted to talk a little about my favourite species of catfish - synodontis catfish. Synodontis catfish are amazing animals, and they're surprisingly more lively and curious than many other catfish, that usually will try to hide, or stay in the shade 80% of the day. These guys are out, all the time. In fact, at night they mostly swim upside down. Not sure why they have this behaviour, and haven't tried to research it, but they also do it whenever I feed them with floating pellets. So, I guess its a way for them to feel and smell the upper parts of the aquarium water, to search for food. I started having synodontis catfish, around 1 month after I started my african cichlid tank. These guys are still alive today, and are my favourite fish of all time - even more favourite than my clarkii clownfish! Anyway, these guys are around 6 years old now. I've kept them for 3 years, and bought them when they were 3 years old, so thats pretty crazy. I love these catfishes behaviour, and I obviously cant stand for their personalities. They are great! If you've never tried keeping these in either a planted tank or an african cichlid tank, I'd suggest you'd do so, if you have a big enough tank. Anyway, lets get to some quick topics. I will try to only talk about things i've had experience with myself, and will talk about some few articles that are great regarding breeding. So lets go!

    Synodontis Catfish, what are they?:
    Well, synodontis catfish originates from Africa, and are commonly found in rivers and lakes around Central and West Africa. These guys can get really large, and are the largest species of upside-down catfishes. Which probably explains their unique behaviour. There are lots of different species of Synodontis catfish, currently there are 132 recognized species of Synodontis, and there are coming more and more, especially in the aquarium trade, where many people have bred hybrids of Synodontis, that have mixed colorations and fin shapes. Synodontis catfish are obviously a scavenger, and will search around the bottom of your tank.

    It is usually reccommended to keep fine sand with these catfishes, because they have incredibly sensitive whiskers, also called "barbels", which might actually get hurt and torn up on sharp gravel and large substrates, which might lead to bacterial or fungal infections. These "barbels" are also extremely accurate, and they can smell food from a long distance. Likely, you will notice synodontis quickly finding food that are stuck in corners or under rocks, because they can smell it as soon as it reaches the water column and start to dissolve. Synodontis are omnivorous, and they eat both plant and animal matter. So, anything you throw in the tank, will get eaten. I've thrown live earthworms, bloodworms, krill, mysis, daphnia, mosquito larvae, cucumber, boiled potatoes, flakes, pellets, wafers, beefheart and cocktail shrimp into the tank, and they just gobble it up immediately, and they eat FAST. This is why they usually get really fat once they are done eating, and a general rule, is that your synodontis always should look a little fat, it will make them grow faster, and will maintain proper nutrients levels for their metabolism. Some species of synodontis are pretty expensive to buy, but you can find some few specimens that cost only around 30$ each. Synodontis catfish are very hardy fish, and i've seen them thrive in dirty waters, and clean waters. In fact, they do really like well oxygenated water, since they originate from rivers, which constantly has a good waterflow, and a good amount of oxygen molecules available in the water. You will often notice synodontis getting alot more active after a waterchange, because fresh and lots of oxygen will come into your system.

    These catfish are very messy though, and will often tear up plants and dig under rocks to get caves to hide in. These catfish gets huge aswell, right now my catfish are around 20 centimeters long, and if you include the "barbels" and tails outstretched, they are probably close to 26 cm long, and they are fat and happy to say the least. However, they do get much larger, some specimens get up to around 30 cm long, some even bigger. Therefore, it is reccommended to have atleast a 50 gallon tank. These animals are also rather social beings, so they like the company of other synodontis, and not necessarily the same species, as long as they are from the same genus, and look alike in body and fin shape.

    Right now, I actually have 2 synodontis, but they are not a recognized species, in fact, mine are hybrids, which is not unusual to find regularly these days.

    For breeding, I cant really give you much information, because I got 2 male synodontis, and I'm not currently able to breed them. However, if you want to sex them, the key rule is to look underneath the anus, here you will notice what is called the "genital papilla". Females have a more rounded genital papilla, where as males have a more pointy and long one. And its definitely not hard to sex these guys without having to do it with your hands and turning them upside down, because in fact, they do swim up the glass every now and again for some reason.

    Breeding articles I highly suggest:
    - Aquatic Community (Synodontis multipunctatus) breeding guide: Breeding Synodontis multipunctatus - cuckoo catfish
    - James Lawrence (Breeding Successes with Synodontis Catfishes) on Reef2Rainforest: Breeding Successes with Synodontis Catfishes
    - Kevin Reimer (Breeding and Raising Synodontis Petricola):

    I read all of these 3 articles and learned alot from them, so go check that out if you're planning to breed these amazing fish!

    Water Parameters and Tankmates:
    pH - 6.0 to 7.5: These guys can tolerate both basic and acidic parameters, which makes them a perfect addition to both african cichlid tanks, which they go very well with by the way, and planted tanks!
    Temperature - 72-82 Fahrenheit / 22-28 Celsius: These guys can actually tolerate a surprising variety of temperatures, and it makes sense, since they come from both very warm rivers, and somewhat cold rivers.
    Tankmates: Usually, synodontis catfish go best with larger and medium sized fishes. They wont eat tetras or barbs, but will pick at shrimps and lobsters and other small bottom feeders. This is why its reccommended to keep them in large tanks, with somewhat large inhabitants. Synodontis are not aggressive, and will never try to chase other fish but their own specimens, however this happens rarely, and is only to show dominance or breeding behaviour.
    Tank Size: Atleast 50 gallons!: As stated earlier, these guys gets freaking huge! Therefore I reccommend having atleast a 50 gallon tank for adult synodontis catfish.

    I hope you guys learned something from this little guide. Now, go buy some synodontis and have fun with them! Enjoy their personality!