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FAQs on Mochokid, Synodontis Cats and More: Behavior 

Related Articles: Mochokid Catfishes

Related Catfish FAQs:  Mochokid (Synodontis...) Catfishes 1,   Mochokid Cats 2, & FAQs on Mochokid Cats Identification, Mochokid Cats Compatibility, Mochokid Cats Selection, Mochokid Cats Systems, Mochokid Cats Feeding, Mochokid Cats Disease, Mochokid Cats Reproduction, & General Catfish: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction

Synodontis big belly        10/4/19
Hello crew! Hope to pick your brain a bit... I have two Synodontis nigriventris cats that are fully grown and seem to have been healthy and happy for the past year. I’ve watched them double in size and they eat EVERYTHING; the larger one is so brazen that he “crawls” around the sides and tank in broad daylight when I make my way over! I have a pearl gourami and five cherry barbs, and I vary the diet in my tank daily... any combo of flakes, shrimp pellets, NLS Float pellets, Hikari algae sinking wafers, Hikari micro pellets, freeze-dried blood worms once a week as a treat, and a feeding day off every week. The attached picture shows my smaller Synodontis and a very swollen ”belly”, in my opinion. I know they overeat and their bellies bulge, but is this too drastic? If so, should I take action? I try to be very careful not to overfeed. Thank you in advance for your always helpful expertise! —Matt from NJ
<<Hello Matt. You might simply have a female, and if yours are anything like mine, the female looks a bit like an speckled egg with fins attached! Periodically she thins out, so I'm guessing there's some sort of egg laying cycle going on, but this species is rarely bred in captivity, so hard to know the details. In any case, if the Syno is some years old, I'd perhaps observe for the time being, and certainly avoid overfeeding. My specimens get actual catfish food maybe 2-3 times a week, one Hikari algae wafer per 3 specimens. The rest of the time I'm letting them eat softened green foods (peas, courgette, etc.) as well as algae and whatever snails they find in the tank (both major food component in the wild). They're chunky and something like 15 years old now, so presumably doing okay. I'm glad you're enjoying these cats, which like all Syno species, are naturally very nocturnal, but will become day-active once settled and happy. Floating plants are a great way to get them visible when the lights are on! Cheers, Neale.>>

Re: Synodontis big belly      10/5/19
Hi Neale... Great advice, thank you! I feel much better. And yes, I took your advice a while back about purchasing these guys in the first place, and the bigger one (not pictured) flies “crawls” the tank all day, as you said, because of the surface cover. Thanks again. —Matt
<<Glad to have helped, and good luck. Certainly my female is positively rotund, and it doesn't seem to have done any harm given her considerable age. Cheers, Neale.>>

Psycho Synodontis; beh., incomp.      9/26/13
Hello all. First off, I love this site; I've always gotten such great answers to my seemingly endless questions. Now for my latest long-winded question. For the last five or six years I've had an African cichlid tank with just the normal amount of aggression issues, with one Synodontis hybrid (what I like to refer to as Synodontis Petsmartus :-) who has always been able to hold his own. However, once he reached the 6" mark, he decided to become the tank bully. All of the cichlids cower in their hiding places when he comes out of his cave. I've contemplated rehoming him, but he's my son's favorite fish, and honestly he scares me (Side note/funny story: I had to move him once a while back and used a bowl to catch him in since his spines would have gotten tangled in a net. With a loud squeak he jumped out of the bowl at my face and fell 5 feet to the floor with no injury. I carefully scooped him up and put him back in the bowl and covered it, where he continued to squeak loudly in protest.
<Now you have full appreciation for the family Mochokidae's common name: Squeakers!>
 Scared the daylights out of me and earned himself the name Nightmare, as I had a dream that night of him trying to eat my face). So I'm considering alternative additions to the tank to spread out the aggression, but I'm not sure what would be the best direction. Would it be better to add several juveniles of the same hybrid variety, or possibly a trio of Synodontis nigriventris, or would he go after Synos with even more aggression?
<Only trialing will tell>
Or should I add more cichlids? Or target fish?
<These also>
Here's my tank info (and try not to cringe. I started this tank when I was first getting into fish keeping and was too dumb to educate myself properly. I now research the crap out of anything I put into any of my tanks): 40 gallon breeder with lots of rock and pH of 8.5. Fish are: 3 yellow labs, 1 Pseudotropheus acei, 1 zebra obliquidens, 1 black Calvus and 1 Neolamprologus tretocephalus (see, I warned you it was cringe-worthy).
Before the Syno reached maturity, everyone got along as well as any African cichlids can, and the only negative side effect of this inappropriate grouping, that my unprofessional eyes can see, is that the Calvus has never grown any larger than 5 inches. According to aquadvisor I have room to add a few more fish,
<Mmm, no>
 and I know that overstocking is ideal for cichlids to help spread out aggression. Would this concept work for my situation?
<I would only try adding more fish life here IF getting a much larger tank... at least a sixty... At the minimum>
I've tried him in my 75 gallon Rainbowfish/Bichir tank, but he went after my Bichirs. The only spare tank I have is a 20 gallon tall I use for a hospital tank, but that seems a bit too small for him, and my husband,
<Heeeee! Don't try fitting him in there!>
 who already just barely tolerates my aquarium addiction, would probably put his foot down on having a tank for just one fish. And there's no room for a larger tank for the cichlids. I can't put him down like a rabid dog, but I'm tired of this fish terrorizing his tankmates. Any suggestions for this terrible setup?
Thanks in advance,
<Really; someone or something has to go... I'd look for the larger tank...
Bob Fenner>

Goldfish eating silversides? & Synodontis beh.    10/19/11
Hello Crew!
So today I found out my girlfriend fed a large frozen silver side to my 10 inch goldfish. The silversides are normally for my other fish, but she had an extra that she thawed and fed it to my goldfish, which of course ate it.
This shouldn't affect its health should it?
<Nope. As a treat, these are fine.>
Also on another note I have a supposedly Synodontis eupterus, it has the profile and coloring of a Featherfin, yet, it constantly hangs upside down under driftwood or straight up and down in some plants or in other awkward positions. Is this normal for the species or is some type of hybrid?
<It is quite normal. Most, maybe all Synodontis like to wedge themselves with their bellies against solid surfaces. Whether upside-down, right way up, or somewhere in between doesn't matter to them. Cheers, Neale.>

Featherfin catfish -- 09/26/09
I have 3 fish, tiger Oscar (6in), zebra loch (3in), and a Featherfin catfish (6in). I've had my tank for close to 2 years. My catfish has always had this white stripe on both sides of his body. Now I have noticed they are getting larger and also have begun to appear on his head. My tank has 2 filters a 50g and 30g aqua clear and I feed them spectrum all purpose.
<Hi Mike. Synodontis eupterus doesn't normally have white stripes on its body, so I'm a little unclear what you're describing. However, like all catfish, Featherfin cats have naked skins, and apart from the armoured head, the naked skin on the body can easily be burned or scratched. So review some of the things that might cause this. An exposed heater for example. Synodontis generally like to nestle into crevices, and they can burn themselves by squeezing too close to a heater. Always use a heater guard or else place the heater outside the tank (e.g., use an inline heater, a thermofilter, or put the heater in the sump). Synodontis tend to bicker over hiding places, and can scratch themselves when fighting with each other or with other benthic fish. Both cichlids and loaches might compete for hiding places, and in doing so, scratch these catfish. Consider these issues, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

Upside Down cat Hi, I have a fairly new tropical fish tank (less than a year) and a small catfish. I have just noticed it swimming upside down (it is not an upside-down catfish!). It will right itself but every now and then it turns over. Is this normal? It's swimming seems quite erratic. It floats around with the flow and jerks about. Does it have a swim bladder problem? I heard this could be caused by over feeding but seeing as it doesn't eat the food I put on the surface for the other fishes, rather being a catfish it roots around the bottom of the tank.  Thanks, Alex <Many Synodontis catfish swim upside down at times , even though they are not called upside down cats. The floating and jerking sounds a little weird if it happens all the time. If you really think that there is an internal bacterial problem then treat the tank with Metronidazole.-Chuck> 

Non-Stop Catfish  - 02/16/2006 HELP! I have 2 Synodontis multipunctatus and 1 of them keeps swimming round and round the perimeter of the tank only stopping to rest awhile and to feed, is this normal behaviour? < This species is found only in Lake Tanganyika. They are a very active species and this behaviour sounds normal for this fish.> I have a 4 foot tank that holds approx. 140 litres of water, I do a 20% water change every week and regularly test the water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate all are reading fine. I have 2 filters 1 is an under gravel filter and the other a Fluval canister filter and I syphon out the water with a gravel cleaner. I can see no signs of disease i.e.- white spot or reddened gills no ulcers or fluffy growths my ph is 7 and the temp is 26 degrees. I am worried that my Synodontis is going to die from exhaustion or am I being overall worried Ann < They actually like the pH a little higher but everything else sounds good.-Chuck>

Small Synodontis behaviour  - 2/15/2006 I have 2 what I think are squeaker catfish. <Mochokids...> They have black and white spots that look like leopard spots the fins all 7 (including tail) are black edged with white they have to long sharp looking barbels and approx. 4 smaller ones. One of these fish keeps swimming round and round the tank only stopping to feed and occasionally rest is this normal? <Yes, quite...> I can see no signs of disease i.e. Whitespot no reddened gills and no signs of ulcers. My tank is 4 foot long and holds approx. 140 litres of water my ph is 7 and temp is 25 degrees. I do a 20% water change every week and use a gravel cleaner. I have 2 filters one an under gravel filter and the other a Fluval canister filter. I am worried that my poor fish is going to exhaust itself and am trying to find the cause for this behaviour. should I be worried? <Mmm, no. If there's enough to feed on... will be fine. Will settle into a given routine, including rest, in time... and given a darkened tunnel like space to hide in. Bob Fenner>

Synodontis eupterus  Featherfin catfish and Canister filter ratings  2/23/06   Bob Fenner    First let me 'Thank You' for answering my last question I sent you. <Welcome> I have been offered 16 Synodontis eupterus catfish about 4 inches in length. <Neat... a community> The only tank I have available for them is a 125 gallon which contains no other fish. The question is how long could they be kept in such a tank with the appropriate rockwork i.e.: caves etc.? <Perhaps indefinitely... with good feeding, regular water changes...> That is until what length would they need to be separated if at all. I've read numerous articles and most agree that they can be kept in groups as they are not aggressive to each other. A few articles claim they are aggressive when two are kept in the same tank. <In small tanks, yes> Maybe you need more than two so they have a pecking order similar to angel fish. <They do indeed>   Also what size filter would one need on this size tank for both the interim and long term? <I'd have two large outside power filters, some sort of internal circulation (powerheads, airstones...)> I was thinking of a Filstar 3 plus a trickle filter with a gallon of small bio balls. What about a Filstar 3 and an Aqua Clear 110? <These would do nicely> Water change of about 25% would be done weekly in either case. <Good>   Reading answers to other peoples questions I've noticed that you prefer the Eheim 2028 [?] over the Filstar 3. <Yes> Could you give your reasons? <Eheims are superior in design, construction... use less power, are the most reliable...> I realize that the Eheim is a much larger filter but up here in Canada the Filstar 3 can be purchased on sale for $150 whereas the Eheim costs about $250 when on sale. Therefore for about $50 more you could purchase two Filstars. Thank You in advance   Brian <I understand... do check the values however for flow per money for water movement... and understand the Eheim will likely be of service for a decade, two... A better value... Bob Fenner>

Catching A Syno Eupterus Good morning Crew! I have a quick question. What would be the best way to catch a Synodontis eupterus? (or Featherfin catfish, if that is correct) I bought a couple of them about 4 months ago from Pet Supermarket (much like a Petco) and put them in a now non-existent 20 gallon tank. They called them "Syno cats" and the description said they would only grow about 4". I moved them to my 29 gallon where they disappeared for months, although I could always see their barbels and tails poking out of the rock caves and driftwood. I put some Nori in the tank to see if anyone would enjoy grazing during the daytime, and much to my surprise the Featherfins came out... one is a good 5", the other one is almost 4"! I have now identified them properly and am sure they are Synodontis eupterus. They are so quick and stealthy. I am pretty sure I would have to break down the tank, or at least remove all the driftwood and rocks, to catch them. They quickly retreat the moment they feel a vibration near the tank, or when I open the top. I love them, they look so exotic, but I can see two of these are much too small for a 29 gallon. Any advice on how to net them? Their magnificent top fin looks so delicate, I am afraid it would get caught in a regular fish net. Thank you! Nicole < This is a very nice catfish that I have seen up to 9 inches. The dorsal fin is not as delicate as you think. Get a large cotton net and try and lift the catfish out of the tank and minimize the contact with the net and the dorsal fin. You could always get a big plastic bag, place it in the tank and chase the catfish into the bag. Then just lift him out with the water.-Chuck>

Need information about an Upside-down Catfish   12/31/06 Hey guys, <<Greetings and Happy New Year! Tom here.>> Hope your holiday is going good!   <<And yours as well.>> I'm really stumped here.  I just purchased a pitch black upside down catfish of some sort.  He's about 8" long and swims upside down. <<The Mochokidae family is occasionally referred to as the Upside-Down Catfish family even though Synodontis is only one genus in the group. Not the only genus in the family to display this swimming behavior.>> No where could I find any information on him all over the web and forums. <<There's tons of information regarding Synodontis nigriventris, which is the most common and popular Upside-Down Catfish among hobbyists, but I would suggest that your fish is likely another member of the family. Eight inches long would be about double the typical size of this animal, usually topping out at four to five inches.>> Are you familiar with this catfish and can it go with African Cichlids? <<I don't have any first-hand experience with this group but they're African in origin and my research suggests that, yes, most will go with African Rift Cichlids, West African Cichlids and African Tetras. Larger varieties may make a meal of small fish, though.>> I hope he's not too aggressive for my smaller 3" Mbuna.   <<As does your Mbuna, I'm sure.>> The guy at the pet store told me he was a true Synodontis upside down catfish, but like I said, I can't find any info on him at all.   <<As I said, it could very well be of the Synodontis group but doubtful that it's a 'true' Upside-Down Catfish as we commonly know them.>> Help me out...............please!!! <<If you're using Google as a search engine, I don't know how you couldn't find at least some information on your fish. Check this site out and see if it doesn't give you a leg up on what you need: http://fish.mongabay.com/mochocidae.htm.>>   Thanks <<You're more than welcome and enjoy the holiday. Tom>>
Re: Need information about an Upside-down Catfish
 1/2/07 Thanks Tom.   <<No problem, Jay. (It is Jay, isn't it?) >> The most info I found on Google that seems to be the catfish I have is the Asian upside down catfish or giant upside down catfish.   <<Let's go with what we suspect to be the appropriate species: Mystus leucophasis. (I'm torn between the usage of the scientific names and common names as both can be confusing for our readers depending on the context of the post.) Regardless, this guy (gal?) seems to fit the bill based on your description.>> What do you know about this species, there is only one article on it all over the web believe it or not. <<True enough. Lots of 'chatter' about them in various forums but not a lot of hard information.>> Can you share your knowledge with me on this species?   <<In this case, I'm going to plead a certain degree of 'ignorance'. This fish has been in the hobby for quite a while but its nature/behavior hasn't made it very popular among most but the hardcore Catfish enthusiasts. If we're correct in its identity, smaller tank mates don't fare well including species such as Corys that shouldn't present themselves as 'feeders', let alone others without the same built-in 'defense' characteristics.>>   It says it's rather aggressive is this true? <<From the little that I know of this particular fish, yes, it is aggressive. It seems to be at odds with the upside-down swimming behavior which is thought to be a trait evolved to protect it from predators. Given its somewhat notorious reputation for devouring its smaller tank mates (not a heck of a lot smaller, by the way), you might wonder why they bother to swim upside down at all. (Actually, it might revert to an upside-right position and stay that way depending on the foods that are fed. If it -- hopefully -- dines on foods that sink, it may not continue its upside-down swimming activity.) Doesn't mean that it won't go hunting for other 'food', though. >> Thanks <<You're welcome but I confess to being caught short on this one. You might consider taking this fish back to the store. You weren't given good information from the LFS folks to begin with and, personally, I don't like introducing 'trouble' into my tanks, which is what this fish sounds like to me. Best of luck however you want to go but I'd take it back. Tom>>

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