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Related Catfish FAQs: Mochokid (Synodontis...)
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Identification, Mochokid Cats
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Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction,
Too many Synodontis
Hello WWM Crew, The names Ed and I'm from the U.K I've never
posted before but have been reading up on this site for years!
<We're still here>
I'll just fill you in on my tank first, 90gal long and wide not so
tall (used to be an axolotl tank so it was all about the floor space!)
Its a well mature African biotope soft sand substrate, a jungle load of
plants, huge chunks of slate creating caves. Inhabitants are a mixed
sex group of 20 Congo Tetras, 1 x Elephant Nose, a breeding pair of
Kribensis, an African Brown Knife, and a large 7inch incredibly shy
highly nocturnal Synodontis multipunctatus (He's the only oddball
as the rest are river fish). There were 2 x large rope/reedfish that
recently escaped and unfortunately didn't survive the ordeal,
shame, they were 2ft beauties! So I decided to replace them.....
<With you so far>
My local had upside down catfish so did my research and because of
their small size and gregarious nature I got 10 of them, all about 2 -
2.5 inches. Â£3 a pop, bargain!
<Ok... hopefully won't bug the too much>
Now here's the (potential) problem. On getting them home and in the
tank I realised I had 2 different types of cat, 2 are the commonly
known upside down catfish and 8 of them are what appear to be juvenile
Funnily enough I have been wanting Featherfin cats for years but have
never come across them. My worry is that I have read a lot about these
being solitary highly territorial animals that can destroy a tank but
also read that they are peaceful community fish. Some people say keep
no more than one, some one says they have 2 or 3 and they're always
fighting, another has 5 and they are fine together sharing the same
log, then reading this site you had a guy wanting 16 in a tank!
<Yes; hard to solve squabbles>
Now here's what I'm wondering...... Is this going to be
<All except the other Mochokid>
I know they can get large and potentially aggressive but keeping
in mind these have been in the shop together since they were 1.5inches
they have been and will all be growing up together in the same tank and
will be well used to each other as they mature. I feel that all the
other tank inhabitants could cope with the odd scrap as they do anyway
with the boisterous tetras and elephant nose, the breeding kribs and
the cuckoo cat that wont let anyone near his cave. No one has ever
injured one another and as long as they all stay away from each others
territories its a peaceful tank only the odd shove if a fish goes near
cuckoo cats cave or near the kribs.
Eventual size. I mean 9inches is fine but 8 of them?
<Will likely "top out" at about four inches max. here, but
still territorial squabbles are/will be inevitable. As stated, not
likely problematical except w/ your present cat>
i just don't know, I'm just always on the cautious side.
Have read that adults could be anything from 5-9in so it may not be all
that bad if some stay smaller.
Aggro. From what I've read its not all that bad but 8 of them and
their potential size, could it just get abit much?
<Perhaps in a few years. You'll see it/this coming... with a
specimen picked on...>
Im hoping that apart from the need for territories they are relatively
social as they are now and its that just not enough people keep them in
larger numbers for us to know how a group would do together, I can
understand aggro with 2 or 3 fish but with most fish you require larger
numbers say like cichlids or something but isn't that just a case
of spreading the aggro so no individual gets bullied? Is this what will
happen here? or is this a completely different game with catfish?
<One, usually a smaller individual will be driven out from favored
hiding spots, deprived food, beaten...>
I keep looking but I'm still clueless cant really find anyone
that's kept more that 5 even then I don't know what size tank
they were in!
I have a feeling its a wait and see job, they are very small at the
moment and I guess when they get bigger if there is any problems I
shall just thin the heard until it gets to a comfortable number but
your advise would be more than helpful on this one.
Is this possible, is there anything I can do to help this work?
<Keep them well, regularly fed, a routine of moving, re-situating
caves et al. decor about weekly w/ water changes, vacuuming... to
Should I just shift a few now and save me the hassle later on or is
there such a small chance of hassle that I'm over reacting like
some sort of maniac?
<Only way to tell is to actually places these catfishes and see...
Yes, a royal pain to disassemble, drain the tank down to remove them if
they don't play nice. But not the end of the world. Have seen the
end of the world, and this isn't it>
I mean I had 6 foot long + axolotls in there and it didn't seem
even remotely cramped, everyone had plenty of space so there should be
enough hidey holes for 8 cat fish, prob is cuckoo cat, elephant nose,
the 2 kribs and knife fish all need their caves as well, will there be
any fighting for the best spots or is it just a case of as long as each
fish has its own spot its happy?
<Sometimes... but usually some/one of the fish decide they want all
The axolotls tolerated each other well I just hope the catfish can get
on! Maybe I'm just getting paranoid everyone says they're huge
but 8-9inches isn't exactly huge, the elephant nose is bigger than
<They won't get/achieve half this length>
Sorry bout going on a bit, its a bad habit of mine I just seem to write
it like it would come out of my mouth. Hope you can make sense of
Look forward to hearing from you.
<Welcome. Dr. Bob (Who) Fenner>
Re: Too many Synodontis eupterus?
Thanks for they reply Dr. Bob, a bit more reassured now.
<Well all right!>
If they stay smaller like you say I cant see too much of a problem, i
was concerned about the size. Rearranging/possible future teardown of
the tank isn't really a problem at all, every plant is attached to
something so just need to pull out logs and rocks and the plants come
out too, made sure I'm prepared for anything! (an accidental
purchase of a clown knife and the ensuing chase a while back made me
think, there's got to be an easier way than this! Got it
Also see where you're coming from with Mr. Multipunctatus, He is a
bit of a grumpy fellow and quite massive compared to the tiny
featherfins (who have already grown considerably since I first emailed
you!) will keep an eye on him. Got 3 filters 2x Fluval U4 internals and
a Fluval 404 external on the tank as i went for a riverine biotope and
the fish like the extra current, also means the tank has a large water
turnover above and beyond what is recommended which I can only assume
is a plus with messy catfish and other larger fish.
And also feeding shouldn't be too much of an issue as have to
ensure that there are plenty of leftovers after the tetras have their
fill so the shyer elephantnose,
<Do feed this Mormyrid while the lights are still on... to give it a
bit of advantage over the Mochokids>
cats and knife get their fill, I let the tetras get their fill of
flakes and a selection of frozen food about an hour before lights out,
then the bloodworm and pellets go in at lights out for the nocturnal
critters. along with plenty of snails and other tank critters (shrimps
and scuds) and all the plant matter around the tank all their bellies
are always nice and big!
Looks like I'm on the right track and just got to keep an eye on it
all and make amendments as I go, If i knew they were featherfins when I
got them would have only got 4 or so, so if i do need to rehome any in
the future it wouldn't be so bad, even if the cuckoo catfish proves
to be an issue I'm sure I can find someone with a more suitable
rocky rift lake set up who would take him off my hands, I never even
see the thing, very secretive!
<You will now>
Its just when you Google Feather Fin almost the first thing you read
is, its one of the meaner catfish who is solitary, territorial and
aggressive. Then your site seemed to commend a guy who was planning to
keep 16 of them in a 125gal. It made me think that there's more to
this fish than just being an angry brute that picks fights, they must
be able to coexist in relative harmony, minus the territorial squabbles
which would to be expected of course. Also the fact I have a few
"strong characters" when it come to territory already but
everyone has their own spot they seem to call home and seem to respect
each others space. It'll be interesting to see if the feather fin
cats cat adhere to the elephant nose law. (he quickly sorts out anyone
who misbehaves, anyone gets feisty he comes in and separates the
culprits. He's like a little policeman, he doesn't like anyone
misbehaving in his tank!)
<A good neighbor to have>
P.s. A tip for removing duck weed if any one has the space for some
beautiful harmless fish! Had looooooads of duck weed (not really a
problem as all my fish appreciated the shade) after a particularly big
feed and some very fat fish I didn't feed the tank for 2 days. All
my duck weed had gone! The Congo Tetras destroyed and devoured every
last spec! I couldn't believe it, there was a massive amount of the
stuff, layers of it! i thought once you had duckweed it was nigh on
impossible to get rid of, not so it seems!
<Ah yes... is palatable to much aquatic life>
Oh and a quick hats off to those Kribensis. I've never seen such
excellent parenting, proper team work, so protective and even caring.
Almost puts the majority of us humans to shame! Fascinating behaviour.
Very rewarding after all the hard work I've put in over the years.
The tetras are just wondering, when can have the other half of the tank
<When the Pelvivachromis are raising young; intermittently>
Thanks for advice, will follow it as I have been while hiding in the
shadows all these years, excellent site, honest and 100% reliable
advice on every question I've read. An invaluable source of
information for fishkeepers new and old. To be honest even though this
is my first email to you guys i don't know if I would have had even
half the amount of success without your site. Good work!
<Thank you for your kind, encouraging words>
<As many welcomes. BobF>
Re: Too many Synodontis eupterus? 12/8/11
Hello again Dr. Bob
Thanks for the further advice! Sorry for keep bothering you, just
thought id let you know what I've done. Decided to shift a few fish
just to make it all abit more do'able, which I'm sure you'd
probably agree with my decisions. Shifted the multipunctatus, now in a
group of 6 in a rift lake set up with breeding cichlids so I'm sure
he'll be much happier,
also decided to return 3 of the eupterus to leave me with 5. But
have upped the nigriventus number to 4. Thought 5 was a good number for
the featherfins (well better than 8 considering my tank size) to avoid
anyone getting singled out and bullied, got the 2 more upsidedowners as
i gather the more the merrier with those guys!
Sooo, as it stands, 90gal with a big footprint (is a breeder tank the
correct term?) Congo biotope (sand substrate) with......
19 x Congo tetras
1 x Elephantnose
1 x Brown Knife
4 x upside-down catfish
5 x Featherfin catfish
2 x Kribensis
over filtered with the usual weekly maintenance.
To get the fish out I had to gut the tank but the revised tank is far
more suitable for catfish, opened up a lot of floor space while adding
a row of 8 flowerpot caves (each big enough for a 6in+ fish) along the
back all hidden by masses of plants and bogwood, other rock caves and
tons of other hidey holes between and under all the plants, rocks and
structures. Also by moving a big bit of wood that stuck out and kind of
divided the tank in half has given the tetras a lot of the tank back,
the Kribensis were using it as a natural boundary to their territory
having the tank more open has caused them to claim just a small
Job well done I think!
<Sounds very nice indeed>
Hopefully it remains a happy yet feisty tank.
<And you for sharing. BobF>
Confused yet pleased, Mochokid cross
Good afternoon Crew, a few weeks ago a bunch of guys I know got
together and organized a deal from a wholesaler. I know that this is
often an unwise course of action (we have seen a lot of DAA, for a
bunch of "this guy is totally fly by night" type reasons).
Live and learn for those guys I guess.
I didn't order much myself but one fish caught my eye and I ordered
it on a whim (and a love of the SYNODONTIS family).
It was advertised as a SYNODONTIS ANGELICUS x OCELLIFER crossbreed or
hybrid. I was not familiar with this practice, and was curious what
such a beast would look like.
<Hard to imagine it'd be better looking than either of these two
species, but who knows. Certainly both these species are very
attractive, particularly when young. I'm generally not wild about
hybrids, but in the case of species that aren't likely to breed in
aquaria, and aren't likely to get back into the wild, that's
more a philosophical bias than a meaningful argument against their
creation. That said, identifying true species is hard enough sometimes,
so if these the hybrids become too widely traded, and their parentage
is lost amid a plethora of trade names, we could end up with a
situation where unwitting aquarists end up with Synodontis that they
cannot identify and cannot plan their aquarium around. Sadly,
that's the situation with about 95% of the "African
cichlids" sold in US pet stores.>
Still young the cat is built longer and leaner than I am accustom
<Both its parents are streamlined, fairly fast-water Synodontis
rather than lake or ditch dwellers, hence the shape. And of course, the
accent on good water quality and a strong water current.>
colored with a rich golden tan and black dots. Active at night he takes
no guff from the rest of the night shift, eats well and dashes from
cave to cave in what seems like a sensible manner for a young cat in a
big community tank with some shady characters.
<Paul Loiselle once described Synodontis as having a Moses-like
approach to repaying transgressions in kind! Certainly they tend to be
well able to hold their own alongside cichlids, loaches and
I'm thrilled with the addition, he punches above his weight, looks
good, generally rounding out the bottom of the tank well.
What do you know of this practice?
<Very little. S. angelicus has been bred over the years,
commercially, using hormones, as have one or two other commercially
So my guess is that this is someone's idea of a bright idea. None
of the Synodontis are easy to breed, so those guys doing it
commercially (often in Eastern Europe, for some reason) are doing so
using hormones. At least one
other hybrid is traded, S. angelicus x schoutedeni, and hybrids do
occur in the wild too, apparently. A little time on Google searching
"Synodontis" and "hybrids" will turn up a modest
literature, both scientific and hobbyist. On the whole
"serious" fishkeeping writers tend to be hostile towards
hybrids because in terms of collecting interesting species, they're
meaningless. But at the same time there are lots of more casual
hobbyists who enjoy them. Whether these fish are worthwhile or, as you
say, malarkey, ultimately depends on your point of view.>
Are you familiar with this particular Hybrid? Have I been sold a bunch
of malarkey and am just looking at a SYNODONTIS that I'm unfamiliar
<Could well be a hybrid if so described.>
Thanks in advance,
55 Gal Freshwater Synodontis Tank 12/15/2007
Hello, I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank that currently has a 6 inch
common Pleco, 4 inch Bala, 2 spotted pictus pictus cats appx
3"< and a young 3" horse face loach. I recently took a
liking to The Synodontis species of catfish. How many could I put into
my 55 Gal and which of the Synodontis get along with each other?
I'd like to get 1 each of a couple different kinds. Thank you for
your advice. <Greetings. Synodontis spp. vary considerably in size
and temperament. As a rule, most species are very nocturnal, somewhat
territorial, but not overtly aggressive. There are a few species that
are particular about water chemistry. Synodontis multipunctatus from
Lake Tanganyika needs hard, alkaline water to do well. But most are
adaptable and will thrive at pH 6-8, 5-20 degrees dH. This being the
case, you could choose a single specimen of one of the medium-sized,
non-aggressive species. Synodontis angelicus has long been a favourite,
but Synodontis eupterus, Synodontis decorus, and Synodontis
flavitaeniatus are also colourful and peaceful. Some Synodontis thrive
in groups provided there are adequate hiding places. Synodontis
flavitaeniatus, Synodontis eupterus, and Synodontis nigriventris are
particularly good in groups. I have a trio of Synodontis nigriventris
in a community tank, and it is great fun watching them chase each other
at feeding time. They will generally ignore other non-aggressive
Synodontis species, but this varies, especially if the two fish fight
over a hiding space. Other Synodontis are best thought of as
one-to-a-tank fish, being short-tempered towards their own kind and
other species of Synodontis; Synodontis nigrita is a good example of a
species that can be territorial if crowded. Of all the Synodontis on
sale, Synodontis nigriventris is probably the best all-round fish; at a
modest size of about 10 cm when mature it is small enough to make
maintenance in a big group viable. Four or five specimens work nicely
in your tank and provide plenty of amusement. It is a very hardy, easy
to keep species widely sold species. One last thing: Bala Sharks are
schooling fish; please get your specimen a couple of pals. Cheers,