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Catfish / Mochocidae / Cuckoo Catfish

Cuckoo Catfish, Multi-spotted Synodontis
Synodontis multipunctatus


Synonyms: None
Physical description: An elongated catfish whose body color is light beige to gray and belly is white. Large black spots cover the body. The head is dotted with small spots. The dorsal fin is black as is the forked tail. The mouth is located on the underside of the head and has three pairs of barbels.
Size/Length: Males to 8" (20 cm), females to 11" (28 cm). Males are not usually more than 5" in captivity, while females rarely grow larger than 8" (20 cm).
Similar species: Synodontis dhonti, Poll's Upside-down Catfish (Synodontis polli), Cuckoo Catfish (Synodontis petricola). S. multipunctatus and S. petricola are very similar. They can be distinguished by S. multipunctatus' large eye diameter and larger spots on the body. S. petricola has a more consistent spot size. S. polli differs from S. petricola in having a darker body pattern. S. dhonti attains a larger size and loses its body spots with age.
Habitat: Eastern Africa; rocky shores of Lake Tanganyika, at depths up to 65 feet. This fish is exported from the Burundi district.
S: bottom
Aquarium: A 30" (76 cm) or 20-30 gallon (76-114 l) tank is sufficient for fish to 4" (10 cm). Larger fish require a tank measuring at least 40" (102 cm) or 45-55 gallons (170-209 L). The tank should have a rocky set-up with caves and plenty of other hiding places. Use fine gravel or sandy bottom.
Water chemistry: The water should be clean and nitrate free with a pH of 7-8.5 (8.1), a water harness of 10-35 dH (16), and a water temperature of 75-82°F (24-28°C).
Social behavior: A good community catfish. The cuckoo catfish can be kept in groups of 2-6 fish while they are young. Adults become solitary and should be kept singly, or in groups of three or more.
Suggested companions: Rock dwelling, mouth brooding cichlids from Lake Malawi and Tanganyika; Rainbowfish; Livebearers
FOOD: Live; snails, crustaceans, insect larvae, Tubifex; fish eggs; tablets; will occasionally graze algae
Sexual differences: Females may be plumper during spawning season and are larger when mature.
Breeding techniques: The Cuckoo Catfish waits for a pair of cichlid mouth-brooders to spawn. The catfish drops her small eggs (measuring 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter) among the cichlid's eggs. The female cichlid picks them up, thinking they are her own eggs, and cares for them in her mouth. When the young catfish hatch, in the cichlid's mouth, they feed on the young cichlid's yolk sacs until the catfish can fend for themselves. Start feeding with Artemia nauplii.
Breeding potential: 8. This is one of few Synodontis that regularly spawns in captivity.
Remarks: A hardy fish. No two catfish are said to have the same body coloration.
Difficulty of care: 3. A hardy fish, that should occasionally be fed live foods.


By Rhett Butler   Mongabay.com