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December 20, 2013

Over the years, I’ve seen a number of catfish come in our shop in all shapes and sizes - from the horrific “goonch” (Bagarius yarrelli) to the petite “Orange Marble Cat” (Ayksis longifillis). Needless to say my appetite for cats gets wetted, about as often as it rains in Oregon, and this week is no different. We’ve been on the lookout for Brachysynodontis batensoda “Upside Down Squeaker Cat” for almost five years now. Our patience and virtue has finally paid off when we received some extremely cute (the only time you’ll hear me say this about a fish) specimens straight from the rivers of western Africa.

Brachysynodontis batensoda

There has been an ongoing debate about this species, along with Hemisynodontis membranaceus “Moustache Cat”, of whether or not they should both be included in the genus Synodontis. There are a few characteristics that seem to define these fish into each of their own monotypic genus. One of these characteristics is the size and shape of the adipose fin. Unlike most Synodontis, B. batensoda and H. membranaceus lack the gap between this fin and the dorsal fin. The adipose is also overly enlarged. The theory is that this fin has adapted to help keep the fish in place when swimming upside down – which they do quite often. Another unique characteristic is the number of gill rakers that these fish have - between a numbers of 39-65 opposed to 7-33 on most Synodontis. This is because, unlike its cousin who feeds primarily on invertebrates and snails, these two fish feed on plankton. The higher number of gill rakers allows for the fish to catch more plankton. It’s my belief that Bleeker was right in removing both species from this genus.

Hemisynodontis membranaceus

Hemisynodontis membranaceus

Hemisynodontis membranaceusFace

B. batensoda can grow to be a size of about 7” in length, while H. membrananeus will obtain a larger size of almost 11”. As I have already mentioned, they feed primarily on plankton. To you, as an aquarist, this means that feeding them in captivity can be achieved by offering a variety of small frozen foods such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and even bloodworms. These gentle giants shouldn’t bother small fish. That being said I’d still be weary of keeping them with tiny fish. Instead, I’d choose larger fish as tank mates such as Barbus walkeri “Walker’s Barb” or Micralestes occidentalis “Red Finned Tetra”. The natural range of both of these fish can occur from the Nile River as far west to the country of Senegal. While, clearly adaptable to a variance in water quality, they do best in a pH of 6.4-7.8 and the temperatures in the high 70’s.

Micralestes occidentalis

Barbus walkeri

Another large sized cat (14” estimated maximum size) found living in the same river systems, is Synodontis clarias “Red Tail Squeaker Cat.” Though they share the same regions as our two mustached friends, S. clarius prefers cooler water (69-75°). Though its common cousin, S. nigriventris, is better known for this behavior, S. clarius was actually the first described “upside down” catfish. The fish is also one of the only members of the Synodontis family to have branched maxillary barbels (the long barbels on the side of the cheeks). These fish are easily recognized by their tall dorsal fin and blood red caudal fin. The diet of S. clarius is very typical of any catfish, and they’ll accept just about any foods you offer them in the aquarium. I always recommend a variety of frozen bloodworms, pellets, and catfish wafers.

 Synodontis clarias

That sums up this week’s newsletter for our mustached friends. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page,, and our Pinterest, Keep in mind, with the holidays around the corner we do not want to risk any items being delayed during transit. Therefore, we will not be shipping fish until after the 1st of the year. I will still be continuing to write these informational newsletters for you while we take a short break for the New Year.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season!

Author: Anthony Perry
Editor: Cameo