How To Successfully Keep Synodontis Petricola Catfish: Diet Feeding, Breeding & More

March 26, 2024

Synodontis Petricola Catfish is among the most remarkable instances of the breed of catfish observed in aquariums across Europe that originate from Central African water sources.

People working in aquariums as well as those who own home aquariums like this fish not only for its physical elegance and beauty, modest nature, and quiet demeanor but also for its ability to save their owners time and energy from scrubbing the tank’s walls and cleaning its soil, as they consume organic matter.

How To Successfully Keep Synodontis Petricola Catfish: Diet Feeding, Breeding & More

Synodontis Catfish is an appealing and intriguing fish for many aquarium hobbyists. There’s a lot to admire about this type of fish because of its adaptability and overall simplicity when it comes to taking care of it.

This article will show you all you need to know about caring for Synodontis catfish. You’ll learn about their sizes, diet, the ideal aquarium measurements, their behavior, breading activities, and much more!

Synodontis Catfish: Overview

The Synodontis catfish is a one-of-a-kind freshwater catfish that can grow in a special type of aquarium. This fish was first found in Africa, with the greatest concentrations found in the continent’s central and western regions.

It is most typically seen in the Great Rift Valley’s lakes, which are also home to numerous colorful creatures.

Synodontis Catfish is a member of the colorful catfish species. Its natural home is Cameroon’s and the Republic of Congo’s freshwater basins.

The majority of catfishes can be seen in the African rivers Lekini and Malebo. They are also commonly seen in terrestrial wetlands.

Because of the unique shape of its jaws, this fish was given the Latin term “Synodontis.” Its teeth join to form a single surface, which is exactly how the term “Synodontis” translates: “joined teeth.”

It was during the 1950s that the Synodontis catfish were imported into European countries.

Aquarium hobbyists quickly became infatuated with them because of their modest size and compatibility with other tank dwellers.

Moreover, Synodontis catfish is popular in the aquarium industry for biotope habitats designed to simulate the environmental condition observed in the African rivers and lakes.

It can, however, adapt to new environments. This catfish has a lot to contribute, and it is quite hardy and simple to care for.

When you combine that with their distinct appearance, it’s easy to figure out why they are so attractive as aquarium fish.


There are officially over 120 distinct species of Synodontis catfish. These fish have a recognizable appearance. They are bottom-dwellers with flat bellies and a shark-like profile that distinguishes them from other forms of fish.

Even though their looks might vary greatly, they all have the following same characteristics:

  • Its body is long and flattened from the sides, while its back is somewhat curved.
  • The biggest part of the body is either gray or brown.
  • Its eyes are huge and on the sides of its head.
  • Its mouth is huge and located deeper at the base of the skull and is bordered by a thick lip.
  • Three pairs of whiskers emerge right next to the lip. This is an extra instrument that aids the fish with orientation in the late hours when there’s no light.
  • Synodontis catfish is available in a variety of hues and each species has a different one, but brightly colored dots on the skin are universal. These spots function as camouflage patterns, ideal for the fish to blend in with muddy lake and river bottoms.
  • Natural tinting may be seen on the fins and top portion of the belly. Some of them have dazzling white borders on their fins as well.
  • The fins of every catfish are nearly identical. Their dorsal is triangular in form and has a spiky edge. The pectoral fins are big and extended in form, while the tail is shaped like an extended V.

Finally, the Synodontis, like so many catfish, lacks typical scaling. It lacks even the exoskeleton that other types have. Even so, the Synodontis catfish have the ability to defend themselves.

These fish have spiny pectoral fins and a razor-sharp dorsal fin. Because their spines are perfectly capable of causing harm, you should be very careful when handling them.


In a well-maintained habitat, the average Synodontis catfish lifetime ranges from 8 years to a decade. However, as you know, it is impossible to guarantee that.

When ignored, these catfish, like all other types of freshwater fish, can develop health issues. To avoid sickness and untimely death, you must do all possible to create and maintain an ideal habitat.


For a fish bred in captivity, the typical Synodontis catfish size is around eight inches. In general, though, the Synodontis catfish comes in a wide range of sizes.

It is possible for this fish to halt its development after it becomes four inches long. However, some will keep on growing until they are a foot long!

Having said that, the average Synodontis catfish held in captivity usually reaches eight inches at most.

It is not difficult to care for Synodontis catfish. This freshwater fish is very resilient and can survive in a wide variety of water parameters.

As long as you address their basic needs, you should be able to maintain your fish healthy for many seasons.

To help you get started, here are some basic care instructions:

Synodontis Catfish Tank Dimensions

If you want your Synodontis catfish to stay alive and be strong, you should make sure to keep it in an aquarium whose minimum capacity is 20 gallons.

Even 20 gallons, however, are not really enough for these catfish species, so going up to 50 gallons and more is much better.

A small group of 4 or 5 catfish will be fine living in a 50-gallon aquarium.

If you wish to have a larger group of catfish or want to develop a multi-species aquarium, you might have to go even bigger.

Water Conditions

Water Conditions

The most important thing you can take care of for your Synodontis catfish is to recreate its native habitat as much as you practically can.

Fortunately, that is not difficult to accomplish in a home aquarium. This fish is versatile and will survive in typical tropical environments.

The following are the water qualities to strive for:


Synodontis Catfish are fish species that prefer a temperature range from 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (about 75°F is excellent).


Synodontis catfish can develop better in waters with a pH of 6.5 to 7.8.


The optimal water hardness for redtail catfish ranges from 4 to 15 dGH.


Synodontis catfish prefer to spend their time at the bottom of streams and ponds, burrowing through the sand in search of food. Therefore, try not to use rocks for the aquarium’s base.

It’s best to go for fine sand so that your catfish can dig in and find its hidden treasures. You can also add smashed corals if you’re aiming to optimize the quality of the water.

Add a lot of spots that can function as shelters on top of your aquarium’s substrate. You could also add driftwood, pebbles, and whatever else they could come across in their natural habitat.

Because these fish prefer to hide in cracks, don’t be afraid to build large structures that they can fully explore.

Try not to add any live plants. These catfish have a reputation for trying to dig up roots.

Fake root formations are fine to use, but anything alive and not attached to the aquarium’s glass should be avoided.

Common Potential Diseases

Synodontis Catfish are susceptible to typical health problems. They are susceptible to all of the common illnesses that afflict fish that are bred in captivity.

They can, for instance, develop bacterial and parasite infections, fungal infections, and stress-related disorders. Ich is another frequent illness amongst all kinds of fish.

Synodontis Catfish are susceptible to stress due to the fact that they might be timid when introduced to unfamiliar environments.

Parasites can leverage the power they have over the catfish’s weaker immune function and that is when Ich appears in the form of white dots that can be seen all over the fish’s body. 

Ich has the potential to be fatal and spreads quickly. If you notice it on any of your catfish, act quickly to confine them.

In most cases, Ich is treatable in a medical tank using pharmaceutical drugs that are, most of the time, available without a prescription.

Food And Diet

The Synodontis catfish are voracious eaters. They are omnivores with an unquenchable thirst.

This fish species can eat just about anything and will spend most of its time looking for leftover food at the bottom of the aquarium.

When they are in their natural environment, these fish graze on everything, from plant waste to insects.

The best way to provide them with a healthy life when keeping them in an aquarium is to supply them with food of high nutritional value and with lots of variety.

Commercial pellets can serve as the foundation of their diets.

Do your best to buy the pellets that sink to the bottom of the tank so that the catfish can actually eat the pellets before they get devoured by their tank buddies who live on the upper levels of the aquarium.

These pellets should serve as a well-balanced meal that covers all of their dietary requirements.

Frozen or freeze-dried foods also work nicely. Bloodworms and tubifex worms are favorites of this catfish. They also enjoy veggies such as squash and cucumbers.

As for when and how much to feed them, we recommend you feed these catfish an amount of food they can eat in two minutes.

Wait till it is dark to do so as they like to remain hidden until the lights go down a bit.

However, their eating preferences shift dramatically over 24 hours.

They exhibit all predatory behaviors in the morning, so it’s best to offer them both live and dried food that is high in protein during that time.


It is difficult to purposefully breed the Synodontis catfish and using water temperature changes to achieve that is not known to work so far.

However, keeping cichlids in the aquarium as companions may boost breeding. The reproductive behavior of the Synodontis catfish is one of its most fascinating characteristics.

Some people even refer to these fish as the weirdos of the fish world!

When the cichlid eggs hatch, the Synodontis catfish swoops in to consume as many as possible.

They accomplish this secretly by replacing the cichlids’ eggs with theirs, and most of the time, the cichlids can’t even tell that something’s wrong.

This way, they treat the catfish offspring as if it were their child. The catfish eggs develop quicker than the eggs of cichlids.

They hatch after about 3 days and subsist on the egg covering. However, when they mature and acquire power over the next several days, they divert their focus to the cichlid eggs that have not yet hatched.

Even if some cichlid fry hatch, the newborn catfish devour them!

Therefore, when you notice the eggs hatching, relocate them to a different tank as soon as possible to avoid the parent cichlids retaliating.

Once they’re safe, feed them newly born brine shrimp until they’re large enough to dwell in the main community aquarium.

The Bottom Line

The Synodontis catfish is a fantastic freshwater species that many aquarium enthusiasts should consider getting.

This fish has long been a favorite of many people since it is low-maintenance and entertaining to watch.

While it is not an easy fish to breed, it is a very fascinating one thanks to its peculiar hatching behavior, so it will definitely keep you active and engaged daily when it is time for it to reproduce.

As for its diet and care, all you have to do is make sure it meets its dietary requirements and that it does not get infected by any bacteria or lurking diseases that might try to impact its health.
Jose Viacrucis

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