Lake Malawi Synodontis
Maximum Standard Length
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
48″ x 12″ x 12″ (120x30x30cm) – 110 litres.
Should be housed in a Lake Malawi biotope setup, with piles of rocks arranged to form caves and areas of open water for swimming. Dim lighting will encourage the fish to be seen more often.
Temperature: 73-82°F (23-28°C)
Hardness: 20-30 dH
Synodontis are omnivorous and are most unfussy in terms of feeding. Frozen, live and dried foods are all accepted. It also relishes vegetable matter in the form of shelled peas, cucumber etc., which it will rasp at with the teeth in its lower jaw.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
Should not be kept with any fish so small as to be considered food but makes a good addition to a community of robust hard water cichlids, ideally of Lake Malawi in origin. It is a fairly vigorous species and should not be combined with shy species. It will fight with other Syno species but is not aggressive towards conspecifics.
Mature females are plumper than males. Male fish also have a higher, more pointed dorsal fin. It can also be sexed by examining the genital papillae. This is not for the amateur however. The fish should be held ventral side up in the palm of your hand. The dorsal fin should be taken between your middle and ring fingers in order to avoid being pierced by the sharp dorsal fin rays. The genital area you are looking for is concealed beneath the pelvic fins. This can be exposed by pulling (gently) on the caudal fin. A male fish will exhibit an extended papillae which should be pointed and ridged. The spermatoduct can be seen on the caudal side. Females also have a clearly visible papillae but this is more rounded and the oviduct is on the opposite side to the male’s spermatoduct. Most species of medium/large Synodontis can be sexed using this method but it should be noted that most species take 2 years or more to reach sexual maturity.
Not recorded in aquaria and little is known of its natural breeding habits. It is not thought to exhibit the brood parasitism method used by some Tanganyikan Syno species. It is found in large groups at night in certain areas of the lake, between the months of October-December, suggesting it breeds during the hours of darkness and is an egg scatterer.
This is the only species of Synodontis found in Lake Malawi. There exists both large and small-spotted morphs, both of which are available in the trade.