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Down arrow Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Synodontis njassae  Keilhack, 1908
Common Names Malawi Spotted Syno
Lake Malawi Syno, Malawi-fjerskægmalle (Denmark)
Type Locality Lake Malawi [Lake Nyasa], near Langenburg, Tanzania.
Pronunciation sin oh don tiss - ni ASS ay
Etymology According to Cuvier, Synodontis is an "ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile". It is apparently not derived, as often reported, from syn-, together and odous, tooth, presumed etymology of the lizardfish genus Synodus and in reference to the closely-spaced lower jaw teeth of both genera. Named for the old name of the lake of origin, Nyassa, which is now called Lake Malawi.
Down arrow Species Information
Size 192mm or 7.6" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification All species in the genus Synodontis have a hardened head cap that has attached a process (humeral process) which is situated behind the gill opening and pointed towards the posterior. The dorsal fin and pectoral fins have a hardened first ray which is serrated. Caudal fin is always forked. There is one pair of maxillary barbels, sometimes having membranes and occasionally branched. The two pairs of mandibular barbels are often branched and can have nodes attached. The cone-shaped teeth in the upper jaw are short. S-shaped and movable in the lower jaw. These fish produce audible sounds when disturbed rubbing the base of the pectoral spine against the pectoral girdle.

Apparently easy to identify in the field as it is the only species from the Lake. That said, a large and small spot variety exist. Otherwise the fish can be identified by it's long, slender body, pale barbles and dimly spotted leading fin rays. The larger spot variety is similar to S. ocellifer but the more elongate body is the best visual characteristic to use for identifying S. njassae.
Sexing First lay the fish in your hand with its head toward your palm and the tail toward your fingers. Hold the dorsal spine between your middle and ring finger so the fish is belly up and you won't get stuck (which by the way, hurts like crazy!) The genital pore is in a small furrow of tissue (in healthy fish) and will be obstructed by the pelvic fins. Pull down on the tail gently to arch the fishes spine and the pelvic fins will stand and the furrow open to display the genital pore and the anus of the fish. The male has a somewhat ridged genital papillae on which the spermatoduct is on the back side, facing the tail fin. A gravid female will also show an extended papillae but the oviduct is on the ventral side of the papillae (And may also show a little redness if really gravid). A thin or emaciated female will have just two pink pores, the oviduct and the anus.
Down arrow Habitat Information
Distribution Africa: Lake Malawi
African Waters, Zambesi, Malawi (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Least Concern, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2018.
pH 7.6 - 8.4
Temperature 23.0-28.0°C or 73.4-82.4°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Although hardy, this fish is visibly happier in clean, well filtered water.
Down arrow Husbandry Information
Feeding Vegetable extract foods and tablet foods. Will accept commercial foods.
Furniture Rocks piled along the back pane will provide cover.
Compatibility Not advised to mix with other Synodontis unless a large tank is provided.
Suggested Tankmates Generally peaceful towards both its own kind and mbuna, only keep with semi-aggressive fish.
Breeding Konings (pictured in his book is the small spot variety) reports that, in nature, this species is thought to spawn in the months of October to December when it can be found over sandy and muddy substrate. It can be found in traps laid in these areas indicating it still feeds during these months. Around this time large numbers can be collected in the Senga Bay (southern end of the lake) during the night. This activity suggests night time spawning therefore precluding it being a cuckoo spawner like some Tanganyikan congeners.

At other times of the year it spends the day in, and the night patrolling around, rock piles.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down arrow Further Information
Reference Sitzungsberichte der Gesellschaft Naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin 1908 (no. 7), pp 168.
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Last Update 2020 Sep 18 01:40 (species record created: 2003 Aug 16 00:00)