Cat-eLog Right Arrow Mochokidae Right Arrow Mochokinae Right Arrow Synodontis

  • Synodontis njassae
Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific NameSynodontis njassae  Keilhack, 1908
Common NamesMalawi Spotted Syno
Lake Malawi Syno, Malawi-fjerskægmalle (Denmark)
Type LocalityLake Malawi [Lake Nyasa], near Langenburg, Tanzania.
Pronunciationsin oh don tiss - ni ASS ay
EtymologySynodontis: From the Greek syn, meaning together, and odontos, meaning tooth; in reference to the closely-spaced lower jaw teeth. Named for the old name of the lake of origin, Nyassa, which is now called Lake Malawi.
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 190mm or 7.5" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationAll 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.
SexingFirst 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.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionAfrica: Lake Malawi
African Waters, Zambesi, Malawi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
pH7.6 - 8.4
Temperature23.0-28.0°C or 73.4-82.4°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersAlthough hardy, this fish is visibly happier in clean, well filtered water.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingVegetable extract foods and tablet foods. Will accept commercial foods.
FurnitureRocks piled along the back pane will provide cover.
CompatibilityNot advised to mix with other Synodontis unless a large tank is provided.
Suggested TankmatesGenerally peaceful towards both its own kind and mbuna, only keep with semi-aggressive fish.
BreedingKonings (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.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesSitzungsber. Ges. Naturf. Freunde Berlin1908 (no. 7) - pp168
Konings, Ad. Cichlids and all the other fishes of Lake Malawi. TFH, 1990.
Registered Keepers(1) Oliver D. (k: 6), (2) synodont_fan, (3) Tulio, (4) fishbok, (5) Dave Rinaldo, (6) d_frag, (7) Moomoo, (8) dragonphish, who also notes: "i finally got a malawian cat! ", (9) Azarak, (10) tasoulis (k: 2), (11) foley, (12) Richard B (k: 2), (13) oliv67 (k: 10), (14) Wallace, (15) jippo, (16) Hellcatt, (17) maas, (18) lasteeves, (19) Brisch, (20) m1ke715m, (21) Marklar (k: 8), who also notes: "Wild-caught imported by African Aquatics (2006) and Rift Aquatics (2008?). Former are large spot, latter are small spot. Every couple of months the large spots spend up to a week "migrating" (endlessly swimming upwards) up the back wall of the aquarium - very cool to watch actually. Small spots never do this. Small spots much shyer than large spots. Small spots much more slender than large spots. Housed in 330L lightly stocked Malawi mbuna community tank. Pool filter sand substrate, scattered rocks. Feeding as per cichlids (New Era green sinking pellets and Malawi cichlid flake) and no doubt numerous cichlid fry.", (22) Kongstedt (k: 2), (23) BlackSouL, (24) malawicarsten (k: 7), who also notes: "Http://", (25) sleepyhead, (26) evojoey, (27) dusanmal (k: 2), (28) Schall, (29) protopterus.

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Breeding ReportsNone.
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Last Update2013 Jul 19 19:08 (species record created: 2003 Aug 16 00:00)