Catfish of the Month Right Arrow January 2002 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded January 01, 2002

Pyjama Catfish, Chocolate Striped Squeaker, Orange Striped Squeaker, Pyjama Syno, Rotstreifen-Fiederbartwels (Germany), Yellow Striped Squeaker - Synodontis flavitaeniatus   Boulenger, 1919

So-called because it is a very stripey fish and, at some point, put someone in mind of the pattern found on a pair of equally stripey Pyjamas; the Pyjama catfish has more than a quirky common name. It does truly have a lovely colouration (although I have yet to encounter such on any night garment) even its belly is a golden harvest yellow and this is a real favourite catfish of mine, one I have been wanting to write about for some time now.

Those of you who have read the catfish of the month article for Synodontis angelica may remember mention of a photograph in an aquarium book which, virtually single-handedly, started me down the road of unusual catfish collecting. At the time I wrote the S. angelica piece, I only had the memory of the photo in my mind (having given the original book to a soon to disappear friend many years before). Happily, since then, a random visit to a small fish shop in Glasgow yielded another copy of the treasured book. Hopelessly out-of-date and more than a bit dusty, it was still a personal prize find and I smiled the whole drive home. It's always a good idea to have a good rummage through the book section of any uncommonly visited store - you never know what you might find.

Synodontis flavitaeniatus

At the time I first saw S. flavitaeniatus in that book, another fishkeeping friend and I were in awe of it and the S. angelica pictured alongside. I have yet to see a more beautiful picture of S. flavitaenitus. Soon thereafter however I was crestfallen to discover the exorbitant price they commanded - well beyond the financial capabilities of a mere schoolboy - and the fish became more awesome; indeed moving into the realms of legend.

Prices charged for this fish have dropped twenty fold since the early eighties and I now have a small group of these fish in one of my most favourite tanks to observe. The attraction goes beyond the distinctive rusty brown and painted gold stripes to the heart of its charm - it's the character and husbandry of the fish that are striking and elegant too. Many Synodontis species are quarrelsome or grow quickly to large adult sizes. Not the Pyjama catfish which is a slow grower (despite greedy eating habits) and my fish have yet to show any aggression towards each other. Although they have a surplus of hiding spaces and sole occupancy of their tank, it is not the most roomy. Yet there is still no sign of trouble in paradise.

The decorations in my tank are PVC pipes upon which pieces of roof slate are placed horizontally. In addition I also use old "gourmet" coffee jars which are made of blackened glass. Some catfish reject these dark, cavernous retreats but all Synodontis love them and in the case of the Pyjama catfish, are occupied by the obvious ringleaders of the gang. Some plant cover is provided by a couple of pieces of java fern but the tank is dimly lit from the fishroom light rather than a dedicated tank-top fluorescent tube, so major plant growth is not possible. Feeding is flake twice daily or frozen bloodworm or brineshrimp once a day. Food is withheld periodically (around one day in ten) and the fish are visibly more active in their search for food or the claim of it when it is eventually available after this period.

I find that feeding any fish that gorges itself benefits from a forced break in feeding now and again. The larger the fish, the longer the fast. This technique is not a great idea for continual grazers such as Corydoras and most Loricariids, but it works well with Synodontis and most other catfish. Although just a hunch, I feel it also benefits the filters.

Synodontis flavitaeniatus

There are many strikingly species of Synodontis, the reason this one comes so highly recommended is its easy going, playful nature and relatively small adult size. Pay good attention to water quality and these fish will reward you for many, many years.

Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Synodontis flavitaeniatus  Boulenger, 1919
Common Names Pyjama Catfish
Chocolate Striped Squeaker, Orange Striped Squeaker, Pyjama Syno, Rotstreifen-Fiederbartwels (Germany), Yellow Striped Squeaker
Type Locality Eala, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Synonym(s) Synodontis flavitaeniata
Pronunciation sin oh don tiss - flav ee tay nee at uss
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. flavitaeniata = yellow stripes
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 155mm or 6.1" 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.

A distinctive species that is not easily confused with the many other species of Synodontis. Lighter brown background typically with three darker brown horizontal stripes. Overall brown colour scheme can be strongly tinged with orange, pink (stress coloration) or yellow (older specimens). Some specimens may display a breaking up of the stripes into a mottled pattern. Fins are clear with dark brown mottling. Strongly forked caudal fin. Although reported to grow up to 15.5 cm in the wild, S. flavitaeniata is rarely if ever seen at more than 8 cm in the aquarium. The fish has a golden belly.
Sexing Although differences in the genital papillae can just be noted in larger Synodontis, the smaller size of this species renders this technique impracticable. Generally females are larger, plumper and, with old age, more pale.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution Malebo Pool in the Congo River (a lake like expansion of the Congo River with an area of about 830 sq km, located 560 km from the Congo's mouth). Possibly also the Chiloango River in the Cabinda enclave of Angola.
African Waters, Congo, Lower Congo, Pool Malebo (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Status Least Concern
pH 6.5 - 8.2
Temperature 24.0-29.0°C or 75.2-84.2°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Has more stringent demands on water quality than most Synodontis. Although a riverine Synodontis, S. flavitaeniata seems to do equally well in slightly alkaline water. Fins and fin rays will erode quickly in water that is too acidic or of a general poor quality.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding Omnivore. Will eat flakes, sinking pellets and small live food. Does not compete well for food with more aggressive species.
Furniture Use pipes, rock caves or bogwood hideouts - one per Synodontis is required. Although this fish is more sociable than most members of the genus, it will feel more at ease with plenty of places to hide. Plants are unmolested by this species. The fish does not invert as readily as some Synodontis, so bear this in mind when arranging the decor.
Compatibility A peaceful fish which will not eat other fish, even small ones. Can be shy and reclusive if kept alone or with larger fish, but if kept in groups (4 or more), the troupe will reward the keeper with some comic antics during feeding time.
Suggested Tankmates Good sized African characins and cyprinids are best; possibly even Asian Rasboras such as scissortails and the like if you wish to look further afield. A group of Pyjama catfish and a large shoal of Congo Tetras would be a sight to behold. Not a Syno for rift lake tanks or for housing with larger fish.
Breeding Not reported in the aquarium.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Jump to next section Further Information
Reference Revue de Zoologie Africaine v. 7 (no. 2), pp 161.
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Last Update 2019 Sep 17 13:49 (species record created: 2002 Jan 01 11:22)

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