Catfish of the Month Right Arrow July 2006 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded July 01, 2006



Roberts' Syno, Large Blotch Syno, Large Blotch Synodontis, Roberts Fiederbartwels (Germany) - Synodontis robertsi   Poll, 1974

Regular readers of this column might have guessed that I'm something of a fan of Synodontis. They're one of my "go to guys" when I've got a catfish of the month to write and inspiration isn't immediately forthcoming. They're also a bit out of fashion at the moment and I have to admit to not having any in my tanks right now, but that is a rare thing for me - I usually have a few species to observe.

I think that perhaps the most engaging thing about Synodontis is that they are hardy. They cope with the rigours of international travel well and adapt to life in the aquarium with hardly a second glance. This is why they can sometimes attract high prices as well; you know you're taking less of a risk with a Synodontis because they are hardly and long lived.

Therefore I'd suggest that, if you find an unusual Synodontis for sale, even if it is a little pricey, you or are not yet a fan of this genus, snap them up and give them a try! This month's featured catfish is near the top of the list in this regard, they're not exorbitantly expensive, but when they are offered for sale they are a great buy. Due to their relatively small size and peaceful temperament they are a good candidate for a community tank.

Within such a large genus however (despite all those exotic plecos, Synodontis is second only to Corydoras in terms of the number of species available to the hobbyist), this species can be confused with the much larger Synodontis caudalis. Irrespective of the size and colouration of the fish, look to the eyes to tell these two similar species apart, S. robertsi has really large eyes in relation to this size of its head.

Described to science by Poll in 1974 from a single specimen which was caught in the Lukenier River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its place of origin is perhaps a reason why imports of this species have been intermittent at best. While a shy fish, a giraffe-like colouration makes this an appealing species to keep your beady eye out for when African shipments arrive at your local fish store.


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 NameSynodontis robertsi  Poll, 1974
Common NamesRoberts' Syno
Large Blotch Syno, Large Blotch Synodontis, Roberts Fiederbartwels (Germany)
Type LocalityElombe, Lukenie R., Zaire, 2°49'S, 18°14'E.
Pronunciationsin oh don tiss - rob ert si
EtymologySynodontis: From the Greek syn, meaning together, and odontos, meaning tooth; in reference to the closely-spaced lower jaw teeth. Named after Tyson Roberts of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard.
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 75mm or 3" 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.

A small fish, as Synodontis go. Colour pattern like that of a giraffe, a brown background with white or yellow worm lines. Transparent fin membranes with brown spots. Strongly forked caudal fin. Large eyes. Similar to the much larger (20cm) S. caudalis .
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionCentral Congo, Lukenia and Egombe Rivers
African Waters, Congo, Middle Congo (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Gabon Waters, Egombe (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Congo, Lower Congo, Kasai, Lukenia (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 StatusData Deficient
pH6.4 - 7.6
Temperature23.0-28.0°C or 73.4-82.4°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersExcessively low pH (below 6.0) will result in erosion of fin rays and membranes.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingNot a fussy eater. Will accept flake and tablet food. Especially enjoys live and frozen bloodworm and brine shrimp.
FurnitureHiding places provided by plant cover.
CompatibilityA small, peaceful fish that is a model citizen in a community tank. Not very shy, but appreciates plant cover.
Suggested TankmatesNot good with boisterours fish, ideal tankmate for African characins.
BreedingNot yet successfully bred in captivity.
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesRev. Zool. Afr.v. 88 (no. 2) - pp442 - Fig. 1
Registered Keepers(1) Oliver D. (k: 6), (2) GreenSynoMan, (3) synodont_fan (k: 4), who also notes: "Great species. Unusual color pattern, very mild mannered and relatively active. Behaves like a large cory.", (4) V, (5) jemslie, (6) Jools (p: 2, k: 4), who also notes: ".", (7) Richard B, (8) Frido (k: 4), (9) Mruaru, (10) chalamala, (11) jippo (k: 7), (12) Long Barbels, (13) protopterus, (14) Gulper.

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Breeding ReportsNone.
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Last Update2014 Nov 01 14:45 (species record created: 2006 Jul 01 11:22)

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