Catfish of the Month Right April 2012

Synodontis greshoffi
Greshoffs Fiederbartwels (Germany) - Synodontis greshoffi   Schilthuis, 1891

Article © Richard Broadbent, uploaded March 31, 2012.

This month's featured catfish is introduced by aficionado of African catfishes, Richard Broadbent. He's chosen to write this article in an innovative question and answer type style, and starts with the question, well, why this one?

I'm revisiting a species that I don't currently keep. In fact I've not kept it for over fifteen years. Why then, I hear you ask, have I gone for this species? Well I'll tell you: the other weekend I saw a beautiful adult in a sump tank at a local Maidenhead Aquatics and priced as a bargain. It was offered under the general heading of 'assorted synos' (where most were Synodontis nigrita or hybrids). This got me thinking about this species and this is one of those that, in the UK at least, are seldom seen these days compared to 15 to 20 years ago.

History & where we are today.
Way back in the day, a good fish retailer would have some synos in stock. They might have any of the following (but typically only single fish): S. notata, S. schoutedeni, S. alberti, S. njassae, S. multipunctatus / S. grandiops, S. acanthomias, S. brichardi, S. schall, S. decora, S. pleurops, S. ocellifer, S. waterloti and of course S. greshoffi. If you encountered a S. angelica or S. flavitaeniatus, you fell instantly in love until you found out how much it would cost you! Fast forward and now you can go into a store and find a tank full of S. flavitaeniatus for less than a tenner (£10) each — the same has been seen for others in my list but there isn't a sniff of S. greshoffi to be seen anywhere. This is generally true for some other species; so whilst some species are much more available, some crackers have been all but lost.

So what does it look like?
Ok it's not spectacular, but it is a pleasing goldy-brown or drab olive with darker body marbling, which is finer on the head; sometimes being more speckled than marbled. It is almost like a less pronounced pattern of S. schoutedeni with broader bands of marbling. It could possibly be confused with S. waterloti (which has shorter barbles, a rounder snout and less pointed dorsal fin) and S. afrofischeri (which is darker and more slender) or S. schoutedeni (which has a more rounded head, and a bolder, finer more intricate body pattern). It has relatively long maxillary barbels that when back against the body reach the ventral fins. It isn't particularly aggressive in a group of mixed synos but it does get to just shy of a foot long so needs adequate space and shouldn't be kept in anything smaller than a 4x2x2 foot (120x60x60cm) tank realistically.

How easy is it to keep?
Size apart, this fish is not going to present any real problems. It will eat pretty much anything offered; both plant-based or more 'meaty substances' and in the wild eats quantities of insects, particularly aquatic larvae. I have not encountered any prepared branded food stick, flake or pellet it wouldn't eat. It is fairly peaceful given enough territory and lack of competition and adapts to a good range of water conditions. Typically its natural water conditions in the Congo basin can be replaced with a temperature of 23-27°c and pH 6.5-7.5 in the aquarium.

I'll close by highlighting the opening question of this article: Why this one? Easy to keep, pleasing pattern and quite peaceful — what more could anyone want? Except, for now, for it to be more available!

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

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Synodontis greshoffi  Schilthuis, 1891
Common Name Greshoffs Fiederbartwels (Germany)
Type Locality Kinshasa, Stanley Pool, upper Congo River near Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Synonym(s) Synodontis holopercnus, Synodontis pantherinus
Pronunciation sin oh don tiss
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. 
Down Species Information
Size 266mm or 10.5" 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.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Africa: Congo basin, except Luapula River system and Lower Congo.
African Waters, Congo, Middle Congo (click on these areas to find other species found there)
African Waters, Congo, Upper Congo (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 2009.
Temperature 23.0-27.0°C or 73.4-80.6°F (Show species within this range)
Down Husbandry Information
Breeding Unreported.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Tijdschrift der Nederlandsche Dierkundige Vereeniging, Ser. 2 v. 3 - pp87
Registered Keepers There are 13 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There is no wish to keep this species.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 9 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2020 Sep 23 12:37 (species record created: 2012 Mar 31 13:54)

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