Catfish of the Month Right September 2000

Synodontis schoutedeni
Yellow Marbled Syno, Marmor-Fiederbartwels (Germany), Marmoreret Skægmalle (Denmark) - Synodontis schoutedeni   David, 1936

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded September 01, 2000.

It always surprises me that members of the genus Synodontis aren't more "fashionable" in the hobby than they appear to be. Although they could perhaps claim a greater popularity in the 1980's, like many things that were popular in that decade, they did appear to have much demand at the turn of the millennium.

Odd really, there are around 115 species (which, after Barbus, makes them the 2nd largest genus in Africa freshwater fishes). All are suitable aquarium fish and many different varieties find their way into the shops either commonly or occasionally depending on species. If I were a gambling man I would put a little wager that the Synodontis (and indeed the 80's!) make a bit of a comeback in the next few years. Anyway, stop thinking about where in the attic you stashed that Rubicks cube and read on.

This particular species of Synodontis fits nicely into the available from time to time bracket. An attractively marked fish with a very variable pattern. If anything the pattern becomes smaller but more intense with age. Well conditioned fish will often develop a bold yellow base colouration which is quite striking.

Although a sociable species, fighting can break out among a group sub-adult and adult fish. Usually this is a turf dispute, but these fish have very good teeth and can make quite a mess of each others fins and flanks if you have got the environment wrong. Often this aggression can be quelled by a good water current and the addition of a few more caves and retreats. Or you could go the other way, it is interesting that if kept without any hideaways at all (including an external filter and under tank heating) Synodontis don't appear to bother about each others company or the need for privacy.

Avoiding the classic combined heater/stats is a really good idea for these fish as they are infamous for jamming themselves against the glass and the heater element. This can lead to disaster, but more often the fish escapes with a nasty, permanent scar. One or two prized fish have fallen foul of this problem. The best way to avoid this either invest in under tank, external or undergravel heating systems. If your budget doesn't stretch to such things then you'll need to guard the heater in such a way that it can function safely but cannot be used as refuge. Green plastic garden mesh from your local garden centre can be used for this.

Method: Surround the heater element with the mesh, you will need to leave around and inch of water between the gauze and the heater to prevent fish from burning themselves. Use a few plastic cable ties to hold the contraption together. One end can be pulled tight against the thermostat part of the heater/stat but a cable tie. The other end can either be blocked off by an appropriately sized plastic lid or put a rock or aquarium wall against it.

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 schoutedeni  David, 1936
Common Names Yellow Marbled Syno
Marmor-Fiederbartwels (Germany), Marmoreret Skægmalle (Denmark)
Type Locality Kunungu, 2°2'34.89"S, 16°19'20.92"E, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pronunciation sin oh don tiss - shouted en aye
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. 
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right Spawning Synodontis schoutedeni
Down Species Information
Size 171mm or 6.7" 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.

An attractively marked fish with a very variable vermiculated pattern. Similar markings can be found on several other species within the Genus. If anything the pattern becomes smaller but more intense with age. Well conditioned fish will often develop a bold yellow base colouration which is quite striking.
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 Habitat Information
Distribution Africa: central Democratic Republic of the Congo.
African Waters, Congo, Middle 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.
pH 6.0 - 7.6
Temperature 22.0-26.0°C or 71.6-78.8°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Many specimens of S. schoutedeni have a tendency to bloat. The cause of this is not yet precisely known.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding Omnivorous. This fish is not a fussy eater. User data.
Furniture A big pile of rocks with plenty of spaces between the rocks or a jumble of pipes are best. These should be arranged so that the fish can rest upside down or vertically but rarely the ''normal'' way up.
Compatibility Territorial but, as Synodontis go, unaggressive.
Suggested Tankmates Larger barbs, rainbowfish perhaps and medium sized cichlids.
Breeding See Shane's World article.
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Revue de Zoologie et de Botanique Africaines v. 28 (no. 3), pp 416.
Registered Keepers There are 63 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
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There are 4 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
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There are 16 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2023 Jan 12 05:34 (species record created: 2000 Sep 01 11:22)

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