Several months ago a 'mixed bag' of wild caught Synodontis
species arrived at the Petland aquatic retail outlet at
New Earswick (a suburb of York). Martin, whose family
owns the outlet, was 'first on the scene' as these fish
arrived and put aside a beautiful crème coloured
little Synodontis to take home for his own aquarium.
A couple of days later I paid a
visit and was able to view this 'new' Synodontis
while it was still in the shop. As I have an extremely
keen interest in these fish I became excited as to the
identity of this particular individual but did not tell
Martin exactly what my instincts had told me. I wanted
to have the chance to verify this initial recognition
through textbook pictures and photographs.
Photo © David Marshall
It did not take long for me to get
in touch and, after phoning Kevin Webb to check that this
Synodontis had small eyes and banding to the tail,
confirm with Martin that we had a Synodontis katangae
in our midst and that this was the first katangae,
as far as we know, available to aquarists in the Ryedale
area for at least 30 years - if ever.
Martin now tells us how this fish is kept:-
The katangae was placed into a 36"x12"x15"
aquarium. This tank is filtered by a Rio Power Filter. I
try to keep the pH at 7 but sometimes this, despite my best
efforts, does fall and this affects the katangae
by making his eyes go distinctly cloudy. Thankfully a quick
water change soon puts this right. Although active, I have
found the katangae to be a peaceful species which
lives quite happily in the company of Golden Australe killifish
and various Betta species (including Betta picta). He enjoys
the peace afforded by a bogwood cave and is an avid consumer
of bloodworms. Over the past few months, as David and Kevin
will testify, the katangae has put on a good rate of growth.
In order for some photographs to be taken I gave the katangae
his first 'show bench experience' at the recent Ryedale
A.S. Open Show.
Martin and David at the Ryedale
A.S. Open Show
Photo © A. Kenworthy
is found in the Congo River basin with the largest population
occurring in the Luombwa River system of Angola. The largest
known specimen had a body length of 240mm. The pectoral
fin bones of katangae are said to resemble thick boomerangs.
body colour goes through a small number of 'life stages'
and in adults is light grey-purple. I have seen drawings
and photographs of katangae that show fish with
neat rows of tiny spots upon their bodies, others showing
fish with up to18 large black spots spread over their
bodies, whereas katangae like Martin's have a
much lower number of body spots that are 'bunched' towards
the caudal peduncle.. Perhaps the spotting, as in Synodontis
zambezensis, changes with age?
Caudal markings of katangae
Photo © David Marshall
are often confused with both Synodontis ocellifer
and Synodontis ornatipinnis. To tell the difference
between katangae and ocellifer look
at the caudal peduncle, as in katangae you find
a bar, which is absent in ocellifer. Also look
at the eyes, which in katangae are much smaller.
The confusion with ornatipinnis comes through
their identical body structures and eyes, but ornatipinnis
has a zebra-patterned body as opposed to spots. The caudal
pattern of katangae is also slightly different
from that of the other two species.
As a river-living Synodontis,
reproduction takes place during the rainy season, when
rivers flood out into grasslands creating ideal conditions
for extra food resources for adults, and microscopic foods
for their fry to gorge upon. The majority of riverine
Synodontis scatter dark coloured eggs among the
vegetation with the hatchling fry left to fend for themselves.
The observations that Martin makes
will add to our knowledge of this little-studied species.
Introduction, natural history research and katangae photographs
by David Marshall
Aquarium care by Martin Echarri of the Ryedale Aquarist