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.
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
Living specimens 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
Introduction, natural history research and katangae photographs
by David Marshall
Aquarium care by Martin Echarri of the Ryedale Aquarist