his member of the Mochokidae family has been
quite a popular if not too attractive addition to the catfish fraternity
since 1973 when it had then been made the emblem of the now deceased
Catfish Association of Great Britain.
The original description
was Synodontis batensoda, named by the German Ichthyologist
W.P.E.S Rüppell in 1832 in his paper "Continuation
of the description and figure of several new fish, in the Nile.
p1-14 ." It was known as this name until Bleeker in 1862
erected a new genus, Brachysynodontis for it. This was
because of the differences noted below in the next paragraph and
the name which most aquarists would be most familiar with was
mainly due to the larger number of gill rakers, reversed colouration
and the absence of a gap between the end of the the dorsal fin
and the origin of the adipose fin.
The genus name of Brachysynodontis means 'short Synodontis'.
There is a school of thought that this is just another member
of the Synodontis genera and the differences between the
numbers of gill rakers and the absence of a gap between the dorsal
and adipose does not make it a separate genera. This is still
an ongoing debate which I would not be surprised, goes on for
a few years yet.
As its colour pattern suggests, it spends
most of its time in an inverted position. In the wild they congregate
in large shoals, feeding on phytoplankton, zooplankton and detritus.
It is speculated that one of the reasons for the inverted swimming
position is that when caught in dry season pools it gives this
species the opportunity to exploit the low oxygen content to the
full. They are found in some of the largest rivers in Africa,
but migrate to areas where the pools and marshes occur. I can
only surmise that this is a pre-empt to spawning for Brachysynodontis
The common name of "Upsidedown catfish" may confuse
readers as the other Syno also with this name is the smaller Synodontis
nigriventris which unlike
B. batensoda spends most of its time inverted under branches
or logs whereas the latter when dormant sits on the bottom of
The genus Synodontis sports three pairs of barbels 1
pair: maxillary, 1 pair: outer mandibular and one
pair of inner mandibular barbels that are branched (filaments).
There are only three species that have filaments on their maxillary
barbels as well as the mandibular, and they are, S.
decorus and S.
This is an other 'Synodontis'
which has appeared as hieroglyphics on the walls of ancient Egyptian
tombs along with Synodontis
membranaceus, Synodontis serratus, Synodontis frontosus and
Dorsal:1/7, Anal:5/7-9. Maxillary barbels
with a broad posterior membrane throughout their length; mandibular
barbels without membrane and possessing slender ramifications. Shoulder-process
rectangular. Adipose fin very large. Dorsal fin spine smooth anteriorly,
occasionally with 3-4 serration's at the tip, feebly serrated posteriorly
ending in a filament. Pectoral fin spine feebly serrated on outer
border strongly serrated on inner border. Caudal fin forked, each
lobe ending in a point. Head shield pitted and granulated.
Adults are silver-green to blue-grey, occasionally
delicate redish-brown. Underside blackish. Fins grey, partly with
dark spots. Barbels black.The young have large dark blotches on
the flanks, separated by an intervening pale network.
Keeping B.batensoda in the aquarium
poses no problem as they are in my experience an easy going 'Synodontis'
and can be quite entertaining in their forages around the tank swimming
upside-down along the top of the tank and then reverting to their
bottom posture as they glide along the bottom. I have found that
they sometimes can get bullied by the more aggressive members of
this family so as with all Syno's you will have to experiment
to find the best solution for its tankmates.
Omnivore, in its natural habitat it feeds
on plankton, algae and detritus. May also feed on surface insects,
chironomid larvae, benthic crustaceans and mollusks. In the aquarium
they will take a wide range of foods. They will feed during the
day and accept live food, frozen food (bloodworm) tablet and pellet
foods and a good quality flake. I have also witnessed my specimen
gnawing away at a piece of courgette (zucchini) which was left out
for my Ancistrus, so a little bit of greenery now and again
would also supplement their diet.
Günther. Sterba's Freshwater
fishes of the World no1
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2002. FishBase.World Wide
Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org,
19 August 2002
Catfish Association of Great Britain
Volume 1 1983.
Rüppell W.P.E.S., Continuation of the description
and figure of several new fish, in the Nile p1-14, 1832
Gosse, J.-P., 1986. Mochokidae.. p. 105-152. In J. Daget,
J.-P. Gosse and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde (eds.) Check-list
of the freshwater fishes of Africa (CLOFFA). ISNB, Brussels, MRAC,
Tervuren; and ORSTOM, Paris. Vol. 2.