Synodontis decorus Boulenger,
he Clown Catfish although it grows
large is, in my book, the original gentle giant. It does well in
an aquarium environment but do bear in mind that if you have purchased
it as a juvenile and it is placed in a small tank you will certainly
have to move it, as it grows, to a larger tank for the benefit of
the fish itself, and of course the enjoyment of its owner.
Talking of enjoyment, you will need to
be patient as this fish is extremely nocturnal as an adult and is
one of the shyest Syno's around. Regular contributor to the monthly
factsheets, Linday Dobree-Carey, tells me that her decorus
(Charlie) shares its home, a plastic pipe, with one of three large
Clown Loaches (Botia macracantha) and they follow each other
around which she thinks makes Charlie feel more secure.
The unusual trait of this Synodontis is the long extension
of the dorsal fin which can reach as far back as its caudal fin
and along with its attractive body colouration makes it one of the
most popular catfish of the genus, Synodontis.
The picture below shows Lindsay's pair of clowns! Clown Catfish
to the top and the Clown Loach on the bottom bunk. Lindsay explains
her feeding routine below.
At night I have
a Moonglow lamp which cuts in for a few hours in the
evening and this gives Charlie a chance to pop out and do the
rounds without him being disturbed by the bright light. Even so,
I tend to feed them about 10.00 pm and they have cottoned onto
the feed time and Charlie is looking out of his pipe
any time from 9.30 onwards, any other time you wouldn't think
he was there, unless you occasionally look at the end of the pipe.
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.
and S. flavitaeniatiatus.
The picture above shows the ramifications
(filaments) on the maxillary as well as the mandibular barbels
which is unusual in the Synodontis genus.
Head and body compressed.
Three pairs of barbels, maxillary barbels with a small membrane
at the base and small slender ramifications larger than on maxillary
barbels. Dorsal fin spine smooth anteriorly and posteriorly occasionally
with between 2-5 serrations at the filament. Pectoral fin spine
smooth on outer edge, inner edge serrated, but not at the base,
and ends in a short filament. Caudal fin deeply forked with each
lobe forming a point. Head shield pitted.
Acknowledgement's: Thanks to
Lindsay Dobree-Carey for her input and photos and also to Czech
aquarist Jiri Pistil for his photograph of the head area and barbels.
Base colour creamy white with large black
spots and blotches scattered over body. Ventral region white. Dorsal,
caudal, anal and ventral fins with black transverse bands.
You will have to choose its tankmates carefully
as small characins will be viewed as lunch to an adult decorus
on its night-time foraging but a good addition
to a large community tank.
No information on the breeding of this species
but males are reported to be smaller and darker coloured than the
In their native habitat they live on invertebrates,
small fishes and crustaceans.In the aquarium they will take a wide
range of foods bearing in mind that it might be better to feed at
night to make sure that they get their fair share in a community
tank. They will accept live food, frozen food (bloodworm) tablet
foods and a good quality flake food.
Sands D; Back
to Nature Guide to Catfishes.
Ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile (Cuvier
decorus : Elegant; decorative;
Baensch; Aquarium Atlas 1.
Catfish Association of Great Britain; Volume 1.
Top image : ©
M iddle image: Lindsay Dobree-Carey.
Bottom image: Jiri Plistil