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Synodontis angelicus   Schilthuis, 1891                                              

his wonderfully coloured Synodontis comes from Zaire, Africa, and the original specimen was caught in the Stanley Pool (now Malebo Pool) near the capital city of Kinshasa.

Synodontis angelica


Body markings can vary from species to species and there was a subspecies named S.angelicus zonatus POLL, 1933, found in the Lukula River in Kantanga which had more stripes than spots but is now classified as a colour variation from another population. Juveniles of this species also show a few stripes on the body and can have some beautiful colour markings as seen in the picture below. They tend to lose some of this beauty as they grow older but can still be a very impressive looking Synodontis.

It is not too aggressive in the aquarium but this could vary from individual to individual, but like most Synodontis it can get quite territorial especially with its own kind. I find it to be a trial and error in keeping Syno's together, some get on fine, while others will not tolerate a certain species/individual, so watch for a few days when introducing, and have another tank ready if you are spotting problems.

It is quite a nocturnal fish as Syno's go so provide caves and or pipework and keep the water clean.

Synodontis angelica = juvenile


Above can be seen a juvenile still sporting a stripe. It will lose this as it progresses into adulthood.

This fish used to be quite expensive a few years ago and it was prohibited to export them at one point, but it is quite affordable and readily available now.

The genus Synodontis sports three pairs of barbels 1pair: 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. clarias, S. decorus and S. flavitaeniatus.

Dorsal 1/7; Anal 4/7-8; Maxillary barbels not feathered, somewhat longer than the head. Humeral process longer than broad, pointed. Dorsal fin spine smooth anteriorly (occasionally two or three serrations at the point), a large number of small serrations posteriorly and ends in a small filament. Pectoral fin-spines strongly toothed on both sides. Lobes of caudal drawn out to points, the upper usually the longer.

Colouration of larger specimens (9-18cm): grey to dark violet with numerous reddish-yellow to dark brown-red, uniformly distributed, sharp-edged, large round blotches on the head, flanks, adipose fin and partly running together on the belly. The blotches on the flanks are usually edged with dark violet. Dorsal, caudal, anal and ventral fins dark violet with brownish blotches and transverse bars. Young fishes (4-9cm) are extraordinarily beautifully coloured: the round blotches stand out shining white on a red-violet ground.

As this Synodontis gets quite big and quarrelsome its tankmates have to be of the larger variety such as Congo tetras or other mid-sized Characins and barbs. 

This species is reported, being bred by hormone injection, where the sexes are differentiated by the female having a fuller body than the male, but I would ascertain that the papilla in both sexes would show a difference. According to Brichard, 1978, a female can lay between 3,000 and 4,000 eggs.

In its natural habitat it feeds on insect larvae, shrimp, fry of other species and plant debris. The adults will eat a wide variety of foods in the aquarium and that is the key to keeping Syno's fit and healthy, a wide varied diet. They will take flake, tablet food, prawns, shrimps and frozen bloodworm.

Synodontis: Ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile (Cuvier 1816).
angelicus : Heavenly, devine, (young fish are unusually beautifully coloured.)

Sterba's Freshwater fishes of the World Vol.1 1973
Catfish Association Great Britain Vol.1 1983

Photo Credits
Top image:       Allan James @ ScotCat
Bottom image: Lindsay Dobree-Carey
Factsheet 003

Synodontis angelicus zonatus
Common Name:
Angel Catfish, Polka-Dot Catfish
Africa: Congo basin. Type locality: Léopoldville, Stanley Pool
18cm. (7¼ins)
23-26°C (73-78°F)   
6.5 - 7.5
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                                                                                                                                  Factsheet 003= updated December 14, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top