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Microsynodontis batesii Boulenger, 1901

e present to you this month (March 2019) a relatively small catfish from the African Mochokidae family, a family that also contains its closely related genus Synodontis, but this is a genera that is well suited to a community tank.



Microsynodontis batesii
Microsynodontis batesii


The genus Microsynodontis posess a rounded caudal, small eyes and have 3 pairs of barbels, one pair of maxillary and 2 pair of mandibular, the latter having thick branches. The dorsal has one hard ray and 6 soft and a long low adipose fin.


There is quit a bit of confusion when it comes to this genera as there is not a lot known about the different species which at the moment 12 species are described with a few others undescribed. There is a fair bit of work needed with this genera and we will need to wait for the Ichthyologists to take up this mantle.



Microsynodontis batesii = gold-xanthic-albino specimen


Microsynodontis batesii - xanthic-albino specimen



There has been catchments from the Congo drainage and Gabon but they may turn out to be different species as they are smaller in stature. M. batesii is probably the most common species that is exported.




Mvile River, southern Cameroon.


I find that keeping them in a higher p.H. above 6.5 seems to suit them well. To sum up this is a very nice unassuming catfish and ticks all the boxes for non aggression although you will need to keep boisterous fish away from them due to the stress this will cause.


They can be a little fragile when first purchased but with good water parameters they should settle down to a few few years of life although you will not see them very often unless watching your tank in semi darkness were they will come out to feed. If you feel that they are not getting any food you should feed after lights out to let them get their fair share.



Dorsal spines (total): Dorsal and lateral surfaces of head with short tubercles in both sexes (not more than 0.1 mm long); dorsal spine gently curved; adipose fin very long, its base 34.4-41.6% SL; body without numerous dark brown elongate spots; caudal peduncle slender, its depth 5.8-9.2% SL; anterior edge of pectoral spine with antrorse serrations.

Grey to olive brown or darker almost black. Five narrow yellowish to cream coloured, irregular vrtical stripes extending from the dorsum towards the belly.

Aquarium Care

Not too difficult to keep as long as the water quality is kept up to a good standard. A dimly lit aquarium would be best with hiding places such as driftwood and pipes.



A good addition to the medium sized community tank and will coexist with most upper layer species such as African barbs and Congo tetras.

Not recorded.

Sexual differences
Males are slimmer than the females and in some of this genera the caudal fin is longer in the males with the females being indented.


Will eat most aquarium fare such as flake, tablet food and frozen bloodworm. Also known to consume small snails. These catfishes will rarely appear out during the day but may venture out for food in early evening.

Glossary of Terms

Caudal fin: The tail.
Dorsal fin:
The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body
Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Caudal peduncle: The narrow part of a fish's body to which the caudal or tail fin is attached.
Maxillary barbels: Pertaining to the upper jaw (maxillary barbels).

Mandibular barbels: Pertaining to the lower jaw (mandibular barbels).
Ichthyology: The branch of zoology which is concerned with fishes and will comprise any work that is scientifically orientated.


Microsynodontis:Micro = small; Syn = together; odontis =  teeth.(fused tooth plates).
: In honour of Bates, the English explorer and collector.



Google Maps: 2019
Ferraris, C.J. Jr., 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418:1-628.
Seegers, L. 2008 The catfishes of Africa. A handbook for identification and maintenance. Aqualog Verlag A.C.S. GmbH, Germany. 604 p.
Fermon, Y., J. Friel, H.H. Ng and D. De Weirdt, 2007. Mochokidae. p. 698-752. In M.L.J. Stiassny, G.G. Teugels and C.D. Hopkins (eds.) The fresh and brackish water fishes of Lower Guinea, West-Central Africa. Volume I. Collection Faune et Flore tropicales 42. Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Paris, France, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, and Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium. 800 pp.
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.

Photo Credits

Top image ©  Chris Rife

Bottom image © Hippocampus Bildarchiv

Factsheet 273

Microsynodontis christyi
Common Name:
Dwarf Synodontis


Africa: Ntem River basin, southern Cameroon and northern Gabon, and Campo. Ivindo, Lobé, Nyong and Sanaga River basins, southern and central Cameroon. Type locality: Mvile River, southern Cameroon.
10cm. (4ins)
22-26°C (71-79°F)
6.5 -7.5.
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                                                                                                            Factsheet 273 = updated February 28, 2019 , © ScotCat 1997-2019  Go to Top