his is one of the smallest of the Lake
Tanganyika Synodontis and it also one of the prettiest from
the Lake. There are a few varieties
with small and large spots that abound in different parts of the
lake with trade names such as S. petricola sp."Dwarf"
and S. petricola sp."Large or "Giant".
The paper by Wright,
JJ and LM Page (2006) goes a long way to sorting this out.
It is very similar to the other popular
Syno from the same Lake, the 'Cuckoo Cat'., Synodontis
multipunctatus but petricola has white edgings to all
its fins, especially the leading ray to the dorsal, whereas Synodontis
multpunctatus has the rear end of the dorsal fin, white only
and has larger eyes. The closest relation, in colour pattern anyway,
is Synodontis polli, but the spots on its body are larger
and tend to be more irregularly rounded and it usually has a darker
body colour and a longer snout. The make-up of the teeth on these
two species also tells them apart, S. petricola: 31-32,
S. polli: 36-43. You don't tend to see S. polli
very often, so mistakes are few and far between. Another close
relative is Synodontis dhonti, but only the juveniles of
this species have spots and not when adult and it will be very
rare if we ever see this species due to the ongoing unrest in
A more recent noticeable similarity from
the paper by Wright, JJ and LM Page (2006) is
the look-a-like Synodontis
lucipinnis which grows smaller has larger spots
on the head and differs from S. petricola by the absence
of a pore beneath the humeral process which is present in S.petricola.
These two species can be difficult to tell apart, especially
The picture above depicts young Synodontis petricola
at between 6-7 weeks old.
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,
and S. flavitaeniatus.
The barbels on the Lake Tanganyika species tend to be white.
One aspect of identifying similar body pattern Synodontis,
and is often overlooked, is the shape of the humeral process, the
bony structure that adorns the head of the Synodontis genus.
Below are a few shapes that could help you identify the Lake Tanganyika
Synodontis dhonti (Adult)
Synodontis petricola is quite a
peaceful species and will only eat or harass other tankmates if
they are much smaller than them as they forage round the tank at
night, and if you do see them for sale, and you can match their
water constraint, snap them up because you won't be disappointed.
Teeth 31-32. Skin on head is rough. Gill openings
do not extend beyond the level of the pectoral fin spine. Humeral
process is triangular, elongated and pointed.
Head and body brownish, slightly lighter on
the underside, the entire body and head (including the adipose fin)
is covered with numerous blackish spots which are irregularly rounded,
often confluent, and are smaller on the head and sometimes in the
ventral region. Dorsal, pectoral, ventral and anal fins dark from
the base, with their edges whitish. Caudal fin with a broad dark
band in both lobes continuing to the margins, above and below these
bands is whitish.
Keeping Synodontis petricola as with
the other Lake species tends to be a little diverse from your run-of-the-mill
Syno's as water parameters are different with the p.H. tending
to be on the alkaline side, and they are best housed in a large
tank ( 3ft or over ) with Cichlids from the Rift Valley Lakes with
a coral substrate, or tufta rock, to keep the p.H. up if you are
in a soft water area. The most success with this species usually
lies with Rift Valley Cichlid enthusiasts who add this Syno to
their collection for something different.
Contrary to popular belief this is also an
egg scatterer as well as a a Cuckoo spawner like Synodontis multipunctata
and a few other Rift Valley Synodontis. There are two
articles on the breeding of this species in the ScotCat breeding
articles page. First is by a fellow Scottish aquarist titled, The
Spawning and Raising of the Pygmy Cat; Synodontis petricola.
The other is by two American brothers titled Spawning
In their native habitat they live on a crustacean
diet of snails as do other Lake Tanganyika catfish and will do well
in the aquarium on a diet of frozen foods such as shrimp, brineshrimp
and mysis. They will also accept tablet foods and a good quality
Ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile (Cuvier
petricola: A dweller among rocks.
Sands D; A Fishkeepers Guide to
African & Asian Catfishes.
Baensch; Aquarium Atlas 3.
Wright, JJ and LM Page
(2006) Taxonomic revision of Lake Taganyikan Synodontis (Siluriformes:
Mochokidae). Florida Mus. Nat. Hist. Bull. 46(4):99-154.
Seegers, Lothar; The Catfishes of Africa. A handbook
for identification and maintenance. Tetra Verlag GmbH. 604p.
Bottom Image: Danny Blundell