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Synodontis lucipinnis  Wright & Page, 2006

or this months factsheet it is a "is it or isn't it" scenario when it comes to the Lake Tanganyika Synodontis species of S. lucipinnis and S. petricola. They are very much alike and a tank with either species presents a challenge to try to identify them to one or another.


Synodontis lucipinnis


Synodontis lucipinnis


Both these species are very similar and the morphometric and meristic data on them are not too dissimilar. Both have white dorsal and pectoral fin spines with the rays finishing with a short filament. The fins have black triangle patterns with the caudal sporting a black bar from base to tip. The eyes on both species are copper coloured. Ignore the difference in colouration between these two images as lighting and substrate will play a part in colour shades as these two species both have a light brown/copper body with black dots of variuos sizes and will look pretty similar in the same water conditions.




Synodontis petricola


Spotting the differences: If you look closely at the top picture of S. lucipinnis you will notice a clear patch or window at the base of the ventral and anal fins, this does not occur in S. petricola. Another more important difference is a feature called the axillary pore which is an opening just below the humeral process (which is a bony structure on the body just above the pectoral fins and is a bony extension of the pectoral girdle.) S. petricola has this feature which S. lucipinnis lacks, although this is not an easy identifier when they are darting around the tank. The size difference is of course a main contender as S. lucipinnis grows smaller at 8.0cm. (3¼ins) whereas S. petricola reaches 11.5cm. (4½ins) adult size. The spots on S. lucipinnis tend to be more haphazard but this can vary from species to species even in the same group and location. S. petricola has the body spots in more of a rounded pattern and tends to have them in rows along the body, with smaller spots in the head and snout area than S. lucipinnis (which tend to be larger)




Lake Tangyanika and the Type locality shown in the Zambian end of the Lake near the Zambian port of Mpulungu.

The map above shows Lake Tangyanika and the Type locality shown in the Zambian end of the Lake near the Zambian port of Mpulungu.

Aquarium Care: As with most of the smaller Lake Tangyanika species they are quite peacfull and on ocassions will spend time chasing each other around the aquarium but no damage seems to occur with this practice. Smaller Cichlids from the same lake would make good companions. It has been noted that they will live quite happily in a p.H. lower than 7 but seeing that they do come from an alkaline Lake, 7 or above would be a good point to aim for.


Remarks: In the past this species may have been identified erroneously as S. petricola before the work done in the 2006 paper by Wright and Page. Before this paper smaller species were noted and captioned as S. petricola "Dwarf". (S. lucipinnis)






Axillary pore absent; mandibular teeth 35-51; body with large spots; fin spines white; 8-9 pectoral fin rays; black triangles on bases of all rayed fins with light coloured window at base (except caudal fin).


Dorsum yellowish to copper/brown, covered with large, irregularly shaped black spots. Maxillary and mandibular barbels white. Iris copper coloured. Dorsal and pectoral fin spines white terminating in short white filaments. All rayed fins with black triangles at base; posterior margins white. Triangles have large, lightly coloured windows at bases, most noticeable in ventral and anal fins. Both lobes of caudal fin with black bar from base to tip of fin; posterior margin of fin white.


Suitable for a Lake Tanganyika type setup

Egg scatterer.

Sexual differences

Females tend to get a rounder belly especially in breeding condition.



Will take all aquarium prepared foods such as flake, tablet, pellets and frozen worm foods. Will appreciate a bit of green foods now and again


Synodontis: Ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile (Cuvier 1816).
lucipinnis: From the Latin, luci, meaning bright or clear, and pinnis, meaning fin in reference to the light patches found at the base of the black triangles on the rayed fins, especially on the anal fin.


Wright, JJ and LM Page (2006) Taxonomic revision of Lake Taganyikan Synodontis (Siluriformes: Mochokidae). Florida Mus. Nat. Hist. Bull. 46(4):99-154.

Google Maps - ©2013 Google

Glossary of Terms

Axillary pore : An opening just below the humeral process
Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Maxillary barbels
Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels)
Mandibular barbels
: Pertaining to the lower jaw. (mandibular barbels)
Anal fin
: The fin forward from the anal cavity.
Caudal fin: The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body.
Pectoral fin: The paired fins just behind the head.

Photo Credits

Top image: © Steven Grant

Bottom image:
©  Hippocampus Bildarchiv

Factsheet 205

Common Name:
Dwarf Lake Syno.
Africa: Lake Tanganyika, Musende Rocks near the Zambian port of Mpulungu.
8.0cm. (3¼ins)
22-25°C (71-77°F)    
7.5 - 9.0.
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