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Synodontis ocellifer  Boulenger, 1900

his Synodontis along with S. eupterus, S. angelicus and S. decorus are probably, from the hobbyists point of view, the best known for identification
with the yellow-brown caste or grey body and the large black spots and large adipose fin.

Synodontis ocellifer


As mentioned it is recognised by its large adipose fin, large spots on the body and its feathered mandibular barbels. As they grow into adulthood they will become deeper bodied and the spots will take on a ring pattern as shown in the image below.



Synodontis ocellifer - close up of ring pattern spots


Close up of ring pattern spots in adults


This is one of the Synodontis that is farmed in the breeding establishments on the fish farms in the far east but wild imports are sometimes available from West Africa. This makes this species relatively inexpensive to the aquarist and along with its moderate temperament makes it a great start for venturing into the world of Mochokidae cats.



Synodontis ocellifer  - juvenile


Juvenile specimen


Deep body with high long based adipose fin. Large eyes. Feathered mandibular barbels


Base colour can vary from a yellow/brown caste to a light grey. Belly is lighter.

Quite an easy species to keep in a larger aquarium. Non aggressive.

Not reported.

Sexual differences

It is likely that the sexes can be externally differentiated by females having a proportionately wider and deeper body than the males. There may also be differences in the vent area.



Will eat most prepared aquarium foods including vegetables such as cucumber.


Synodontis: Ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile (Cuvier 1816).
ocellifers: Bearing eye-like spots.


Seegers, L. 2008 The catfishes of Africa. A handbook for identification and maintenance. Aqualog Verlag A.C.S. GmbH, Germany. 604 p.
Sands, David. Catfishes of the World, Vol 2 Mochokidae. Dunure Publications 1983

Glossary of Terms

Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Mandibular barbels
: Pertaining to the lower jaw. (mandibular barbels)

Photo Credits

1st and 2nd images: © Danny Blundell @ The Danny Blundell Photo Gallery

Bottom image: © Julian Dignall @ Planet Catfish

Factsheet 197

Common Name:
Eye-spot Synodontis
Africa: various river basins from Senegal to Chad (Senegal, Gambia, Volta, Chad, Niger  basins); including the Bénoué. Type locality: Kunchow Creek, River Gambia.
18cm. (7ins)
23-27°C (73-81°F)
6.5 - 7.2.
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