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Synodontis robbianus   Smith, 1873

his Synodontis species can be easily mixed up with Synodontis nigrita, but the main difference is the body colour with nigrita having a grey/black colouration and robbianus being more of a brown colour. There is also a difference in the shape of the humeral process ( the part of the head shield that projects back just above the pectoral fins), S. robbianus is that bit longer and ends in a point while S. nigrita also ends in a point but is shorter and sweeps up in a curve on the bottom edge.

Synodontis robbianaus


Synodontis nigrita has a slightly different body shape being more square shaped than robbianus and also grows larger at 17.5cm. Both species are spotted over most of the body although there are specimens that have very few spots. The fins also carry spots. To confuse matters more S. robbianusis also similar to S. obesus but the latter has a smaller adipose fin and shorter maxillary barbels than the former. In young fish the dorsal and caudal fins are striped, the stripes break up to form spots as the fish matures.

Is this a community Synodontis?. Indeed it is and can be kept with most species. It does not seem to be too territorial and is very hardy as I have proved when I found my newly acquired specimen, bought a good many years ago, on the floor of my fishhouse when I opened up one morning. I don't know how long it had been lying there but when I popped it back into its tank again it contracted over the next few days, velvet disease. I treated it as per instructions and I still have it 10 years later.

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. flavitaeniatiatus.



Skin of flanks non villeuses. Humeral process pointed. Mouth twice as wide than long, premaxillary teeth in a strip. Eye relatively large and the snout short.

Ground colour of head and body, brown, lighter towards belly region. Dark spots on the body mostly confined to the upper parts, (the amount can vary). Pectoral, ventral and anal fins dark brown. Dorsal and caudal fins spotted, adipose fin the same colour as the body.

Good community catfish in a larger setup but as with all Syno's will need their own space, meaning their own bit of bogwood, PVC pipe or rockwork to reduce the territorial behaviour of this genus.

Not known, but the females are deeper bodied than the males.

Will take most prepared aquarium foods such as frozen bloodworm, whiteworm, shrimp, prawns, tablet food, flake food and pellets. A wide varied diet will provide a healthy specimen for many years.

Synodontis: Ancient name for an undetermined fish from the Nile (Cuvier 1816).

Sands, David. Catfishes of the World, Vol 2 Mochokidae.
Baench, Aquarium Atlas 2, 1993.

Photo Credits

© Allan James @ ScotCat  
Factsheet 033

Common Name:
Brown-spotted Syno
Nigeria Africa: Lower Niger and Cross River (Old Calabar) in Nigeria
13cm. (5ins)
22-25°C (71 -77°F)  
6.2 - 7.5.
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                                                                                                                           Factsheet 33 = updated December 16, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top