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Synodontis nigriventris
Upside-Down Catfish

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Upside-Down Catfish - Synodontis nigriventris

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Synodontis_nigriventris_1.jpg (12kb)
Photo Credit: Koji Yada

Name: Synodontis nigriventris
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: Zaire Basin
10 cm 100 L 7.0 27C


I have 3 Upside-Downers in a 95 liter at present. They are seldom seen, but make excellent scavengers. When buying upside-down catfish at the stores, be careful to identify the fish correctly as S. nigriventris or S. contractus, otherwise you might end up with a larger, more aggressive Synodontis species such S. eupterus, also sold under the name "Upside-Down Catfish". If yours turns out to be aggressive and/or overly large, chances are you got the wrong fish. S. nigriventis, the species that I own, does best in groups of at least three or more. They are friendly little fish who make the perfect little gentlemen in aquaria, much like cory cats. S. nigriventis can also be a rather noisy species; I know that when I wake up and turn on my lamp, I am greeted with a chorus of clicking catfish. If I have to net them they make odd grunting noises. I am also told that they make squeaks when alarmed. NOTE: These fish have nasty barbels on their pectoral fins, so be careful when handling them. You may want to use a cup or a brine shrimp net when catching them - I once had to spend several minutes carefully cutting one of my UD catfish out of a regular net. Nevertheless, I love these cute little oddballs to death!

Contributed by Adrienne

I have three of these guys in a tank with driftwood and a large cave. They are mostly nocturnal. Activity levels go up when it is cold, and yes, they like hanging upside-down everywhere they go, spending at least 95% of the time doing this, even with no shelter and in the open. they like eating flake food and I supplement their diet with sinking algae wafers. I feed one time before I turn out the lights, at least one large sized wafer broken down into many pieces. they are getting very fat even with this diet.

Contributed by Soyokaz

I had two of these catfish for about ten months this year - they came with the second hand tank I bought in January this year. These guys are zealously noctournal, they almost NEVER came out at any time other than when the room was almost pitch black. They swim upside down at all times, and sit in the water upside-down also. Then, to feed on the flakes at the bottom of the tank, they would flip and be 'normal'! Very quirky and unique while they were, these fish drove me absolutely crazy! Whenever I would put my hand in to clean or whatever, and went near them, ZOOM, off they went, and they would give me heart attacks every time! Also, I had these catfish in water of pH 7.0 to pH 5.0 and they were absolutely fine in both. From heater breakdowns where temp dropped to 23C, to living in 31C, they were fine, too. Very hardy!

Contributed by Kane Bonato

My first upside-down catfish was a present from my mum on Christmas 2002. She was driving home along the main road when she suddenly lost control of her car. Her VW Golf jolted from side to side across the road then flipped and rolled. She was fine and the Golf was built like a tank, but the car carried another crash victim... a single upside-down catfish. Despite being thrown about like a rag doll in a tumble drier onboard a V2 `Doodlebug', the fish survived and lived has happily until now in my community aquarium. Give them a well-established tank with well-developed broad-leafed plants like cryptocorynes, nomaphilas and anubias lanceolata, of which the latter is best grown off bogwood to provide roots for the catfish. U-D catfish like slowish water and need food to stay at the bottom for several minutes, they can then glide above the bottom of a tank scanning for food. I find that high water level fish give the U-D catfish enough room to feed. They are very peaceful and grow to a good size (needs to be 75 litre-ish).

Contributed by Simon Cole

I have had 2 of these for a year now and when they finally come out of their hiding places they are great fun to watch! Most of the time they come out in the night, after the lights are off, to eat the remainders of the bloodworm cube. Mine are 15 cm and 10 cm, both with really huge bellies. If one were to die I would definitely get a few more, but if you are a beginner in fishkeeping I would recommend you get a more active catfish like the pictus, as these are rarely seen!

Contributed by George Dyson

I bought this fish about 2 years ago in my local petstore, where they had lots of them. Like most fish offered there, they were still young animals. Mine was about 2-3 centimeters and white with black dots. The little guy was a very active bottom feeder, that ate everything. If it was edible he ate it: flakes, worms, lettuce, larvae, dead fish... He had lots of space and food in my 360 liter tank, so soon he became quite big (15 cm). He can be rather aggressive towards other fish, especially at feeding time. Because of his size and aggression he easily chases others away to get to the food. Once, I hadn't seen that one of my big pleco's was dead, and my synodontis here was eating the plecos dead body. You have to know that the pleco was a couple of centimeters bigger than himself. Sometimes I notice that his belly was really stuffed, so I think he attacks other fish, cause I really don't feed my fish that much. He likes to scavenge the bottom and the aquarium window, taking his occasional upside-down swim from time to time. I've noticed that he has his favorite spot alongside the piece of wood in the aquarium, he holds still then with his head down. All in all this is a useful fish that cleans lots of rubbish, but sometimes it was rubbish that he made himself! The fish I've lost because of this guy, jeezes. In my opinion he kills at night, when others slept. Be very aware that this cute, nicely spotted little fish becomes a big black scavenger very soon. On the other hand, it's still a beautiful animal, and if your tank is not too crowded, and you want a big fish that catches your eye all the time, then this is something for you.

Contributed by Kevin Louagie

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