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Featherfin Squeaker

Featherfin Catfish, Featherfin Synodontis

Family: Mochokidae Featherfin Squeaker, Synodontis eupterus, Featherfin Catfish, Featherfin Synodontis, Lace CatSynodontis eupterusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Patrick Schrader
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I bought my featherfin around 3cm and now its at full grown 15cm. It tends to hide but will come out when feeding and I have found it swimming upside down near... (more)  ben

The Featherfin Catfish is a pretty fish with delicate lacy fins and a polka dot patterning!

The Featherfin Synodontis is considered to be one of the 'upside-down' catfish species. Like their well-known relatives, the Upside-Down Catfish Synodontis nigriventris, the featherfin can swim upside down at will. They are called squeakers because they produce a squeaking sound as a warning to both predators and competitors during spawning time. The squeaking is accomplished by rubbing the spines of its pectoral fins into grooves on its shoulders. Other common names they are known by include Featherfin Catfish and Featherfin Synodontis. They are also referred to as the Lace Cat or Synodontis Lace Catfish, though this name is more often applied to its very similar cousin the Lace Synodontis Synodontis nigrita.

The Featherfin Squeaker is a great choice as a durable and attractive bottom scavenger. When kept singly they make a very handsome and intriguing showpiece, and are particularly active when feeding. They are also compatible with others of their own genus as long as the tank is large enough with plenty of rocks or driftwood for places of refuge. Each fish will pick a particular spot under a piece of driftwood or in a hole to call their own. When kept with others of their own species, they will often frolick and chas each other through tunnels and holes in a well decorated aquarium.

Featherfin Catfish are fairly hardy fish. A minimum aquarium size of 50 gallons is suggested. They are not difficult to keep in a well maintained environment and will get along well with other fish in a large community aquarium. Most other tank mates, both large and small, will get along fine as long as they aren't bottom dwellers feeding in the same area. Small bottoms feeders like Corydoras or Otocinclus can be at risk. Yet even more aggressive fish, like African cichlids, can make good tank mates for these attractive scavengers.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care


Geographic Distribution
Synodontis eupterus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Siluriformes
  • Family: Mochokidae
  • Genus: Synodontis
  • Species: eupterus
Featherfin Squeaker

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Featherfin Squeaker catfish (Synodontis euptera)

This looks to be a perfect aquarium environment for this Featherfin catfish. Notice the lower light levels, hiding places, and algae growing from the wood which comes from a long established tank.

Featherfin Squeaker - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Featherfin Squeaker Synodontis eupterus was described by Boulenger in 1901. They inhabit much of central Africa, including Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Cameroon. They are found in the famous White Nile river system as well. Other common names they are known by include Featherfin Catfish, Featherfin Synodontis, Synodontis Lace Catfish, and Lace Cat. Due to their wide distribution they are not considered threatened and are listed as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.

Featherfin Catfish prefer living near muddy or rocky bottoms of rivers in their natural habitat, preying upon insect larvae and even eating algae. They prefer moderately fast flowing rivers. Like most catfish, they are primarily scavengers and will eat most available items that are edible. Featherfin Synodontis enjoy each other’s company in the wild and often live in small, fluctuating groups.

  • Scientific Name: Synodontis eupterus
  • Social Grouping: Groups - Can be kept singly or in groups.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Featherfin Squeaker is fairly large and a long-lived catfish. It can get up to 11.8 inches (30 cm) in length, though they usually only obtain 6 - 8” (15-20 cm) in the aquarium. They commonly have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, but there are reports of them living up to 25 years.

Featherfin Catfish have a flattened underside and triangular flanks leading up to their sharp, spined dorsal fin that develops lacy extensions on the adults. The barbels are quite pronounced and very flexible allowing them to seek food and warn other competitors off with a ‘tickle’. These catfish are often spotted or patterned with varying degrees of browns and sometimes grays. Called Featherfin Synodontis, they are particularly noted for their huge, feathery fins. Because Featherfins can range greatly in color, they can easily be confused with similar Synodontis species and are often sold as a completely different species.

Juveniles and adults often look completely different and the young do not have the distinctive dorsal fin extensions. When young these fish can easily be misidentified with their close relative, the Upside-Down Catfish Synodontis nigriventris. But once the Featherfin Synodontis grows well past four inches their identity becomes clear.

Synodontis are known as squeaker catfish because they produce a squeaking sound by rubbing the spines of the pectoral fins into grooves on the shoulders. They use this sound as a warning to both predators and competitors during spawning time. Like their relatives the Upside-Down Catfish, they can also swim upside down at will. For idedntification, their distinctive characteristics are the long, flowing fins, delicately spotted body, and their eventual adult size.

  • Size of fish - inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm) - They usually only obtain 6-8” (15-20 cm) in the aquarium.
  • Lifespan: 25 years - Up to 25 years, but more commonly 8-10.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Featherfin Squeaker perfectly fits the definition of a hardy fish. Featherfins can withstand a variety of water conditions, food types, and tank mates. They are survivors and very few of the common beginner mistakes adversely effects them. Tanks can be extremely dirty since this mimics much of their natural habitat, though a dirty tank is not recommended. One thing they do require though is a decently size aquarium, preferably over 50 gallons.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Featherfin Synodontis are omnivores that feed on insect larvae, algae, and any other foods source they can scavenge in the wild. In the aquarium they are not hard to feed at all. They are enthusiastic eaters will consume nearly any food they can locate with a rambunctious attitude. Even though they prefer to be under cover during day time, the tantalizing smell of food in the water will often bring them out of their domain for a good feasting time. Meaty foods, vegetable tablets, and anything in between will be appreciated by these hardy eaters. Brine shrimp and blood worms (either live or frozen), or even small earthworms are an excellent once a week snack.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily

Aquarium Care

These Synodontis are not picky about their aquarium conditions. Little maintenance has to be done to keep them in good condition. Regular siphoning of the gravel is recommended to remove waste and keep the tank in a clean state.The recommended water change is 10 - 15% every other week to keep up with the bio-load..

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Bi-Weekly water changes of 10 - 15% are recommended to keep the tank from becoming heavily fouled.

Aquarium Setup

A minimum 50 gallon aquarium is recommended for a full sized Featherfin Squeaker. This Synodontis catfish enjoys a tank with lots of hiding places, particularly driftwood. They have fun chasing each other around all the tunnels and holes, while feeling secure under the driftwood. Once they find their favorite spot, they will stay there much of their lives unless the tank is revamped or a competitor out competes them for the space. Porous rocks, such as the tufa used for African cichlid tanks, are also welcomed by these catfish. Substrate should be sand or some type of smooth gravel to reduce the chance of barbel damage. Plants also provide cover, but they must be tough and resilient since these catfish often shove€™ away anything in their path.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix - Sand or smooth gravel will help reduce the chance of barbel damage.
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting - Will appreciated overhangs and hiding places in more brightly lit aquariums.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2° C)
  • Range ph: 5.6-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 8 - 20 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom

Social Behaviors

Featherfin Catfish are not aggressive, but they aren't necessarily peaceful either. They fall into the range of semi-aggressive. They pose little risk to small fish that swim in the middle or top of the tank, but can harass smaller bottom feeders like Corydoras or Otocinclus. They also tend to be food hogs, so weak, slow eating fish will often find they have missed out at feeding time!

The Featherfin Squeaker enjoys the company of its own genus, but like the majority of Synodontis they have an intricate hierarchy system, mainly based on size. The most dominant Featherfin will get the best hiding place. The 'species internal' bullying is rarely life threatening but can cause substantial stress which may lead to illness. Watch for any individual fish getting bullied too much. Featherfins are often an excellent addition in African Cichlid tanks.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive - Though basically a peaceful fish, they will harass other bottom feeders.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They can be kept with other Synodontis if the tank is large with many hiding places.
    • Peaceful fish (): Monitor - Be cautious with smaller bottoms feeders like Corydoras or Otocinclus that compete for food.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Safe - Can usually be kept with semi-aggressive and even aggressive fish such as Rift Lake cichlids.
    • Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Safe
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Monitor
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - Synodontis are food hogs and slow eaters may not get enough to eat.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive - Featherfin Synodontis enjoy consuming snails.
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Females are usually larger than males with a bigger girth. They often develop pot bellies.

Breeding / Reproduction

Featherfin Synodontis have not been successfully bred in home aquariums, though they have been bred in fish farms with the help of added hormones.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown - This fish has been bred in fish farms with the help of added hormones, however breeding is unknown in the home aquarium.

Fish Diseases

Synodontis euptera are very hardy fish and have no diseases they are particularly effected by. However, they are subject to the same diseases as other tropical fish. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

High nitrate levels can cause Feather-fin catfish to develop infected barbels; this makes it difficult for them to navigate and eat normally. It is recommended to maintain nitrate levels below 20 ppm.

The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Feather-fin Catfish the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.

Remember anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quaranteen anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

Because they are a scaleless fish, catfish can be treated with pimafix or melafix but should not be treated with potassium permanganate or copper based medications. Malachite green or formalin can be used at one half to one fourth the recommended dosage. All medications should be used with caution.

Availability

The Featherfin Squeaker is generally available from pet stores and online and moderately priced.

References

Author: David Brough CFS, Alex Burleson, Clarice Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Featherfin Squeaker

ben - 2009-12-29
I bought my featherfin around 3cm and now its at full grown 15cm.
It tends to hide but will come out when feeding and I have found it swimming upside down near the surface of the water many times (thinking it has died!). Very hardy fish and cleans the bottom of the tank very well, but is territorial and doesn't like people looking at it (mine flinches and will try to hide even more when people look at it).

Word of advice, DO NOT keep with Neons, Cardinals or Rummynoses in the tank, it waits till they are asleep at night and gobbles them down. I have lost 15 cardinals over a few weeks and 7 rummynoses in one night to this eating machine. Unfortunately I had to separate my featherfin from my main tank due to these incidents...

  • denise - 2011-04-06
    "Ben," I praise you for you comment. I have a large tank with a male betta, 15 neons a pleco,a few mollies and platys, 3 danios, 10 corys,1 frog. I recently added a featherfin. I started noticing my platys starting to act strangely, one looked real stressed and later died, another 2 are now poorly and I seperated them from the other fish. Then I noticed one of the teras was missing an eye, by that evening it was dead. Then another tetra was missing an eye. I couldnt understand what was going on, the tetras have been in the tank over 2 years now with no problems, the platys have been there about 18 months, again with no problems. I have spent hours looking for info on featherfins and tetras but to no avail, till I found your comment.... so thank you very much. i suppose I have no choice but to take the problem fish back. thanks again
  • Maddie - 2011-07-06
    I brought a featherfin over a year ago (originally sold to me as an upside-down catfish). He/she has grown to about 13cm. It's kept in a 200L tank with 2 silver sharks, 3 angelfish, 3 kuhli loaches, 2 paki loaches, about 10 neon tetras, and several mollies, platies, guppies and swordtails. My featherfin has gotten along fine with ALL of my fish, even though he/she is the biggest in the tank. It always seems scared at any slight movement.
    Only yesterday I brought another featherfin, this one however is about 18cm, and a lot fatter. Today I've noticed my smaller featherfin following the other. Once the new one notices its being followed, it chases my smaller one in circles. Can anyone tell me whether they're playing? Courting? Or bullying each other?
  • Jacki Wooge - 2012-11-12
    I've been going crazy with trying to figure out why my fish keep dying one by one. I have neons they've all survived as of yet but I've had mollies and guppies just start acting weird and then die. Sometimes I see a red spot on them. Ive been wondering if it was the lace catfish.
Reply
Spiff - 2009-01-26
Please, I hope nobody reading this decides to stock their tanks like some of the other commenters. 2 of these catfish with any other large fish in a 29gal is too many. 1 bala shark can't live in a 29 gal, let alone the 2 + plecos + synos that one person describes. Once these guys reach adulthood, they really ought to have a 55 gal or bigger to explore. Even if you only have 1.

Reply
Alexander - 2004-02-23
Featherfin Synodontis (eupterus) is a relatively peaceful community fish, that cohabitates in my 90G tank with 5 bumblebee Gobies, one Gold Nugget Pleco, one Zebra Pleco and one Gold Line Pleco.
Recently, I added one Synodontis Angelicus after changes in the tank, that made it more structurally complex (meaning adding more hiding spaces in the form of rocks and caves, but also Mopani wood-specially treated, so it doesnt give the water a tea colour, but it maintains its nutritional characteristics.-)
The behaviour of the Featherfin is peaceful, even with the other Synodontis, and he is a marvel to watch.
Care should be taken to provide him with ample food (not only pellets, but also zuccini and cucumber will be appreciated and blood worms)and it will not fail you to show its magnificent dorsal and anal fins.
Nevertheless, if not placed in ample space - at least a 35 G is recommended- and not properly and adequately fed it might eat smaller fish and become aggresive.
Anyway, do you blame him if he does?

  • rocky - 2014-03-14
    My featherfin is older than me and I'm 29. It is as lively today as it was 10 years ago.
Reply
Aaron - 2013-04-05
My two featherfins and pictus in my 55 gallon have gotten along great with each other, as well as 7 corys, 1 dwarf gourami, 1 female firemouth, 2 Chinese algae eaters, 4 giant danios, and ramshorn snails. I did however get rid of my two Chinese algae eaters, as they were just too territorial/fast/jerky. Not to mention they don't eat algae much as adults. I also have my gf my gourami, for some reason my firemouth would chase him and swim around him like a mate. I use to have a kenyi African cichlid when most of my fish were in a 29 gallon. I know it says featherfins are great with them but after seeing him all of a sudden become aggressive at age 2 and bite my catfishes barbs, he had to go. All around, my aquarium has done great. I've made huge improvements in my care, like converting from fake to all live plants, water changes every couple days, changing from gravel to pool filter sand, having a consistent heater, day and night cycle, and mixed diet. I look back on my 29 gallon days, and even though my fish made it through, I still feel absolutely awful about having kept the light on 24/7 for so long. Me and my fish are a billion times happier and healthier now. As soon as can I will upgrade to a 90 gallon tank to provide even more room and cover for the fish to grow.

Reply
Larry - 2009-11-23
I have 2 featherfins in a 55 gallon tank with a few zebra danios, glow-fin tetras, black tetras, and 2 golden algae eaters. They all get along just fine. I did have the same problems others mentioned with neon tetras disappearing, but only with neons. Featherfins just like the taste of neons apparently. The best way to introduce new fish to your tank with the territorial featherfins is to rearrange the tank. Move the plants and rocks around at the same time that you add the new fish. The confusion makes them think they are in a new area (which has the new fish), and the territory is no longer theirs. It has worked great for me for all fish except the neons. Just don't add neons to a tank with featherfins and you should be okay.

  • Ryan - 2010-10-17
    I've actually been able to keep neons with featherfins successfully. I currently have 6 neons in my 55 gallon aquarium with 2 featherfins. But they were raised with many small fish which included 5 neons in my old 20 gallon aquarium. They usually don't get too aggressive towards bottom dwellers, but from time to time will spar with each other around the tank. But I have had 3 out of 7 kuli loaches die lately, but I don't know if it was from them or old age, but I hope you have greater luck with smaller fish with the guys!
  • Ren - 2013-01-24
    My featherfin ate 14 fresh shrimp in two days. Every weekend I would buy at least 10 and couldn't figure out where they were going. I owned it for a year before he ever came out of his cave so I call it Houdini, it had tripled in size when he finally showed up. It gets against the highest center piece and just hovers in a perfect vertical 90 and lets the bubbles go up his belly. Very enjoyable now that I see it, very playful with my 7' placo, they are like bff's, inseperable.
Reply

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