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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.
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
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
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.
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
Water Movement: Moderate
Water Region: Bottom
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.
Temperament: Semi-aggressive - Though basically a peaceful fish, they will harass other bottom feeders.
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.
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.
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.
The Featherfin Squeaker is generally available from pet stores and online and moderately priced.
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.
Mike - 2014-08-17 My. feather fin is 2yrs old and he is 3-4 inches, he has 5 tank mates that are upside down catfish, in a 30 gallon. Is this adequate or not?
Psshh - 2014-08-18 I have heard much about syno cats needing lots and lots of space. Based on my research and word of mouth, I would agree with Spiff. I personally only keep 1 syno in my 55. His tankmates include malawi mbuna cichlids and he does great! He is 6mns old and currently 4-5 inches in size.
Mike - 2014-08-20 Pertaining to 'my' featherfin length being only 3 in a half inches, is 30galls adequate?
Clarice Brough - 2014-08-21 I'm guessing Mike, that it depends upon how fast your fish grows. As it gets bigger, you'll want to upgrade.
Anonymous - 2014-08-21 He's a little over two years old, 3 in a half inches, with five upside down catfish in a 30 gal. Is this adequate?
Mike - 2014-08-24 ?????
dawn - 2015-03-01 I have 2 synodontis catfish that are about 10 in 2 common plecos about 16 in 3 silver dollars and 1 baha shark in a 120g. my catfish play with the plecos, but the plecos do get aggressive after a while. I have smaller homes the catfish can fit in but the plecos cant. gives them a break from each other.
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.
Catfish Lover \"The Expert In Anything Catfish\" - 2014-10-15 Can i keep a 3 inch crayfish with:1 featherfin squeaker,2 african brown knife fish,2 spotted raphael catfish,2 farrowella twig catfish,1 baby whale,1 female rainbow shark,1 male betta,1 peppered loach,i kuhli loach,1 yoyo loach,1 peppered corydoras catfish,1 green corydoras,1 BN pleco,and aquatic plants(hornwort,cabomba,duckweed)?
Clarice Brough - 2014-10-17 I would be cautious about adding a crayfish. They have one desire... eating, and you have several bottom dwellers that will be easy snacks. Maybe keep the crayfish in its own tank.
Catfish Lover \"The Expert In Anything Catfish\" - 2014-10-17 Ok,Thanks.
Josh Autry - 2014-08-04 Hi, I'm new to being an aquarium hobbyist. I recently bought a 40 gallon aquarium and its running remarkably. I currently have 9 corys (3 different species...julii, emerald, and albino)n 3 red tailed tinfoil barbs and an albino BN pleco. All the fish get along quite well. But anyway, I was at my local fish store, (professional aquarists) and I noticed the african feather fin cat. They really cought my eye and I'd like to have at least 2 of them. My tank has two great homes on opposite sides of the tank and I'd have room for another cave. I know they're territorial but I'd like to see two of them in my tank. With that being said, I know I'd have to move them to a bigger tank. So my question is, how long can I have them in my 40 gal before I move them to a 55 or 75?
Clarice Brough - 2014-08-05 Your tank, as you know, is not large enough for a single adult, as one will need about 50 gallons. Moving them will depend on how quickly they attain full size. Though you should have some time, you'll have to keep an eye on them as size depends on a number of factors including age, how comfortable the fish is, and how well it is fed. Another problem you will face though, is trying to mix it with your cory cats. That is not a good mix as it will be aggressive towards them.