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Upside-down Catfish - Synodontis nigriventris - Small

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The Upside-down Catfish (Synodontis nigriventris) is one of the most popular African catfish. It has evolved a peculiar habit of swimming upside down. They are thought to do so that they can graze the algae that grows on the underside of leaves; however it may also be so that it can feed on the organisms that collect on the water's surface. Although they often swim upside down, they may also swim right side up as well at times. The basic body color is brown with darker brown spots.

Synodontis catfish typically require water that is well-oxygenated and has a relatively strong current. This can be achieved by using powerheads or a spray bar water return attachment on a canister filter. Provide hiding places situated in areas of heavy current for shelter.

Most Synodontis catfish are omnivores, and should be offered both meaty foods and vegetation. This can be in the form of flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried or frozen foods like bloodworms and blackworms. They are peaceful fish, and can be kept in most community aquariums. Many can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, including hard water and high pH, and can even be kept in some African cichlid aquariums.

Synodontis are, for the most part, nocturnal fish. They may become more active in the aquarium during the day over time but will come out of hiding the most during the night. A very well planted, dimly lit aquarium will encourage them to come out more often. Decorations like plants, driftwood, and rockwork are appropriate.

These catfish have strong spines in the pectoral fins and front of the dorsal fin. They can cause a painful puncture and may become entangled in nets. Use caution when handling or transporting.

Visit That Fish Blog for more information from our marine biologists and aquarium staff on Synodontis Catfish and many other topics!


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That Fish Place
Common NameUpside-down Catfish - Small
Scientific NameSynodontis nigriventris
Max Size (in inches)4
Community SafeYes
pH Range6.0-7.5
Min Tank Size (in gallons)30
Temperature Range72-80
Internal Id

State Restrictions
Armed Forces Americas
Armed Forces Europe
Armed Forces Pacific
Puerto Rico


Ratings & Reviews

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Good fish,but...


These fish are amazing and fun to watch,but sometimes you may buy one that's really aggressive.I bought one for my 55 gallon tank.He seemed to do fine during the first week,but he started harassing my cory catfish and nipping at the fins of my pleco.Overall,it best to keep them alone,in case you get an aggressive one.I moved him into my friend's 20 gallon long,and he seems to be thriving.