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Featherfin Squeaker

Synodontis eupterus

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Featherfin Squeaker, Synodontis Eupterus

Article supplied by Alex Gourgiotopoulos of Kingston, Ontario - The Featherfin Synodontis originates from the rivers of the White Nile in Africa.  It is also know as the Squeaker Synodontis or the Featherfin Squeaker.  The Featherfin is a catfish whose name originates from the Greek words “Syno” meaning “close” and “odontis” meaning “tooth”, which refers to the teeth of the lower jaw of the fish that are spaced close together.  The second attribute of its name, “Eupterus”, refers also to the Greek word “Beautiful wings”, which refers to its dorsal fin.  The Featherfin belongs to the family of Mochokidae and shares its place among approximately 170 species, 50 of which belong to the same group of Synodontis.

The Featherfin colour pattern changes quite a lot between its juvenile and adult stage, the juvenile having a body of attractive lines of black and white intervened with irregular spots revealing a “zebra” appearance, only to lose that to a more dull gray/brownish coloration with spots on the body at the stage of adulthood, though keeping a more “lined” appearance at his tail.  The feature that makes this catfish unique in its own right is its wonderful dorsal fin, that when raised with all its filaments extended resembles a moving fan and when that is accompanied by its adipose dotted fins, it is certain to make eyes turn.

As a catfish in the wild, it would have spent its days at the bottom of the rivers and lakes prowling for food with its three pairs of barbells (another characteristic feature of this catfish, since only three other synodontis sport three pairs of barbells  - Synodontis decorus,  Synodontis clarias and Synodontis flaevitaeniatus).  Being opportunistic and not such a finicky eater, it would have eaten whatever fits in its mouth.  In the aquarium it will eat flakes, shrimp pellets and whatever falls at the bottom, but the diet should be enriched with frozen bloodworms and shrimp to keep its diet in a healthy balance.

Featherfin Squeaker, Synodontis Eupterus

The Featherfin is quite hardy and can be forgiving and accommodating to a variety of water conditions and tankmates (since it has the protection of his spiked fin), making it an ideal beginner's fish.  It is relatively peaceful in temperament, and despite its omnivorous nature, hardly ever bothers other bottom dwellers even if they are very small in size, but can be picky with its tankmates, harassing the unlucky one that it dislikes.  Synodontis Eupterus is also quite moody in attitude, therefore it should have caves to dwell in and feel at ease.  They usually like a piece of bogwood or a raised area at the bottom of the tank, preferably to overview the tank from a pot of clay and to patrol to show who is the boss.  It is not advised to put more than one of its species in a tank, since it can be very territorial with its own and it is a loner.  Nevertheless, other species of synodontis can be added, but keep in mind the prospect of aggressive behaviour toward some synos and also some plecos.

Sex is not easy to differentiate at the juvenile stage, but when they reach adulthood the male is usually more slender, while the female is much more bulky.  Breeding has not been successful in hobbyist’s aquariums.

Handling should be always with care, because of its spiked dorsal fin, to avoid being stuck, but also to avoid injuring the fish.  It is always preferred to use a plastic bag instead of a net to remove the fish to a different location.  I have seen a Featherfin lose a whisker against a large rock and then re-grow a new one.

Scientific Name: Synodontis eupterus
Family: Mochokidae, Catfish
Temperature: 22 - 26 C; 72 - 79 F
pH: 6.5 - 7.5
Size: 20 cm;  8 inches
Life Span: 15 - 20 years
Breeding: Difficult, Egglayer


Buenos Aires Tetra, Danios, Dwarf Gourami, Emperor Tetra, Flame Tetra, Harlequin Rasbora, Head and Tail light Tetra, Kuhli Loach, Mollies, Platy, Red Eye Tetra, Rosy Barb, Sailfin Molly, Serpae Tetra, Silver Dollar, Silver Hatchetfish, Silver Tip Tetra

African and South American cichlids, provided they are not small.

Caution should be used in combining with other synodontis and plecos, as the Featherfin can sometimes be aggressive toward these.  There are sad stories out there about the plight of neon tetras with the Featherfin.

Comments by lemulepr: - This fish is very beautiful. But as most big mouth fish, they will eat whatever fits inside it . Thats why most people recommend to not mix small Tetras with Cichlids. The thing with the Neons is that they are small, not so fast, and during the night they tend to "sleep" in the bottom. Synodontis are kind of nocturnal, so probably they found a snack there. Guppies appear bigger because their tails and tend to stay on the top, where is safer in this case (this is only my opinion). Synodontis require a 50 gallon tank, as they can grow big. If you want to keep the Synodontis, think about adding bigger tank mates. Can be other Cichilds or bigger Tetras, like the Congo, Emperor, Buenos Aires, Black Skirts, etc. Rainbows are medium size and fast moving. Keep an eye on the Guppies, but there is always something about the Guppies that help them survive with weird tanks mates, With bigger tanks, better fish behavoir (my opinion). HTH

PD: Synodontis like hidding, so provide a "cave". Be careful with its spikes, as they can harm you when they protude through the fish net.