the original illustration that Poll used in
his 1971 description of S. centralis. Also
of great interest are three field photos of
live fish identified as S. caudalis on the
website of The Congo Project, undertaken
by the American Museum of Natural
(maximum TL just under 4 inches) species that will spend a good part of its swimming time in the upside- down position. It somewhat resembles S. nigriventris, but has a boxier body shape and shorter maxillary barbels. The base color is brownish and there are three darker vertical bands on the body. There are also six or seven vertical rows of small white spots on the body. This is a schooling species, and if you can find them, it would be best to keep at least four to six together in a well- planted and/or -decorated tank. Due to their size, they should be considered a primary candidate for potential captive spawning, which has not been accomplished to date.
S. DECORA BOULENGER 1899
History (AMNH). These pictures can
be accessed at http://research.amnh.org/
html. As with many other Synodontis, the
final chapter on the fishes noted above
has yet to be written.
S. CONGICA POLL 1971
In good shipping times, this species
was a fairly regular import. It cannot be
accused of being overly colorful, as the
base body coloration is a silvery gray.
There are usually some small dark spots
on the head and the fins; in particular, the
caudal will show light traces of small spots
in rows. On the sides, a varying number
of round black spots can usually be seen,
although they may be absent on occasion.
When there are spots present, it should be
noted that they do not necessarily match
up on the right and left sides. This species,
in some literature, is still confused with
both S. nummifer and S. notata. Although
the scientific literature lists this species as
getting around 8 inches, I have personally
never seen any (even long-held aquarium
specimens) quite that large. S. congica
is, in my experiences, a mild-mannered
fish that will fit peacefully into a mellow
aquarium. Do not keep it with the tougher,
more aggressive Synodontis species.
If the previous species is cute, this one
(at least as an adult) is simply stunning. S.
decora is a larger Synodontis and can reach
at least 13 inches. At the smaller sizes that
they are usually imported ( 1 to 4 inches)
they show a whitish background, often
with a pinkish cast, and a series of three
or four oblique black bands on the body.
As the fish grows, these bands break up
into irregularly placed larger spots. The
head is peppered with numerous small
black spots and the caudal fin shows
black banding on each lobe. The number
of these bands tends to increase a bit as
the fish grows.
S. CONTRACTA VINCIGUERRA 1928
I generally try to stay away from
terms such as the one that follows, but
I can’t help myself with this fish. In a
word, it is cute! S. contracta is a small
The nicest thing about this fish is the
trailer that develops on the dorsal fin.
There are individual growth differences in
this black dorsal trailer, and it is minimal
to non-existent in small juveniles—but
as the fish grows, so does the trailer. In
medium to larger adults it can reach back
beyond the end of the caudal lobes. When
the fish is still the trailer will just kind of
hang down, but when the fish swims—
wow! There are two special considerations
for this species: first, although they are
more than capable of taking care of
themselves, they should not be kept with
fishes that might tend to nip at the dorsal
trailer. If this is nipped off too close to
the origin, there is the possibility that it
won’t grow back. Second, go for a long
tank and a small group if you like this
species. A 6-foot tank with two or three
adult S. decora (which form small schools
as adults) is a sight to behold. It can make
all of the hard work worthwhile.
To be concluded next month....D