Blotched upside-down catfish

The original habitat of the blotched upside-down catfish (Synodontis nigriventis) lies in the densely forested jungle-regions of the Kongos in Africa. There it prefers to live on the banks of flowing waters and in the swamps. The feather bearded catfish is a very unusual aquarium inhabitant. The keeping in the aquarium is medium difficult.

What distinguishes the blotched upside-down catfish?

As the name suggests, the Congo catfish swims predominantly in a supine position. However, it begins with this species only from the eighth week of development. The scientific species name “Nigriventis” = “black-bellied” points to this peculiarity.

The catfish belongs to the twilight and nocturnal fish species.

The appearance of the blotched upside-down catfish

Rückenschwimmender Kongowels
Users:Haps, Synodontis-nigriventris-Zebra-ZA-GLA31-133, CC BY-SA 3.0 EN

The Congo catfish is somewhat flattened at the sides and the back goes up. At the mouth it carries three pairs of barbels, of which the two barbels are feathered at the lower jaw. These typical characteristics gave it the name pinnate catfish. The fins are large and the dorsal fin is usually erect.

In contrast to the rather inconspicuously coloured female, the male shows a stronger colouring. The body is light grey and cream coloured. In contrast the belly side is strikingly darker than the back side. Overall the body is covered with small dark brown to black spots and sometimes merging stripes. On the other hand the neutrally tinted fins are only decorated with dark spots. The body design has the purpose of camouflage.

The female of the blotched upside-down catfish is clearly larger and fuller than the male.

Sexual differences

Externally, the two sexes are difficult to distinguish. An important distinguishing feature is the size. While the female can grow up to 10 cm, the male reaches just 8 cm. The female also has a stronger belly and a paler colour intensity.

Water values for the blotched upside-down catfish

  • Temperature: 24 to 27° C
  • pH value: 6, to 7,5
  • Total hardness: 5 to 19 ° dH

Feed and nutrition

As a predominantly carnivorous ornamental fish, the Congo catfish likes to eat live animal food. However, it can also be accustomed to frost and flake food floating in the water. The suitable food:

  • Black mosquito or insect larvae
  • Different sized Artemia
  • Scalded vegetables like spinach or cucumber
  • Dry autumn leaves
  • Frozen and flake food

For catfish there is also special food to buy. This also contains plant nutrients.

The ideal aquarium of the blotched upside-down catfish

A species-appropriate tank needs a capacity of about 180 L. A dark, fine gravel or sand is recommended as a substrate.

The catfish needs a variety of shelter and hiding places. Caves made of stone, roots, open inverted coconuts or special catfish tubes should be used. Last but not least, the objects give structure to the tank design and the fish can safely demarcate their territory from their fellow inhabitants.

The planting consists of densely growing fine- and broad-leaved water plants (e.g. Echinodrus species). These plants should also grow luxuriantly in places. Under the larger leaves the catfish can hide near the water surface and hunt for mosquito larvae or eat vital plant fibres as in nature.

As the blotched upside-down catfish belongs to the peaceful and balanced fish species. It is sociable and prefers living in quiet groups of at least 4 to 5 animals. Suitable for socialisation are for example cichlids, African characins and shrimps.

Characteristics of the blotched upside-down catfish

Under good conditions the catfish can reach an age of up to 17 years. As they have sensitive and easily vulnerable barbels and their dorsal and pectoral fins are pointed, catching them with this is not recommended!


The conditions for a species-appropriate keeping of the blotched upside-down catfish are easy to manage.

  • Spacious aquarium with 180 L
  • Group holding with peaceful members
  • Water temperature between 24 and 27° C
  • several hiding places
  • Fine and large-leaved plants
  • Live fodder, but also green fodder

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