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Synodontis multipunctatus
by Marc Elieson

Even though Synodontis multipunctatus hails from Lake Tanganyika, it isn't a Cichlid, but rather a catfish. This particular African catfish is so compatible with Cichlids (or maybe too compatible) that they are often housed together. Currently, I have two F1 adults (one male and one female) that have successfully spawned two males, which are at present about 1.5".

Synodontis multipunctatus is endemic to Lake Tanganyika. In the wild, this catfish is found in large schools, at depths of 40 meters or more. It seems that they like the diminished light of this depth; however, they are not necessarily nocturnal, even though it may appear this way in your light-flooded tank. Until recently, I have had only one S. multi. She spent 99% of her time in a cave. Since purchasing a second (a male), she comes out shortly after I have begun to feed the Cichlids. When out of their caves, they swim very quickly and spasmodically, as if they are fearful of being attacked by the Cichlids. As a consequence, they have been next to imossible to photograph. S. multipunctatus enjoys a variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, brine shrimp, plankton, bloodworms, and krill. A temperature between 74 and 78 is preferable. This catfish does extremely well with other African Cichlids. It is also one of the very few African catfish that have been bred in captivity.

The most interesting thing about this catfish is its unusual spawning behavior, which includes utilizing mouth-brooding Cichlids as foster parents for their fry. Unlike Cichlids, who spawn at very young ages, it takes about a year once S. multipunctatus have reached their adult size (3-5 years in all) before they will spawn. When 2 Cichlids begin to spawn, these catfish will come pouring out of their caves.

The unsuspecting Cichlids will continue to spawn, while the male Cichlid will attempt to drive the cats away. Notwithstanding, the catfish will snatch a Cichlid egg each time they are dropped, faster than the mother can pick them up. And, as they eat the Cichlid eggs, they drop their own. In her haste to pick up her eggs, the female Cichlid will pick up the eggs of the S. multis and incubate the catfish eggs along with whatever eggs of her own she was able to secure.

While it takes almost two weeks for most Cichlid fry to hatch, S. multipunctatus will hatch after 3 days. And once they hatch they begin to feed on the Cichlid eggs. How's that for ingenuity! By day 5, they will normally have devoured the entire Cichlid brood. The miniature catfish will grab onto the eggs and suck them dry. If left to their own devices, they will even begin to prey on each other. Thats why it is wise to strip the mothers after 2-3 days and immediately begin feeding the S. multipunctatus fry baby brine shrimp.

VIDEO: S. multipunctatus spawning with G. acei. [File size = 4.3MB]
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