Nigeria, Gambia, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Niger and Guinea.
It usually inhabits streams and backwaters.
Maximum Standard Length
8″ (20cm), though it is reported to reach almost 2 feet in length in the wild!
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
36″ x 12″ x 12″ (90cm x 30cm x 30cm) – 80 litres.
An aquarium with a soft substrate and rocks, pieces of driftwood and twisted roots arranged to form hiding places suits this species. Floating vegetation is also recommended in order to diffuse the light entering the tank. Other planting is beneficial but not essential.
Temperature: 73-82°F (23-28°C)
Synodontis are omnivorous and are most unfussy in terms of feeding. Frozen, live and dried foods are all accepted. It also relishes vegetable matter in the form of shelled peas, cucumber etc., which it will rasp at with the teeth in its lower jaw.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
Should not be kept with any fish so small as to be considered food. Ideal tankmates include Alestiid tetras, robust cichlids (particularly West African species), Mormyrids, Knifefish, Gouramis and larger rasboras and barbs. It tends to become slightly territorial as it matures, especially towards other Synos. However any aggression is usually far less pronounced than in some other members of the genus and it can be maintained in a small group in a suitably sized aquarium provided each fish is given a refuge to call home. Not recommended for the general community due to its adult size.
Adult females are much plumper than males. It can also be sexed by examining the genital papillae. This is not for the amateur however. The fish should be held ventral side up in the palm of your hand and the dorsal fin taken between your middle and ring fingers in order to avoid being pierced by the sharp dorsal fin rays. The genital area you are looking for is concealed beneath the pelvic fins. This can be exposed by pulling (gently) on the caudal fin. A male fish will exhibit an extended papillae which should be pointed and ridged. The spermatoduct can be seen on the caudal side. Females also have a clearly visible papillae but this is more rounded and the oviduct is on the opposite side to the male’s spermatoduct.
Not achieved under natural conditions in aquaria although captive breeding has occurred on commercial fish farms via the use of hormone injections. Many of the young fish that come onto the market have been produced in this way. In nature S. ocellifer breeds in areas of seasonal flooding that are rich in micro-organisms. They are egg scatterers and exhibit no parental care.
S. ocellifer is often confused with other similar species of Synodontis but can be distinguished by the length of the adipose fin which in this species is very long and runs from just past the base of the caudal fin to just before the caudal fin.
In recent years many alarming hybrids of this species have been appearing on the market and these should be avoided in our opinion. Besides being attractively marked this is one of the hardiest Synos available and is a good choice for the beginner.