Synodontis Angelicus Catfish – The Most Spectacular Synodontis

Synodontis Angelicus Catfish

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Haps

Faced with “an embarrassment of riches”, catfish enthusiasts usually find it impossible to single out a favorite species.  Those in the genus Synodontis – boldly-marked and fascinating to observe – are a case in point.  Each time I’m introduced to a new species, I find some quality that draws me to learn more about it.  But if the Angelicus Squeaker, Synodontis angelicus, is not the most sought after of all Synodontis cats, it certainly is in the running.  Also known as the Black Clown Catfish, Angelicus Synodontis, Polka-Dot Synodontis and Angel Squeaker, it is both breathtakingly-beautiful and extremely interesting in its habits. And dedicated aquarists have the opportunity to broaden our understanding of the little-studied species, as captive breeding success has remained elusive.



The Angelicus Squeaker’s jet black, dark gray or deep purplish coloration is beautifully offset by numerous yellow or white spots.  Some have described it as having the opposite color pattern of another popular relative, the Cuckoo Squeaker, S. multipunctata (please see photo below).  Color and spot patterns vary greatly, and individual fishes are capable of radically changing their background colors.  Health, stress, age, sex and other factors are likely involved, but much remains to be learned.  Fishes involved in aggressive encounters or, perhaps, courtship, sometimes lighten to almost white in color.


The maximum size reported is 9.4 inches, but detailed field surveys have not been carried out, and there are rumors that much larger individuals have been seen.  Growth appears to be rather slow, at least by pet catfish standards.


Synodontis mltipunctatus

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Mario Rubio García

Natural History

This river-dwelling catfish has a large range, but details concerning its exact distribution are sketchy.   It is known to occur throughout much of the Congo Basin, and has been reported from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congo Republic.


The Synodontis Aquarium

Angelicus Squeakers remain rather subdued during the day, unless food is detected, but they are very active by night.  Although success has been had in smaller accommodations, I believe it best to plan on a 55 gallon aquarium for 1-2 adults.


Angelicus will not thrive if forced to remain in the open.  As they can be quite picky when it comes to choosing a hideaway, a variety of caves, hollow logs, driftwood refuges and similar structures should be provided. .  This is even more important when 2 or more Angelicus Squeakers are housed together, as battles over favored hiding spots are common.  Once a retreat is chosen, your fish will likely remain faithful to it.


Additional security in the form of well-rooted live or artificial plans should also be added.  Fishes kept in complex environments will exhibit a greater variety of natural behaviors than those denied access to hiding places…you’ll wind up seeing of your fish, and more of interest!


I like maintaining this and similar Synodontis cats on sand, as they keep very active by rooting about for food.  If displaced sand causes problems in your aquarium, they will also do well on smooth gravel.



Temperature and pH

Temperatures of 74-80 F and a pH range of 6.0-8.0 have been used successfully.  I have found 78 F and pH 7 to be ideal.


Several friends working in public aquariums and for fish importers have reported seeing what appear to be heater burns on Angelicus Squeakers.  I have not seen this in my collection.



I’ve successfully kept groups of 6-8, but they must be watched carefully, especially at night.   Angelicus Squeakers guard their caves, and we know little about male-male rivalry or aggression that may occur when pairs are courting.


They may also be kept with similarly-sized peaceful or moderately aggressive fishes of other species. Active top-feeders will out-compete most catfishes for food, so night-feeding and other accommodations to bottom-feeders will be necessary.


I’ve not tried hosing Angelicus with other catfishes, and, in most situations, would avoid any fish that is dependent upon caves for shelter.



Angelicus Squeakers are opportunistic feeders that will readily consume all manner of flake, pelleted and frozen fish foods.  Mine especially relished crushed crickets, blackworms and fresh and freeze-dried shrimp.


Plant-based foods are also important.  Cucumber, zucchini, spirulina tablets and similar foods should be offered regularly.


Individuals maintained on flakes and pellets alone do not do as well as those provided a diet comprised of live and frozen invertebrates.


Breeding Synodontis Angelicus Catfish

Despite the high demand for these beautiful fishes, captive breeding has not been documented, and little is known of their reproduction in the wild (other than that they are egg-scatterers).  Eggs have been produced by Angelicus Squeakers in several private and public collections, but none have hatched.  Anecdotal reports hint that hormone-based breeding has been accomplished in Europe, but details are not available.

I’m sure that the key to success lays in a detailed study of their natural habitat…pH, temperature or water level changes may be involved. Where captive spawning has occurred, hatching failures may possibly be linked to nutritional deficiencies. Increased amounts of live and protein-rich foods were offered prior to spawning in some cases.  Please let me know your thoughts (or, hopefully, successes!) on this important topic by posting below.

Further Reading

Keeping the Frog Mouth Catfish

Keeping European and Oriental Weatherfish


Aquarium Decoration Ideas – Fish Bowl Designs & DIY

Our first blog on Do-It-Yourself aquarium decoration ideas seemed to get so many creative juices flowing that we’re back with some more ideas, tips and examples. In the first blog, we covered some general ideas for how to look at different objects as possible aquarium decorations. This time, we’re going to get more specific based on some of the most common questions from your fellow hobbyists. I created a few different looks after raiding my kitchen cabinets for inspiration using a 2-gallon glass aquarium and a 1-gallon glass bowl but you can adapt the same ideas to aquariums of any size.

Hershey Bears Betta Bowl

Hershey Bears Fish BowlI’m personally a huge hockey fan and have done an NHL Philadelphia Flyers-themed betta in the past using gravel and a plant in their colors. For this one, I kept it pretty simple and used a glass pint glass I had for our local AHL team and my personal favorite, the Hershey Bears, as well as some plant substrate in different shades of brown. Since the logo on the glass is pretty solid, I left the glass empty except for some substrate in the bottom. The glass is sitting on the bottom of the bowl itself and I added the substrate around it to keep it in place. Read More »

2014 That Fish Place – That Pet Place NCPARS Annual Winter Frag Swap

2014 Frag SwapSaturday January 25, 2014 That Fish Place – That Pet Place will be hosting our 6th annual Winter Frag Swap with the fabulous folks from the Reef Conservation Society (formerly known as NCPARS).  Come out and meet some of the best coral farmers on the east coast, and check out the huge selection of coral frags that they have harvested from their private collections.  If you have a reef aquarium, or are thinking about starting one, these frags swaps really are an event that you should attend.  Corals for everyone, from beginner to expert, from common species to rare collectibles.   Along with all the coral available inside the swap, is the wide selection that is always available here at That Fish Place.  All aquarium livestock at TFP is on sale the entire weekend at 25%, which includes an excellent selection of coral frags from many suppliers including Jason Fox, ORA, ACI Aquaculture and many more.

Jason Fox FragsEducation is a common bond between the club and TFP, and this event is full of great folks to meet and talk to.  TFP will have our Marine Biologists on hand, and of course the many expert level hobbyists and professionals that are club members are always available to talk shop inside the swap.  Also on hand during the swap will be Manufacturer representatives from United Pet Group (Manufacturers of Marineland, Tetra, Instant Ocean and other great brands of aquatic and pet products) Seachem, Hagen, Hydor, Mars and Acurel to answer any questions you may have about their products.


Acropora Coral FragsThe swap is located inside the fish room of our Lancaster, PA retail store, and is open from 11:00-5:00. The swap is open for anyone to attend, registration for the event is $5 for RCS members and $10 for non-members.  All money raised at the event goes to the club, which is a registered non-profit group.  For more information visit the club website .

You can pre-register for the event, and browse some of the corals available, or list corals that you have to offer, at .  Free Pizza lunch is included with your admission, and there will also be some great raffle prizes that you can purchase tickets for a chance to win, the grand prize is a 60 gallon Marineland rimless reef-ready cube tank and stand.


Come out and join us for a day of great deals, great conversation and great fun.  Hope to see you here!


New Fish Species in 2013 – Sharks, an Antarctic Monster, and More


Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by LT DeeDee Van Wormer

Even considering that new fishes are discovered at the rate of nearly two per week, 2013 was a spectacular year for fish enthusiasts.  Included among the undescribed new fish species brought to light in 2013 were several relatives of common marine and freshwater aquarium fishes, numerous sharks (including a large hammerhead off South Carolina), a knife fish that utilizes a different type of electric current than all others, a bizarre beast from the depths of the Antarctic’s Ross Sea, one of the world’s smallest vertebrates, and one of the world’s largest freshwater fishes.  The diversity of these new species is staggering, and all seem to have amazing traits, so I was hard-put to select my favorites.  Please be sure to share information about those that caught your eye by posting below.


Giant Oarfish, Regalecus glasne

The Giant Oarfish is not a newly-discovered species…in fact, it has been inspiring tales of sea serpents for thousands of years.  But despite being the world’s longest boney fish, this 30+ foot-long behemoth is so rarely seen that I felt compelled to mention it here.  Fish-watchers were quite surprised when two individuals washed up off southern California in less than a week…and both were in great condition.  Measuring 14 and 18 feet long, one contained hundreds of thousands of eggs, while the other was infested with large tapeworm-like parasites.


Arapaima leptosoma

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by George Chernilevsky

Arapaima, Arapaima leptosome

At a weight of over 400 pounds, South America’s air-breathing, torpedo-shaped Arapaima is one of the world’s largest freshwater fishes.  It was not until 2013 that ichthyologists learned that a second species was “hiding in plain sight” (in commercial aquariums, even!).  Distinguishing the new species is important, as Arapaima have been hunted to near extinction across much of their range.  Slight differences in the natural histories of the two species may help us to understand how best to conserve them.


Blue-Bellied Night Wanderer, Cyanogaster noctivaga

The fish bearing this long name is, at 0.68 inches in length, one of the world’s smallest vertebrates; it misses being the world’s tiniest fish by a mere 7mm.  Size was not all that helped to keep this fish hidden for so long…it is also transparent and nocturnal, and “wanders” in the tea-colored waters of the Rio Negro.


Hopbeard Plunderfish, Pogonophryne neyelori

This fish’s appearance is stranger than its name.  Looking like a cross between an Oyster Toadfish and a tadpole, the Hopbeard Plunderfish was hauled up from 4,560 feet below the surface of the Antarctic’s Ross Sea by Ukrainian commercial fisherman.  As you can well imagine, we know nothing of its natural history (and, I’m guessing, may not for some time!).


Long tailed Carpet Shark

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by

Long-Tailed Carpet Shark, Hemiscyllia Halmahera

This 28-inch-long, attractively-marked shark is related to the Epaulette or “Walking” Sharks, several of which are popular in the aquarium trade.  A flexible body and leg-like pectoral and pelvic fins allow it to prowl about tide pools and submerged rocks in search of marine worms, crabs and shrimps.  Western Australian Museum ichthyologists discovered it off the East Indonesian island of Ternake, which is part of the Maluku Island chain.


Bluntnose Knifefish, Brachyhypopomus bennetti and walteri

Knifefishes, several of which are popular in the aquarium trade, are known to use electric currents to assist in navigation.  One species, the misnamed “Electric Eel”, also uses electricity to both hunt and defend itself.  The newly-described species emit electric currents from an organ in the tail.  Like all other electric-producing fish, B. walteri  releases alternating positive and negative pulses.  B. bennetti, however, is unique in that it produces only a direct, one phase current.  This fish lives below floating weed masses in Brazil, and seems especially prone to losing part of its tail to predators.  The navigational abilities of knifefishes that produce alternating currents are severely hampered if they lose a portion of the tail.  However, B. bennetti seems not to suffer when the tip of its tail is lost, as the direct current it produces functions just as well…an amazing adaptation if ever there was one!


More Sharks Discovered in 2013

The 8-12-foot long Carolina Hammerhead, Sphyrna gilbert resembles the better-known Scalloped Hammerhead, but is genetically and structurally distinct.  It is the largest fish to be found in such a developed area (inshore, off South Carolina) this year.


Sawsharks resemble sawfishes.  Their “saws”, which bear barbels at the half-way point, are used to disable the fishes upon which they feed.  The new species discovered in 2013, Pristiophorus lanae, hails from the Philippines.  Little is known of its natural history.


Further Reading

2012’s New Fish Species

2010’s Most Unique New Fishes


Understanding the Active Ingredients in Multi-Purpose Aquarium Medications

Sick fishIn the first two parts of this series, we discussed anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic ingredients but there are multi-purpose aquarium medications that are available to aquarists treat more than one symptom. Also, we often see more than one type of infection at a time as one can lead to another. Parasites may lead to bacterial infections at the wound site, and secondary fungal infections may occur as a result of a bacterial infection. These ingredients listed here may be effective for more than one type of disease or outbreak.


Acriflavine is used as an active ingredient to treat a number of conditions. It is an antiseptic that has been shown to be successful in treating fungal infections on fish as well as to treat some bacterial and parasitic infections. It can be used against two of the most resistant infections in the aquarium hobby: Oodinium (parasitic) and Columnaris (bacterial). Acriflavine is generally used for infections based in the slime coat and skin of the fish, not for “larger” parasites like Ich or worms.

Formaldehyde/ Formalin:

Formaldehyde is well-known as a preservative, especially for scientific specimens, but it is also used in medications and diluted solution of formaldehyde gas are found under the name Formalin. Formalin by definition is usually about 37% formaldehyde. Formaldehyde and Formaline are both used to treat fungal infections and some parasites – including the notorious Ich – but can be dangerous, especially to invertebrates (after all, parasites are invertebrates). Most formaldehyde-based medications work better as a bath or dip instead of being used to treat the entire system, and any of these medications should never be used with invertebrates that you want to keep alive. Formalin also depletes the oxygen in the water very quickly, so the water must remain well-aerated, especially when the concentration is high and water movement is low, as in a dip. Some of these medications can also be used to keep fish eggs fungus-free.
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