Cuckoo Catfish

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Synodontis multipunctatus - Boulenger, 1898
Cuckoo Catfish

An active, congenial catfish best kept in groups of at least three. Aaron Norman


This is one of the most popular of the Synodontis catfishes, a group of immensely likeable, peaceful species that put on a continuous show when kept in groups. Recently, a very similar and co-existing species, S. grandiops, has been described. It is smaller (6 in.; 15 cm) and has a much larger eye than S. multipunctatus.

Family: Mochokidae

Other common name(s):

  • Cuckoo Synodontis
  • Multi-spotted Catfish

Native range:

Habitat: Provide lots of caves (piles of rocks with hiding places throughout, inverted flowerpots, or large PVC pipes), and include fine-grade or rounded gravel substrate. Plants are optional.

Maximum length: 25 cm (10 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 114 L (30 gal)

Water: Freshwater 22 °C (72 °F) - 26 °C (79 °F)

General swimming level: Bottom.


Carnivore. In the wild, often feed heavily on snails and will do the same in the aquarium. Accept a wide range of aquarium fare, including tablet and pellet foods, and a wide variety of flakes. In addition, live and frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms, are appreciated. Feed in the morning and at lights-out time at night.

Aquarium Compatibility

Synodontis catfishes are perfect tankmates for African Rift Lake Cichlids, as well as larger tetras and other characins.


Known for unusual spawning behavior called "brood parasitism," perhaps unique among fishes.

Seeks out mouthbrooding cichlids that are spawning, and lays its own eggs among cichlid eggs. Female cichlid scoops up all eggs in her mouth and cares for catfish brood along with her own.

When the young catfish hatch in the cichlid's mouth, they grow faster than the cichlids and feed on the cichlid eggs and newly hatched young.


Generally peaceful. Keep in groups of at least three.

Reference: 101 Best Tropical Fishes
Image credit: AN
Text credit: KW