Barfin Synodontis (Synodontis ornatipinnis)

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Barfin Synodontis
Synodontis ornatipinnis
Barfin Synodontis (Synodontis ornatipinnis)
Name Barfin Synodontis
Name Lat. Synodontis ornatipinnis
Family Upside-down Catfishes
Family lat. Mochokidae
Order Catfishes
Order lat. Siluriformes
Origin Congo
Habitat Rivers
Diet Omnivore
pH 6.5-7.5
Behavior Nocturnal, territorial
Keeping Individual
Care Level Difficult
Reproduction Egg scatterer
Breeding None reported
Life Span 10-15 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 15-20 cm
Temperature 22-25 °C
Hardness 5-18 °dH
Aquarium ~ 350 l
US Units
Size 6"-8"
Temperature 72-77 °F
Hardness 89-320 ppm
Aquarium ~ 90 gal

Distribution and habitat

The distribution area of the crepuscular and nocturnal magnificent featherbeard catfish is the river system of the Congo in Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the Luongo River in Zambia. There, they live in fast-flowing stream sections of rivers, where they spend most of their time during the day hiding under roots or in stone caves.


The aquarium should have a robust border planting with many hiding places between stone structures (e.g. perforated rock) and roots as well as provide sufficient swimming space. A dark sand substrate, shaded light (floating plants) and a strong current is ideal.

No ammonia, ammonium and nitrite should be detectable, the nitrate value should not exceed 100 mg/l. To ensure the water quality and oxygen content, a filter and heater adapted to the aquarium size is required, as well as lighting for the species-appropriate day-night rhythm of the animals.


They are easy to feed and will accept any type of live or frozen food, such as daphnia, cyclops, mysis, artemia and black mosquito larvae, as well as sinking dry catfish food (granules, pellets, tablets). In addition, they need regular vegetable food, such as crushed peas, cucumber slices, pureed leafy and wild vegetables or dry food with high vegetable content (spirulina, kelp)

Only feed as much as will be eaten in a few minutes. A regular and varied diet promotes health and increases resistance.

Behaviour and compatibility

They often behave intraspecific and towards other Synodontis species incompatible. Several animals can only be kept together in a much larger and richly structured tank. A socialization with other, not too small fish, such as cichlids, barbs or catfishes is well possible.

Basically, only compatible fish species with similar demands on water quality and water temperature may be socialized.

Sex dimorphism

The males are more slender than the females. With some experience, the sexes can be determined by the shape of the genital papilla, which is pointed in the male and round in the female.

Reproduction and breeding

There are no known reports of successful breeding in the aquarium.


They usually stay in caves or under roots during the day, often hiding with their belly up. In shaded aquariums, however, they are also active during the day and come out of hiding especially for feeding

When catching them, use as fine-meshed nets as possible so that the hard rays of the pectoral and dorsal fins do not get caught, which can cause painful stinging injuries when touched.

The well-being of the fish should be checked regularly. Temperature should be checked daily, pH, hardness and nitrate levels at least every 14 days. Regular partial water changes are recommended, even when contaminant levels have not yet reached the upper limit. Sudden changes in water quality should be avoided. Newly introduced fish must be accustomed slowly to the water in the aquarium.

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Werner Winter; Image: petdata

Source: BMEL (1998): Tierschutzgutachten - Haltung von Zierfischen (Süßwasser); BAENSCH & RIEHL (2004): Aquarien Atlas Bd. 2, Mergus Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF