Tropical Fish Site

Profiles Reviews Guides for Tropical and Marine

Cuckoo Catfish – Synodontis Multipunctatus


Common name: Cuckoo Catfish, Cuckoo Synodontis

Scientific name: Synodontis Multipunctatus

Average Adult Fish Size: 10.8 inches /  27.5 cm in the wild, but 6 inches /  15 cm is more likely in an aquarium.

Place of Origin: Lake Tanganyika, Africa

Typical Tank setup: Rocky African biotope with roots/driftwood/bogwood and caves.

Recommended Minimum Aquarium Capacity: 30 gallon /  120 litre

Compatibility: Peaceful, and do very well in a mixed African Cichlid tank if given enough caves and rock work to hide.

Temperature: 74 – 81 Deg F  /  23 – 27 Deg C

Water chemistry: pH 7.7 – 8.5

Feeding: S. multipunctatus enjoys a variety of foods, including flakes, pellets, brine shrimp, plankton, catfish wafers, and krill.

Sexing: Males are usually larger and more brightly colored, but not always. Venting is the best way to sex them.

Breeding: 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. That’s why it is wise to strip the mothers after 2-3 days and immediately begin feeding the S. multipunctatus fry baby brine shrimp.

Additional Information: S. multipunctatus is a very beautiful mid-sized synodontis.