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This profile was written by Redfan an active contributor to the site.  

lake Tanganyika


Cuckoo Catfish

Synodontis multipunctata


    The Cuckoo catfish like all synodontis features the hardened head cap and the dorsal fin and pectoral fins have a hardened first ray which is serrated. The caudal fin is always forked and coloured silver with a black stripe. The Cuckoo can produce an audible sound when disrupted. Coloration can vary.

Quick stats:

    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: 8 - 9 inches (20.3 - 22.9cm)
    Tank: These fish as sub 2" could be housed in a 15G tank but realistically need 50G+ when adult.
    Strata: Will go everywhere but predominantly bottom. Likes Sand - fine, medium Gravel.
    PH: pH range: 6.0 8.0
    Hardness: dh range 8 - 12dH
    Temperature: 77°F to 81°F (25°-27° C)


    Order: Siluriformes
    Family: Mochokidae
    Genera: Synodontis
    Species: multipunctata


Common name:

    Cuckoo Catfish, Cuckoo squeaker.

Image gallery:
    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    Africa: Endemic to Lake Tanganyika.

General Body Form:
    Males usually have a higher dorsal fin and females tend to be plumper. The Cuckoo catfish tends to be shaped like many other Synodontis fish and there is a wealth of information available regarding the various body forms.

    Starting off as a white - Grey colour its not unusual for them to become brownish to a magnificent golden colour in later life. This species also features very prominent black spots / dashes.

    The Cuckoo is a catfish and will predominantly be around the lower part of your tank it loves to lay on broad leaves and hide within caves and bogwood. It's known that Cuckoo catfish are a little sensitive to higher Nitrate levels so it's suggested that Nitrates are kept below 10ppm. Sand and finer gravel are acceptable as a substrate.

    The Cuckoo likes to be in small groups so within Aquariums a group of 4 or 5 would be quite nice.

    They when in the 5"+ stage are good cichlid tank mates and are often sought after by Cichlid keepers as compatible catfish. In the wild they often lay their eggs amongst Cichlid eggs to be raised by the Mouth breeding Cichlid :)

Cuckoo Catfish
Click on photo to see a short video of the authors catfish.

    They are known as expert snail eaters so care may need to be taken with non pest snails in your tank especially when they become adults. They will eat a wide range of food from Algae wafers and catfish pellets to bloodworm and prawns. When they become adults be wary of keeping them with smaller fish such as Neon / cardinal tetras as these can easily become food for the Cuckoos.

    No real increase of risk to diseases than most other tropical fish. A quite hardy tank addition.

    Inhabits the muddy bottom down to at least 300 feet in the lake.

    Lower Nitrate levels needed to induce potential breeding. As in the Maintenance section they seem to breed well within a tank of Cichlids in particular Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria cichlids. They mix their eggs with those of mouthbrooding cichlids. Its larvae grow faster than those of the host and feeds on them.

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Tony B.
I have five of these fish that are currently in a 20 gallon setup due to the fact I have found that they will breed and disperse their eggs into the water without the use of a host cichlid. When I first noticed the female was ripe with eggs I moved them into the 20 gal to make gathering of the eggs much easier. I placed 10 eggs into a small bowl with aeration and I Placed 2 eggs into an egg tumbler. After 4 days The eggs in the bowl were stuck together and fungus was growing on them so no success there. But the 2 eggs in the tumbler had 2 free swimming fry on the fourth day and I am currently trying to raise them on crushed flake food. Hopefully when they breed again I will be able to gather a lot more eggs and have success this way as well. I have a video of them breeding and dispersing their eggs into the water column whilst they were in my 75 gallon but as soon as they were released the cichlids in there were waiting for a free meal. So Thats when I decided to try and gather the eggs and place them in a tumbler.
From: Josh
This variety of synodontis is my personal favorite! I have 3 in a 90 gallon tank with Tanganyikan cichlids. Two are around 4 years of age and are around 4 inches, and the third is about 5 inches and is, believe it or not, nearly 20 years old! Definitely a hearty fish that can be kept in a large variety of set-ups.




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