Just over two years ago, while looking through
the stock tanks at Frisby Aquatics in Hull, I came across a tiny Synodontis offered
for sale under the 'species' tag. At first glance the resemblance of bodily features
and colour pattern to those of Synodontis schoutedeni indicated that here we had
a colour variant of this well known Congo species. Going back for a second look
convinced me that the dorsal pattern was a little different so as a 'Synodontis
nut' I made the purchase in the hope that I would have what would be, to me, a
'new species' to study?
Upon arriving home I placed the little beauty into
a 36x12x12" aquarium in the company of Jade-eyed cichlids, Plecostomus, Anabas
and various Doradids. This aquarium has a pH of 7 and a temperature of 24 C. The
little Synodontis disappeared into the shelter of a ceramic plant pot, which he
diligently defended, and would only be seen at feeding time when quick dashes
from cover were made in order to grab flake and sinking pellets.
take 12 months, and much growth, for this fish to gain the confidence of coming
out into the open and what a transformation! By now the body was stockier built
and more rounded on top than that of schoutedeni.
The body colours change
with mood and light but most often are seen as a dark brown-black background with
turquoise-brown markings on the foreground. These markings, which run into the
thickly set adipose, resemble fluffy clouds and oxbow lakes. As these fish grow
so the belly region brightens with brown-yellow colouration coming to the fore.
this stage a thick white lateral line was clearly visible but now this has become
covered by black-brown skin. The head has a shield very much like that of
Synodontis nigrita. The first ray of the dorsal was thickened but it was not until
I was able to take some vague digital photographs that a proper view of the fins
could be gained.
From the patterns already mentioned my thoughts, backed-up
by textbook and internet information, had turned to Synodontis albolineatus as
the identity of this lovely fish. Now the photographs finally convinced me that
this was the case. The first fused rays of the dorsal are so thick that they resemble
bone. In these dorsal rays we have six broken bands of dark brown spots that,
in a left to right formation, number 5,5,4,3,3,2.
Similar peacock patterning
occurs in the remaining fins.
So what do we know of Synodontis albolineatus?
fish, which reaches a total length of 95mm, is small by Synodontis standards.
It is endemic to the Madjinga River system of the Djova region of Gabon. When
this fish was first discovered the alcohol-based preservative changed the colour
pattern of the type specimen to such a degree ichthyologists working on a possible
identification believed they were looking at a second population of Synodontis
batesii with only notes made by the collectors finally convincing them otherwise.
When the ichthyologists cleaned the flesh from the pectoral fins they found that
the remaining bone had a shape that resembled that of a seahorse. The holotype
specimen resides in the Musee National d' Histoire Naturelle de Paris.
to the foreground body colours aquarists' in the U.K. gave this fish the common
names of Mustard catfish, Mustard Synodontis and Mustard squeaker (due to the
fact that these fish squeak when removed from the water).
From my own observations
this fish is much less volatile in nature than Synodontis schoutedeni although
it will look after itself and defend a territory. Potential enemies receive small
nips for their trouble. My albolineatus grew to full body length in under two
As far as breeding is concerned no information has come to light.
I suspect that pairs will spawn in the flooded grasses that occur during the rainy
season as the Majinga's banks are broken and flood neighbouring forest areas.
At this time there are micro-organisms and insect larvae in abundance for the
fry to gorge upon. The resulting youngsters grow very quickly so that they are
strong enough to survive in river channels as the flood recedes.
catfish is a beautiful fish well worth the searching of aquatic retail outlets