The Cuckoo Catfish comes from Lake Tanganyika in Africa.
Should be housed in a Lake Tanganyika biotope setup, with piles of rocks arranged to form caves and areas of open water for swimming. Dim lighting will encourage the fish to be seen more often.
Cuckoo Catfish are omnivorus and are most unfussy in terms of feeding. Frozen, live and dried foods are all accepted. It also relishes vegetable matter in the form of shelled peas, cucumber etc., which it will rasp at with the teeth in its lower jaw.
Cuckoo Catfish should not be kept with any fish so small as to be considered food but they do make a good addition to a community of hard water cichlids, ideally mouthbrooding species of Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika origin. It should be kept in a group of four or more, as single specimens are often very secretive.
Mature females are plumper than males. Male fish also have a higher, more pointed dorsal fin.
Unlike the majority of the Synodontis catfish, the Cuckoo Catfish is actually bred quite often in aquarium and provides a fascinating insight into a unique breeding strategy to the fishkeeper lucky enough to witness a spawning. It is one of the only fish known to exhibit a method of spawning known as “Brood Parasitism”. The catfish times its spawning to coincide with that of a ‘host’ mouthbrooding cichlid and lays its eggs among those of the host fish. The Cuckoo Catfish eggs hatch much quicker than the cichlids’ and the young catfish quickly devour all the mouthbrooder’s eggs. The unwitting cichlid then guards the fry as if they are their own.
This can be achieved in aquarium relatively easily. First a breeding aquarium must be set up as if there are other species in the tank the Cuckoo Catfish eggs may also be eaten! This should contain piles of rocks or caves in the form of terracotta pots but should be simpler in design than a standard Tanganyikan of Malawi tank. This is because the adult fish will need to be removed after spawning. A suitable host species must be chosen. Good choices are small Haplochromine cichlids of Lakes Victoria or Malawi. Both sets of fish should then be brought into condition on a diet of live and frozen foods and the water must be kept very clean with minimal nitrates.
The male will keep a close eye on the behaviour of the cichlids and when breeding behaviour is exhibited, will go and collect the female. If she accepts the situation as suitable, some chasing between the catfish will occur as they wait for the cichlids to lay their eggs. As soon as the cichlids begin spawning, the catfish will rush in and deposit their own eggs and sperm, whilst often eating as many cichlid eggs as they can. This may happen several times, as the male cichlid will usually defend the spawning site vigorously.
Once the cichlids have finished their own spawning the female cichlid will pick up all the eggs, including those of the catfish, to mouthbrood them. At this point, the adult catfish can be removed. The Cuckoo Catfish eggs typically hatch in 3 days or so and their first food is the cichlid eggs and any early-hatching cichlid fry. Once they have been released from the mouth of the unwitting mother cichlid, the hosts can also be removed. The fry feed voraciously on brine shrimp nauplii until they are big enough to accept larger food items.
- Species – Synodontis multipunctatus
- Common Name – Cuckoo Catfish
- Origin – Lake Tanganyika
- Diet – Omnivore
- PH Range – Alkaline 7.5 – 8.5
- Water Type – Hard
- Temperature – Tropical 24°c
- Breed Type -Brood Parasitism
- Current Size – approximately 5cm (Grows to approximately 15cm)
- Sex – Un-sexed