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Easily confused for Synodontis nigriventris (Bloched upside-down catfish,) the slightly-smaller contracta has a larger head, much larger eyes and a broader mouth. It’s body is contracted relative to its greater height and it has the most compact head within the Synodontis species.

Quick stats:

Listed tank sizes are the minimum
Size: 3.81 inches (9.7 cm)
Tank: Individual: 20 long-40 gallons (75.7-151.4 liters) or larger School of 3-4: 55 gallons (208.2 liters) or larger
Strata: Will go everywhere but predominantly bottom. Likes Sand – Fine Gravel.
PH: 6.2 – 7.2
Hardness: Medium, dh range 4 to 15dH
Temperature: 72°F to 77°F (22°-25° C)


Order: Siluriformes
Sub Order: Ostariophysi
Family: Mochokidae
Genera: Synodontis
Species: Synodontis contractus

Common name:

Big-nosed Upside Down Catfish

    , Bugeye Squeaker, Bug Eyed Squeaker


    Africa: Middle Congo River basin, Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool) and the Kasai drainage at Kinshasa.

General Body Form:

    Rounded, modified torpedo-shaped body that appears contracted relative to its height. Head is stocky, but streamlined and features a hardened head cap that attaches at the humeral process just behind the gills. Fins are moderately long relative to body length. The first ray of the dorsal and pectoral fins is a stiffened and serrated spine capable of inflicting wounds. Caudal fin is forked. It’s ventrally located mouth is wide and has a plate of fused, cone-shaped teeth in the upper jaw used for rasping. The teeth in the lower jaw are moveable. Two pair of long, stiff barbles extend from either side of the mouth and may have additional branches or nodes. It’s head is bigger, its mouth is wider and its eyes are far larger than than that of Synodontis niriventris with which it is often confused. Like other fish in the family Mochokidae, contracta is scaleless. Theories for why this fish swims upside down include that it helps them feed in the tight confines of submersed logs and branches and that it allows them to breathe most efficiently at the surface. When these fish brush the base of their pectoral spine against their pectoral girdle, a chirping or squeaking sound is produced.


    Base colors of the bodies and heads are typically brown, cream or gray. This is overlaid with reverse countershading (dorsal side is lighter, ventral side is darker) and disruptive coloration in the form of small brown or gray blotches over the entire body, fins and barbles.


These fish enjoy well-filtered water with a good current. Being a riverine fish they appreciate a longer tank with a soft substrate of mud, sand or fine-grained gravel. Provide lots of caves and hiding spaces (sections of large pvc pipes and inverted flower pots are two options.)

Plant lushly with freshwater varieties, including floating surface plants both to help modulate the light and to provide surfaces for feeding. Excellent community fish. They thrive in a school of at least 3 to 4 of their own and are non-competitive tankmates to small to medium-sized African rift lake cichlids, African tetras, Chacarins and other Synodontis catfish.




Synodontis contracta





Synodontis nigriventris




    Ominivorous, Rasps algae and microorganisms from surfaces such as driftwood, plants and rocks, skims below the water’s surface for flake food and catfish pellets. Very fond of eating snails. Supplement with algae tablets, spinach, zucchini and live and frozen foods, such as blackworms, bloodworms and brine shrimp. These nocturnal fish prefer to be fed in the evening or morning hours.


    Susceptible to bacterial and fungus infections, which frequently occur in the bottom substrate. Regular vacuuming needed.


    Occurs in muddy-bottomed pools, rivers and small streams and among shorelines with dense vegetation.


    Difficult. Egg-Scatters. Sexual dimorphism is unknown although females appear a bit broader when they are carrying eggs. Successful spawning requires sexually mature fish (at least 2-3 years old) that have been conditioned on a diet of quality proteins (such as blackworm) and spirulina flakes to be in a well-planted tank with caves. While little is known, it is believed that the rainy season (October through May in the Congo) may trigger spawning.
5/5 - (17 votes)


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