Maximum size : 27.5 cm

Cuckoo Catfish - Synodontis multipunctatus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

Table of contents


The Cuckoo Catfish (Synodontis multipunctatus) is a fascinating and dynamic species of upside-down Catfish. These medium-sized and robust fish are both visually striking and exhibit intriguing behaviour. While Cuckoo Catfish can be quite aggressive and territorial towards other Catfish species, they are relatively peaceful and do very well in a mixed African Cichlid tank if given ample cover and cave-like structures for them to hide. 

It is recommended to keep them in groups of three or more to avoid territorial disputes. The Cuckoo Catfish is an active and sociable fish that seems to be active both day and night, making them a lively addition to any aquarium. If kept in larger groups, territorial issues are less likely to arise, and they can be observed engaging in fascinating group behaviours.

Cuckoo Catfish have an elongated body with striking colouration, typically gold, white, or tan, with distinctive black patches that increase in size from the head towards the tail. The pectoral, dorsal, and caudal fins are predominantly black with white or transparent edges, and the two anal fins are pale with small black triangles positioned close to the body. The Cuckoo Catfish also possesses three pairs of sensory barbels, which are typically white and enhance their unique appearance.

Cuckoo Catfish Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Determining the gender of Cuckoo Catfish can be a challenging task for the average aquarist. Typically, females are characterised by their fuller body shape, while males exhibit larger size, brighter colouration, and a prominent dorsal fin. However, to accurately distinguish between the sexes, an expert would rely on examining the genital papillae.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameSynodontis multipunctatus
Year Described1898
Other NamesCuckoo Squeaker, Multi Punk
OriginsZambia , Burundi , Democratic Republic of the Congo , Tanzania
Max Size27.5 cm
Aquarium LevelBottom - Middle
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asTrios
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
ReproductionEgg Depositor
LifespanUp to 15 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 7.5 - 8.5
GH 15 - 35
Ideal Temperature
74 - 81
23 - 27

Natural Habitat

The Cuckoo Catfish is found in the depths of Lake Tanganyika. This ancient lake, located in the Great Rift Valley system of east-central Africa, is known for its incredible biodiversity and pristine waters. These Catfish can be found in rocky shorelines that can reach depths of up to 65 feet. They are commonly found in areas with muddy, sandy or shell substrates, which provide the perfect environment for them to thrive. With their unique breeding behavior and stunning appearance, the Cuckoo Catfish is a true marvel of Lake Tanganyika.

 Lake Tanganyika. - Burundi
Burundi Flag


In the realm of the animal kingdom, the Cuckoo Catfish has a unique reproductive strategy as a brood parasite. As a result, the fish relies on the smell of spawning Cichlids to trigger its own reproductive process. Once the Cichlids lay their eggs, the Catfish quickly moves in and consumes them before the mother can collect them, all while simultaneously fertilising its own eggs. Subsequently, the female Cichlid attempts to retrieve her eggs, inadvertently collecting some of the Cuckoo Catfish's eggs as well. 

These eggs then hatch inside the unwilling adoptive mother's mouth and proceed to consume the Cichlid's eggs before being released by the mother. This unique reproductive technique effectively removes the burden of parental care from the Cuckoo Catfish, enabling them to breed quicker and without any responsibilities of caring for their offspring.

Diet & feeding

The Cuckoo Catfish is a versatile and adaptable feeder in captivity. It is not overly selective and will consume a wide range of foods. However, meat-based foods tend to be preferred over vegetable-based foods. The Cuckoo Catfish will readily accept a variety of live and frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, krill, and plankton. Additionally, it will consume a selection of dried foods, including catfish wafers, flakes, pellets, and granules. It is worth noting that the Cuckoo Catfish enjoys vegetable matter, such as shelled peas and cucumber, which it can grate with its teeth. Therefore, it is recommended to offer a diverse diet to ensure optimal health and vitality.

Other Other Catfish of interest