Upside Down Catfish Care Guide: Simple Steps for a Happy Pet

Welcome to an exciting journey into the world of Upside Down Catfish (Synodontis Nigriventris)! These fascinating creatures, known for swimming upside down, are perfect for fishkeepers of all experience levels. With their unique behavior and low-maintenance care requirements, their popularity in the aquarium hobby is no surprise.

As you delve deeper into the care and maintenance of Upside Down Catfish, you’ll discover how to create a proper environment for them to thrive. From getting the right tank size to optimizing water parameters, you’ll soon become a skilled aquarist eager to share your newfound knowledge.

So, let’s get started on exploring the ins and outs of caring for these charming and unusual freshwater species. By understanding their habits and meeting their needs, you’ll enjoy a thriving, captivating tank full of happy, healthy Upside Down Catfish.

Species Overview

The Upside Down Catfish is a unique and interesting freshwater fish that has a reputation for being both low-maintenance and enjoyable to watch. Their distinct swimming habits will surely catch your eye, and their compatibility with a variety of tank mates makes them an excellent choice for aquarists of all experience levels.

Native to Central Africa, these fish prefer slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation. They are known for their habit of swimming upside down, which not only sets them apart from other catfish species but also makes them a fascinating addition to your aquarium.

Feeding your Upside Down Catfish is quite simple, as they will readily eat sinking pellets and appreciate live or frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. Remember to feed them during nighttime hours, as they are nocturnal creatures.

Caring for your Upside Down Catfish involves maintaining appropriate water parameters and creating a suitable environment for them to thrive. This includes providing hiding spots like caves or large rocks, as well as areas with dense vegetation.

Property Information
Scientific name Synodontis nigriventris
Common names Upside-down catfish, blotched upside-down catfish
Distribution Central Africa, Central Congo River basin
Size 4 inches (20 cm)
Lifespan 5 years
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum tank size 30 gallons
Temperature 72-79°F (22-26°C)
pH 6.0-7.5
Water hardness 5-20 dGH
Care level Easy
Filtration/Water Flow Moderate
Water type Freshwater optimal
Breeding Egg layer
Breeding difficulty Moderate
Compatibility Community tanks with peaceful tank mates

By following this care guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating a comfortable and thriving environment for your Upside Down Catfish. Enjoy watching these fascinating creatures as they swim upside down and bring unique charm to your aquarium.

Origins and Natural Habitat

The Upside Down Catfish, scientifically known as Synodontis nigriventris, is a fascinating freshwater fish originating from Africa. In particular, it’s native to the Congo River Basin and surrounding areas. With its unique swimming behavior and interesting appearance, it’s sure to pique your interest.

In their natural habitat, Upside Down Catfish prefer slow-moving waters with an abundance of vegetation. They can typically be found in densely planted areas like swamps, streams, and rivers, where they can hide and forage for food. This environment provides cover and protection from predators while also supplying ample food sources.

When recreating this environment in your aquarium, consider including plenty of hiding spots using plants, driftwood, and rock formations. This will help your Upside Down Catfish feel more at home and help mimic their natural surroundings. It’s also essential to maintain suitable water parameters, with a pH of around 6.0-7.5 and a temperature between 72°F and 82°F, to ensure their optimal health and well-being.

Remember to be mindful of tank mates as well. Upside Down Catfish are generally peaceful and can coexist harmoniously with similarly sized, non-aggressive fish. However, it’s essential to do your research to ensure compatibility and maintain a healthy, happy community tank.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Shape

Your Upside Down Catfish (Synodontis nigriventris) is a small and unique catfish characterized by its fascinating swimming behavior. These energetic fish typically grow up to 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm) in length, so they are suitable for various tank sizes. Their body shape is elongated and slightly compressed, with a flattened ventral surface allowing them to easily navigate upside down.

Color and Markings

The color and markings of your Upside Down Catfish are quite distinctive. They possess a reverse color scheme compared to most fish, which contributes to their intriguing appearance. Their belly is darker than their dorsal area, usually displaying a combination of mottled brown and black patches. This distinctive camouflage helps the catfish blend seamlessly with its surroundings, especially when they’re upside down.

The fins of your Upside Down Catfish are mostly translucent but can display some faint coloration, such as brown or black. You’ll notice three pairs of barbels around their mouth, which they use for detecting food. Two pairs are relatively short, while the third, located at the corner of their mouth, can be longer and more pronounced.

By acknowledging and recognizing these physical characteristics, you can better appreciate the unique nature of your Upside Down Catfish and provide them with the best possible care within your aquarium.

Lifespan and Growth Rate

Upside Down Catfish are known for their unique behavior and low-maintenance care requirements, making them a popular choice for fishkeepers of all experience levels. In terms of lifespan, these fascinating fish typically live for about 5 to 10 years, depending on the quality of care you provide. To ensure a long and healthy life, it’s essential to know the factors that contribute to their growth rate and overall well-being.

When it comes to the growth rate of Upside Down Catfish, they usually reach their full adult size of 3 to 4 inches within the first couple of years. In order to achieve optimal growth, providing a high-quality diet is crucial. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods such as high-quality pellets, flakes, freeze-dried or frozen foods, and occasional live food treats can greatly benefit your fish’s growth and overall health.

Another vital aspect of Upside Down Catfish care that influences their growth rate is maintaining proper water parameters. These fish prefer a pH level between 6.0 to 7.5 and thrive in water temperatures ranging from 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 Celsius). This temperature range supports their metabolism, which in turn can affect their growth rate.

Providing a stress-free environment will also contribute to the lifespan and growth rate of your Upside Down Catfish. Features such as hiding spaces, plants, and appropriate tank mates will all contribute to a happier and healthier fish. By being attentive to your fish’s needs and providing proper care, you can help maximize their growth potential and lifespan.

Diet and Feeding

Caring for your upside-down catfish involves providing them with a well-balanced diet. Feed them a mix of quality sinking pellets, which should serve as their staple food. This will help provide them with essential nutrients. Make sure the pellets are of high quality to ensure your upside-down catfish get the proper nutrition.

In addition to pellets, it’s essential to include live or frozen foods in their diet. Good options include bloodworms, brine shrimp, and blackworms. Providing a variety of food types will ensure that your catfish receive all the necessary nutrients they need to stay healthy.

While it may be illegal in some areas, mosquito larvae are a preferred food source for upside-down catfish. Adding blanched vegetables to their diet can also be beneficial, contributing to a well-rounded and nutritious meal plan.

Remember to feed your upside-down catfish once or twice daily, ideally in small portions. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health problems. By following these feeding guidelines, you’ll offer your upside-down catfish proper nutrition to thrive in their home.

Behavior and Temperament

Upside Down Catfish are known for their unique swimming style where they often swim upside down. As a friendly and peaceful species, these fish can be a great addition to your community aquarium. They are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are more active during the night than during the day.

Due to their nocturnal nature, you might notice that the Upside Down Catfish tend to hide during daylight hours. Providing hiding spots such as caves, plants, and driftwood will help them feel secure and comfortable in the tank environment. It’s not unusual for them to form small groups with other Upside Down Catfish, so having a few together is a good idea.

When it comes to feeding, Upside Down Catfish enjoy grazing on surfaces for their food. They appreciate a mixture of sinking pellets, live or frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. As they are more active at night, feeding them during the evening or nighttime would best mimic their natural behavior.

As for interacting with other fish species, Upside Down Catfish generally get along well with their tank mates. However, you should avoid fish that are aggressive or much larger than them, as they may bully or even try to eat your Upside Down Catfish. Look for other peaceful community fish species that can coexist harmoniously in the tank and match their water condition preferences.

Remember that observing the behavior of your Upside Down Catfish can help you understand their needs and preferences better. By providing them with a comfortable environment, the right food, and compatible tank mates, you’ll maintain a happy and healthy aquarium for these fascinating creatures.

Care and Tank Requirements

Tank Size

The ideal tank size for Upside Down Catfish is at least 20 gallons. However, if you plan on keeping tank mates, it’s better to go for a larger tank. These fish thrive in small groups, so providing ample space for them is crucial to their well-being.

Water Parameters (Temperature and pH)

To ensure a healthy and comfortable environment for your Upside Down Catfish, maintain a water temperature between 72°F and 82°F. The pH value should be in the range of 6.0 – 7.5. Regularly monitor these parameters to keep the fish in good condition.

Tank Setup and Decorations

When setting up an Upside Down Catfish tank, consider the following guidelines:

  • Choose a low-traffic area in your home, away from direct sunlight.
  • Use a proper substrate, such as sand or fine gravel, to mimic their natural habitat.
  • Include plenty of hiding spots with decorations like rocks, caves, or driftwood.
  • Add live or artificial plants to provide more cover and enrich the environment.

Filtration and Aeration

Upside Down Catfish require good water quality, so invest in a reliable filtration system to remove harmful substances and maintain a stable environment. Make sure the filter does not create very strong currents, as these fish prefer calmer waters. Additionally, ensure proper aeration by using an air stone or air pump to maintain adequate oxygen levels in the tank.

Suitable Tank Mates

When selecting suitable tank mates for your Upside Down Catfish, you need to consider the peaceful nature of these fascinating fish. They generally get along well with other non-aggressive species. Here are a few ideal tank mates for your Upside Down Catfish:

  • Congo Tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus)
  • Rasboras
  • Hatchetfish
  • African Cichlids
  • Danios

Make sure to avoid pairing your Upside Down Catfish with overly aggressive or territorial fish, as these might cause stress and harm to your friendly catfish. Keep in mind the size difference between your catfish and its tank mates as well, since larger aggressive fish may view it as prey.

When choosing tank mates, also remember to provide enough hiding spots for your Upside Down Catfish. They are nocturnal and enjoy having places to hide during the day. You can use caves, driftwood, and dense aquatic plants to create a comfortable environment for both your catfish and its companions.

By selecting compatible tank mates and creating a peaceful environment, you can ensure that your Upside Down Catfish and its friends will thrive and live out their lives happily in your aquarium.

Breeding Process

Breeding Upside-Down Catfish might be a bit challenging, but with some effort and attention to their needs, you can raise a healthy group of these unique fish. Here’s a step-by-step guide to breeding Upside-Down Catfish in your home aquarium.

1. Prepare the breeding tank: Start by setting up a separate tank with a size of at least 20 gallons and a soft, sandy substrate. Provide hiding spots such as caves, PVC pipes, or dense vegetation to make the catfish feel secure. Maintain a water temperature of around 75-79°F (24-26°C) and a pH level of 6.0-7.5.

2. Select your breeders: Choose healthy and mature Upside-Down Catfish, usually over the age of one year, with no visible signs of disease or injury. It’s best to have a ratio of one male per two females to increase the chances of successful breeding.

3. Provide optimal diet: Feed your breeding catfish a varied and high-quality diet consisting of both dry and frozen foods like pellets, flakes, brine shrimp, and bloodworms. This will help keep them in good health and encourage successful breeding.

4. Monitor for spawning behavior: Keep an eye on your catfish for signs of breeding behavior, such as increased activity, pairing off, or males chasing females around the tank. This is an indication that they are ready to spawn.

5. Provide a spawning site: Upside-Down Catfish are egg depositors, so you will need to provide a flat surface, such as a broad leaf or a slate, for the female to lay her eggs on. Place these spawning sites near the catfish’s hiding spots.

6. Observe egg-laying: The female will lay her adhesive eggs on the chosen spawning site, and the male will follow to fertilize them. This process might happen during the night. Therefore, it might be difficult to observe directly.

7. Remove the adults: Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized, consider moving the adult fish back to the main tank as these catfish might eat their own eggs.

8. Care for the eggs: Maintain optimal water conditions in the breeding tank and use an air stone to provide gentle water movement, ensuring proper oxygenation for the developing embryos.

9. Watch for hatching: After 3-5 days, the eggs will hatch and release tiny, free-swimming fry. Start offering them a diet of freshly hatched brine shrimp or micro-worms to help them grow and develop properly.

Remember, patience and care are essential in breeding Upside-Down Catfish. With time and attention, you will be able to raise a healthy batch of these fascinating fish. Good luck with your breeding project!

Common Diseases and Treatments

In order to provide the best care for your Upside Down Catfish, it’s important to be aware of the common diseases affecting this species and their respective treatments. Keeping your fish healthy is a top priority for any aquarist.

Ich Disease: Ich, or White Spot Disease, is caused by the parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It’s characterized by small white spots on the fish’s body, clamped fins, and rubbing against objects in the tank. To treat Ich, gradually increase the water temperature to around 86°F for a week and use a specialized Ich treatment medication available at your local pet store. Ensure proper water quality by performing partial water changes.

Fin Rot: Fin rot is a bacterial infection that causes the edges of the fish’s fins to turn white and eventually decay. It may be caused by poor water quality. To treat fin rot, clean the tank and improve overall water quality by performing regular water changes and using a reliable aquarium filter. An antibacterial medication suitable for fish can also be applied if needed.

Fungal Infections: Fungal infections are characterized by a cotton-like growth on the fish’s body or fins. This is often a secondary issue due to injury or stress. To combat fungal infections, ensure proper water quality, and use an antifungal medication specifically designed for fish.

Internal Parasites: Internal parasites can cause symptoms such as weight loss, swelling, or white stringy feces in your Upside Down Catfish. To treat internal parasites, use a medicated fish food or anti-parasitic medication that targets the specific parasite affecting your fish.

In conclusion, maintaining proper water quality, providing a balanced diet, and regularly checking your Upside Down Catfish for signs of illness can help prevent diseases. However, if you do notice any symptoms of illness in your fish, act promptly and employ the right treatment to ensure their optimal health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for these catfish?

For Upside Down Catfish, a minimum tank size of 20 gallons (75 liters) is recommended. It is essential to provide them with enough space to swim and explore comfortably. If you plan on keeping a group of these catfish, increasing the tank size accordingly is a good idea.

What should I feed my upside down catfish?

Upside Down Catfish have a varied diet and should be fed a mix of sinking pellets, as well as live or frozen foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Since they are nocturnal, it is best to feed them at nighttime to align with their natural behavior.

How many catfish can be kept together in a tank?

It is suggested to keep Upside Down Catfish in small groups, for example, 4-6 individuals. Keeping them in groups can promote a more natural environment and encourage their unique swimming behavior. Ensure your tank size is suitable for the number of fish you decide to keep.

How can you tell the difference between male and female Upside Down Catfish?

Determining the sex of Upside Down Catfish can be challenging, as they exhibit few noticeable differences. However, experienced aquarists might be able to identify male catfish due to their slightly more elongated dorsal fin.

Do upside down catfish exhibit aggressive behavior?

Upside Down Catfish are not aggressive. They are quite peaceful and can coexist with other fish species. When choosing tank mates, make sure to select species that will not harm or harass the catfish, ensuring a harmonious tank environment.

How long is the lifespan of an upside down catfish?

The lifespan of an Upside Down Catfish ranges from 5 to 8 years when properly cared for. To ensure a healthy and long life, maintain a stable tank environment, provide a balanced diet, and address any potential health issues as they arise.


In conclusion, Upside Down Catfish offer a unique addition to your aquarium, and with proper care, you can ensure they thrive. Maintaining a steady temperature within 72-82°F and keeping pH levels between 6.0 – 7.5 will create a comfortable environment for these fascinating creatures.

A varied diet of sinking pellets, bloodworms, and brine shrimp ensures their nutritional needs are met. Choosing compatible tank mates and upholding a harmonious living space will ultimately lead to a delightful experience for both you and your Upside Down Catfish.