Synodontis brichardi

Synodontis brichardi is a fascinating and unique fish species that requires specific care and attention. They are better suited to experienced aquarists due to their water quality and aquarium design requirements.

Synodontis brichardi

Synodontis brichardi was first officially described by Max Poll in 1959. According to Cuvier, Synodontis is an “ancient name for an indefinite fish of the Nile” and is not derived from syn- (together) and odous (tooth), as is often recorded in descriptions. The species name brichardi is in honor of Pierre Brichard, a Belgian ichthyologist and aquarium fish exporter who discovered the fish in the rapids near Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.


Synodontis brichardi has a slender, tubular body adapted to life in fast-flowing water. The fish has a large adipose fin and a forked tail fin. The leading edges of the dorsal and pectoral fins are hardened into stiff spines, which can be positioned and locked at a 90-degree angle to the body for defensive purposes. These spines make them a difficult snack to swallow. The maximum standard length of the species is 15 centimeters. In total, they can grow to a length of about 17 centimeters, including the tail.


The color of the fish varies with age. Juveniles have a brown-black base color with several faded but straight white stripes. Adult fish have a dark black body color with clear, white, curved markings. This pattern continues in the forked tail fin. The belly is light gray.

Sexual Dimorphism

Differences between the sexes: Adult Synodontis brichardi females often have a fuller body than the males. Experts can sex the fish by examining the genital papillae (known as venting). In males, the genital papilla is pointed and ribbed, while in females it is rounder and the oviduct lies on the opposite side of the male’s spermatoduct. By the way, it takes quite some time before you can vent them this way. The difference only becomes visible from the age of about two years.

Differences between Juveniles and Adults

Juveniles: Brown-black with faded white stripes.
Adults: Dark black with distinct white, curved markings.

Behavior and Temperament

  • Behavior: Synodontis brichardi is a peaceful species but can defend itself against larger fish if necessary. They are more diurnal (active during the day) than many other Synodontis species when properly maintained.
  • Temperament: They are peaceful towards other fish, but can be territorial towards their own species. They can chase small fish that rest on the bottom at night.

Zone in the aquarium

They are bottom dwellers and mainly live in the lower water layers of the aquarium.


The natural habitat of Synodontis brichardi is in rivers. It is characterized by turbulent water with strong currents. The water is highly oxygenated, which is essential for the well-being of this fish species. The bottom consists of smooth stones and rocks that have been polished by the flowing water. This fish has a sucking mouth that helps it hold on to these stones.


There is little to no vegetation in their natural habitat. However, algae grow on the rocks, which is an important part of their diet.

Climate and Seasonality

The climate is tropical. Reproduction probably occurs during the rainy season, leading to flooding between July and October.


Synodontis brichardi is an omnivore that feeds in the wild on insect larvae, algae, molluscs, sponges, crustaceans and fish eggs. In the aquarium, their diet should consist of a mix of dry food, live and frozen food, and vegetables.

The Aquarium

The aquarium must be at least 150 cm long, 40 cm wide and 40 cm high, which amounts to a volume of approximately 240 liters. Add smooth stones and rocks of various sizes, as well as pieces of driftwood to create shelters. You can place a substrate of fine gravel or sand in between. Ensure good water movement and oxygen-rich water by using power heads.

Water parameters

The water temperature should be between 22-27°C, with a pH of 6.0-8.0 and a hardness of 5-20 dH. Suitable tankmates are fish that like flowing, oxygen-rich water.

Plants in the aquarium

Plants are not essential, but robust plantings can be used to create shady areas. Algae on the rocks should not be discouraged as the fish graze on them.


Preferably use some dim lighting, although the light may be brighter if diffused by plants. Blue moon lighting is recommended to observe the nocturnal activities of the fish.

Breeding Synodontis brichardi

The breeding of Synodontis brichardi in the aquarium hardly occurs. In Asia, they are grown in professional nurseries using hormones.


Synodontis brichardi is a fascinating and unique fish species that requires specific care and attention. They are better suited to experienced aquarists due to their water quality and aquarium design requirements. Their adaptations to fast-flowing water, defense mechanisms, and daytime behavior make them an interesting addition to a well-maintained aquarium. Provide a well-aerated and filtered aquarium with plenty of hiding places and a varied diet to keep these fish healthy and happy.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Jennifer O. Reynolds


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