Upside Down Catfish (Synodontis Nigriventris): Ultimate Care Guide

Catfish are a very popular fish species around the world. They usually can’t be kept in home aquariums because they are colossal when fully grown. Many people would love to have a smaller catfish in a home tank – enter the Upside Down Catfish.

The Upside Down Catfish is smaller enough when fully grown to fit comfortably in a home aquarium. You’ve come to the right place if you want to add this incredibly unique and popular catfish to your tank. Please continue reading for more information about the Upside Down Catfish and everything you need to know to care for them.

Upside down Catfish, sometimes also known as Blotched Upside Down Catfish, are native to rivers in Central Africa. As their name implies, Upside Down Catfish are upside down; at least, they are sometimes. Upside down Catfish will swim upside down to feed off the water’s surface easier. Upside down Catfish are very popular because of their small size, usually only maxing out at around 4 inches.

Upside Down Catfish have seemingly been popular for centuries; depictions of the Upside Down Catfish have appeared in Ancient Egyptian artworks. An Upside Down Catfish will make an extraordinarily unique and quirk addition to any tank; you can’t go wrong by adding one.

Upside Down Catfish (Synodontis Nigriventris)
Upside Down Catfish (Synodontis Nigriventris)

Upside Down Catfish Care

Caring for an Upside Down Catfish is a surprisingly easy task. They’re a very hardy species and not very picky, making them much easier to care for if you’re a beginner. But that ease of care doesn’t preclude them from being managed by more experienced aquarists.

Regardless of skill level, many love adding Upside Down Catfish because of their quirky nature. The most crucial factor in caring for Upside Down Catfish is to ensure that your tank is large enough for them to prosper and enjoy themselves. Water temperature is nearly as crucial as pH range, but you should still aim to keep them both in recommended ranges.

The recommended temperature range for Upside Down Catfish tank is between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Most experts recommend a pH level of around 6.0 – 7.5. You’ve come to the right place if you wish to know more about caring for Upside Down Catfish! Continue reading for all the information necessary for raising these unique and exciting fish.


It would be best if you always tried to emulate the native environment of the fish housed in your tank. The native habitat of Upside Down Catfish are rivers and river basins in Central Africa. Those are tropical locales, meaning Upside Down Catfish are used to warmer temperatures.

On average, most aquarists recommend a temperature range of between 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Although most say, the ideal temperature for Upside Down Catfish is between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Those warmer temperatures will require a heater powerful enough to maintain them for a tank large enough for Upside Down Catfish.

Water pH

pH level is an essential parameter to monitor any tank. In most cases, any minor fluctuations in pH levels can be detrimental to the species that are housed in the tank. Upside Down Catfish are more sturdy than other species, but that does not mean their needs should be neglected.

Most experienced aquarists recommend that an Upside Down Catfish tank’s pH level be between 6.0 to 7.5. You must regularly check your water parameters to ensure no slight changes in the pH balance. If you catch changes in the pH early enough, you can remedy the issues before they become a bigger problem.

Upside Down Catfish Size

When most people think of a catfish, they think of a large, slimy fish that lives at the bottom of a murky river. Upside down Catfish are the complete opposite of that stereotype. They don’t grow very large; on average, Upside Down Catfish only grow to around 4 inches or 10 centimeters.

Some cases have been where Upside Down Catfish have been known to reach lengths larger than 4 inches. Keep in mind that the size of your fish is directly related to the care you give them. If you don’t give them enough room to grow or feed them an unbalanced diet, they likely won’t grow to their full potential.

Food & Diet

Upside down, catfish get their name from swimming upside down to feed on the water’s surface. They will do this in their natural habitat to feed on insects on the water’s surface. However, they will likely feed on anything you give them in a home tank.

You can feed your Upside Down Catfish some sinking catfish pellets, bloodworms, and blackworms. It would help if you also encouraged them to have a varied diet by providing them with insect larvae and vegetables. Upside Down Catfish particularly love mosquito larvae. As for vegetables, you can feed them cucumbers or peas; you should do this even if they feed on the algae in your tank.

Upside Down Catfish Lifespan

Upside Down Catfish tend to live for around 15 years. That means this quirky little fish will be a significant part of your life. It’s a commitment that you shouldn’t undertake lightly. But remember that any species’ average lifespan isn’t guaranteed. The lifespan of any pet, fish included, is directly dependent on their care. If you neglect your Upside Down Catfish, you won’t experience their full life expectancy.

Upside Down Catfish Tank Size

Despite the smaller size of Upside Down Catfish, they still need a tank large enough to accommodate them and their habits. Some aquarists have been able to keep Upside Down Catfish in a tank as small as 10 gallons. It is highly viable but doesn’t leave the Upside Down Catfish much room to roam around.

It also doesn’t leave any room for potential tank mates. The perfect tank size for Upside Down Catfish is approximately 30 gallons. A 30-gallon tank gives them enough room to roam and swim around comfortably. It also gives you plenty of room to add additional Upside Down Catfish and any potential tank mates you may want.

Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for any fish species, the most important goal is to try to emulate their native environment. You want to use plants, rocks, and other types of tank decorations to achieve that. Their feeding habitats require you to include caves, rocks, and plenty of plants in your tank. Upside Down Catfish swim upside to feed off the water’s surface and the underside of plant leaves, rocks, and caves.

You’ll want to choose rocks and caves that are large enough for your Upside Down Catfish to share. They’re social creatures, so you likely won’t have just one in your tank. So ensure the rocks and caves are large enough for them to share. As for plants, you want to choose flora that has leaves large enough for the Upside Down Catfish to feed on.

Another critical factor to consider when setting up an Upside Down Catfish tank is water flow. The native environment of Upside Down Catfish is typically rivers, which means they are used to and prefer a strong water flow. A strong pump or filter can easily achieve the strong water flow necessary.

Upside Down Catfish Breeding

Breeding Upside Down Catfish can be extremely difficult in captivity. It is not a task that any inexperienced aquarist should undertake. It is possible to breed Upside Down Catfish in captivity, but you must get lucky. However, you may be able to get lucky if you try your hand. If you want to try your hand at breeding Upside Down Catfish, continue reading for some tips and tricks that may help you on your journey.

How to breed Upside Down Catfish?

Upside Down Catfish tend to breed during spring rain in their native habitats. You need to keep a group of Upside Down Catfish together; they can choose their partner and pair off once it is time for breeding. Upside Down Catfish tend to breed in caves, so you need to create large caves in your tank. Most experts tend to recommend using upside-down flower pots or PVC piping.

Once you’ve established caves, you’ll want to raise the temperature slightly to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. After that, you’ll want to feed them plenty of live food. The breeding process is exhausting. Some experts also recommend using a watering can of cold water to sprinkle into the tank. The sprinkling of cold water is designed to imitate the cold spring rains. If you can recreate those conditions, it’ll definitely increase your chances of successful breeding.

If you’re successful, the female Upside Down Catfish will lay up to 450 eggs. The male and female Upside Down Catfish will protect their eggs, so you won’t have to worry about them eating them. You should remove any other fish to avoid them trying to eat the eggs. After about four days, the eggs will hate it.

The fry will feed on the eggs until they are large enough to begin accepting baby brine shrimp. You’ll want to continue providing them with protein-rich foods. The young Upside Down Catfish will start swimming upside down in roughly two months.

Upside Down Catfish Male or Female

Telling the difference between male and female Upside Down Catfish isn’t tricky. With practice, even beginning aquarists should be able to spot the differences. Female Upside Down Catfish tend to be a lighter color than their male counterparts. Females also are more round than males; the roundness is even more apparent during the breeding season.

Upside Down Catfish Disease

Some beginning aquarists may be worried when they see their catfish swimming upset, but don’t fret. Despite their quicky nature, there is nothing wrong with the Upside Down Catfish that causes them to swim upside down. Ich is an issue for all freshwater fish, and Upside Down Catfish are no exception.

Ich is easily diagnosed by the appearance of white spots on the fish’s body. One of the most common issues most Upside Down Catfish owners have to contend with is infected barbels. Issues with the water’s condition commonly cause infected barbels. If these issues are addressed promptly, they should cause no problems for your fish.

Upside Down Catfish Tank Mates

Upside Down Catfish are very peaceful and friendly fish, and they’ll likely do well in most community tanks. An important thing to remember is that Upside Down Catfish don’t like to be alone. If you keep them in a group of at least five, that should be enough to help them feel more comfortable, reduce stress and bring out their normal behavior.

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates

There are plenty of great potential tank mates for your Upside Down Catfish. Any similarly peaceful fish around the same size would make a great addition to your tank. Some possible options to consider are Dwarf Cichlids, smaller Elephant fish, and Congo Tetras. If your tank is large enough, you could consider an African Butterflyfish.

Examples of Incompatible Tank Mates

Upside Down Catfish are a peaceful species, which means you want to avoid any significantly more aggressive species. Upside Down Catfish have sharp barbs on their bodies that will get stuck in the throat of any fish that tries to prey upon them. That is why you must keep your Upside Down Catfish away from any more aggressive species because if they don’t get along, you may lose two fish in the process.

Where can I find Upside Down Catfish for sale?

Upside Down Catfish are popular and an excellent option for any tank. Their quirky and unique nature makes them an exciting addition to any tank. Their popular nature means they can likely be found in most local pet and aquarium specialty stores.

Upside Down Catfish can also be readily purchased online. On average, Upside Down Catfish sell for between $7 – $12. Lower prices make it more affordable to have several of them in your tank, which is good because you must have more than one Upside Down Catfish.

Upside-Down Catfish Doesn’t Care What You Think | Deep Look

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