Synodontis angelicus (Polka dot synodontis)

Synodontis angelicus

Last updated on July 7th, 2022 at 10:52 am

Synodontis angelicus, also known as Polka dot synodontis, is a species of freshwater fish in the family Mochokidae, endemic to the southern half of Lake Tanganyika in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia. It occurs in both demersal and pelagic habitats, though usually not deeper than those habitats.

Its diet consists mainly of small invertebrates that it finds by sifting through sand with its mouth open while swimming at the surface; food may also be swallowed without processing.

Synodontis angelicus is one of the most beautiful fish that you can keep in your aquarium, it’s also very interesting to watch them interact with their environment. Just don’t get too close! Otherwise, they might think you’re trying to eat them! I want to show you everything you need to know about these beautiful fish and how to care for them properly. Let’s get started!

What are Polka dot catfish?

Polka dot catfish, also known as Synodontis angelicus, are a small species of catfish native to Africa. They can be identified by their eye-catching yellow and white polka dots. Although they are very popular in aquariums, they aren’t always easy to care for.

Because of their diet and growing needs, a mature polka dot fish requires at least 60 gallons of water. For most people, that’s more than they have available. If you do happen to have enough space for one of these fishy friends, here are what you need to know:

Origin and descriptions

Synodontis angelicus

Synodontis Angelicus is a species of fish in family Mochokidae. It is native to Africa (Congo River Basin). It reaches a maximum length of 55 centimeters (22 inches), most commonly reaching 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) in length when fully mature but should not be housed with larger tank mates.

This species occurs throughout West Africa from Senegal to Chad, and is found on sandy bottoms of slow-moving rivers and lakes with abundant vegetation cover near inflowing streams or springs at depths between 3 and 50 meters. The common name of polka dot refers to its characteristic speckled pattern, which may be red or yellow; it exhibits sexual dimorphism similar to that seen in other members of its genus.

The Synodontis Angelicus is a species of fish that can be found in Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is quite commonly seen at pet stores because it resembles other more popular species such as clown loaches. They are peaceful and get along with most other fish, although they may nip at long finned fish or those with delicate fins.

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Species profile

The polka-dot synodontis is a freshwater fish native to West Africa. These hardy fish prefer deep waters with a lot of vegetation so that they can remain hidden from predators. They will eat anything that comes across their path, but their favorite foods are insects, worms, and other small invertebrates found in or on plants.

The male polka-dot synodontis tends to be more brightly colored than his female counterpart; he also has a longer body shape. Polka-dot synodontis are not considered endangered by IUCN Red List standards. However, there is a concern for populations living in areas affected by large droughts and pollution due to human activity.

Synodontis angelicus common names

The common names for the synodontis angelicus are Polka-dot catfish, Angelicus Synodontis, catfish synodontis, Angel squeaker, polkadot squeaker, black clown catfish, whitespotted squeaker, pearl squeaker, upside down catfish, Angelicus catfish, and Dotted Synodontis.

Synodontis angelicus habitat

It is found in Lake Tanganyika, which is on a major rift valley. This rift valley runs through Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and Zambia. It has been recorded as far north as Malawi but is mostly found south of lakes Kivu and Albert. To its west are mountains that run down to Lake Tanganyika from Zaire.

The mountains contain many small rivers that feed into Lakes Edward and Tanganyika. Polka Dot Synodontis likes all depths of water but is usually found in water with dense vegetation. At night it will move into open water or near floating islands with dense vegetation for cover and safety during daylight hours. During the dry season, it can be found higher up on rocky outcrops than other species.

Synodontis angelicus size

On average, they can grow up to 9.8 inches (25 cm) in length. Species with maximum length of 22 inches (55 cm) have been recorded.

Synodontis angelicus tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for this species is 60 gallons (240 Liters)

Tank set up

If you are planning on keeping more than one polka dot synodontis, then a tank of at least 100 gallons is required. Try to avoid putting multiple males together as they can become territorial and fight one another. A male/female pair may be kept in a smaller aquarium, but it’s best to keep these fish in larger tanks that have plenty of hiding places such as plants or caves. As with most cichlids, try to mimic their natural habitat when setting up your aquarium.

Gravel should be large enough so that food doesn’t collect around them. Sand could also work in your tank if you don’t like working with gravel. Rocks or clay pots can make for great decorations because they give your fish somewhere safe to hide behind during feeding time, especially if there are multiple individuals living in your tank. These fish enjoy digging under sand or rocks, so bear that in mind when choosing decorations.

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Polka dot synodontis will spend much of their time hiding underneath rocks or decorations where other fish cannot see them. This will allow them to feel safe while at home in your aquarium. Be sure not to stack too many rocks and decoratives on top of each other though!

Synodontis angelicus tank mates

Synodontis Angelicus are a great community fish with most other schooling fish. Just be aware that they do not get along with fast-moving, long-finned species such as Mollies and Danios. Some good tank mates are cichlids, tetras and catfish. Make sure to keep only one male to every two females in your school of angels because males can become aggressive toward each other.

Synodontis angelicus breeding

Synodontis angelicus

The easiest way to breed these fish is by separating a male and female into their own tanks and feeding them plenty of live foods, including bloodworms, tubifex worms, blackworms, and mosquito larvae. If you’re breeding for coloration, it’s a good idea to give your pair live brine shrimp. Their babies will inherit their parents’ coloring; two polka dot synodontis with different color patterns can produce all sorts of interesting-looking fry!

The fry is quite small at birth, but grows quickly once they start feeding on microorganisms in an algae-rich environment. Fry can be housed in separate containers and fed liquid foods like water infusoria or rotifers until they’re big enough to eat baby brine shrimp or crushed flake food—you may need to provide several small containers so that you don’t crowd their growing population.

It’s important to remember that smaller fry has weaker immune systems than adult fish do. Keeping them free from disease is very important while they grow up. A balanced diet will lead to stronger, healthier individuals down the road!

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Synodontis Angelicus is a peaceful fish when kept in pairs or in a harem of 2 males and 3-4 females. Some individuals are more aggressive than others, however, most will do well with other medium-sized non-aggressive fish. While Synodontis Angelicus is not an active hunter or attacker, it does require plenty of hiding places provided by large rocks and driftwood where they can retreat to when frightened.

Synodontis angelicus care

Synodontis angelicus

Synodontis Angelicus are one of many types of African Cichlids that are considered a community tank fish. This specific species needs to be kept in groups of 5 or more, with a minimum tank size of 60 Gallons. They need a lot of hiding places and generally like to stay in caves and under rocks during their day, unless there is active food swimming by them.

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If they do not have enough hiding places they will often become extremely territorial and try to kill other members of their own species. Water changes must be done frequently to keep water quality high; I recommend doing 30% water changes at least once per week if you have Polka Dot’s!

Synodontis angelicus food

Synodontis angelicus is a great choice for fish-only tanks, with a diet consisting of pellets, vegetables, and frozen or live worms. They have also been known to eat small minnows and crustaceans. Similar to many catfish in their species, they are opportunistic feeders who often scavenge what they can find.

If you keep yours well-fed, you will likely not see any evidence of them feeding during daylight hours other than occasional movement when cleaning algae from rocks and decorations. However, like most bottom dwellers you will notice your clean-up crew come out more at night to eat dead algae on aquarium glass, which makes scraping easier.

Water parameters

Synodontis angelicus

The ideal water should have a pH 6.0-7.5, dH range 4-12, temperature range of 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The angelicus is generally a substrate fish and should be kept in aquariums with fine sand or sandy gravel of at least two inches. Angelicus is a slow-moving fish that spends a lot of time hiding under rocks and wood in your tank. It will spend hours swimming around in circles and exploring crevices but not actively swimming up to eat.

When it comes to keeping these fish healthy, there are two key water parameters to consider; temperature and water chemistry. On a small scale, you can use a plastic tub or bucket as your aquarium. If you choose to do so, make sure it is clean, clear of debris, and has a tight-fitting lid (to avoid humidity loss).

The more mature your fish get, the more they will start requiring larger tanks with filtration systems to keep them clean and keep ammonia and nitrate levels down. These filters help keep harmful pollutants from harming your fish’s delicate gills. A good rule of thumb is that every 2 inches (5 cm) should be allocated for each inch in length of each individual fish.

In other words, a standard 10-gallon (38 L) tank will house up to three-inch-long fish comfortably or four-inch-long fish if only one or two inhabit it. A well-planted tank with floating plants and rocks will help maintain good oxygen levels by removing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

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Synodontis angelicus lifespan

Averagely, they can live for 5–6 years. With proper care when bred in captivity, a lifespan of 7-12 years has been reported.

Parasites and diseases

As with any fish, you need to be aware of diseases and parasites that can affect your Polka Dot Synodontis. Because many pet stores don’t provide accurate information on their fish, it is important to make sure you are doing the research before purchasing one so that you can take precautions and avoid these potential problems. The most common disease is Ich or White Spot Disease.

This is an external parasite that can often be seen swimming in aquarium water or embedded in fins or skin of fish. It causes loss of appetite, clamped fins, cloudy eyes, thickening or milky skin and even death.

Treatments range from immersing your fish in medicated baths multiple times over a few days to medications administered orally for 30 days as well as expensive medicated foods for months at a time. Another serious problem is Hole-in-the-Head disease which typically occurs because of poor nutrition.


Synodontis Angelicus can be preyed upon by many fish, some common predators are; Centropyge bicolor, Centropyge argi, Centropyge eibli, and Lateral Line Moray Eel. The most notable natural predator is also one of its main competitors for food. The Cichlid fish Pelvicachromis taeniatus competes for its food sources and in turn preys on Synodontis angelicus as well.

Some hobbyists have bred Synodontis angelicus with Pelvicachromis taeniatus to produce offspring that are more robust than those found in nature. A few other species like large Barbs may swallow them whole or even large African Clawed Frogs will eat their fry if given a chance.

Do they make good pets?

Not really. When you’re looking for a catfish for your freshwater aquarium, keep in mind that many species are quite territorial and don’t make good community fish. Synodontis angelicus is one of these species. In its natural habitat, it is a predator of smaller fish and amphibians, so once mature, it will eat any other fish in its tank with reckless abandon. It’s important to choose just one species of catfish for your aquarium and to not add other fish after adding your first Synodontis.