Synodontis petricola
By Ken Armke (7-97)

          As is the case with many rare and seldom-seen fish, the literature is more than a little confusing when it comes to one of our favorite fish, Synodontis petricola.
          One primary reference source even calls the fish S. petricolor(?)
          In the past, the fish has gone by the common name dwarf petricola or pygmy catfish. This in itself is confusing because there is only one S. petricola cited in reference works. (At the 1996 ACA convention in New Orleans, a comparatively large Synodontis species was sold as a petricola with the explanation that it wasn’t the dwarf petricola!)
          Other reference works credit Synodontis multipunctatus (with which S. petricola is often confused) as being the only cuckoo-type breeder among catfish, but this breeding method has also been documented with petricola.
(The two species substitute their eggs for those of mouthbrooding cichlids and let the female cichlid care for their eggs and young!)
          To confuse matters further, we have been told first-hand by individuals that both petricola and multipunctatus have bred using egg-scattering techniques.
          Sources do pretty much agree on the following:
          S. petricola is not only one of the relatively few catfishes to inhabit the African Rift Lakes (Tanganyika), but it is the smallest of these catfishes. (Females max out at about 4"; males at about 3".)
          S. petricola is one of the world’s beautiful catfish—leopard-spotted like Synodontis multipunctatus, but with more white trimming the edges of the dark fins. It is nearly always seen with all fins erect.
          S. petricola is very peaceful, engaging only in chases with conspecifics. It seems to show no interest in even the smallest of other fish.
          S. petricola is gregarious, preferring to be kept in groups with other petricola—or multipunctatus as a suitable substitute. When kept in this manner, S. petricola is not as shy or nocturnal as most catfish. In fact, a small school will frequently put on an aquarium swimming “show”, seemingly just for you.
          To top it all off, S. petricola, in our experience, is extremely hardy and frequently will meet its “master” at the top of the tank at feeding time.
          Despite its always rather hefty price, it’s a fish we’ve never wanted to be without.

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