Distribution: Lake Tanganyika
Water Temperature: 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 degrees Celsius)
Diet: While these fish clearly relish small live invertebrate fare, they will also readily take to any foods prepared especially for bottom-dwellers and may sometimes eat other prepared foods (pellets, flakes) which are not designed for benthic creatures.
Water Chemistry: Hard to very hard water is almost an absolute necessity for the maintenance of this fish.
Lifespan: 5-7 years
Species Description These are somewhat long, approximately torpedo-shaped catfish with white bellies and yellowish to gray black-spotted bodies (which may lighten as the fish gets older). All fins are black with white edges and some (especially the dorsal) have intrusions of the body's coloration near their bases. The caudal is deeply bifurcated. All these features, however, pale in comparison to the large triple of pairs of barbels, which is located near the underslung mouth.
Species Behaviour While adults can become solitary and territorial, some suggest that this species does well in aggregations. More is always better when attempting to keep them in groups as it is likely that no individual can become dominant when several others may pick on it at a given time.
These are considered to be "Cuckoo Catfish" for reasons explained in the Breeding portion of this profile.
Natural Conditions The rocky portions of Lake Tanganyika.
Natural Range Lake Tanganyika
Minimum recommended tank size 50 gallons for a very small group; 100+ would be best if trying to house these fish in an aggregation.
Water Temperature 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 degrees Celsius)
Water Quality Hard to very hard water is best; while a pH from 8-9 is often recommended, 7.5-8 is also part of this species' tolerance for pH.
Sexing Females are often more rotund during spawning season. Males are likely to be the ones who show aggression toward gravid females.
Breeding These fish are often spawned by one or two methods. Either way, conditioning is easy -- S. petricola loves live worms and will quickly round into breeding form when given black or white worms and Spirulina on a frequent basis.
There have been many successful spawnings of S. petricola, many of which have been initiated by the spawning of mouthbrooding cichlids. In this method of spawning, the catfish join in the spawning frenzy of the host cichlids, eat some cichlid eggs, and deposit and fertilize their own eggs. The unwary cichlids then pick up S. petricola eggs as well as their own. The squeaker eggs hatch first and the larval catfish turn on their hosts' eggs (and each other if sufficient egg fodder is not available).
Those who would prefer a different method, for one reason or another, take heart! Giving these fish a bowl of dark marbles in an over-turned flowerpot (as suggested in one of the ScotCat articles) in which they may spawn will ensure that you have some control over the rearing of the eggs and fry. The method and their method for raising the young fry are covered in the above link.
Feeding While these fish clearly relish small live invertebrate fare, they will also readily take to any foods prepared especially for bottom-dwellers and may sometimes eat other prepared foods (pellets, flakes) which are not designed for benthic creatures.
Miscellaneous Info There are no synonyms for this fish, which is often mistakenly referred to as S. petricolor.