Scientific Name: Synodontis multipunctatus

Breeding Strategy: Egg layer.

Ease of Breeding: Moderate.

 Introduction: This catfish, which has become of increasing interest to aquarists in recent years, gets its common name from its unusual breeding behavior: It lays its eggs among those of an unwitting host fish—usually a mouthbrooding African cichlid – and leaves them for the host to incubate along with its own. S. multipunctatus does not mature sexually until it is between three and five years old.

 Sex Differences: Females are larger and plumper. Males have a taller dorsal fin.

Water Conditions: Although these fish can live in a wide range of conditions, for breed­ing, aim for a pH of between 7.8 and 8.2 and a temperature of 75° to 82°F. Keep up with water changes, since high levels of nitrates stress these fish.

 Equipment: Size and setup of tank depends to a large degree on size and needs of host fish. Equip the tank with good filtration and lots of hiding places; these catfish particularly like caves.

 Conditioning and Triggers: Condition S. multipunctatus on brine shrimp, blood worms, and krill, while simultaneously conditioning the host fish. The courting activities of the host fish trigger S. multipunctatus to spawn.

 Spawning: When the male catfish senses courting activity on the part of the cichlids, he hustles to round up his own mate, herding her toward the cichlids' spawning site. (This sometimes causes tussles with the male cichlid, who doesn't appreciate the inter­ruption.) Eventually, however, the catfish will successfully dart in, gobble some of the cichlid eggs, and flee. On the next pass, they'll hastily spawn and flee again, leaving about 20 of their own bright green fertilized eggs behind for the female mouthbrooder to incubate. This may be repeated five or more times while the cichlids are spawning.

 Brood Size: Up to 100.

 Fry Care: The S. multipunctatus eggs begin to hatch in about 48 to 72 hours. If the eggs of the host fish do not hatch at the same time, the S. multipunctatus fry may begin to eat them. In addition, the spines of the catfish fry can injure the mouth or gills of the host fish. For this reason, many breeders prefer to strip the host fish. If eggs are placed in an incubator, add an airstone to keep water circulating around them gently. Feed fry with baby brine shrimp for the first month; then introduce chopped blood worms, microworms, and other meaty foods. As fry grow, they will take chopped blood worms and ground-up pellets. They require plenty of room if they are to achieve maximum growth rates, so rear them in a tank of at least 30 gallons, with 55 being even better.

 Special Notes: These fish are native to Africa's Lake Tanganyika, but interestingly, cich­lids from the same lake do not make good hosts, because they seem more able to dis­tinguish the catfish eggs from their own. Instead, many breeders report success using cichlids from other rift lakes, such as mouthbrooders of the genus Haplochromis.