Faced with “an embarrassment of riches”, catfish enthusiasts usually find it impossible to single out a favorite species. Those in the genus Synodontis – boldly-marked and fascinating to observe – are a case in point. Each time I’m introduced to a new species, I find some quality that draws me to learn more about it. But if the Angelicus Squeaker, Synodontis angelicus, is not the most sought after of all Synodontis cats, it certainly is in the running. Also known as the Black Clown Catfish, Angelicus Synodontis, Polka-Dot Synodontis and Angel Squeaker, it is both breathtakingly-beautiful and extremely interesting in its habits. And dedicated aquarists have the opportunity to broaden our understanding of the little-studied species, as captive breeding success has remained elusive.
The Angelicus Squeaker’s jet black, dark gray or deep purplish coloration is beautifully offset by numerous yellow or white spots. Some have described it as having the opposite color pattern of another popular relative, the Cuckoo Squeaker, S. multipunctata (please see photo below). Color and spot patterns vary greatly, and individual fishes are capable of radically changing their background colors. Health, stress, age, sex and other factors are likely involved, but much remains to be learned. Fishes involved in aggressive encounters or, perhaps, courtship, sometimes lighten to almost white in color.
The maximum size reported is 9.4 inches, but detailed field surveys have not been carried out, and there are rumors that much larger individuals have been seen. Growth appears to be rather slow, at least by pet catfish standards.