cuckoo catfish Care Guide: Tank Setup and much more – 2021

cuckoo catfish



cuckoo catfish Introduction 


Synodontis multipunctatus or cuckoo catfish is one of the most famous catfishes popular among aquarists for a while. If you want to add a medium-sized bottom-dweller with an adorable appearance and behavior, then you should look further.

It’s a schooling fish that would amaze you when kept in a group in a species or community tank. If you’re interested in keeping cuckoo fish, get through our guide about tank guide, care, feeding, tank mates, and breeding guideline below.


Category Rating
Level of care Medium
Temperament Semi-Aggressive, Peaceful in a group of three
Life expectancy Up to 15 years
Size 10 inch
Diet Omnivore
Family Mochokidae
Tank size 50-gallon or larger
Tank environment Wide range of water parameters. Prefer warm and slightly acidic water conditions
Tank Mates Kept in a group of three(minimum)

Same-sized cichlids



cuckoo catfish Overview


As a member of synodontis cuckoo have general characteristics but they have different coloration and patterns. Before shopping for Cuckoo catfish in an aquarium store, you better comprehend the species. Choose wisely your species and consider carefully how you’d take care of them in a species or community tank.


cuckoo catfish Appearance


Cuckoo have silver-colored and forked caudal fins with black stripes. They have serrated, hardened first ray tier dorsal and pectoral fins while the head cap is also hardened. It also shares the special-sounding character that manifests when they’re stressed or threatened.

You can identify male Cuckoo with higher dorsal fins while female fish typically have plumper bodies. Cuckoo appear similar to other Synodontis species but have different details in coloration and patterns.

When it comes to coloration, the Cuckoo is a transformer. You may find them having a gray, white color that gradually transforms to brownish and goldish color as they’re aging.  Cuckoo catfish have unique black spots that differentiate them from other catfishes.




Cuckoo or Synodontis multipunctatus is a catfish species largely found in the African region.

While it might have originated from Lake Tanganyika, Cuckoo catfish is widely found in The Democratic Republic of The Congo, Tanzania, Zambia, and Burundi. Today, Cuckoo catfish has been consistently imported and bred in the aquarium and developed its popularity among aquarists.




Despite their adorable experience and behavior, Cuckoo actually have calm dispositions that make them a great community species. Furthermore, Cuckoo catfish typically eat extra food materials in the tank community.

They have an outstanding ability to clean the aquarium and prevent build-up in the substrate as they would dwell on them throughout time.

They have big eyes situated on the edge of the skull. With a barely arched back body, the front body is oblate and elongated from the edges. They have a giant mouth on the backside of the pinnacle.

You can find them having three pairs of mustaches in the populated environment. In general, Cuckoo have shiny-colored spots on their skin. The actual coloration would depend on particular species.  Cuckoo have comparable fins with other catfish.

They love to eat anything that fits in their mouth including snails, insects, small fish, and even vegetation.


cuckoo catfish Caring and Tank Guide


Resembling their natural habitat, Cuckoo prefer aqua landscapes with many hiding places including dense plants, caves, and bogwood.  They prefer finer gravel or sand for the substrate. With a proper tank setup, you can expect your Cuckoo catfish to live longer and healthier.


cuckoo catfishTank Size


When bought as juveniles, you may get Cuckoo in size of two inches that make a 15-gallon tank adequate. However, they can grow up to 9-10 inches that make you resize the aquarium tank for up to 50-gallon on the assumption no new Cuckoo catfish was added to the tank.  A 50-gallon tank is a reasonable size to invest in if you want to keep a group of 5-10 Cuckoo catfish.


Water Parameters


Cuckoo can generally tolerate a wide range of water conditions. However, it’s still important to keep the pH range of 6.0 – 8.0 with the hardness somewhere between 8-12dH. Maintain the warm water temperature of 77 to 81 to prevent Cuckoo from being stressed out of colder water.


Tank Setup


The aquarium must be spacious while a robust plantation is needed to create a shady area that Cuckoo like the most. More roomy swimming space in the front of the tank is preferable and for better viewing. Cuckoo catfish prefer to be kept in a smaller group for 5 fish in a species or community tank.

You’d need to install efficient filtration with robust performance because Cuckoo catfish are voracious eating species. The bio-loads would be considerably high so doubling your filtration is advisable with proper aeration to keep the tank well-oxygenated.  Regular partial water changes are very important to maintain a low level of nitrate.

Cuckoo prefer subdued lighting with a shady water environment and many dark crevices. You better use the blue-moon lighting instead of the brighter ones. If you use an internal heating machine, be sure to cover it properly to prevent Cuckoo catfish from burning inside it.

While Cuckoo are basically peaceful, they could be aggressive and territorial when kept in the rivalry between two fishes. That’s why a group of three fish is the minimum requirement if you want to keep Cuckoo in a species or community tank. The territorial nature is somehow compensated for when they’re kept in bigger groups.

You need a larger tank to keep a group of Cuckoo to provide them with roomy swimming areas and maintain their territory. The subdued lighting allows you to observe the aquarium at night. However, you’d likely find them schooling more often in the daylight.

Cuckoo are generally adaptable and resilient toward an aquatic environment However, some external factors may make them susceptible to infections and disease. The most common health issue or ailment experienced by Cuckoo Catfish is where they confront stressful situations.

At this point, you better remove all distractions or elements that can degrade the environment.  Poor oxygenation due to aerator failure can cause stressful situations that make your catfish hardly breathe. Tailed Cuckoo Catfish typically shows dulled coloration responding to this very situation.

Keep the water heater, filtration, aeration, and other systems in the tank properly working. Check regularly on their functions and performance. Some infections like the ones that strike fins can be caused by the failure of these systems.


cuckoo catfish Tankmates


Cuckoo is better kept in a group of a minimum 3-5 fish to keep in the species or community tank. The tankmates of different species must be larger than two-inch so Cuckoo can’t prey on them.  Medium-sized peaceful species could have been the criteria of best possible tank mates.

Cuckoo has been widely popular to live with cichlids in the same tank. They may use these cichlids as host parents for their eggs later. Some cichlids have been successfully kept together with Cuckoo Catfish. These make an adorable union of three famous natural habitats: Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, and Lake Malawi.


How to feed cuckoo catfish


Cuckoo catfish love snails very much and it could be the main staple for your catfish. However, you must ensure that the snails are free from parasites and obtain them from a reputable supplier. You can vary their diet with prawns, bloodworms, and special catfish pellets.

It’s tempting to keep adult Cuckoo catfish with small tetras but your catfish would easily eat them. Some frozen meaty foods are advisable like Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and bloodworm. Cuckoo catfish are generally omnivorous as they’d also enjoy the algae wafers, shelled peas, courgette, cucumber, and other vegetables.

Don’t overfeed your Cuckoo catfish to keep their well-being. Since they take everything you offer and won’t stop eating, you’re responsible for a reasonable diet. Use two-time feeding and provide foods that they can finish within two minutes to prevent them from bloating which becomes a common issue of Cuckoo Catfish.

You better avoid all kinds of floating foods but use some sinking foods like pellets, tablets, or granules specially formulated for catfish. Choose the high-protein meals for your Cuckoo catfish. Keep the small proportion of live foods or your Cuckoo catfish would turn into a pure predator.

Balanced their diet with vegetables and plant-based meals. Still maintain the proportional portion to prevent uneaten foods decaying and contaminating the water environment. Arranging fasting days is also advisable to prevent bloating and possible ailments.


cuckoo catfish Breeding guideline


When breeding Cuckoo catfish, it’s essential to keep the Nitrate levels as low as possible. Keeping Cuckoo catfish with cichlids is the best decision if you have a vision of breeding them. It’s because mouthbrooding cichlids are perfect host parents for Cuckoo catfish larvae that enable them to grow faster.

Cuckoo catfish can be bred with brood parasitism and egg scattering. Without mouthbrooders, female Cuckoo catfish would lay their eggs in the substrate or caves you’ve prepared. You need to research and learn more about both methods to increase chances of successful breeding.