Upside-Down Catfish: Ultimate Guide to Care, Size, and Tank Mates

Aquarium enthusiasts are always on the lookout for fascinating and unique species of fish to add to their tanks. One such species is the upside-down catfish which, as the name suggests, is known for its unusual habit of swimming upside down.

The upside-down catfish is native to the waters of Africa and is a peaceful and social fish that thrives in a community aquarium. However, certain factors must be considered before adding this species to your aquarium, including the ideal tank size, water conditions, and compatible tank mates. 

If you’re considering incorporating this unique species into your aquarium, this ultimate guide will provide you with everything you need to know about care, size, and tank mates.

How to Take Proper Care of Upside-Down Catfish?

The Upside-Down Catfish, also known as the Synodontis nigriventris, is a fascinating freshwater fish species that can be found in the rivers and streams of Africa.
As the name suggests, this catfish has the unique ability to swim upside down, which is an interesting feature to observe and serves as a survival mechanism in the wild.

If you are considering adding an Upside-Down Catfish to your aquarium, it is important to understand their care requirements to ensure they thrive in a captive environment. Here are some key factors to consider:

Tank Setup

The subaquatic species of the upside-down catfish, scientifically known as the Synodontis nigriventris, are known to be bottom dwellers and therefore require a tank with adequate hiding spots and embellishments, such as caves and driftwood, for optimal habitation. 

Notably, these fish thrive in a dimly illuminated environment; hence, it is recommended to provide a blend of floating plants and other furnishings to create an ambient living space for them. 

A sand substrate is also highly recommended, as it mimics their natural habitat and safeguards their delicate barbels from injuries.

Water Quality

Proper maintenance of appropriate water conditions is imperative for the thriving of upside-down catfish. These aquatic creatures are particularly sensitive to suboptimal water quality and demand a stable and hygienic environment to flourish. 

Consistent water changes and the employment of a high-caliber filtration system are essential to upholding favorable water quality. Regular examination of water constituents such as pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels is recommended to ensure that they meet acceptable criteria.


Upside-down catfish, known for their inverted swimming posture, are recognized as omnivorous aquatic creatures that necessitate a diverse and harmonious dietary regimen. Providing them with an amalgam of premium pellets, flakes, and fresh or frozen victuals, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms is recommended. 

In order to avoid the onset of obesity and other health complications, it is advisable to exercise prudence when feeding these animals and refrain from overindulgence.


The upside-down catfish, a communal species, are renowned for their peaceful temperament and social nature. These captivating creatures thrive in groups of three or more, and may even exhibit a mischievous side, reveling in playful antics like swimming upside down and frolicking with tank adornments. 

To ensure optimal health and longevity, it is imperative to cultivate a suitable habitat replete with ample hiding places and ample companionship.


Maintain a consistent vigilance over the well-being of your inverted catfish. Indications of infirmity may manifest as a decline in appetite, aberrant swimming patterns, or blemishes and discoloration upon the epidermis. 

Should any such indicators present themselves, prompt action should be taken by isolating the fish and consulting with a veterinary practitioner or an accomplished aquarist.

What Size Tank Should You Get for Your Upside-Down Catfish?

When selecting a tank for your Upside-Down Catfish, it is important to consider the tank’s size and the type of water you plan on using. Keeping Upside-Down Catfish in a tank of 20 gallons or larger is highly recommended, as they need plenty of room to swim and explore. 

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Additionally, they should be housed in a tank with good filtration and water movement, as well as a sandy substrate and plenty of hiding places. 

It is important to ensure that the aquarium has plenty of hiding spaces and surfaces to provide these fish with ample opportunity to rest.

Keeping upside-down catfish in an aquarium of at least 30 gallons is advisable for optimal results. Even though they may be kept individually in smaller tanks, keeping them in groups is recommended.

The Size of Upside-Down Catfish and The Factors Affecting It

The variability of adult upside-down catfish dimensions is largely dependent upon the species. The average length of these fish spans between 3-4 inches, although select species may attain a slightly larger size. 

The size of an upside-down catfish is also liable to be impacted by a number of factors including adequate nutrition, quality of water, and tank space. 

To ensure that your upside-down catfish reaches its maximum potential size, you can follow these tips:

Tank Size

The optimal growth and well-being of upside-down catfish are reliant on sufficient space for aquatic movement and exercise. A habitat that offers ample freedom of swimming is conducive to healthy growth in these fish. 

One approach to achieving this is to provide a generously-sized tank that accommodates a minimum of 20 gallons per fish. A larger aquatic environment is preferable, as it promotes greater mobility and affords the opportunity to introduce other aquatic species.

Water Quality

To ensure the optimal growth and well-being of upside-down catfish, it is crucial to maintain a consistent and hygienic aquatic environment. This can be achieved through consistent monitoring and maintenance of the water quality. 

The use of a reliable and high-quality filtration system, periodic water changes, and regular testing of the water parameters are vital in ensuring that the water conditions remain within acceptable ranges.

Tank Mates

Selecting suitable companions for your upside-down catfish is imperative to prevent them from experiencing undue anxiety or hostility, which can hinder their development.
Upside-down catfish can thrive alongside docile fish inhabiting distinct sections of the aquarium, making excellent tank mates.


The healthy growth of your upside-down catfish is contingent upon a balanced and diverse diet. As omnivores, these fish require a combination of animal and plant-based food sources. To ensure optimal nutrition, provide them with high-quality pellets, flakes, and live or frozen foods.


Maintaining a clean and well-maintained aquarium is crucial for your upside-down catfish’s optimal health and growth. To ensure their well-being, it is necessary to undertake regular tank cleaning and perform essential maintenance tasks such as filter checks and water quality monitoring.
Doing so can effectively manage stress levels and promote healthy development in your beloved aquatic pets.

Suitable Tank Mates for Upside-Down Catfish

When selecting tank mates for an upside-down catfish, it is important to consider the temperament and size of the other fish in the tank. Generally, peaceful and small- to medium-sized species work best.


Known for their small size and tranquil nature, tetras make excellent additions to aquariums. Their wide range of colors and patterns has made them a beloved choice among hobbyists. 

Upside-down catfish can coexist peacefully with neon, cardinal, and ember tetras. These species are well-matched companions for the catfish, as they pose no threat and occupy separate areas of the tank, preventing any competition for space.

Corydoras catfish  

Bottom-dwelling fish or Corydoras catfish, is a peaceful and social fish species. These particular fish are recognized for their playful demeanor and can serve as a valuable addition to an aquarium that also features upside-down catfish. The two types of catfish, being bottom dwellers, coexist well in the same tank without competing for space.


These fish exhibit an array of striking colors and patterns and are known for their serene temperament. These small fish are compatible with tank mates such as tetras and upside-down catfish, as they occupy different levels of the aquarium.

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Unlike other fish, rasboras do not pose a threat to their tank companions, making them an ideal choice for hobbyists seeking a harmonious aquatic environment.


They make great tank mates for upside-down catfish, as they have similar temperaments and habitat preferences. Both fish are quite adaptable and can live in a variety of water conditions, so their compatibility in the same tank is not an issue. 

They also share a similar diet, which makes it easy to provide them with a balanced and nutritious meal. Guppies and upside-down catfish also enjoy similar tank decorations, including plants, driftwood, and rocks. 

Disease Treatments for Upside-Down Catfish 

It is essential to remember that Upside-Down catfish, like any other aquarium species, are vulnerable to various diseases. Some of the most common diseases that affect Upside Down Catfish are Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), Fin Rot (Aeromonas hydrophila), and infected barbels.


This is a common disease found in Upside Down Catfish, which is caused by a parasite known as Ichtyophthirius multifiliis. Small white spots on the body and fins of the fish easily identify it. 

Fortunately, Ich is relatively easy to treat with medication, although it is important to catch it early. Regular water changes, using a quarantine tank for new fish, and keeping the tank clean and well-maintained can prevent this disease.

Fin Rot

Upside Down Catfish frequently suffer from fin rot disease, characterized by the fraying, discoloration, and eventual decay of their fins and tail. An infectious bacterial disease causes this common affliction.

In order to prevent fin rot in Upside Down Catfish, it is important to maintain their tank in optimal conditions. This includes daily water quality monitoring, regular water changes, and proper filtration.

Infected Barbels

These are caused by a bacterial infection of the barbels of the fish, which are the tactile organs used to explore and find food. Symptoms of Infected Barbels include swelling and discoloration of the barbels, as well as the presence of a white pus-like discharge. This happens when the nitrate levels get too high.

Treatment for Infected Barbels Disease typically involves administering antibiotics and providing clean, fresh water.

Maximum Number of Upside-Down Catfish Suitable in a Tank

The maximum number of upside-down catfish suitable for a tank depends on the size of the tank. Generally, a tank should be at least 20 gallons to accommodate per Upside-Down Catfish. 

As the tank size increases, more catfish can be added. You should keep in mind that the Upside-Down Catfish should not be overcrowded, as this can cause stress and could lead to health complications.

But it’s also necessary to note that these fish are very active and social creatures, so they do best in groups. 

Maintenance of Upside Down Catfish Tank 

What Are the Best Tank Mates for Upside-Down Catfish?

When considering pictus catfish compatible tank mate suggestions for upside-down catfish, there are several options to choose from. Some great choices include tetras, mollies, and angelfish. These fish have peaceful temperaments and similar water requirements, making them suitable companions for upside-down catfish in an aquarium. Remember to create a well-balanced environment and provide adequate hiding spots for all tank mates.


The Upside Down Catfish is a unique and fascinating species of fish that can be a great addition to any home aquarium. Its distinctive upside-down swimming behavior adds an interesting element to any tank.

These fish can live a long and healthy life with regular maintenance and proper care. They are active and entertaining to watch, and their unique behavior is sure to be a hit with the whole family. You can provide your upside-down catfish with a happy and healthy home with a little effort.

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