Upside Down Catfish Care: Tank Setup, Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases & More!

If you’re looking for a unique and interesting addition to your aquarium, consider adding an Upside Down Catfish. These fish are known for their ability to swim upside down and are a fascinating sight to behold. However, caring for these fish requires some special attention and knowledge.

Upside Down Catfish is a freshwater fish species that requires a minimum tank size of 20 gallons. They prefer a pH range of 6.5-7.5 and moderate water flow. They are omnivorous and should be fed a varied diet of flakes, pellets, and live/frozen foods. Regular water changes and proper filtration are necessary for their well-being.

One important aspect of Upside Down Catfish care is their diet. These fish are omnivores and require a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter.

You can feed them a combination of flakes, pellets, and frozen or live foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp. It’s important to avoid overfeeding, as these fish have a tendency to become obese.

Another important factor to consider when caring for Upside Down Catfish is their environment. These fish prefer a heavily planted tank with plenty of hiding places.

They also require a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5 and a water temperature between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping their tank clean and well-maintained is also crucial for their health and well-being.

Upside Down Catfish

Species Summary


The Upside Down Catfish, also known as Synodontis nigriventris, is a freshwater fish that is native to Africa. Specifically, it is found in the Congo River Basin, as well as other rivers and lakes in the region.


With proper care, Upside Down Catfish can live up to 10 years in captivity. However, their lifespan can be affected by factors such as water quality, diet, and stress.


The Upside Down Catfish gets its name from its unique swimming behavior – it swims upside down!

It has a flattened body and a large head with a wide mouth. Its coloration is typically a dark brown or black with white or yellow spots.


Upside Down Catfish can grow up to 4-5 inches in length when fully mature.

Growth Rate

The growth rate of Upside Down Catfish can vary depending on factors such as water temperature and diet. However, on average, they can grow approximately 0.5-1 inch per year.

Behavior & Temperament

Upside Down Catfish are generally peaceful and can be kept in community tanks with other non-aggressive fish.

They are nocturnal and prefer to hide during the day, so it is important to provide plenty of hiding places such as caves or plants. They are also known to be good jumpers, so a tight-fitting lid is necessary.

Male vs Female

It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female Upside Down Catfish. However, females tend to be slightly larger and rounder than males.

Personal Anecdote: I remember when I first got my Upside Down Catfish. It was fascinating to watch it swim upside down and hide in its little cave during the day. It quickly became one of my favorite fish in my aquarium.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

Choosing the right tank size for your Upside Down Catfish is important. These fish can grow up to 4 inches in length, so a larger tank is recommended.

A 20-gallon tank is the minimum size for one or two Upside Down Catfish. If you plan to keep a group of these fish, you will need a larger tank.


Upside Down Catfish prefer dimly lit tanks, so avoid using bright lights. A low-wattage bulb or LED light is sufficient to provide the necessary light for your fish.

Filtration & Aeration

Good filtration and aeration are essential for the health of your Upside Down Catfish. A hang-on-back filter or a canister filter is recommended. Aeration can be provided by an air pump and air stone.


Upside Down Catfish are tropical fish and require a water temperature of 75-80°F. A submersible heater is necessary to maintain the correct water temperature.


A sandy substrate is ideal for Upside Down Catfish. They like to burrow in the sand, and it also helps to mimic their natural habitat.


Provide plenty of hiding places for your Upside Down Catfish. They like to hide in caves, driftwood, and other decorations.


Live plants are a great addition to any tank, but be sure to choose plants that can tolerate low light conditions. Anubias, Java Fern, and Cryptocoryne are good options.

I’ve found that providing a variety of hiding places and decorations can really bring out the personality of Upside Down Catfish. They are curious fish and love to explore their environment.

Water Quality

If you want to keep your Upside Down Catfish happy and healthy, you need to make sure that the water in their tank is of good quality.

This means that you need to monitor the water temperature, pH, and hardness, and perform regular water changes.

Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for Upside Down Catfish is between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use a heater to maintain a consistent temperature in the tank. Make sure to check the temperature regularly to ensure that it stays within this range.

Water pH

The pH level of the water should be between 6.5 and 7.5. You can use a pH test kit to check the water regularly. If the pH level is too high or too low, you can adjust it using a pH stabilizer.

However, make sure to follow the instructions carefully and avoid sudden changes in pH, as this can be stressful for the fish.

Water Hardness

Upside Down Catfish prefer slightly soft water with a hardness level between 5 and 12 dGH.

You can use a water hardness test kit to check the water regularly. If the water is too hard, you can use a water softener to reduce the hardness level.

Water Changes

Regular water changes are essential for maintaining good water quality in the tank. You should aim to change 25% of the water every two weeks.

However, if you have a heavily stocked tank or if the water quality is poor, you may need to change the water more frequently.

When performing a water change, make sure to use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals from the water.

Personally, I have found that maintaining good water quality is one of the most important aspects of Upside Down Catfish care.

When I first started keeping these fish, I didn’t realize how sensitive they were to changes in water quality.

However, after losing a few fish to poor water conditions, I learned my lesson and now make sure to monitor the water regularly and perform regular water changes.

Tank Maintenance

Maintaining the tank of your Upside Down Catfish is crucial to their overall health and well-being. Here are some tips to keep your tank in top condition:

First, make sure to perform regular water changes. Aim for changing 25% of the water in your tank every two weeks. This will help keep the water clean and clear of harmful toxins that can build up over time.

Next, keep an eye on the filter. A clogged or dirty filter can quickly lead to poor water quality and put your fish at risk. Check the filter regularly and clean or replace it as needed.

Additionally, monitor the temperature and pH levels of the water. Upside Down Catfish prefer a temperature range of 72-82°F and a pH range of 6.5-7.5. Use a reliable thermometer and pH testing kit to ensure the water is within these ranges.

Finally, keep the tank decor clean and free of debris. Use a siphon to vacuum up any uneaten food or waste that may have settled on the bottom of the tank. This will help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and keep the water clear and healthy for your fish.

Personally, I found that creating a schedule for tank maintenance helps me stay on top of things. I mark down the dates for water changes, filter cleanings, and other tasks in my planner so I don’t forget.

It may seem like a chore, but taking good care of your Upside Down Catfish will pay off in the long run with happy and healthy fish.

Tank Mates

Compatible Fish Species

When it comes to choosing tank mates for your Upside Down Catfish, there are a few things to keep in mind. These fish are generally peaceful and can get along with a variety of other species.

Some good options include tetras, gouramis, and corydoras. These fish are all relatively small and won’t compete with your catfish for space or food.

Incompatible Fish Species

While Upside Down Catfish can get along with many other fish, there are a few species to avoid. Large, aggressive fish like cichlids or larger catfish can be a problem.

These fish may harass or even eat your Upside Down Catfish. Additionally, any fish that are known to nip at fins, like some barbs or bettas, should be avoided.

How Many Upside-Down Catfish Do You Need?

It’s generally recommended to keep at least three Upside Down Catfish together. These fish are social and enjoy the company of their own kind. Keeping them in a group can also help reduce stress and aggression.

However, make sure your tank is large enough to accommodate all of your fish comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 20 gallons of water per fish.

I’ve found that my Upside Down Catfish get along well with my neon tetras. They all school together and seem to enjoy each other’s company.

However, I did have some issues when I tried to add a larger catfish to the tank. The catfish was too aggressive and ended up eating one of my Upside Down Catfish.

So, make sure you choose your tank mates carefully and keep an eye on their behavior.


Feeding your Upside Down Catfish is an important part of their care. In this section, we’ll cover what to feed them, how often to feed them, and some tips to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.

What To Feed

Upside Down Catfish are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They prefer live or frozen foods, but they will also eat flakes or pellets. Some good options for feeding your Upside Down Catfish include:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Algae wafers
  • Spirulina flakes

Make sure to vary their diet to ensure they are getting a balanced mix of nutrients.


Feed your Upside Down Catfish once or twice a day, in small amounts that they can consume in a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to health problems, so be careful not to give them too much food.

If you have other fish in the tank, make sure to feed them separately to avoid competition for food.


Here are some tips to keep in mind when feeding your Upside Down Catfish:

  • Make sure the food is sinking to the bottom of the tank, as these fish prefer to eat off the substrate.
  • Remove any uneaten food after a few minutes to prevent it from decomposing and polluting the water.
  • Consider adding some live plants to the tank, as these can provide a natural food source for your fish.

I personally found that my Upside Down Catfish loves bloodworms and algae wafers. They also seem to enjoy nibbling on the plants in the tank. Just make sure to provide a variety of foods to keep them healthy and happy.

Common Diseases


Upside Down Catfish are generally hardy fish and don’t get sick often, but there are still some diseases that they can be susceptible to.

One of the most common diseases is Ich, also known as white spot disease. This is a parasitic infection that causes white spots to appear on the fish’s body.

Another common disease is fin rot, which is caused by bacterial infection and can cause the fish’s fins to deteriorate.

Other diseases that Upside Down Catfish can contract include velvet disease, dropsy, and swim bladder disease. It’s important to keep an eye on your fish and look out for any signs of illness.


The symptoms of Ich include white spots on the fish’s body, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Fin rot can cause the fins to look ragged and frayed, and the fish may become lethargic and lose its appetite.

Velvet disease causes the fish’s skin to look like it’s covered in velvet, and the fish may scratch against objects in the tank.

Dropsy causes the fish to become bloated and its scales to stick out, and swim bladder disease can cause the fish to have difficulty swimming or even float upside down.


If you notice any of these symptoms in your Upside Down Catfish, it’s important to act quickly to treat the disease. There are a variety of treatments available, depending on the disease.

For Ich, you can use a medication that contains malachite green or formalin.

Fin rot can be treated with antibiotics, and velvet disease can be treated with copper-based medications.

Dropsy and swim bladder disease can be more difficult to treat, but you can try using antibiotics or Epsom salt baths.


The best way to prevent diseases in Upside Down Catfish is to maintain a clean and healthy tank environment.

Make sure to do regular water changes and keep the tank clean. Avoid overfeeding your fish, as this can lead to poor water quality.

Quarantine any new fish before introducing them to the tank, to prevent the spread of disease.

Finally, make sure to monitor your fish closely and act quickly if you notice any signs of illness.

Personally, I have had success in preventing diseases in my Upside Down Catfish by adding a small amount of aquarium salt to the water during water changes. This helps to keep the fish’s immune system strong and prevent diseases from taking hold.

Signs of a Healthy Upside Down Catfish

When it comes to keeping an Upside Down Catfish, it is important to understand the signs of a healthy fish. Here are a few things to look out for:

  1. Active Behavior: A healthy Upside Down Catfish will be active and swim around the tank. If your fish is lethargic or spends most of its time hiding, it could be a sign of illness.
  2. Clear Eyes: The eyes of a healthy Upside Down Catfish should be clear and bright. If you notice any cloudiness or discoloration, it could be a sign of an infection or disease.
  3. Healthy Appetite: A healthy fish will have a good appetite and eagerly eat its food. If your Upside Down Catfish is not eating or appears to have lost its appetite, it could be a sign of illness.
  4. Clean Gills: The gills of a healthy fish should be clean and free of any mucus or discoloration. If you notice any abnormalities in the gills, it could be a sign of a respiratory infection or disease.
  5. Good Coloration: A healthy Upside Down Catfish will have vibrant and consistent coloration. If you notice any fading or discoloration, it could be a sign of stress or illness.

Remember, the best way to keep your Upside Down Catfish healthy is to provide it with a clean and well-maintained tank, a balanced diet, and proper water conditions. If you notice any signs of illness, it is important to take action quickly to prevent further complications.

Personally, I always keep a close eye on my Upside Down Catfish and make sure to check for any signs of illness or distress. It’s important to be proactive in caring for your fish to ensure they live a long and healthy life.

Signs Your Upside Down Catfish Is Sick

If you’re a proud owner of an upside-down catfish, you may be wondering how to tell if your fish is sick. Here are a few signs to look out for:

  1. Lethargy: If your catfish is usually active but suddenly becomes sluggish and spends most of its time lying on the bottom of the tank, it could be a sign of illness.
  2. Loss of Appetite: If your catfish is not eating or has lost its appetite, it could be a sign of illness. This could be due to a number of reasons such as an infection, parasites, or poor water quality.
  3. Erratic Swimming: If your catfish is swimming erratically or struggling to maintain balance, it could be a sign of a swim bladder disorder or other health issues.
  4. Abnormal Appearance: If your catfish has any unusual growths, discoloration, or injuries, it could be a sign of illness. Keep an eye out for any changes in appearance.
  5. Rapid Breathing: If your catfish is breathing rapidly, it could be a sign of stress or illness. Make sure that the water quality is good and that the tank is not overcrowded.

It’s important to monitor your catfish regularly and take note of any changes in behavior or appearance.

If you suspect that your fish is sick, consult a veterinarian or a fish expert immediately to ensure that your fish receives the proper care and treatment.

Personally, I once had an upside-down catfish that suddenly became lethargic and stopped eating.

After consulting with a fish expert, I learned that my catfish had contracted an infection and needed medication. With proper care and treatment, my catfish made a full recovery and is now back to its active and playful self.


Breeding Setup

Before breeding upside-down catfish, you need to set up a breeding tank. The breeding tank should be at least 20 gallons and should have a sponge filter or an air stone for oxygenation.

You should also add a spawning mop or a breeding cone for the catfish to lay their eggs. The water temperature should be between 75-80°F, and the pH should be around 7.0-7.5.

How To Breed

Once the breeding tank is set up, you can introduce a male and female upside-down catfish. The male will chase the female around the tank until she lays her eggs on the spawning mop or breeding cone.

After the eggs are laid, the male will fertilize them. The eggs will hatch in about 48-72 hours, and the fry will be free-swimming after about 5 days.


After the fry become free-swimming, you should remove the parents from the breeding tank to prevent them from eating their offspring.

Feed the fry small amounts of newly hatched brine shrimp or powdered fry food several times a day.

Keep the water clean by doing frequent water changes of about 25% every other day. The fry will grow quickly and should be moved to a larger tank once they are about 1 inch long.

Personally, I found breeding upside-down catfish to be a rewarding experience. Watching the parents care for their eggs and fry was fascinating, and seeing the fry grow and develop was a joy. Just be sure to have a breeding setup ready and to provide proper care for the fry.

Product recommendations for Upside Down Catfish:

  1. Hikari Sinking Wafers – These sinking wafers are specifically designed for bottom-dwelling fish like Upside Down Catfish, providing a balanced diet that is high in protein and essential nutrients.
  2. Seachem Prime – This water conditioner is perfect for Upside Down Catfish, neutralizing harmful toxins and chemicals in the water and keeping your fish healthy and happy.
  3. Aqueon LED Aquarium Light Fixture – This high-quality LED light fixture is perfect for Upside Down Catfish, providing bright and energy-efficient lighting that will help your fish thrive.
  4. API Freshwater Master Test Kit – This comprehensive test kit is perfect for Upside Down Catfish owners, allowing you to monitor the water quality of your aquarium and ensure that your fish are healthy and happy.
  5. Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter – This powerful and efficient canister filter is designed for small aquariums and is perfect for keeping the water in your Upside Down Catfish tank crystal clear.
  6. Tetra Whisper Air Pump – This powerful and reliable air pump is perfect for Upside Down Catfish, providing a steady flow of oxygenated water that will keep your fish healthy and happy.
  7. API Stress Coat – This aquarium conditioner is perfect for Upside Down Catfish, reducing stress and promoting healing in your fish by forming a protective slime coat on their skin.
  8. Fluval Multi-Chamber Holding and Breeding Box – This breeding box is perfect for Upside Down Catfish, providing a safe and secure place for your fish to breed and raise their fry.
  9. Fluval FX6 High Performance Canister Filter – This advanced canister filter is perfect for larger Upside Down Catfish aquariums, providing powerful and efficient filtration that will keep the water clean and clear.


Caring for Upside Down Catfish can be a rewarding experience for any fish enthusiast. By providing the right environment, food, and attention, you can ensure that your fish thrive and live a long and healthy life.

Remember to always keep the water clean and well-oxygenated, and to provide plenty of hiding places and plants for your fish to feel safe and secure.

Feeding your fish a balanced diet of high-quality pellets, live or frozen foods, and occasional treats will help keep them healthy and happy.

It’s also important to monitor your fish for any signs of illness or stress, and to take action quickly if you notice any issues. Regular water changes and tank maintenance can help prevent many common problems, such as bacterial infections and fin rot.

Overall, Upside Down Catfish are a fascinating and unique addition to any aquarium. With a little bit of effort and attention, you can create a beautiful and thriving underwater world for your fish to call home.

Personally, I have found that caring for Upside Down Catfish has been a fun and rewarding experience.

These fish have a lot of personality and are always entertaining to watch. I hope that you have found this guide helpful and informative, and that it has inspired you to start your own Upside Down Catfish tank!


As a new Upside Down Catfish owner, you may have some questions about how to care for your fish. Here are some frequently asked questions:

What should I feed my Upside Down Catfish?

You can feed your Upside Down Catfish a variety of foods, including sinking pellets, flakes, and frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms. It’s important to provide a balanced diet and avoid overfeeding, which can lead to health problems.

Do Upside Down Catfish need a special tank setup?

While Upside Down Catfish are relatively easy to care for, they do have some specific tank requirements. They prefer a heavily planted tank with plenty of hiding places, and they also need a moderate water flow. Make sure to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated.

How often should I clean my Upside Down Catfish’s tank?

You should perform regular water changes and clean the tank as needed to keep the water quality high. It’s a good idea to do a partial water change of about 25% every two weeks, and a full water change every month. You should also clean the filter regularly to keep it functioning properly.

Can Upside Down Catfish live with other fish?

Upside Down Catfish are generally peaceful and can live with other fish that are not aggressive or too large. However, they may become stressed in a tank with very active or boisterous fish. It’s also important to avoid keeping them with fish that may see them as prey.

What should I do if my Upside Down Catfish gets sick?

If you notice any signs of illness, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or abnormal behavior, it’s important to take action quickly. You should isolate the sick fish and treat it with appropriate medication. It’s also a good idea to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in fish health.

Overall, Upside Down Catfish are fascinating and rewarding fish to keep. With proper care and attention, your fish can thrive and provide you with many years of enjoyment.

Reference: Wikipedia.


Hi there! My name is Jacob, and I'm the founder of this Pet people blog that talks all about aquarium and fishkeeping. I've been passionate about fish and aquatic life since I was a kid, and I've spent countless hours learning about different species, their habitats, and how to create the perfect environment for them to thrive in.

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