Lake Malawi syno Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: October 25, 2022

Lake Malawi syno catfish are a beautiful and peaceful freshwater fish that make a great addition to any aquarium.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Lake Malawi syno care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

Lake Malawi syno (scientific name: Synodontis nebulosus) is a type of freshwater catfish that’s native to, you guessed it, Lake Malawi.

This lake is one of the biggest freshwater lakes in the world and is home to a wide variety of fish and other aquatic life.

The syno is a bottom-dweller that feeds on smaller fish, crustaceans, and insects. They are relatively peaceful but can be aggressive toward their own species.

These fish are popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique appearance. They have a “saddle” pattern on their backs that is reminiscent of a zebra, which is why they are sometimes called zebra syno.


Lake Malawi syno

The first thing you’ll notice about this fish is their unique patterning. They have a light base color that’s broken up by bold stripes that run horizontally across their body.

The amount of stripes and their thickness will vary depending on the particular variety of Lake Malawi syno. Some have just a few thick stripes while others have many thin ones.

The colors of these stripes can also vary. They can be brown, black, blue, or any combination thereof.

This freshwater fish has a torpedo-shaped body that’s relatively long and thin. They have a moderate-sized dorsal fin that starts about two-thirds of the way back on their body.

Their anal and caudal fins are both forked and of similar size. The pectoral fins are rather small in comparison to the other fins.

Lake Malawi syno have large eyes that really stand out on their heads. They also have a protruding lower jaw that gives them a bit of an underbite.


Lake Malawi syno catfish have a lifespan of around 10 years. They are a very long-lived species of fish, which is great news for anyone who wants to keep them as pets.

As with any fish, though, there are a number of variables that can impact their lifespan. Things like water quality, diet, and stress all play a role in how long these fish will live.


Lake Malawi syno can grow to be about 12 inches long.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for Lake Malawi cichlids is at least 50 gallons. This is for a single fish, so if you want to keep a group you’ll need an even larger tank.

As a general rule of thumb, you should add an additional 10-20 gallons for each additional fish you plan on keeping. So, if you want to keep a group of 5 fish you’ll need a minimum of a 100 gallon tank.

Water Parameters

Synodontis are a diverse genus of nocturnal freshwater fish native to Africa. As a result, they occur in a wide range of habitats and have adapted to a variety of different water conditions.

In the aquarium, it’s best to provide synos with water parameters that are as close to their natural habitat as possible. This will help reduce stress and keep them healthy.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when setting up a synodontis aquarium.

  • Water temperature: 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 19 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 3-10 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

If you’re keeping Lake Malawi syno in an aquarium, there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

The first is that they’re going to need a lot of space. A good rule of thumb is at least 50 gallons per fish. If you’re keeping them in a smaller tank than this they’re likely to become aggressive.

The second is that you need to provide them with hiding places. These fish are very skittish and will spend a lot of time hiding if they feel exposed.

We recommend using a lot of rocks and caves to give them plenty of places to hide. You can also use driftwood and plants, but be careful with the latter since they might eat them.

The substrate you use is also important. Lake Malawi syno are known to dig, so you’ll want something that’s soft and won’t hurt their delicate fins.

Last but not least, make sure the water in their tank is clean and well-filtered. These fish are very sensitive to water quality and will get sick quickly if the conditions aren’t right.

Common Diseases

Lake Malawi syno cats are a pretty hardy bunch and don’t usually get sick too often. However, there are a few illnesses that they’re more prone to than others.

The most common one is definitely ich. This is a parasitic infection that’s pretty much ubiquitous in the freshwater world. It’s not lethal, but it can make your fish uncomfortable and can lead to other problems if left untreated.

The best way to deal with ich is to raise the temperature of the water in your tank. This will speed up the life cycle of the parasite and eventually kill it off.

You’ll also want to do a full water change and vacuum the gravel to get rid of any eggs that might be present.

Another disease that these fish are prone to is swim bladder disease. This is a condition that affects the swim bladder, and it can be caused by a number of different things.

The most common cause is constipation, which can be caused by a diet that’s high in protein and low in fiber. This condition can also be caused by infection, trauma, or tumors.

The best way to prevent swim bladder disease is to make sure your fish are getting a well-rounded diet. A diet that’s high in fiber is always a good idea, and you should avoid overfeeding your fish as well.

If you think your fish might be constipated, you can try feeding them a pea (with the shell removed, of course). This will usually help them to pass any blockage that might be present.

Behavior & Temperament

Lake Malawi syno are peaceful fish that do well in groups. They are active swimmers and will often swim in pairs or small groups. They are not territorial and do not have a hierarchy like some other fish species.

Lake Malawi syno are known to be good jumpers, so it is important to have a lid on your tank. They are also known to be nippy, so they may not do well with fish that have long fins.

Tank Mates

Lake Malawi cichlids are some of the most popular fish in the hobby. They’re colorful, active, and make a great addition to any freshwater aquarium.

The biggest challenge with these fish is finding compatible tank mates. Lake Malawi cichlids are known for being aggressive. If you don’t choose carefully, you could end up with a tank full of fish that are constantly fighting.

To make things easier, we’ve put together a list of potential tank mates for Lake Malawi cichlids. These are all peaceful fish that can hold their own in an aggressive aquarium.

  • Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Platies
  • Swordtails
  • Rainbows
  • Danios
  • Rasboras
  • Barb


Lake Malawi cichlids are one of the easiest groups of fish to breed. The main reason for this is that they’re mouthbrooders. The female will take care of the eggs and fry in her mouth until they’re ready to be on their own.

This gives you a lot of leeway in terms of setting up the breeding tank. You don’t need to worry about fancy setups orlive plants. In fact, you don’t need to do much of anything.

As long as you have a tank that’s at least 30 gallons and has a good quality filter, you’re good to go. The female will lay her eggs on a flat surface, so you may want to add a piece of slate or a ceramic tile to the tank.

When it comes to stocking the tank, you need to be careful. Lake Malawi cichlids can be aggressive, so you need to make sure that you have a good ratio of males to females. A good rule of thumb is to have one male for every three females.

You also need to make sure that the fish are of similar sizes. If you have fish that are too small, they may become dinner for the others.

Once you have the tank set up and the fish acclimated, it’s time to let nature take its course. The female will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. Then, she’ll scoop them up into her mouth and incubate them for about three weeks.

During that time, you don’t need to do anything. Just make sure that the water quality is good and the female has enough to eat.

After three weeks, the fry will be ready to be on their own. At that point, you can remove the adults and start feeding the fry baby brine shrimp or other small live foods.


Synodontis care can be easy once you learn about the basics.

This fish is a great addition to a community tank and will do well with other peaceful fish.

They’re also relatively easy to care for, which is always a bonus.

Overall, we think the Synodontis is a great choice for any aquarist looking for a new fish!