Kariba Lake Shoreline

The Upside Down Catfish or Brown Squeaker

Upside Down Catfish or Plain Squeaker Fish

The Synodontis, Upside Down Catfish or Squeaker is the largest genus in the catfish family.

We will be specifically talking about the Synodontis Zambezensis as this species of squeaker fish is found in Lake Kariba.

It is commonly known as the brown squeaker, the korokoro, or the plain squeaker. It is a species of upside down catfish, called so as it swims belly up at times.

It was first written about in 1852 by a German explorer and naturalist named Wilhelm Peters. He found the first specimens in the Zambezi River in Mozambique.

That is why this species is named zambezensis. It is derived from the Zambezi River where it was first discovered.

Brown Squeaker Scientific Classification

Common Name:Brown Squeaker
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Actinopterygii
Order:Siluriformes
Family:Mochokidae
Genus:Synodontis
Species:Synodontis zambezensis

Where Are The Brown Squeaker Found?

The brown squeaker is native to the middle and lower Zambezi River system.

These include the countries of Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, they are commonly found in the beautiful Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world.

What Does The Synodontis Zambezensis Look Like?

This squeaker fish is not as good-looking and fancy-looking as some of the other squeaker family who can look quite exotic. The brown sqeaker is just that, brown with maybe a few spots now and then.

However, all squeakers have a hardened head cap which is situated behind the gill opening and pointed towards the posterior.

The Brown Squeaker is identified by three spines, one dorsal and two lateral. The dorsal and pectoral fins have a hardened, serrated first ray with a forked caudal fin.

The fish has three pairs of barbels that are very flexible. These enable them to search for food and warn other competitors away.

The squeaker has short cone-shaped teeth in the upper jaw. In the lower jaw or mandible, there are 20 to 35 teeth.

They are identified by their olive-brown or gray color, with or without small or larger black spots.

The spines are also said to be poisonous.

The Upside Down Catfish

Size And Life Span of The Brown Squeaker

This catfish size is fairly small having a maximum length of 43 cm and a maximum weight of approximately 820 grams.

The growth rate is very quick in the first year of life, then slows as the fish matures.

This species lifespan ranges between 8 to 10 years. 

The Behavior of Synodontis Zambezensis

The species are often found in pools and slower-flowing areas of rivers. They shelter, often upside-down, in any holes, and cracks present. The protection of the underside of logs is also sought.

The fish are omnivores and feed on plant matter such as seeds. They also favor small invertebrates like insects and snails, insect larvae, and algae.

The common thought on why the squeaker swims upside-down is to catch insects from the water surface. Surface algae is another food they ingest this way.

They are generally more active at night, and this is when most squeakers are caught.

The reason these fish are called “squeakers” is that they emanate a squeaking sound. This sound is used as a warning to both predators and competitors during spawning season.

The squeaking is created by 2 body parts. They rub the spines of the pectoral fins into the grooves on the shoulders.
By moving the two lateral spines rapidly in their socket, a squeaking sound is emitted.

Brown Squeaker Reproduction

The reproductive habits of most of the species of Synodontis are not well-known.

Spawning generally seems to occur during the flooding season between July and October.

It also appears that breeding pairs swim together during the spawning period.

Conservation Status of The Kariba Upside Down Catfish

According to the IUCN Red List, the “Synodontis Zambezensis” is in the Least of Concern category.

This means that is far from being an endangered species.

This largely due to their wide distribution.

Fishing For The Brown Squeaker

Your opposition when fishing this species will be the crocodile and voracious Tiger fish. They are a favorite of these two species.

Most squeakers are caught on the worm – mainly by accident while fishing for other varieties of Kariba fish species.

The spines can inflict a painful wound when handled. A wound can easily become septic if not treated straight away. These spines can also cause fatal injuries to the unwary predator.

Some anglers remove the spines with a knife or side cutters before handling the fish to avoid injury.

When caught, you will most likely hear the squeaking of the indignant catch.

If you are interested in a fishing trip to Lake Kariba, a houseboat is the best way to experience the lake and enjoy your fishing experience.

The Abangane is an open-air double-decker with a crew and chef. View more information here.

In Conclusion

The Brown Squeaker or upside down fish is an oddity in Lake Kariba, but fun to catch.

Its ability to use sound to communicate and warn its fellow mates during spawning season is impressive.

The Brown Squeaker is surprisingly tasty. Although this fish when caught seldom exceeds 500grams in weight.

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