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Catfish / Loricariidae / Plecostomus

Plecostomus, Suckermouth Catfish, Pleco
Hypostomus plecostomus


Synonyms: Plecostomus punctatus, numerous others have been used in the past.
Physical description: It is covered everywhere but the belly with large bony plates. The head is large, broad, and flat. The mouth is located on the underside of the head and is shaped like a suction cup. It has one pair of barbels. The color varies depending on the age, species, and environment the individual came from. Usually the body has a base color of light brown to black. The fish can be spotted, striped, splotched, or one solid color. The fins are the same color as the rest of the body. The dorsal fin stands tall when erect.
Size/Length: to 24" (60 cm)
Similar species: Other Hypostomus species and Pterygoplichthys species.
Habitat: In fast-flowing streams and rivers with pebbly substrate in South-Eastern and Southern Brazil, Venezuela, Rio de la Plata, and Trinidad.
S: bottom (substrate dependent)
Aquarium: 20" (60 cm) or 10 gallons (38 L) is sufficient for young individuals, those under 4" (10 cm). Eventually they must be moved to larger tanks. The tank should have open swimming areas and hiding places of rocks, wood, caves, and wood. This fish will eat plants.
Water chemistry: pH 5-8.4 (7.0), 1-30 dH (10), 66-86°F (19-30°C)
Social behavior: A peaceful fish that can be kept in a community tank with small to large fish, including cichlids. Does not get along with own species. Each fish sets up territories to defend. Young fish can be kept together while adults become aggressively territorial.
Suggested companions: South and Central American cichlids, gouramis, rainbowfish, larger tetras and characins, Pimelodus, larger barbs, larger livebearers, Corydoras
FOOD: Mostly algae, but sometimes vegetables; spinach, lettuce, peas; live; worms, crustaceans, insect larvae; fruit; tablets; flake. May graze plants if not feed sufficient amounts.
Sexual differences: Unknown
Breeding techniques: Unsuccessful in an aquarium. Observed in fish over 12" (30 cm). Plecostomus are bred in mass quantities in Singapore, Florida, and Hong Kong in large ponds with steep sides. A pair will dig a burrow, in which, they spawn about 300 eggs. The ponds are drained and the parents and their young are removed. This fish is also often bred in Bangkok in fish hatcheries.
Breeding potential: 10. Breeding has not been successful in aquaria.
Remarks: If fish does not get enough algae or green foods, it will nibble plants. This species reaches larger size in wild. Eaten in native countries. It grows slowly and is long-lived (over 15 years). Hypostomus plecostomus and Hypostomus punctatus are used interchangeably in most aquarium stores. There is an albino variation widely available. There are over 120 other Hypostomus species that are sold as Hypostomus plecostomus. This species can pinch with its pointed teeth and also make holes in plastic bags. The Plecostomus can store air in its intestine, thus allowing it to survive in poor conditions.
Difficulty of care: 2. This species is easily cared for as long as their is plenty of algae and/or other supplementary foods. Be aware that the Plecostomus reaches a large size and requires a large tank with age.


By Rhett Butler   Mongabay.com