Synonyms: Ancistrus multiradiatus var. alternans, Pterygoplichthys anisitsi, P. alternans, P. juvens
Physical description: This Pleco 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 body has a base color of white with an overlaying black pattern. The fins are the same color as the rest of the body. The dorsal fin stands tall when erect. The pattern and contrast of colors becomes intensified with age.
Size/Length: To 24" (61 cm)
Similar species: Pterygoplichthys species and Hypostomus species.
Habitat: South America; this catfish is found in a range of different environments along the Paraguay River of Brazil and Paraguay. Often it lives in stagnant pools that dry up in the dry season. This catfish takes refuge in a burrow and waits, without water, until the rains return.
Aquarium: 28" (70 cm) or 20-25 gallons (75-98 l) is suitable only for small specimens, under 5" (13 cm). Since these fish grow to a large size, they must be eventually moved to a large, roomy tank (exceeding 60" or 90 gallons). See P. gibbiceps for other specifications.
Water chemistry: pH 6.5-8.2 (7.2), 2-28 dH (12), 66-79°F (19-26°C)
Social behavior: A peaceful fish that can be kept in a community tank with medium to large fish, including cichlids. Do not combine with small fish as they may be eaten. The Snow King Pleco is very aggressive towards its own and similar looking species.
Suggested companions: Large characins, South and Central American cichlids, Pimelodids
FOOD: Algae; vegetables; spinach, lettuce, peas; live; crustaceans, worms; tablets.
Sexual differences: Unknown
Breeding techniques: Not possible in captivity because of the conditions required. The Snow King is commercially bred in Florida in large dirt ponds. The Snow King Plec will dig a tunnel (up to 39" or 1 meter long) just above the water level. A pair will spawn in this cavity and the male will guard the brood. When the fry hatch they are deserted.
Breeding potential: 10. This Pleco has not been bred in aquaria.
Remarks: If fish does not get enough algae or "green foods," it will nibble plants. Wild caught specimen have a more stunning contrast of colors. Often sold as a "Common Plecostomus" in the United States. In stagnant water conditions with little dissolved oxygen, the Snow King Plec, like other Plecos, can intake atmospheric oxygen, and store it in its intestine. Many of the large loricarids are said to leave scratch marks on Plexiglass tanks.
Difficulty of care: 4. A hardy, long-lived catfish, that must be kept in a large tank.