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Fish of the Month
Issue: April 2011

Hypostomus plecostomus

(LINNAEUS 1758)

FOM T 0411

Tony Terceira

Common Names: Common pleco, janitor fish, pleco, plecostomus, sea hasar, spotted pleco, suckermouth catfish, etc. Also may be seen with one of its Spanish names: cacucho, coroncoro, corroncho, or cucha

Type Locality: Suriname

Range: South America: Guianan coastal drainages

Taxonomic Troubles: As is common with loricariids, there is a considerable tangling of taxonomy in this fish’s history in the hobby, not to mention the many other species that have been imported and thought to be this fish. This species was originally described as Acipenser

Size: 50 cm (20 inches).

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical freshwater. Comes from a wide range of water types and is extremely adaptable. Established populations are widespread in Florida’s canals, even in coastal, brackish-water ones.

Difficulty: A tough-as-nails species. Few purchasers realize the vast size it will reach. As they grow they become quite territorial, though they are not extremely aggressive about it.

Tank Setup: At almost 2 feet long, this fish requires a very large tank. The typical 55-gallon aquarium isn’t going to get close to doing the job. A lair—driftwood, stone cave, PVC pipe, etc.—will be used as a daytime resting spot. The fish’s territoriality generally

Feeding: Ominvorous. Will feed on algae, but also on plants, invertebrates, small fish, and just about any fresh or prepared foods. Should receive mostly plant material. Make sure to provide sufficient foods, even if it requires target feeding or feeding after lig

Breeding: Not usually spawned in aquaria, but it is produced in quantity in ponds, both in Southeast Asia and in Florida. The fish dig tunnels in mud banks to create a nesting chamber. They have been known to drain earthen ponds with their excavations.

Description: Attractively spotted over the entire body and fins, with a prominent dorsal fin, this fish is often photographed out of the water, being held by its snout between thumb and fingers. This causes it to flare its fins fully while protecting the holder from their substantial spines. Usually a specimen is seen hiding in a dark corner, fins clamped, appearing a dusky brown, or else zipping across the tank and disappearing under cover.

Notes: Sold by the thousands as babies to unwitting aquarists for algae control in small community tanks, the fish that survive grow into plant-shredding, tankmate-harassing tankbusters, literally—large specimens sometimes dash into the aquarium glass when startled, cracking it. Due to the large number of species, many similar and many undescribed, identification of loricariids is always a problem, and various other species are also sold as common plecos, especially other Hypostomus and fish in the genus Pterygoplichthys. Nocturnal, territorial, and huge, this fish is ill suited to most aquaria. However, it can make a great display specimen in a very large community setup, where it will make nighttime forays, feeding on algae and leftover foods.

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