Plecostomus is a group of catfish belonging to the Kolchuzhny family. Today it is the most popular catfish among amateur aquarists, and there are more than 150 species in total. The most sought after member of this family is called the common plecostomus and can grow up to 60 cm in length.

Species origin and description

Photo: Plecostomus

Photo: Plecostomus

Plecostomus was first recorded in Texas in the upper reaches of the San Antonio River (Bexar County) in 1962. It has also been spotted in several other watersheds in Texas, including Comal Springs (Comal County), San Marcos (Hayes County), San Felipe Creek (Val Verde County), and White Oak Bayou. Since the discovery in the San Felipe Creek, the population of plecostomos has increased dramatically.

In China, plecostomus was reported in the Huizhou segment of the Dongjiang River in 2007. Some researchers have reported that Plecostomus was introduced into the country's aquatic habitat in 1990, but did not provide any further details. In Colombia, introduced plecostomus populations are well known in the human-affected upper basin of the Cauca River. It was the most common type of fish caught. Plecostomus was brought to Colombia from Guyana.

Video: Plecostomus

Most plecostomuses are native to South America, in particular to the Amazon basin. They can survive in a wide variety of habitats, with most living in the fast-flowing, rocky streams and rivers that flow through rainforests. This water tends to move quickly and is littered with driftwood and plants; you will find them hiding among them by day. However, some can be found in brackish estuaries.

It is important to remember that each species is unique and none of them require the same habitat or aquarium setup. Thus, you must carefully study the needs of the particular breed you wish to keep. An example of this is the size of the aquarium. Smaller plecostomuses can survive in a 10 liter tank, while larger species require a minimum of 100 liters. To date, more than 150 different species of plecostomus have been found, however not all of them can be found in an aquarium.

Below is a list of the most popular aquarium plecostomos:

  • ancistre catfish (Ancistrus sp.);
  • golden plecostomus (Baryancistrus sp.);
  • zebra plecostomus (Hypancistrus zebra);
  • clown plecostomus (Panaqolus maccus) ;
  • sailfish plecostomus (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps);
  • snow globe plecostomus (Hypancistrus inspector);
  • royal plecostomus (Panaque nigrolineatus).

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a plecostomus looks like

Photo: What a plecostomus looks like

Most plecostomuses are brown in color, however the coloration of certain species depends on their habitat. Most of them also have sand spots or patterns.

Fun fact: Plecostomos are called “armored catfish” because they have large bony plates that cover their body.

One of the unique things to know about them — their mouths; this is what makes them so effective at cleaning up algae. As for their appearance, in the wild they grow up to 60 cm in length, in the aquarium — up to 38 cm

Like other members of the family, they have an elongated body covered with four rows of bony plates. Bone plates are absent on the abdomen. They have well developed dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins. The dorsal fin has one coarse ray and seven soft rays. The anal fin has one coarse ray and 3-5 soft rays.

The body of plecostomuses is gray with brown spots and patterns. They have a large head with small eyes that are set high on the head. Interestingly, they have a membrane that covers their eyes, which allows them to control the effect of light on their eyes. One of the most interesting things about this fish — her tail fin; it is shaped like a moon, the bottom is longer than the top.

Where does the plecostomus live?

Photo: Plecostomus in the water

Photo: Plecostomus in the water

Plecostomus catfish are found in the fresh and brackish waters of the coastal drains of the Guianas of Brazil and Venezuela, as well as in the Rio de la Plata between Uruguay and Argentina. They prefer fast streams and rivers with a pebbly substrate. This species is considered highly adaptable and has been identified in the Gulf of Mexico, presumably introduced by aquarists. They are considered invasive in Texas.

They occupy a wide range of habitats, although a number of species have very limited ranges and are found only in certain parts of specific rivers. Many plecostomuses live in fast-flowing shallow streams and rivers, others live in acidic black water, and still others prefer quiet, brackish estuaries. In high flow areas, they use their suckers to attach themselves to rocks and flooded trees, and thus avoid drifting downstream.

Plecostomus are commonly found in soft, low pH water in the wild, however many species sold today are commercially farmed and tolerate a much wider range of water chemistry. pH 7.0 to 8.0, alkalinity 3° to 10° dKH (54 to 180 ppm) and temperature 23 to 27°C will be adequate for most captive bred species.

Now Do you know where the plecostomus fish lives? Let's see what this fish eats.

What does the plecostomus eat?

Photo: Plecostomus catfish

Photo: Plecostomus catfish

Most plecostomuses are sold as “algae eaters”, which would lead you to believe they are herbivores; however, most are carnivorous and can feed on small fish, invertebrates, and crustaceans. Some species also feed on wood, so make sure you research the exact species you are interested in carefully to make sure you meet their dietary requirements.

As for the common plecostomus, a common misconception is that they can live exclusively on algae. This is not true, because such a diet actually leads to the depletion of the fish, and is very harmful to their health. Their diet should consist of vegetables and algae; sometimes they can eat meat/live food. It is recommended that high quality pellets form the basis of a Plecostomus diet.

Plecostomus can be fed the following vegetables:

  • lettuce;
  • zucchini;
  • spinach;
  • peeled peas;
  • cucumbers.

From living food suitable:

  • blood worms ;
  • earthworms;
  • crustaceans;
  • larvae.

It is important to remember that plecostomuses require a lot of fiber in their diet; Feeding them plenty of vegetables helps to meet this animal need. You also need to make sure they always have access to driftwood, which can help with their digestion. For best results, feed your Plecostomus a variety of high quality foods and change your fish's diet daily. In terms of eating habits, plecostomuses are nocturnal. Thus, they eat best in the evening, before you turn off the light in the aquarium.

Character and Lifestyle Features

Photo: Plecostomus fish

Photo: Plecostomus fish

The first thing to know about this fish is that it is nocturnal. This means you won't see much activity during the day. During the daytime they can appear timid and you will most likely find them hiding among the plants and caves inside your tank.

When they are active, you will notice that they are bottom fish and will move slowly along the bottom of the aquarium. Moving slowly over it, they do an excellent job of cleaning up the algae in the aquarium. You will also notice that they use suction cups and attach themselves to glass or rocks in the aquarium. It is important to note here that although they will feed on algae, their diet should not consist of only algae. Many pet stores advertise them as algae eaters, which is dangerous because they need different food.

Plecostomuses generally have a friendly disposition, and are quite peaceful when young and can be kept in a community aquarium. Ideal neighbors of plecostomuses are cichlids, macropods (guramiidae), tetras and other types of fish. But even at a young age, you should avoid placing it with discus and angelfish, as plecostomuses are known to encroach on them.

Fun Fact: Any smaller aquarium mates shouldn't be able to fit in a plecostomus' mouth; if possible, such fish will very quickly become his dinner.

As the plecostomus ages, it will quickly outgrow other fish and should be kept in its own aquarium without neighbors.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Plecostomus

Photo: Plecostomus

Unfortunately, reproduction of Plecostomus is known little, and even less is known about their reproduction in an aquarium. What is well known is that they are very difficult to breed in captivity. Usually plecostomus does not breed in aquariums, but is produced in some quantities in ponds, for example, in Southeast Asia and Florida.

They are oviparous animals, in the wild they usually spawn in caves made of driftwood or stones. Plecostomuses lay large volumes of eggs on flat surfaces. They are known to drain earthen ponds with their excavations. In Texas, the burrows of these animals are 1.2-1.5 m deep. The burrows are usually located on steep slopes with soils containing almost no gravel, and they are especially noticeable in heavily disturbed urban ponds. The male guards the cave or burrow until the eggs hatch.

The total fecundity of plecostomuses is approximately 3000 eggs. The fecundity of female fish from the San Marcos River in Texas ranged from 871 to 3367 eggs. Plecostomuses are believed to spawn several times over a long period. Several sizes of oocytes have been recorded in Texas, indicating multiple spawning events. The spawning season, based on gonadosomatic indicators, lasts from March to September. In their native range, Plecostomus also exhibit long spawning periods in excess of 5 months, which usually coincides with the warm, rainy season.

Plecostomus fry should frequently feed on high protein foods such as worms, salted nauplii shrimp, algae tablets or disc type food. For intentional spawning, a separate aquarium should be set up and aquarists should feed them live or frozen foods for several weeks to condition them.

Fun Fact: The average lifespan of a Plecostomus is 10 to 15 years.

Plecostomus Natural Enemies

Photo : What a plecostomus looks like

Photo: What a plecostomus looks like

Plecostomus species can be consumed by birds (cormorants, herons, and pelicans), alligators, crocodiles, otters, water snakes, freshwater turtles, and predatory fish, including large catfish and largehorn bass.

Many predators have difficulty swallowing plecostomuses due to the fish's spikes and body armor, and birds (pelicans) have been observed to die trying to swallow large individuals. An adaptation to reduce predation is the defensive posture exhibited by these fish when mistreated or threatened: the spinal fins are stable and the fins are widened, making the fish larger and thus more difficult for enemies to swallow.

Fun fact: The name “plecostomus” is Latin for “folded mouth”, referring to the sucker-like mouth of this catfish that sits under its head.

But most often, plecostomuses themselves are enemies for other fish. For example, the dyonda diaboli (Devil's River) and the eteostoma fontikola (Darter Fountain) are endangered due to exposure to plecostomos. These species compete with each other for the right to monopolize resources, and the hero of our story undoubtedly wins this battle.

Population and species status

Photo : Plecostomus fish

Photo: Plecostomus Fish

Texas' largest Plecostomus population is in San Felipe Bay, Val Verde County. Since the discovery in this place, the population has increased dramatically with a simultaneous decrease in the native species that feed on algae. The headwaters of the San Antonio River, Bexar County, Texas, has had a large population of this species for over 50 years.

In Florida, plecostomus is the most successful, abundant, and widespread species, with populations spread throughout central and southern Florida. In comparison, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (2015) stated that the plecostomus population, despite having been in Florida since the 1950s, is not widespread, occurring mainly in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties. . Adult densities of introduced plecostomus populations are estimated to be high in habitats disturbed by anthropogenic factors, such as reservoirs, urban streams, city ponds, and canals.

The impact of plecostomus on aquatic biodiversity has been observed as a result of the introduction of their populations in Texas ( the San Antonio and San Marcos Rivers and the San Felipe Creek). Plecostomus can compete for resources (food and habitat) with sympatric fish and aquatic organisms, disturb nests, eat native fish eggs, and disrupt food flows and nutrient cycling in aquatic habitats.

Plecostomus can monopolize food resources in the San Marcos River due to the rapid maturation of the species, high density and longevity. The large size and high density of the animals may represent a significant phosphorus sink in the oligotrophic system of the San Marcos River. This can lead to a decrease in primary productivity in the form of a reduction in algal crops, which in turn can affect the secondary productivity of permanent crops. In the San Antonio River, Plecostomus is involved in reducing the abundance of the central stonenoller, which eats the algae Camppostoma anomalum.

Plecostomus is a very popular species in fish tanks. He is mainly an algae eater, but also likes to eat meat food. They are sometimes referred to as “garbage scavengers” because of the wide variety of foods and the cleaning process they produce at the bottom of aquariums. It should be remembered that this fish is completely nocturnal and has a special eyelid that protects its vision in sunlight.

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