Hypostomus plecostomus

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Suckermouth catfish
Conservation status
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Loricariidae
Genus: Hypostomus
Species: H. plecostomus
Binomial name
Hypostomus plecostomus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Acipenser plecostomus Linnaeus, 1758[1]
Hypostomus guacari Lacepède, 1803[2]
Loricaria flava Shaw, 1804[3]
Plecostomus bicirrosus Gronow, 1854[4]
Plecostomus brasiliensis Bleeker, 1864[5]
Plecostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758)[6]
Pterygoplichthys plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758)[6]

Hypostomus plecostomus, the suckermouth catfish or common pleco, is a tropical fish belonging to the armored catfish family (Loricariidae), named for the armor-like longitudinal rows of scutes that cover the upper parts of the head and body (the lower surface of head and abdomen is naked). Although the name Hypostomus plecostomus is often used to refer to common plecostomi sold in aquarium shops, most are actually members of other genera.[7]

Suckermouth catfish are of little or no value as a food fish, although they are at least occasionally consumed over their native range.[citation needed] A demand exists for them, however, in the aquarium trade.[citation needed]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species' native range is tropical South America; it naturally occurs in Brazil, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname though it has been widely introduced to several countries around the world.[8] H. plecostomus occur in the wild in fresh running waters and brackish waters of river mouths.[9]

H. plecostomus have been introduced into some areas of Southern United States, most likely released by aquarists into the local waters. For example, they are present in a lake in the neighborhood of Hammock Trace Preserve in Melbourne, FL. In Texas, reproducing populations occur in spring-influenced habitats of the San Antonio River (Bexar County), Comal Springs (Comal County), San Marcos River (Hays County), and San Felipe Creek (Val Verde County).[10][11]

They have also been introduced to several Asian countries. Suckermouth catfish are often cultured in ponds in Singapore and Hong Kong, where they are very popular for the aquarium trade.[citation needed]

In the aquarium[edit]

H. plecostomus is one of a number of species commonly referred to as "plecostomus" or "common pleco" by aquarists. The suckermouth catfish is named for its sucker-like mouth, which allows it to adhere to a surface, as well as to hold and rasp at food. These fish are sold when they are young and small, but they can grow to be a maximum size of 50 centimetres (20 in).[12]

In the aquarium, this dark-colored, bottom-feeding, nocturnal catfish is often purchased for its ability to clean algae from fish tanks. Being nocturnal, they usually avoid light and like to hide in dark places, coming out to feed at night. However, in aquaria, they can learn to be active in the daytime. They can tolerate a range of conditions. In their natural habitat, this species feeds on algae, aquatic weeds and other plant matter and small crustaceans. While vigorous algae eaters when they are young and small, as they grow, they begin to phase out algae in favor of aquatic plants and other larger foods, and cannot thrive on a diet of only algae. Their diet should be supplemented with blanched leafy green vegetables such as romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach, as well as commercial sinking tablet food designed for herbivores, such as algae wafers, and small portions of meaty foods, such as whole table shrimp or krill. While respectable algae consumers when young, their large size and appetites actually make them impractical in this role except for very large aquariums. Indeed, the large amount of waste an adult produces may actually help feed algae and fuel more growth. Due to the excessive growth of the fish, it is strongly advised that only aquarists with an aquarium 45 gallons or larger keep this fish as an aquatic pet. Their role is better filled in the average hobbyists aquarium by invertebrates such as Caridina multidentata and various species of snails, or simply with regular maintenance with an algae scraping implement. Otocinclus spp. and Ancistrus spp. are related Loricariids, which are more suitable for algae-consuming purposes in the average hobbyists aquarium.


Due to the adult size of these catfish, most successful breedings have occurred in ponds with steep clay or mud banks. They dig tunnels close to the water level[citation needed] and the males guard the eggs until they hatch.

Common names[edit]

A large variety of common names are used to describe H. plecostomus, where plecostomus and the shortened "pleco" are interchangeable in all common names. The names include:

  • common algae sucker/eater
  • common pleco
  • janitor fish[13]
  • municipal fish - 'ikan bandaraya' in Malaysian
  • spotted pleco[13]
  • sucker fish
  • suckermouth catfish[13]
  • sucking catfish[13]

Most of these common names are used for other species, as well, which only serves to augment the confusion surrounding H. plecostomus and other Loricariidae such as H. punctatus, Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus and P. pardalis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Stolkholm (Holmiae): Laurence Salvius (Laurentii Salvii). p. 238. 
  2. ^ Lacepède, B. G. E. (1803). Histoire naturelle des poissons, volume 5. Hureau & Monod. pp. 144–145, plate 4 (fig. 2). 
  3. ^ Shaw, George (1804). General zoology or systematic natural history, volume 5, part 1. London: G. Kearsley. pp. 38, plate 101. 
  4. ^ Gronow, Laurence Theodore (1854). Catalogue of fish. London: Woodfall and Kinder. p. 158. 
  5. ^ Bleeker, Pieter (1864). Natuurkundige Verhandelingen van de Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen te Haarlem, series 2, volume 20: Description des espèces de Silures de Suriname, conservées aux Musées de Leide et d'Amsterdam. Haarlem: De Erven Loosjes. p. 7. 
  6. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, (eds.). "Synonyms of Hypostomus plecostomus". FishBase. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Hypostomus plecostomus". Cat-eLog. PlanetCatfish. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Hypostomus plecostomus" in FishBase. December 2011 version.
  9. ^ Schaefer, Scott A. (1987-12-18). "Osteology of Hypostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus), with a phylogenetic analysis of the loricariid subfamilies (Pisces: Siluroidei)". Contributions in Science (Natural History Museum Los Angeles County) 394: 4. ISSN 0459-8113. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Pound, Katrina L.; Nowlin, Weston H.; Huffman, David G.; Bonner, Timothy H. (18 November 2010). "Trophic ecology of a nonnative population of suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus) in a central Texas spring-fed stream". Environmental Biology of Fishes 90 (3): 277–285. doi:10.1007/s10641-010-9741-7. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Shafland, P. L. (1976). "The Continuing Problem of Non-Native Fishes in Florida". Fisheries 1 (6): 24. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Hypostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758) Suckermouth catfish - FishBase
  13. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, (eds.). "Common names of Hypostomus plecostomus". FishBase. Retrieved 28 October 2011.