Hypostomus plecostomus

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Hypostomus plecostomus
Picture of an individual from the Commewijne River Basin, published along with the 2012 revision of the Hypostomus plecostomus type series[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Loricariidae
Subfamily: Hypostominae
Tribe: Hypostomini
Genus: Hypostomus
H. plecostomus
Binomial name
Hypostomus plecostomus

Acipenser plecostomus Linnaeus, 1758
Hypostomus guacari Lacepède, 1803
Loricaria flava Shaw, 1804
Plecostomus bicirrosus Gronow, 1854
Plecostomus brasiliensis Bleeker, 1864
Plecostomus plecostomus Linnaeus, 1758
Pterygoplichthys plecostomus Linnaeus, 1758

Hypostomus plecostomus, also known as the suckermouth catfish or the common pleco, is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the armored catfish family (Loricariidae), named for the longitudinal rows of armor-like scutes that cover the upper parts of the head and body (the lower surface of head and abdomen is naked soft skin). Although the name Hypostomus plecostomus is often used to refer to common plecostomus sold in aquarium shops, most are actually members of other genera.[3][1]

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, as a bottom cleaner in the aquarium trade.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species' native range is tropical northeastern South America; it naturally occurs in northeastern Brazil, the Guianas, and Trinidad and Tobago.[5] Confusingly, the name Hypostomus plecostomus (or Plecostomus plecostomus) has sometimes been incorrectly used for several more-or-less similar loricariid catfishes, both in the popular and scientific literature. For example, it has sometimes been suggested that it occurs in southern Central America, but this is an entirely separate species, Hemiancistrus aspidolepis (also known under another synonym, Hypostomus panamensis).[6][7]

The invasive Pterygoplichthys pardalis has been repeatedly erroneously reported as H. plecostomus, though the latter species is restricted to the rivers of the Guianas.[1]

Some Loricariidae species have been widely introduced to several countries around the world and reported as H. plecostomus.[5] It is erroneous,[1] and the concerned species belong to the genus Pterygoplichthys (either P. pardalis,[8] P. disjunctivus,[9] P. anisitsi[10] or P. multiradiatus[11]). In the United States, a Pterygoplichthys species has been introduced to some regions in the South, 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, Florida. 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), as well as in drainage canals in the Rio Grande Valley and Houston.[12][13]

The same identification issues have spread in the literature regarding the invasive catfishes in Taiwan, with H. plecostomus being one of the numerous names used to designate the species: DNA studies showed the alien fishes were actually P. pardalis and P. disjunctivus (that hybridise extensively).[14]

H. plecostomus prefer to live in water between 72 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (~22.2 to 30 degrees Celsius), with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5.[15]


Hypostomus plecostomus is named for its sucker-like mouth, which allows it to adhere to a surface, as well as to hold and rasp at food, including newly hatched and baby golden apple snails as well as Malaysian trumpet snails.[16] This omnivorous species also feeds on algae, aquatic plants, and small crustaceans.[17][citation needed]


Hypostomus plecostomus is one of many species of fish that is able to breathe air. Hypostomus plecostomus relies on its gills for respiration in normal and slightly hypoxic water, and the less oxygen present in the water, the more frequently it surfaces to breathe air.[18] The air is taken to the stomach where the oxygen is absorbed, and the air can be kept in the stomach to increase buoyancy, which may help it to feed on vegetation.[19]

In the aquarium[edit]

H. plecostomus is one of a number of species commonly referred to as "plecostomus" or "common pleco" by aquarists. These fish are sold when they are young and small, but in the wild, they can grow to be a maximum size of 50 centimetres (20 in).[20] In captivity, however, a full-grown Hypostomus plecostomus only reaches 15 inches (38 cm) on average, which could be explained by the subpar oxygen levels in most home aquaria and other practices of bad fish husbandry.[21] In the aquarium trade, this dark-colored, bottom-feeding, nocturnal catfish is often purchased for its ability to clean algae from fish tanks but also contributes a lot of waste to the nitrogen cycle. They are difficult for other fish to harass, both due to the semi-aggressive nature of the fish as well as its thick armor.[22]

Invasive species[edit]

In Bangladesh, the species, among some other suckermouth catfishes has become invasive. The government is currently on its way to impose a ban on the farming, hatchling production, breeding, marketing and trading of the fish.[23] It has also raised serious concern in India and Sri Lanka.[24]


Common names[edit]

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

  • algae sucker/eater
  • pez diablo (devil fish)[25][26]
  • pleco
  • janitor fish[27]
  • municipal fish – 'ikan bandaraya' in Malay
  • suckermouth catfish[27]
  • sweeper fish – 'ikan sapu sapu' in Indonesian
  • crocodile fish (not to be confused with Papilloculiceps longiceps, which is originally known as the crocodile fish or tentacled flathead)


The species' scientific name, Hypostomus plecostomus, is derived from the Latin hypo (meaning "under"), stoma (meaning "mouth"), and pleco (meaning "pleated").[citation needed]

Many of the common names used to identify Hypostomus plecostomus are also used for other species, which augments the confusion surrounding H. plecostomus and other Loricariidae such as H. punctatus, Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus and P. pardalis. In 2012, Weber, Covain, and Fisch-Muller showed the type series of Carl Linnaeus was heterogenous and comprised two species: H. plecostomus (for which the authors designate a lectotype) and H. watwata.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Weber, Claude; Covain, Raphaël; Fisch-Muller, Sonia (2012). "Identity of Hypostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758), with an overview of Hypostomus species from the Guianas (Teleostei: Siluriformes: Loricariidae)". Cybium. 36 (1): 195–227.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer. "Synonyms of Hypostomus plecostomus". FishBase. Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  3. ^ "Hypostomus plecostomus". Cat-eLog. PlanetCatfish. Archived from the original on 3 July 2021. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  4. ^ Sanders, Jessie. "Suckermouth Catfish Species Profile". thesprucepets.com. DotDash. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2011). "Hypostomus plecostomus" in FishBase. December 2011 version.
  6. ^ Bussing, W.A. (1998). Freshwater fishes of Costa Rica. Pp. 160–162. ISBN 978-9977-67-489-6.
  7. ^ Angulo, Arturo; Garita-Alvarado, Carlos A.; Bussing, William A.; López, Myrna I. (2013). "Annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of continental and insular Costa Rica: Additions and nomenclatural revisions". Check List. 9 (5): 987–1019. doi:10.15560/9.5.987.
  8. ^ Amazon Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis) – FactSheet Archived 2017-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  9. ^ Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish(Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus) – FactSheet Archived 2017-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  10. ^ Paraná Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys anisitsi) – FactSheet Archived 2017-10-13 at the Wayback Machine, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  11. ^ Orinoco Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus) – FactSheet Archived 2017-07-11 at the Wayback Machine, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  12. ^ 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" (PDF). Environmental Biology of Fishes. 90 (3): 277–285. doi:10.1007/s10641-010-9741-7. S2CID 2185296. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  13. ^ Shafland, P. L. (1976). "The Continuing Problem of Non-Native Fishes in Florida". Fisheries. 1 (6): 24. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  14. ^ Wu, Li-Wei; Chien-Chin, Liu; Si-Min, Lin (2011). "Identification of exotic sailfin catfish species (Pterygoplichthys, Loricariidae) in Taiwan based on morphology and mtDNA sequences". Zoological Studies. 50 (2): 235–246.
  15. ^ "Common Pleco Care: Diet, Size, Lifespan, Tank Size…". Aquarium Source. 11 July 2020. Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Care Guide for Plecos – The Mighty Armored Catfish". Aquariumcoop.com. Acquarium Co-Op. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Plecostomus". Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2016-04-25. Archived from the original on 2019-05-08. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  18. ^ Gill morphometry of the facultative air-breathing loricariid fish,Hypostomus plecostomus (Walbaum) with, special emphasis on aquatic respiration, Perna and Fernandes 1996 Fish Physiology and Biochemistry
  19. ^ The Transition to Air Breathing in Fishes:: I. Environmental Effects on the Facultative Air Breathing of Ancistrus Chagresi and Hypostomus Plecostomus Loricariidae. 1982   GRAHAM, J. B., & BAIRD, T. A.  https://journals.biologists.com/jeb/article/96/1/53/23365/The-Transition-to-Air-Breathing-in-Fishes-I
  20. ^ Hypostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758) Suckermouth catfish Archived 2014-10-03 at the Wayback Machine - FishBase
  21. ^ Momchil (4 April 2022). "How Big Do Plecos Get? (Full Adult Body Size)". Aquanswers. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  22. ^ "Common Pleco Care: Diet, Size, Lifespan, Tank Size…". Aquarium Source. 11 July 2020. Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  23. ^ Express, The Financial. "Bangladesh to ban 'suckermouth catfish' as it threatens aquatic biodiversity". The Financial Express. Retrieved 2022-11-17.
  24. ^ "The alien fish invading India's rivers and lakes". The Independent. 2022-04-12. Retrieved 2022-11-17.
  25. ^ "Fish jerky, anyone? Business hopes to sell Mexico's 'devil fish' to Canadians as sustainable snack | CBC News". Archived from the original on 2021-07-03. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
  26. ^ Orfinger, Alexander Benjamin; Douglas Goodding, Daniel (2018-02-14). "The Global Invasion of the Suckermouth Armored Catfish Genus Pterygoplichthys (Siluriformes: Loricariidae): Annotated List of Species, Distributional Summary, and Assessment of Impacts". Zoological Studies. 57 (57): e7. doi:10.6620/ZS.2018.57-07. ISSN 1021-5506. PMC 6517723. PMID 31966247.
  27. ^ a b Froese, Rainer (5 August 2014). "Common names of Hypostomus plecostomus". FishBase. Archived from the original on 26 May 2019. Retrieved 3 July 2021.

Further reading[edit]