Hypostomus plecostomus

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Hypostomus plecostomus
Hypostomus plecostomus - Raphaël Covain.png
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
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[2]
Hypostomus guacari Lacepède, 1803[3]
Loricaria flava Shaw, 1804[4]
Plecostomus bicirrosus Gronow, 1854[5]
Plecostomus brasiliensis Bleeker, 1864[6]
Plecostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758)[7]
Pterygoplichthys plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758)[7]

Hypostomus plecostomus, the suckermouth catfish or common pleco, ('hypo' = under, 'stoma' = mouth, 'pleco'= pleated) 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 plecostomus sold in aquarium shops, most are actually members of other genera.[8][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, in the aquarium trade.[citation needed]

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.[9] 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).[10][11]

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.[9] It is erroneous,[1] and the concerned species belong to the genus Pterygoplichthys (either P. pardalis,[12] P. disjunctivus,[13] P. anisitsi[14] or P. multiradiatus[15]). 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.[16][17]

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).[18]


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.[citation needed]This omnivorous species feeds on algae, aquatic plants, and small crustaceans.[19][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. These fish are sold when they are young and small, but they can grow to be a maximum size of 50 centimetres (20 in).[20] In the aquarium, this dark-colored, bottom-feeding, nocturnal catfish is often purchased for its ability to clean algae from fish tanks but also contribute a lot of waste to the Nitrogen Cycle.


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:

  • Algae sucker/eater
  • Pleco
  • janitor fish[21]
  • municipal fish – 'ikan bandaraya' in Malay
  • suckermouth catfish[21]
  • sweeper fish – 'ikan sapu sapu' in Indonesian


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. 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)" (PDF). Cybium. 36 (1): 195–227.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Lacepède, B. G. E. (1803). Histoire naturelle des poissons, volume 5. Hureau & Monod. pp. 144–145, plate 4 (fig. 2).
  4. ^ Shaw, George (1804). General zoology or systematic natural history, volume 5, part 1. London: G. Kearsley. pp. 38, plate 101.
  5. ^ Gronow, Laurence Theodore (1854). Catalogue of fish. London: Woodfall and Kinder. p. 158.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, (eds.). "Synonyms of Hypostomus plecostomus". FishBase. Retrieved 9 November 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Hypostomus plecostomus". Cat-eLog. PlanetCatfish. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Hypostomus plecostomus" in FishBase. December 2011 version.
  10. ^ Bussing, W.A. (1998). Freshwater fishes of Costa Rica. Pp. 160-162. ISBN 978-9977-67-489-6.
  11. ^ Angulo; Garita-Alvarado; Bussing; and López (2013). Annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of continental and insular Costa Rica: additions and nomenclatural revisions. Check List 9(5): 987–1019.
  12. ^ Amazon Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis) - FactSheet, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  13. ^ Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish(Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus) - FactSheet, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  14. ^ Paraná Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys anisitsi) - FactSheet, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  15. ^ Orinoco Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus) - FactSheet, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species
  16. ^ 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. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "Plecostomus". Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2016-04-25. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  20. ^ Hypostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758) Suckermouth catfish - FishBase
  21. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, (eds.). "Common names of Hypostomus plecostomus". FishBase. Retrieved 28 October 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)