Common Pleco: Characteristics, care, types and more….

The suckermouth catfish or common pleco, (‘hypo’ = under, ‘stoma’ = mouth, ‘pleco’ = ) belongs to the Siluriformes Order ofthe Loricariidae family. Below you will find all the information about this curious species of the aquatic world.

Taxonomic Tree 🐟

Phylum: Chordata  Class: Actinopterygii   Order: Siluriformes  Family: Loricariidae                     Genus: Hypostomus  Species: Hypostomus plecostomus

Siluriforms: 🐟

Fish of the order Siluriformes, (commonly called catfish), comprise 33 families, about 400 genera and more than 3093 species, 1200 of which live in America, where they are also called nicuros.

Two families, the Aridos and the Plotósidos, are mainly marine creatures and the rest live in fresh water. Most catfish are night scavengers and live near the bottom, in shallow water

Loricariidae 🐟

The loricáridos are a family of catfish or siluriformes fundamentally South American, characterized by the possession of buccal suckers and popularly known as old water, old river corroncho or cuchas.

Common Pleco: locaridae hypostomusThe function of this suction cup is the anchorage to surfaces, as adaptation to waters of rapid currents, and as a system of scratching of algae and enormously efficient plant matter.

They are species with little fishing or aquaculture interest.

However, they are important in aquarium hobby; both species caught in the natural environment and those that are cultivated.

Within the aquariumphile market some species are highly prized as seaweed cleaners. Until the 1990s, the majority of commercialized species were not very showy, and with a very small number of species.

Currently, a considerable number of species have been discovered, much of them available in the market before even having a scientific name assigned, which has led to the development of a numbering system to define them (the so-called L-numbers).

Among the available species there are some very precious, very attractive appearance with lines and points, such as some of the genera Hypancistrus or Baryancistrus.

Common pleco:  (Hypostomus Plecostomus) Main Caharacteristics 🐟

When in nature, it can reach up to 40 centimeters in length, but being in captivity does not usually exceed 30 centimeters. 

It has a dorso-ventral flattened body, while the back is slightly arched and at the same time is covered by bone plates except for areas of the caudal and dorsal fins.

The anterior part of the body is triangular – shaped and then becomes an oval in the part of the caudal peduncle. As for his head, it has a flattened shape.

The mouth of this fish is ominous, that is, it’s located in the lower part of its body with small chins that allow it to stick to the glass or rocks to take its food, a habit that has earned it its reputation as a fish tank cleaner

The mouth also serves to anchor rocks or logs and not be dragged by the current, so it has a dual purpose and in some regions of the world have chosen to call it a stonefish.

The first dorsal fin which is large and very similar to a ship’s sail, has a hard radius or spine, while having 7 soft rays.

The second dorsal fin is small and almost no noticeable compared to the first.

The caudal fin is wide with an edge that is subtly concave in shape, which helps the common pleco or clean fish tanks to move very quickly over short distances, since it has the lower lobe a little longer than the upper one.

On the other hand, the anal fin is quite small at the same time that the pectorals and ventral ones resemble blades because of how developed they are.

Body Color 🐟

The body color of this species is light brown, presenting round and dark spots all over the surface while on the head it also has dark spots. It’s worth mentioning that some specimens have a dark color throughout the body.

It’s very curious to know that they have no scales, however they protect their body with cartilage plates and spines.

The latter serve to protect themselves from predators or to fight with fish of the same species. When hitting they use the spines on the sides.

But not all his body is covered, because the belly is naked, although in the older specimens some small bony plates usually appear.

The male and female do not have very marked sexual differences although the male has thermal teeth (odontoies), at the base and in the radius on the pectoral fins, while the female does not have these characteristics.

Let’s meet them

How long does the Common Pleco live? 🐟

The common pleco has a greater longevity than other species of fish, living up to 15 years in captivity.

Behavior 🐟

This curious fish prefers nightlife, so it stays still and hidden in the daylight hours.

One of the many curious behaviors that have given rise to the name of devil fish or clean fish tanks is the ability they have to survive on land, for up to 14 hours in a row, and can even walk in it.

They manage to breathe air thanks to having a slightly modified stomach in relation to other fish. This is a bit bigger and thinner and if the animal is oriented vertically it may be able to process the air.

Is the Common Pleco aggressive? 🐟

Among aquarium lovers it’s very common to ask if this species is aggressive, as a precaution before adding it to its population of specimens in the fish tank.

In this regard we can tell you that this is a fairly calm fish, although it can become very territorial with fish found in the bottom and with the specimens of the same species.

Distribution Area and Habitat 🐟

The fish is native to Central and South America. It can be found in countries such as Costa Rica, Uruguay, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Guyana. They can also be found in the Amazon Basin, especially in the Orinoco River.

As for its natural habitat, it prefers rivers and streams whose waters have medium and fast movements.

The common pleco aren’t afraid of strong currents since they can cling to the rocks with their sucking mouth.

However, specimens that live in calmer waters have been reported

Common Pleco: Feeding Habits 🐟

Their diet is fully omnivorous, although they prefer the vegetarian part.  Common plecos tend to eat algae that scrape off the surface of rocks or other objects. In addition they can also eat the remains of food from other fish, even if they are beginning to decompose.

It’s at night when they leave their shelters to look for food. They tend to attach to small logs that are at the bottom to remove the cellulose and feed on it to better digest their meals.

Reproduction 🐟

Common pleco reach sexual maturity when they are between 30-40 centimeters in length which occurs around the year of age.

. For spawning they usually dig horizontal burrows in the walls where the soil is more clayey and soft. It’s there where they lay eggs.

This reproduction behavior makes it almost impossible for them to reproduce in captivity in a fish tank. Once the female lays the eggs, she is expelled from the cavities by the male and sometimes there is aggressiveness from the latter.

Other Pleco Fish 🐟

Let’s meet some species of this family

Leopard Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps) 🐟

This species is commonly found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins.  The leopard pleco can reach a length of up to 50 centimeters, so it’s quite robust; with a bulky head and large fins. Its body is brown with many dark spots, evenly distributed over the surface of the fish.

Unlike their relatives, they can feed on small worms and some pieces of fish, as a complement to the algae.

When he reaches adulthood and is in an aquarium, in addition to measuring large lengths and consuming enough vegetables and food, he produces many bowel movements.

This makes it essential to make partial and periodic changes of water combined with a good filtering system that helps keep the tank in good condition for the fish.

The aquarium must also have a considerable amount of plants to protect the animal from light and hide, especially during the day.

 Armored catfish (Hypostomus affinis) 🐟

Its total length can be 39.7 centimeters in adult males and it’s mostly concentrated in the Paraíba do Sul river basin, in Brazil.

Its body has a base coloration between green and brown with very small yellow spots on the entire surface,  which form lines that start at the head and end at the caudal fin

His abdomen has a lighter yellow shade than the rest of the body.

The fins are a bit darker and with yellow pints as well and with light blue tones in the form of stripes. His eyes are yellow and small a little sunken in the head. The dorsal fin is proportionally larger than the rest of the body. 

Large catfishes, (Hypostomus alatus) 🐟

The body of this kind of devil fish or clean fish tanks is a little longer than the rest of his family, as well as a bit thinner. It’s very dark black or brown, with small yellow spots that begin at the head and end at the caudal fin.

The small yellow spots that are on the dorsal fin are grouped in lines of 4 being very close at the base but slightly separated at the upper end. Upon reaching adulthood they can measure 27 centimeters in length.

Orinoco leopard catfish 🐟

This species is quite small, the male reaches a few 16 centimeters in adulthood. It differs from its relatives by presenting a light base color on the body between brown and beige. The spots are black without following an exact pattern on the entire surface.

The anal, ventral, caudal and dorsal fins have a very peculiar transparency that highlights even more the dark spots in them.

Similarly the fins are smaller than other species of this animal.

The eyes are pale yellow with a black iris that stands out as soon as it have seen, giving the impression that they are very large, although their size is proportional to their body.  The Orinoco leopard catfish is  located mainly in the Portuguese River basins in Venezuela.

Let’s enjoy them

Hypostomus ancistroides 🐟

Its total length is 15 centimeters once they have reached adults. The base color of its body is medium brown, almost golden with large spots distributed throughout the body surface.

 The fins, especially the dorsal and ventral, are transparent with small brown and black spots that form parallel lines from the base to the tips, these colors being darker in the parts of the ends.

This species of devil fish or clean fish tanks is mostly found in the Paraguay river basin.

Hypostomus aspilogaster 🐟

It reaches up to 26.5 centimeters in length. Its body has an olive green tone as a base, which in turn is covered with dark colored spots that are very small on the head and are enlarged as they reach the caudal fin. At the end of the body they look like scales.

Its dorsal fin is quite large in proportion to the rest of its body, which, like the color of the entire surface, has dark spots; although these are blurring almost until disappearing in the end.

Their eyes are almost the same color as their skin, so they don’t stand out much as soon as the devil fish is seen or cleans fish tanks. It’s distributed in the Uruguay river basin.

Hypostomus auroguttatus 🐟

This is one of the species that differs more from their closest cousins, mainly due to the color of their skin. It has its body divided into two colors, the lower half as well as the caudal, ventral and anal fins are bright yellow. A small part of the dorsal fin is also yellow.

The anal fin has slight orange tones in the rays and a small part of the end has a slight black tone. These colors are subtly repeated in the caudal fin.

The upper part of their body and their eyes are intense black in color which gives them a very striking appearance.

They can reach 28.6 centimeters in length when they reach adulthood. Its distribution is Río Paraíba do Sul, south of Brazil.

Hypostomus commersoni 🐟

This another very large devil fish as they can reach 60.5 centimeters in length. At first glance they have a generalized black color throughout the body, although when you approach you can notice that they have small black dots that cover the entire surface.

These small spots create parallel lines that start at the head and end at the tail as they get larger.

On the part of the abdominal side the color tends to lighten a bit, as do the spots.

The eyes are black and aren’t easy to distinguish  at first sight because they are very small in relation to their size, giving the impression that it’s even blind.

The dorsal fin is quite large but can be lowered and raised for convenience. They are distributed in the basins of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers.

Here they are…..

Aquarium Care 🐟

The  cleaner tank fish  is a fish that is very compatible with other fish species in aquariums, almost not paying attention to the other inhabitants of the tank, although it can be quite aggressive when it meets those of the same species. The most important thing to know about him is that he needs enough space to swim comfortably.

In order to swim, the common Pleco requires a tank that has at least 200 to 300 liters of water, preferably with a thick gravel substrate and with large and strong decorations the he cannot drag when swimming.

Water conditions should be alkaline but slightly hard for their natural habitat to be re-created. It must also be at a temperature between 22 to 30 ° C for being tropical fish. So far, it has not been possible to reproduce this species while in captivity.

Captive feeding 🐟

For aquarium hobbyists, the fish that cleans the fish tank is an extremely useful allied because it helps keep the tank clean for a longer time, as does the clown fish  eating algae and food debris that can be hidden between the substrate. So water changes can be spaced a little more.

But do not trust, he also needs food also need food well as vegetables to develop properly, since in the artificial means there is not as much food as they would find to be in nature. Here are some recommendations that will be very useful if you want to include a devil fish in your fish tank:

☑️  plecos are omnivorous but nocturnal, so they require that you turn off the aquarium light in order to feed.

☑️  Offer fresh vegetables such as lettuce leaves and spinach as part of their menu; You can tie the leaves to a weight or small rocks so that they remain at the bottom and are easier to consume.

☑️   You can also offer varieties of other vegetables such as cucumber and zucchini by throwing them to the bottom of the tank for the fish to eat.

☑️   It’s important to place a trunk at the bottom of the aquarium, so that the plecos can stick to it and suck the cellulose that will help in the digestion of their food.

These recommendations can be followed for any species within this family

Let’s learn how to feed them

Common Plecos as invasive species 🐟

In Mexico, several specimens of common plecos were introduced by some people who were fond of aquarium hobby. However, it’s not a common animal in this area, so it does not have a natural predator and this causes its population to increase rapidly while decimating the population of other fish.

At the moment, it’s considered a plague by the inhabitants of the Infiernillo Dam, hence its name of devil fish, although it could also be considered its name to the fondness of this fish to eat eggs and young of fish such as tilapiaand silverfish.

The fact that the offspring of other species are eaten has generated a delicate situation among fishermen, who claim that up to 70% of the catches are of this species.

The devil fish has reached these unusual habitats due to the «Nemo Effect», referring to the Disney and Pixar movie.

Many fans imported the fish to have them in their aquariums, however after a while they leave them in rivers or throw them down the toilet, causing the species to live in new habitats, different from those that by nature correspond to them.

This is why in Mexico, solutions are being sought to the problem that this animal is causing.

Human consumption has been thought of, but the shells on the surface make it very hard and difficult to eat. Another solution could be to convert it into flour to feed the cattle.

The most important thing is to raise awareness in the population, about the release of animal species in the environments without knowing the benefits and problems that they can bring in the future, especially if they are creatures such as the devil fish or cleaning tank  fish that is not native from Mexico.

Common Pleco as Food  🐟

In countries such as Mexico, where the devil fish have been reproduced enough to be considered an invasive species, their consumption is being considered to control the population level and that it does not affect other species native to the region.

But changes always produce resistance, which is why the residents of Las Choapas, where this new species has flourished most, are reluctant to accept the devil fish as part of their diet.

Although it’s edible, having a white flesh without bones, a delicate flavor and a large amount of protein (especially Omega 3), the main obstacle that is seen in the successful marketing of the common pleco is its appearance.

People think that it’s an ugly fish once they see it outside the river and this adds to the bad reputation that has been gained by fishermen in the area from eating tilapia pups, the main fish caught and marketed in the area. .

Many times the fishermen catch him in the nets and return him to the river or simply kill him for not knowing what to do with the devil fish all this despite the fact that many specimens can weigh up to 2 kilograms, being able to save between half a kilogram to 700 grams of white meat.

There are villagers who have tried the devil fish and have confirmed their good taste and texture despite their ugliness; They claim that if it were sold in the form of fillets or just the pulp, people could quickly get used to its consumption.

There are studies that affirm that the devil fish do not eat the eggs of other fish, because it’s a purely herbivorous species, in addition that the tilapia fish protects the eggs in its mouth using it as an incubation chamber, which makes it impossible be eaten

Cymbals that can be prepared 🐟

The devil fish can be eaten like any other fish in presentations of rolls of armed fish, rolled fillet having a baked, fried or even grilled preparation. If you want a Japanese-style meal you can smoke and process it in the form of sausage, surimi, caviar or camocicoque.

Another advantage is that it can be seasoned in various ways, achieving a very professional and smooth taste without differentiating from any other species of edible fish.

Best of all, its waste can be industrialized and sold as food for farm animals, cattle, pigs or birds.

Thanks to its high content of protein, fat, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus, it can be used in both young animals and adults as well as fattening them.

Let’s watch how they clean them


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