Plecostomus: Catfish, Walking on Fins

Groups of fish of ancient origins, such as Chain Catfish, often have a variety of mechanisms to survive in changing environmental conditions. Plecostomus also has several adaptations that allow it to successfully fight for existence. What makes a fish so tenacious and allows you to successfully keep such a giant in aquariums? You can find out from our article.

General Information

Plecostomus (Hypostomus plecostomus) is a large representative of the Chain Catfish. Individual specimens found in nature can reach 50 cm, although in aquariums the usual length does not exceed 30 cm.
The first scientific description of Plecostomus was made by the great Swedish scientist Karl Linnaeus in 1758. The name of the genus can be literally translated as “lower mouth”, which indicates the special structure of the oral apparatus. It is modified into a suction cup and is indeed located on the underside of the head. Thanks to him, the fish are able to stay in a strong stream of water and scrape off their main food – algae.

It is for this reason that the catfish is very popular among the owners of large aquariums, the fish help to keep the container clean.
Another amazing feature of catfish is their adaptation to the low oxygen content of the water. In such conditions, Plecostomus use intestinal respiration: they swallow atmospheric air, which is assimilated in a special part of the intestine. Also, if water bodies dry up, Plecostomus can travel considerable distances through wet silt using their pectoral and caudal fins.

In places of natural distribution, Plecostomus is an important link in food chains. They are also the object of fishing by local fishermen.

Plecostomus prefer the bottom of the aquarium and are predominantly nocturnal.


Plecostomus has an elongated body covered with dense bony plates that protect against enemies. The dorsal fin is large, sail-shaped, the tail fin resembles a crescent. The head is large, pointed, in the lower part is the oral apparatus, modified into a suction cup. On both sides of the mouth are thin antennae – the organs of touch and taste. In addition, taste buds are located almost throughout the body. This allows the catfish to find food even in complete darkness. The pectoral fins of mature males are thickened and have spines.

On the head are small bulging eyes with an interesting structure. A membrane is located on its surface, which allows you to regulate the level of the incident light. During the day, she almost completely closes her eyes, and at night the eye is completely open. The ability of catfish to roll their eyes is very entertaining: it seems that the fish is winking.

The average body size of the Plecostomus is 30 cm, in large volumes, it can grow up to 50 cm. The main body color is light brown, but it appears darker due to a large number of spots all over the body. This color allows you to effectively camouflage among the foliage and driftwood lying at the bottom. There is an albino (golden form), characterized by light body color.

With proper care, Plecostomus can live up to 15 years.


Plecostomus is an inhabitant of the tropical northeastern part of South America: Brazil, Guiana, Trinidad, and Tobago. The fish lives in freshwater, rich in oxygen.


Plecostomus are usually sold in fry measuring 8-10 cm, but this size should not be misleading. At home, these catfish grow very quickly and after a year they can become 2-3 times larger. The minimum aquarium volume for keeping Plecostomus is 200 liters, although adults will be most comfortable at 500-800 liters. The aquarium must be equipped with a lid because the fish can easily jump out of the container.

Coarse quartz sand or smooth rounded pebbles are suitable as soil. Aquariums with Plecostomus should have natural driftwood as a source of extra cellulose for the catfish and a good place for algae to grow. In addition, it is convenient to make shelters from large snags, in which Plecostomus will rest during daylight hours. It is better to use hard-leaved plants, and stone their roots so that the catfish do not accidentally dig them up.

Plecostomus are crepuscular fish, so their main activity occurs at night, you should not make the aquarium too bright lighting, and the presence of a special night blue light will be just an ideal solution for observing the life of Plecostomus.

Considering the size of the fish, it is necessary to provide powerful filtration and aeration. Obligatory water changes (up to 20% of the volume of the aquarium) are the key to the good health and longevity of the fish.

Optimum water parameters for the keeping:T = 22-26 ° C, pH = 6.2-7.2, GH = 3-12


The Plecostomus diet is mostly algae. They perfectly clean aquarium glass, decorations, and soil. If there are not enough algae in the aquarium, the fish will begin to eat up the green plants. Therefore, it is important to feed the Plecostomus with good quality dry bottom fish food. It is best to feed the Plecostomus once a day, after switching off the light in the aquarium.

Reproduction and Breeding

Unfortunately, it will not work to breed Plecostomus at home, since it is unrealistic to recreate the conditions for spawning in an aquarium. In nature, catfish dig caves along the river bed, in which eggs (up to 300 pieces) are deposited. Plecostomus are caring parents. The clutch is guarded by both the male and the female, and after hatching, the fry feed on a special secret that is secreted on the body of the parents.

At fish hatcheries in Southeast Asia, special artificial ponds are used for breeding Plecostomus. After the fry is born and mature, the producers are transferred to a new pond, and the old one is drained and the fry is collected for sale.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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