Tag Archive | "suckermouth catfish"

Rubber Plecostomus (Parancistrus aurantiacus)

Rubber Plecostomus L-056 (Parancistrus aurantiacus) aka Gold Finned Suckermouth

Rubber Plecostomus (Parancistrus aurantiacus) are also commonly known as Chubby Plecos, Rubber Plecos or Gold Finned Suckermouths. They are a relatively long lived (10 years or more), algae eating, South American suckermouth catfish that are popular with tropical fish keeping enthusiasts who keep them as “housekeepers” for community aquariums.

The Rubber Plecostomus is found in the fast moving South American rivers and tributaries of the Río Ucayali, in Peru and Brazil.

Rubber Plecos have bristles on both sides of their mouth and under their eyes. Their scales are tan to dark brown outlined in black, however, their colors vary wildly and specimens can be anywhere from dark brown to gold, depending on their mood and stress level. As a general rule their color darkens when they are severely stressed.

The Rubber Plecostomus (Parancistrus aurantiacus) is sometimes confused with the more common Trinidad pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus) or the rubbernose or bulldog pleco (Chaetostoma spp) however Rubber Plecos do not grow as large as their other suckermouth catfish, Loricariidae family relatives.

Rubber Plecostomus are efficient algae eaters, which is why they are so sought after for community aquariums to help control algae.

Rubber Plecos are a peaceful fish and make a good addition to any community aquarium. They are not picky eaters and will get most of their nutrition from algae in the tank and left over food on the bottom of the aquarium.   Although they are omnivores and thrive on a vegetable based diet, they should occasionally be given a supplement of freeze dried bloodworms, a high quality flake food, sinking carnivore pellets, or tubifex.

Rubber Plecos need a large, (55 gallon minimum) heavily aerated tank, planted with hearty, fast growing plants, and lots of water movement. Aquascape the tank with rocks and driftwood to provide them with plenty of hiding places and to mimic their natural environment.

The Rubber Plecostomus has not been bred in captivity and their breeding habits have not yet been documented. Sexing the Rubber Pleco is difficult but males have thicker spines on the first hard ray of their pectoral fins.

When available for purchase they are approximately 2″ to 4″ long.

Rubber Plecostomus (Parancistrus aurantiacus)

Gold Rubber Plecostomus (Parancistrus aurantiacus)







Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-78° F, KH 8-12, pH 6.5-7.5
Max. Size: 7″
Color Form: Black, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Origin: South America
Family: Loricariidae
Life Span: 10 + years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Orinoco Zebra Pleco

Tropical Fish Keeping – Plecostomus

Plecostomus (Loricariids), commonly called Plecos, armored catfish or suckermouth catfish comprise several species of freshwater armored catfish belonging to the Loricariidae family.

All of these species (well over 680) have hard bony plates that cover their upper bodies. They also have specially adapted sucker mouths which allow them to attach themselves to underwater substrates.

Rineloricaria sp. aka Whiptail Cats

Rineloricaria sp. aka Whiptail Cats

Most plecos are peaceful bottom dwellers and make excellent community tank additions. They graze over the bottom of the tank and clean up excess algae and uneaten fish food.

Some of the smaller species are excellent algae cleaners and spend their time vigorously cleaning individual plant leaves as well as the sides of the tank.

Plecostomus are usually sold to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts when they are young and small, however in their native habitats many species can grow to over 2 feet in length and should be housed in large tanks.

Plecos (Loricariids) are found on both sides of the Andes in the varied freshwater habitats of Panama, Costa Rica and South America. Although this species’ native range is in tropical South America, it also naturally occurs in Guyana, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.

Plecostomus inhabit fast flowing streams, torrential mountain rivers, black acidic waters, quiet brackish estuaries, and are even collected from subterranean waterways.

Orinoco Zebra Pleco

Orinoco Zebra Pleco

Plecos are found in a wide range of variable color patterns and body shapes, but all have have a ventral sucker mouth with small projections (papillae) around their lips.

The adipose fin, when present, usually has a forward spine and in most Ancistrini species, sharp evertible cheek spines. These cheek spines (elongated odontodes) are usually more developed in males for use in displays and offensive combat.

Plecos mouths and teeth are adapted to feed on a wide variety of foods and some species even have the ability to eat and digest wood.

In their natural habitat, fast flowing streams, they attach themselves to rocks and graze on algae, aquatic plants, detritus and frequently on small invertebrates.

Most species of Plecos are nocturnal, some are territorial, and others (like the Otocinclus) prefer living in small groups. Many species of Plecostomus are air breathers and can live out of the water for many hours and still survive.

Loricariids are facultative air breathers and can survive out of water for long periods without adverse effects. They will only breathe air when under stress, and then use their gills only during high oxygen level conditions, such as during dry seasons when evaporation causes severe drops in water levels and oxygen content.

Plecostomus are occasionally consumed in their native range but have little to no value as a food fish. Their main attraction is for the aquarium trade where there is a great demand for them as algae cleaners.

Some of the more popular species of Plecostomus are listed below with links to more specific information

Because of the huge number of unknown Loricariids species, a two-part scientific naming system was first devised by Carl Linnaeus in the 1700’s and farther refined in the 1800’s to identify specimens until an official scientific name could be created.

The numbering system for unknown fish, started with L001 (L standing for Loricariidae) and continued for each unrecognized fish.   Once an official scientific name was created, the old L-number was supposed to be retired however, many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts still use these numbers to help identify their specimens.

 Click here for L-numbers and associated Wikipedia articles listed  in numerical order.

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Plecostomus, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (1)

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