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Pl*co Howto

Contents:

  1. [F] PLECO FACT FILE - 004
    by cpbuehrer-at-miavx1.acs.muohio.edu (Cogito cogito, ergo cogito sum.) (2 Nov 94)

[F] PLECO FACT FILE - 004

by cpbuehrer-at-miavx1.acs.muohio.edu (Cogito cogito, ergo cogito sum.)
Date: 2 Nov 94
Newsgroup: alt.aquaria,rec.aquaria,sci.aquaria

(c) 1994 - No one may publish or otherwise reproduce any information contained
herein for profit.  Do the research yourself or be prepared to negotiate
royalties with the author, Dennis Kramb = cpbuehrer-at-miavx1.acs.muohio.edu.
Phone: +1+513-829-5748.

PLECO FAQ/FACT FILE (No.4)                               November 02, 1994
               FILE (No.3)                              September 22, 1994
               FILE (No.2)                                 August 15, 1993
               FILE (No.1)                                   July 28, 1993
               (Previous versions can be obtained by emailing me at above)

Disclaimer:  Use the following information at your own discretion.  I have
done alot of research, but cannot confirm/deny much of this information simply
because I do not have enough experience keeping these fascinating fishes.
Frankly, I don't think anyone does.

Note: Significant changes were made since version 3.  Newly discovered research
material prompted me to discard most everything but the most significant data.  
A new version would likewise require new material or lots of net.input.&.help!
I AM IN SEARCH OF BREEDING TECHNIQUES FROM ANYONE WHO HAS BRED ANY SPECIES OF 
PLECOSTOMUS OR FARLOWELLA...PLEASE CONTACT ME VIA EMAIL IF YOU QUALIFY.

                1) Introduction
                2) Scientific Introduction
                3) Taxonomic Information (Expanded)
                4) Care and Feeding
                5) Reproductive Information (Expanded)
                6) Trends
                7) Unique Behavioral Characteristics
                8) Genus, Species, and Misc. Habitat Data
                9) Bibliography (Expanded)
               10) Exotic Varieties (Still Need Help Here, Folks)
               11) Personal Notes


1) Introduction
         The word "pleco" is used to describe any one of hundreds of freshwater
suckermouth catfish species from the tropical and subtropical rivers of Central
and South America.  Many people buy these oh-so-ugly-they're-cute fish because
of their reputation for eating algae and scavenging food scraps off the
aquarium floor.  But with the introduction of new, exotic, colorful (and very
expensive) species, these fish are earning a more respectable role in the world
of aquaria.
        This file is an attempt to deal with questions that often arise on
the *.aquaria newsgroups concerning plecos...and also to attempt to fill the
enormous void of info regarding plecos in readily available pet store books and
magazines.  If after reading this file, you have suggestions, or have valuable
info to add, email me: cpbuehrer-at-miavx1.acs.muohio.edu.


2) Scientific Introduction:
        Plecos, ottos, and whiptail cats all belong to the same family,
LORICARIIDAE.  The family LORICARIIDAE is subdivided into five sub-families 
and dozens of genera containing at least 600 species.  To make things a bit 
more complicated and confusing, there is a wide range of disagreement on the
scientific classifications of many of these genera and species, and many fish
are continually being reclassified.  One type of pleco may go by several
different trade names...and one trade name may be given to several different
pleco species.  It's definitely a mess, and there is *plenty* of need for more
scientific research on these critters!


3) Taxonomic Information:
        The Loricariidae are unique among fishes in that they possess an
iris-lobe...which enlarges or contracts the pupil to control the amount of
light entering the eye.  This is similar to a cat's eye; in bright light the
pupil is contracted to narrow ellipse and in darkness it dilates.  These fish
also have the ability to contract their eye inside their head, analogous to
blinking.

     a) "Mechanical Strength of the Pectoral Spine/Girdle
         Complex in PTERYGOPLICHTHYS" - Copeia, 1984
        - Loricariid catfishes have stout pectoral fin spines
          and a friction locking mechanism involving the dorsal
          flange of the spine which slides in a groove of the
          cleithreum.  The function of the spines is likely
          protective in that a fish with erect spines is much
          more difficult for a predator to manipulate and swallow.

Regarding the functionality of the spines...as a personal note I'd like to 
mention that when I purchased a 18cm parancistrus sp. male from a local pet 
store, the fish used its spiked erect fins as a defensive weapon.  Not only did 
it "stab" the pet store employee as she tried to "coax" it into the bag, but it 
also punctured through three layers of plastic bagging on the trip home!  
Undoubtedly in its natural habitat this makes it *EXTREMELY* painful for any 
reptillian, mammalian, or avian predator to swallow.  In addition to using its 
spikes defensively, when added to the 250L/75g tank at home, this pushy male 
used its spikey facial bristles as an offensive weapon.  During feeding time 
this parancistrus male rammed into a slightly smaller (15cm) pterygoplichthys 
tank-mate to get at the food pellets.  The skirmish lasted only a few seconds, 
but in the process the pterygoplichthys fish ended up with several shredded 
fins and one body wound.


4) Care and Feeding:
        Plecos are quite hardy fish and are easy to take care of.  Mine have 
tolerated a wide range of conditions (pH, temperature, etc.) and have remained
healthy through it all.  They are omnivores, but require LARGE amounts of
fibrous vegetable matter in their diets; a piece of driftwood to gnaw on will
keep your pleco happy for years.  Plecos are ravenous consumers of algae, so
supplements (such as Hikari brand algae wafers) are a good idea if your tank
doesn't have much naturally occurring algae.  Plecos will also scavenge food
that falls to the bottom of the tank.  (My 6" sailfin rhino pleco will
sometimes swim upsidedown and eat flake food off the surface!)  Many people
feed fresh spinach, lettuce, zucchini, or cucumber to their plecos.

     a) "Effect of Exposure to Air on Haematological Parameters
         in HYPOSTOMUS REGANI, Teleost with Aquatic and Aerial
         Respiration.I.Red Cells." - Copeia, 1981
        - Hypostomus is an armored catfish that is capable of a
          faculative air breathing in hypoxic water in rivers
          and swamps, and also breathes air during short migra-
          tions on land.  Hypostomus regani...is one of the few
          fish that survived in the highly polluted Pardo River
          after the establishment of the great sugar mills.

        The above article is intended to demonstrate how robust plecos 
really are.  Suggested conditions for beginners are:  7.0 pH, 22'C-25'C 
temperature, 100% fresh water (don't add salt), and an aerator to provide 
enough oxygen.


5) Reproductive Information:
        There seem to be only two characteristics common to all the plecos on
which I've found research information.  The first, is that they are egg layers.
The second is that they take good care of their eggs & fry.
        Some species are sexually dimorphic, but most are not.  In those
species that are (especially the bristle-nosed (ancistrus) kind), the males
have more "tentacles" on their upper lip.  The females have fewer (sometimes
none) of these protuberances.  At least one species is the opposite with the
female having more protuberances than the male.
        In some species, after spawning, the males carry the eggs (usually 
in their mouths, in at least one specie on his belly) until they hatch.  In
other species, the egg mass remains affixed to a surface (like a rock or 
submerged piece of wood) while the parent(s) guard them till they hatch.  
Compared to other popular tropical fish, the eggs of plecos tend to be quite
large, and come in a wide range of colors; I've read citings of yellow, red,
orange, brown, white, and even lime-green eggs!  Pleco eggs will hatch within
2-3 days.  Eggs that die are consumed by the parent(s) to prevent fungus from 
developing and spreading to the rest of the living clutch.

     a) "Field Observations on the Reproductive Ecology of Three
         Species of Armored Catfishes in Paraguay." - Copeia, 1983
        - In LORICARIA SIMILLIMA, eggs brooded by males were light
          yellow in color.  Clutch sizes observed in 4 intact
          masses ranged from 167 to 340 with a mean of 263 eggs.

     b) "The Reproductive Biology of an Armored Catfish, LORICARIA
         URACANTHA, from Central America." - Environmental Biology
         of Fishes, 1982
        - Natural nesting sites consisted of cavities in pieces of
          wood, open at both ends and positioned above the stream
          bottom, but artificial cavities such as PVC pipe were
          readily used as well as a split in a large log.  (PVC
          pipe dimensions were: 5cm dia. * 15 to 40cm length)
          Openings faced upstream and downstream...the upstream
          cavity may be necessary for adequate oxygenation of the
          eggs.

     c) "Habitat Quality and the Distribution of Armored Catfish in
         a Panamanian Stream." - Journal of Animal Ecology, 1984
        - Ancistrus spinosus females weren't sexual mature until
          they exceeded 8-9cm in length.  Males were mature after
          they exceeded 14cm.

        Time and again I've read on the net that some plecos burrow into the
sandy shallow banks of rivers to build a nest and lay eggs.  And that common
varieties are farmed this way in Florida. But I haven't yet found any such
info in books or journals in my library research.  All indications of burrowing 
behavior were that the plecos were "hibernating" during the dry season.
        The probable reason for such diversity in reproductive methods is 
that these differences minimize the competition for nesting sites among the
hundreds of different pleco species that inhabit the same river basins.

Species known to reproduce in home aquaria:
     - Ancistrus temminckii - sexually dimorphic - specific requirements and/or
          techniques unknown by this author [detailed email info is welcome!]
     - Loricaria macrops - pH 7.0, 75'F, eggs hatched after 20 days
     - Loricaria parva - pH 6.8, 75'F, eggs hatched after 10 days

Unconfirmed reportings of species spawning in home aquaria:
     - Peckoltia zebra (see footnote in section 8)


6) Trends (generalizations which can be held true for most cases)  [I'd 
appreciate ideas on how to re-organize this section in some logical fashion.]
     - plecos require high levels of dissolved oxygen and prefer water quality
        of neutral pH, 22'C-25'C temperature, and 8-10 H hardness factor.
     - plecos are omnivorous, consuming large quantities of algae, plant
        matter, and the occasional dead fish that sinks to the bottom
     - plecos are primarily scavengers and are too poorly designed to be 
        hunters, but large plecos will eat small characins at rest at night
     - all my research indicates indirectly that plecos are diurnal...there
        are very few references to nocturnal activity
     - plecos have camoflague abilities, but can only change shades of their 
        natural color rather than changing to other colors
     - panaque species are unusually thick and get quite large, >30cm, and also 
        have unusually colorful eyes
     - peckoltia species are small, never exceeding 15cm
     - plecostomus species have been reported to reach 1 meter in length
     - pterygoplichthys species are sailfins and get quite large, >25cm
     - otocinclus species are extremely small, never exceeding 5cm
     - scoloplax is perhaps the smallest with species never exceeding 15mm
     - lamontichthys species have long "filaments" extending from all their 
        fins (excluding the dorsal) and tail
     - ancistrus and (mature) parancistrus species have bristles on their heads
     - bristlenose plecos are various Ancistrus species and are easily spawned
        in hobbyist aquaria of 20g+
     - farlowellas, sturisomas, and rineloricarias tend to breed on broad leaved
        plants like amazon swords
     - Xenocara genus is very similar to genus Ancistrus, but can be readily
        distinguished by the fact that X. has a granular snout and lacks the 
        broad naked margin along the lower border of the head


7) Unique Behavioral Characteristics (findings are paraphrased):
     a) "Depth Distribution of Armoured Catfish: Predator-
         Induced Resource Avoidance?" - Ecology, 1984
        - Large adult loricariids' armor and spines defend them
          from other predatory fish.  Small loricariids may be
          more vulnerable to predation by fish, but are able to
          hide among cobbles in the shallows which provides
          protection from predation by birds...whereas large
          loricariids in shallow water are easier targets.

     b) "Synchronous Air Breathing, A Social Component of
         Respiration in Fishes" - Copeia, 1976
        - Laboratory experiments with Ancistrus have shown that
          while the air breathing of grouped fish (together in
          the same pond or river) is synchronous (many fish go
          up for air within a few seconds of each other and then
          dive down again for several minutes), the breaths of
          isolated fish are not.....It is suggested that
          synchronous air breathing has anti-predator functions
          analogous to schooling, but with clustering in the
          temporal rather than spatial dimension.

     c) "The Reproductive Biology of...LORICARIA URACATHA..."
         - Environmental Biology of Fishes, 1982
        - Like other members of the genus, males bear bony facial
          bristles around the margin of the head and along the
          dorsal surface of the pectoral fin rays.  These bristles
          are not permanent structures and can be developed within
          a 64 day period and lost within 148 days.

     d) "Habitat Quality...in a Panamanian Stream." - Journal of
         Animal Ecology." - 1984
        - Densities of loricariids (both numbers and biomass) are
          negatively correlated with the density of the forest
          canopy over streams, and positively correlated with rates
          of periphyton (algae) production on stream substrates.
        - Loricariids do not use or defend fixed feeding areas in
          the Rio Frijoles.

     e) "Costs of Predator Aviodance for Grazing Stream Fishes." -
         Predation: Direct and Indirect Impacts in Aquatic Commun-
         ities. - 1987
        - Armored catfish that were experimentally starved for 8
          and 18 days in their home pools (in the wild) were
          extremely conservative in their risk-taking behavior
          to forage in shallower waters, where food was abundant,
          due to fear of predation from diurnal birds and noctur-
          nal mammals and reptiles.

From the research info from (e) I contend that when people have plecos that 
hide in the same spot all the time and do poor jobs in cleaning the algae off 
the sides of their tanks, that these plecos are exhibiting predator avoidance 
behavior.  Supplying an increased number of hiding spots for refuge from (non-
existant) predators will likely coax these plecos out into the open to eat up 
all the algae.  Other data from (e) further showed that large loricariids would 
starve to death in safe, deep waters before taking the risk of grazing in the 
shallow waters where they were vulnerable to predators even though food there 
was abundant.


8) Genus, Species, and Misc. Habitat Data (if available)

The following is a list of the loricariid species of which I found some sort 
documentation or reference (PLEASE POINT OUT MISTAKES OR OMISSIONS ON MY PART 
and cite references if possible):  The number in parentheses indicates number
of species in that genus (if known).

 ( ) - Acanthicus adonis [satan (lyretail) pleco] - /b/
     - Acanthicus hystrix! [black satan pleco] - Ucayali, Huallaga, Maran~on 
          Ecuador & Brazilian Amazon - /b/
 ( ) - Ancistrus brevipinnis
     - Ancistrus bufonis! - Ucayali, Huallaga, Maran~on Ecuador & La Plata Basin 
          (Paraguay and Bolivia) & Rios Perene, Tarma Chanchomayo
     - Ancistrus chagresi
     - Ancistrus cirrhosus - Paraguay-Arroyo Corriente (! = Ucayali, Huallaga, 
          and Maran~on Ecuador & Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay 
          and Bolivia) & Atlantic coastal streams & Guianas)
     - Ancistrus clementinae+ - Rio Cementina and Rio Valpan in Ecuador
     - Ancistrus dolichopterus
     - Ancistrus hoplogenys! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & La 
          Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia) - /b/
     - Ancistrus lineolatus
     - Ancistrus occloi! - Middle & Upper Urubamba River
     - Ancistrus spinosus - Rio Frijoles, Panama - 23'C-25'C - rocky substrate
     - Ancistrus tamboensis - /b/
     - Ancistrus temminckii! - Rio Pichis & Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on 
          Ecuador & Brazilian Amazon & Guianas - /b/
 ( ) - Canthopomus agassizii! - Lake Manacapuru to Rio Huallaga
(15+)- Chaetostomus aequinoctialis+ - Guayas basin of western Ecuador
     - Chaetostoma branickii! - Rio Huambo, Totora
     - Chaetostoma brevis - Peru-Balsas (! = Alto Maran~on)
     - Chaetpstomus demorhynchus+ - Rios Daule and Vinces of the Guayas basin
          and the upper Amazone drainage in Napo-Pastaza province, Ecuador
     - Chaetostoma fischeri - Rio Frijoles, Panama (+ = Ecuador) - 23'C-25'C -
          prefers very fast flowing water with rocky substrate
     - Chaetostoma lineopunctata! - Rio Pichis
     - Chaetostoma maculata! - Peruvian Andes
     - Chaetostomus magrinatus+ - from Rios San Juan and Patia in Colombia 
          southward to Rio Santiago drainage in western Ecuador
     - Chaetostoma marmorescens! - Alto Huallago
     - Chaetostoma microps! - Rio Huambo, Totora (+ = Ecuador)
     - Chaetostoma mollinasa! - Alto Maran~on
     - Chaetostoma taczanowskii! - Rio Huambo, Totora & Alto Huallago
     - Chaetostoma thomasi - /b/
     - Chaetostoma wuchereri - /b/
 ( ) - Cochliodon cochliodon - /b/
     - Cochliodon hondae
 ( ) - Cteniloricaria sp.
 ( ) - Eurycheilus pantherinus
 ( ) - Farlowella acus - /b/
     - Farlowella amazona! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Marna~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon
     - Farlowella gracillis - /b/
     - Farlowella kneri! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & La Plata 
          Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia)
 ( ) - Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps
 ( ) - Harttia kronei
(7+) - Hemiancistrus annectens+ - Rio Patia drainage in Colombia southward to 
          Rio Durango in northwestern Ecuador - prefers rocky bottom areas
          with swift currents
     - Hemiancistrus hammerlundi+ - Rio Bogota, Parroquia, Ecuador - prefers 
          rocky bottom areas with swift currents
     - Hemiancistrus landoni+ - Guayas basin of western Ecuador - prefers rocky 
          river bottom areas with swift currents
     - Hemiancistrus mayoloi - Colombia
     - Hemiancistrus daguae - Colombia
 ( ) - Hemiodontichthys acipenserinus! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on 
          Ecuador & Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia)
          - /b/
 ( ) - Hypancistrus* zebra [zebra pleco]
 ( ) - Hypoptopoma carinatum! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon - /b/
     - Hypoptopoma gulare
     - Hypoptopoma guentheri - /b/
     - Hypoptopoma joberti! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia)
     - Hypoptopoma thoracatum! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon - /b/
(~50)- Hypostomus bufonis! - Middle & Upper Urubamba River
     - Hypostomus calamita! - Middle & Upper Urubamba River
     - Hypostomus emarginatus! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia) & Guianas 
          & Venezuela & Colombia
     - Hypostomus jaguribensis
     - Hypostomus madierae
     - Hypostomus magaritifer - /ab/
     - Hypostomus niceforoi
     - Hypostomus plecostomus - this has got to be the catch all category, if
          all else fails...call it a Hypostomus plecostomus I guess! - /b/
     - Hypostomus punctatus - /b?/
     - Hypostomus regani - Rio Pardo, ????
     - Hypostomus scaphyceps [gold dot pleco]
     - Hypostomus spinosissimus+ - Guayas basin of western Ecuador - prefers 
          rocky river bottoms
     - Hypostomus varimaculosus
     - Hypostomus watwata
 ( ) - Kronichthys heylandi
 ( ) - Lamontichthys filamentosus - /b/
 ( ) - Lasiancistrus caucanus - Colombia
     - Lasiancistrus carnegei - /b/
 ( ) - Leporancistrus sp.
 ( ) - Leporacanthicus galaxias [vampire pleco]
 ( ) - Limatulichthys punctatus - Rio Jivino, Ecuador
 ( ) - Liposarcus anisitsi
     - Liposarcus multriadatus
 ( ) - Lithoxus sp. - /b/
 ( ) - Loricaria acuta! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & Brazilian 
          Amazon
     - Loricaria brunnea! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & Guianas
     - Loricaria carinata! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia)
     - Loricaria cataphracta - southeastern Brazil (! = Ucayali, Huallaga, and 
          Maran~on Ecuador & Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and 
          Bolivia) & Guianas)
     - Loricaria evansii! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & Brazilian 
          Amazon
     - Loricaria filamentosa! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Venezuela & Colombia
     - Loricaria fimbriata - Colombia
     - Loricaria gymnogaster - Colombia
     - Loricaria jubata+ - from Pacific coastal Colombia from the Atrato and 
          San Juan basins southward to the Guayas basin of western Ecuador
     - Loricaria konopickyi! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon
     - Loricaria labialis - Paraguay - mouthbrooder (male)
     - Loricaria lanceolata! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia)
     - Loricaria macrops
     - Loricaria maculata! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia) & Guianas
     - Loricaria nudirostris! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon
     - Loricaria parva
     - Loricaria piracicabae - southeastern Brazil
     - Loricaria platymetopon - Paraguay - mouthbrooder (male)
     - Loricaria puganensis! - Alto Maran~on
     - Loricaria punctata! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon
     - Loricaria simillima - Paraguay - mouthbrooder (male)
     - Loricaria typus! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & Brazilian 
          Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia) & Guianas
     - Loricaria uracantha - Central America
 (2) - Loricariichthys spixii - /b?/
 ( ) - Otocinclus affinis [otto or pygmy sucker] - /b/
     - Otocinclus arnoldi [otto or pygmy sucker] - /b/
     - Otocinclus flexilis [otto or pygmy sucker] - /b/
     - Otocinclus mariae [otto or pygmy sucker]
     - Otocinclus nattereri [otto or pygmy sucker] - /b/
     - Otocinclus paulinus - /b/
     - Otocinclus vestitus [otto or pygmy sucker]
     - Otocinclus vittata [otto or pygmy sucker] - /b/
 ( ) - Panaque albomaculatus - /b/
     - Panaque nigrolineatus [royal panaque or royal pleco] - upper Amazon R.
          - /b/
     - Panaque suttoni [blue eye pleco] - /b/
 ( ) - Parancistrus aurantiacus! [chubby pleco] - Lower Ucayali Basin, Ecuador
          - /b/
     - Parancistrus (undescribed) sp. [mango or gold-rimmed pleco] - /ab/
(14) - Parotocinclus amazonensis - Rio Solimoes
     - Parotocinclus britskii - Coppename River, Surinam
     - Parotocinclus collinsae - Essequibo basin, Guyana
     - Parotocinclus maculicauda - Amazon River basin - /b/
     - Parotocinclus polyochrus - Rio Baria, Venezuela
     - Parotocinclus spilurus
 ( ) - Peckoltia brevis - /b?/
     - Peckoltia platyrhyncha - /b/
     - Peckoltia pulcher - /b/
     - Peckoltia vittata [clown pleco] - /b/
     - Peckoltia* zebra [zebra pleco] - /b/
 ( ) - Plecostomus spinossisimus+
 ( ) - Pogonopomoides parahybae - /b/
 ( ) - Pseudoacanthicus histrix [spiny pleco] - Rio Tocatins, Brazil-Paraguay
     - Pseudoacanthicus leopardus [fire thorn or red and black pleco]
     - Pseudoacanthicus spinosus [spiny pleco] - /b/
 ( ) - Pseudohemiodon laticeps [rocket tail pleco] - /b/
 ( ) - Pseudoloricaria sp. - /b/
 ( ) - Pseudorinelepis carachama
     - Pseudorinelepis pellegrini - /b/
 ( ) - Pterygoplichthys anisitsi - /b/
     - Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon - /b/
     - Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus! - Ucayali, Huallaga, Maran~on Ecuador &
          Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia) & Guianas
          - /b/
     - Pterygoplichthys punctatus! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon & Venezuela & Colombia
 ( ) - Pyxiloricaria sp. - /b/
 ( ) - Ricola sp. - /b/
 ( ) - Rineloricaria castroi
     - Rineloricaria fallax - /b/
     - Rineloricaria hasemani
     - Rineloricaria jubata - Rio Palenque, Ecuador
     - Rineloricaria lanceolata - /b/
     - Rineloricaria microlepidogaster - /b/
     - Rineloricaria morrowi - /b/
     - Rineloricaria uracantha - Rio Frijoles, Panama - 23'C-25'C - rocky bed
 ( ) - Scobinancistrus pariolispos [sunshine pleco]
 ( ) - Scoloplax dicra
 ( ) - Spatuloricaria caquetae - /b/
 ( ) - Sturisoma aureum [royal farlowella] - /b/
     - Sturisoma barbatum - /b/
     - Sturisoma guntheri! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador & 
          Brazilian Amazon
     - Sturisoma panamense [royal farlowella] - (+ = Rio Tuyra & Chepo basins 
          in Panama & the Magdalena and Rio Patia and Rio San Juan basins in 
          Colombia & northwestern Ecuador)
      - Sturisoma rostrata! - Ucayali, Huallaga, and Maran~on Ecuador 
&           Brazilian Amazon & La Plata Basin (Paraguay and Bolivia)
 ( ) - Xenocara sp.

* different sources list the zebra pleco as either hypancistrus sp. or
        peckoltia sp. [i.e. AFM versus Kobayagawa's book]
! habitat distribution info taken from Eigenmann & Allen's "Fishes of Western 
        South America" published 1942, so information *might* be slightly 
        outdated in that fishes could have been reclassified and further 
        subdivided in the last 50 years and therefore not have such a 
        widespread range
+ habitat distribution info take from Glodek's "The Freshwater Fishes of 
        Western Ecuador" published 1978.
/ info contained in slash marks "/ /" indicates color photographs are available 
        in the bibliographical reference indicated (cross-reference section 9);
        if preceeded by a backward slash "\" then photo is in black and white

Note: according to "+", no members of the subfamilies Hypoptopmatinae, 
Hartiinae, or Scolopacinae occur west of the Andes.


9) Brief Bibliography (full bibliography available on request):
  - Magazines:
      The Aquarium - multiple issues (1944, '45)
      Aquarium Fish Magazine (a) - October 1992 - pages 46-55. 
  - Books:
      The World of Catfishes (b) - 1989 - by Midori Kobayagawa
      The Freshwater Fishes of Western Ecuador - 1978 - by Garrett S. Glodek
  - Scientific Journals:
      Biological Conservation - 1991
      Copeia - multiple issues (1976,'77,'81-'85,'88-'92)
      Ecology - multiple issues (1984, '90)
      Env. Bio. of Fishes - 1982
      Journal of Animal Ecology - 1984
      Journal of Zoology - 1988
      Proceedings Biol. Soc. Wash. - 1985
      Systematic Zoology - 1986
  - Net Acknowledgements:
      Fil Feit - Thanks for the detailed info on your technique for breeding
                 bristle-nose plecos
      Oleg Kiselev - Thanks big time for getting me started on my research and
                     getting hooked on plecos in general!
      Ted Northrup - Thanks for the constructive criticisms of my first 
                     FAQ/FACT post!
      Steve Yegge - Thanks for doubling the quantity of exotic pleco info...
      Liisa Sarakontu - Thanks for the constructive criticisms of version 3
                        and for the information exchange with Pertti Rassi

Note: Bibliographical references marked with letters in parentheses correlate 
      to photographic references in sections 8 and 10 of this text file.


10) Exotic Varieties:
   Mango (or Gold-Rimmed) Pleco - $17 (1.5") - $100 (12") - lethargic & shy
       but extremely territorial and aggressive towards other mango plecos -
       grayish olivish brownish body with bright yellow stripes along the
       edges of its fins and tail - parancistrus undescribed sp. - /ab/

   Rhino Pleco - $15 (3" - 5") - very active, friendly, and inquisitive - dark
       brown with large horn-like protuberances above each nostril; very good
       camouflage ability to change from black to light tan; also has extremely
       prehensile lip extensions - hypostomus?/pterygoplichthys? sp.

   Gold Spot Pleco - $40 - $90 (12") - behavioral characteristics unknown -
       brown with either white or gold spots which can be large & irregular or
       small like pinpoints - peckoltia sp.

   Gold Nugget Pleco - $25 (2") - $90 (4") - behavioral characteristics
       unknown - brown with gold spots with gold band on the dorsal fin &
       tail - peckoltia sp. - /b/

   Orange Spot Pleco - $80 - $160 (18") - behavioral characteristics unknown
       - brown with orange fins & sucker and lots of little round orange spots
       - unknown sp.

   Royal Pleco - $30 (2") - $70 (15") - inactive - brownish gray with white or
       light gray stripes on body & tail; some have transparent sections on
       tails - panaque nigrolineatus - /b/

   Watermelon Pleco - $50 - behavioral characteristics unknown - a pinkish
       version of the royal pleco with oblong dots instead of full stripes -
       panaque sp.

   Zebra Pleco - $29 (2") - $100 (4") - nocturnal & very timid but very
       aggressive and territorial towards other zebras - black and white
       striped reminiscent of a barber pole - hypancistrus?/peckoltia? zebra
       - /b/

   Gypsy (or Reticular) Pleco - $50-$60 (dwarf species) - behavioral
       characteristics unknown - similar to zebra but has off-white stripes
       that are thinner and tend to meander - unknown sp.

   Sunshine Pleco - $35 (3") - nocturnal and very peaceful - yellow body with
       black highlights with an uncharacteristically large mouth - 
       Scobinancistrus sp.

   Green Mango Pleco - $15 (2.5") - a solid dark green pleco - unknown sp.

   Vampire Pleco - $37 (???) - generally peaceful - black body with either
       white or gold dots and has large curved teeth which protrude from the
       mouth - Leporacanthicus sp.

   Satan Pleco - ??? (2"-15") - the bigger they are the nastier they become
       - solid black occasionally with a few white dots - acanthicus sp.

   Red Fin Pleco - ????? - slightly aggressive - grayish olive body with
       pink to bright red tail - pseudoacanthicus sp. - /b/

   Fire Thorn or Red & Black Pleco - ??? (12") - aggression is a bluff & won't
       harm other fish - olive to black body covered with small red-tipped 
       spines and has faint red streaked fins - pseudoacanthicus sp. - /ab/

   Tiger Sailfin Pleco - $9 (3") - placid and friendly - leopard-like pattern
       over entire body, fins, and suckermouth - unknown sp.

I've included this section on exotic plecos because now is the rainy season
(February/March & August/September) and chances are best for you to find these
exotic varieties in your local stores.  Get 'em while they're hot!

(If you've got the info I need to replace the ????'s please enlighten me!)


11) Personal Notes - Opinions, Personal Experiences, Etc...
         The first thing I'd like to point out is the conflict in scientific 
information from my various sources.  I have established a hierarchy of what 
source I think is most likely correct down to the least likely correct.  
Scientific journals seem to be the most reliable source because the authors 
have done extensive research on location.  I find it hard to believe they have 
made any errors.  Next in line for reliability are catfish specific books.  
Authors such as Midori Kobayagawa have apparently done extensive lab research 
and library research and are not prone to making errors and probably did a lot 
of redundant research to make sure their primary sources are in agreement.  A
little bit less reliable are general books and atlases.  The authors & editors 
of these seem to have done the minimal amount of research necessary to include 
various loricariids in their books.  Often all they have are pretty pictures 
with inane captions!  (Again, let me emphasize this is my jagged opinion.)  And
the least reliable sources are the magazines (AFM, FAMA, TFH, etc.).  The 
authors of the articles in these magazines are 99.99% of the time hobbyists 
like you and me.  And the information contained in those articles is 99.99% of 
the time nothing but fluff.  I have read articles in which the author says one 
thing in one place and contradicts that statement somewhere else.  I simply 
don't trust them!  Besides, their articles are always for beginners anyway and 
I have long since outgrown that stage.  A typical magazine article reads more 
like a work of fiction than a work of scientific research.
         Phew, that felt cathartic!  Next I'd like to explain some of the crazy
things that have happened to me in attempting to acquire exotic plecos.  The 
best places to get exotic plecos are from non-chain pet stores.  Often their 
wholesalers can special order them and you'll get them for near wholesale 
prices.  For example, the local big chain has outlets throughout Ohio and 
Florida, and they pride themselves on the fact that they can special order 
*anything*.  The problem is, they jack up the prices.  Ironic their name *is* 
Jack's!  =)  They sell mango, gold-nugget, and zebra plecos for $80 apiece.  
Several local independent pet stores sell the same fish for $17, $30, and $37 
respectively.  Since these are all imported from South America, the prices are 
dirt dirt dirt dirt dirt cheap...especially for the mangos.  My point?  Just 
because a store is small and run down doesn't mean that they can't get you the 
exotic pleco you've always wanted.  On the contrary, they can probably get you
a very healthy specimen for an extremely low price.  I tangled with mail order 
places briefly, but always had this gut feeling I was being conned.  I don't 
recommend dealing with them except as a last resort.  Grab a yellow pages and 
call all the local stores and I guarantee you'll be surprised at how helpful 
they are even if they haven't got the first clue about exotic plecos.


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This page was last updated 29 October 1998