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The suckermouth catfish, Hypostomus plecostomus, 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 plecos sold in aquarium shops, most are actually members of other genera.
This species’ native range is tropical Central America and South America; it naturally occurs on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica and both slopes of Panama, southward to Uruguay. Suckermouth catfishes occur in the wild in fresh running waters and brackish waters of river mouths.
Due to the adult size of these catfish, most successful breedings have occurred in ponds with steep clay or mud banks. They dig tunnels close to the water level and the males guard the eggs until they hatch.
In some places in the Southern US (Florida and Texas), this species has been introduced from its native range, probably dumped by aquarists into the local waters. For example, they are present in a lake in the neighborhood of Hammock Trace Preserve in Melbourne, FL. They have been also been introduced to several Asian countries as well like in the Philippines where it is now considered a pest in areas in and around the Laguna de Bay. Suckermouth catfish are often cultured in ponds in Singapore and Hong Kong, where it is very popular for the aquarium trade.
Suckermouth catfish are of little or no value as a food fish, although they are at least occasionally consumed over their native range. However, they are of great value in the aquarium trade in the United States.
Hypostomus plecostomus is one of a number of species commonly referred to as “Plecostomus” or “Common Pleco” by aquarists. In the Philippines, in the aquarium trade, it is called the janitor fish. The suckermouth catfish is named for its sucker-like mouth, which allows it to adhere to a surface, as well as to hold and rasp at food. These fish are sold when they are young and small but they can grow to be a maximum size of over a foot to around 50 cm or so.