Hypostomus Plecostomus (Suckermouth Catfish)

Last updated on September 5th, 2022 at 03:52 pm

The Hypostomus plecostomus, also known as the suckermouth catfish, can be hard to find in the pet trade. If you’re lucky enough to find one, keep in mind that they are bigger than they appear! This species of catfish can grow up to 24 inches and should be kept in aquariums larger than 50 gallons (200 liters).

The hypostomus plecostomus is one of the easiest species of fish to care for in an aquarium. In fact, it’s almost as simple as keeping goldfish! As long as you keep them fed and clean their tank frequently, they will be healthy and happy all on their own.

Origin and description

Hypostomus plecostomus

The Hypostomus plecostomus is an eel-like fish with a large head, wide mouth, and protruding lower jaw. It has three barbels near its nostrils. Native to South America, they are freshwater fish that thrive in soft, acidic water.

The Amazon basin is their natural habitat. They can be found in most pet stores under several different names including plecostomus. There are about 50 recognized species of suckermouth catfish, with Hypostomus plecostomus being one of the species. Within these 50 species, there are many subspecies and color variations making each one unique, though all share similar care needs.

Its eyes are on top of its head so it can see above or below itself without moving its body. The Hypostomus’ common name refers to its flexible upper lip, which enables it to suck in food at any angle. These fish have also been called pleco-eels because of their resemblance to both types of animals.

A distinctive trait of all members of the Hypostomus genus is their ability to inflate themselves when threatened. This makes them more intimidating predators that intimidate others into keeping away from them and the young offspring that they protect by biting if something comes too close for comfort.

However, many people enjoy having these pets around because they help clean algae off of aquarium glass and other surfaces, making housekeeping easier. They will go after just about anything eatable including algae, small plants, shrimp pellets and flakes, and even meaty foods like bloodworms.

While hypostomus plecostomus may seem like a peaceful pet, they are actually quite aggressive if threatened. In fact, these bottom feeders often bite their owners in defense when threatened.

Species profile

Hypostomus plecostomus

Hypostomus plecostomus is an omnivorous scavenger native to tropical South America. Suckermouth fish typically inhabit murky rivers and lakes with high levels of nutrients, but as long as your aquarium provides clean water conditions, they will thrive in most environments. These species are a great choice for beginners due to their hardiness, low maintenance needs, and coloration; it’s no wonder they are one of Amazonas’ most popular freshwater species!

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Hypostomus plecostomus habitat

The suckermouth catfish is native to freshwater habitats in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It’s a bottom-dwelling fish that prefers shallow waters with overhanging vegetation. The species appears to prefer muddy habitats with a rich food supply and many hiding places in which they can ambush prey.

However, due to its small size (between 5 and 10 centimeters), it rarely preys on larger animals such as shrimp or fish. Instead, they make up for their lack of size by consuming large quantities of smaller invertebrates at once.

You may also notice your catfish eating algae from tank decorations; these small amounts will not hurt them but will help them keep their skin clean from parasites and other unwanted material that can irritate their bodies. A well-fed Hypostomus plecostomus will grow rapidly!

This fish is native to river basins in South America; they were introduced into the waterways of Florida and have since spread through much of the south-central United States. In other words, don’t expect your pet pleco to live for many years.

Hypostomus plecostomus size and weight

Males can grow up to 24 inches while females can reach 15 inches. They average a little more than 1 pound in weight.

Hypostomus plecostomus tank size

Tanks for suckermouth catfish should be at least 50 gallons, with larger tanks for larger fish. A 200-gallon tank is not out of line for these animals as adults. Most hobbyists agree that there is no reason to house Hypostomus plecostomus in less than a 50-gallon tank.

Hypostomus plecostomus tank set up

Provide your Hypostomus plecostomus with a large aquarium with plenty of places to hide and swim. It is important to give them enough room so they are not constantly bumping into each other. You should be able to get around without having to step on fish or swimming over them.

Having a variety of tank mates will also reduce aggressive behaviors and increase socialization for your Plecos.  The more space you can provide, the even better! An ideal setup would be: 50+ gallons per adult fish, 75+ gallons per a couple of adults, 100+ gallons for 3-4 adults, and 100+ gallons if you have a mated pair.

This species requires neutral water but a slightly acidic pH level at 6.0 – 7.5, 1 – 5 dH hardness, 77°F – 82°F temperature; though some claim that 75°F is optimal as well! Use an air stone and filter to keep oxygen levels high, and clean up uneaten food immediately.

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For live plants, do what many others do: go wild! In all honesty, anything you throw in there will probably work out just fine… however hardier plants such as Cryptocoryne wendtii, Eleocharis acicularis, Sagittaria subulata, or Vallisneria spiralis tend to survive longer.

Note that it’s important to avoid sharp and thick-leaved aquatic plants like Hygrophila polysperma, Hygrophila corymbosa or Echinodorus cordifolius (Bucephalandra sp.) since they can damage Hypostomus’ mouth and tear their delicate barbels.

Also include some hiding places with rocks and driftwood.

Hypostomus plecostomus tank mates

When housing your Hypostomus plecostomus with other fish, be sure to choose species that are neither too big nor too small. Ideally, they should be around 2 – 3 inches long. The peaceful, hardy nature of these catfish will make them compatible with most fish, as long as they’re properly sized for each other. Avoid keeping more than one Pleco in a single tank due to their aggressive nature and large adult size of up to 16 inches!

They can be kept with most tropical community fish, but it’s better to avoid bottom feeders that could be easily eaten. Redtail shark, gourami, angelfish, discus, tiger barbs, rainbow sharks, and corydoras are all good choices as tank mates.

While non-fish tank mates for your Hypostomus plecostomus are freshwater crabs and shrimp.

Hypostomus plecostomus breeding

Hypostomus plecostomus

This species is sexually mature at about 5 inches. The female is slightly larger than her male counterpart and will lay up to 500 eggs which are encased in jelly-like substances. These eggs will hatch within 6 days, after fertilization, and live off their yolk sacks for 3 to 4 days until they become free-swimming.

At that point, they must be fed baby brine shrimp until they are large enough to accept food of a larger size. They reach full maturity at about 2 inches. There are many different variations of these fish including albino, leucistic, gold and cherry red, etc… which makes them very attractive as a pet but care must be taken because these fish grow very fast!

Are Hypostomus plecostomus aggressive or peaceful?

The Hypostomus plecostomus is often described as being one of the most peaceful aquarium fish. As long as they are fed at least once a day and kept in good conditions, they will be docile and non-aggressive fish. Males can grow to be territorial with each other, so make sure you have one male per tank. If more than one male is added to a tank, there can be some fighting between them.

Hypostomus plecostomus care

Hypostomus plecostomus

Plecostomus are simple fish to care for and do not require a lot of extra accessories to be happy. They get along well with each other and if you have multiple Plecos, they should be introduced slowly so as not to establish dominance.

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It’s also important to clean their habitat regularly and make sure water conditions are good before adding new fish. Be careful about overfeeding them or giving them treats because it can cause bloating in their stomach which can lead to death.

Hypostomus plecostomus diet

The Pleco is an omnivore, meaning that it can feed on both animal and plant matter. It will eat algae off of rocks as well as flakes. However, its preference leans towards meatier foods like bloodworms and tubifex worms. If you’re trying to find good food for your Hypostomus plecostomus, stick with live foods.

Water parameters

The Hypostomus plecostomus is a hardy, freshwater fish. Water temperature should be between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, with pH levels between 6.5 and 7.8. Lighting should be moderate to low, as too much will stress your fish out; many hobbyists use fluorescent lighting in combination with ambient light from windows.

A mature aquarium is recommended for a single specimen of Hypostomus plecostomus. If you are planning on keeping more than one fish in an aquarium, make sure there’s plenty of room — Hypostomus plecos can grow up to 14 inches long!

Hypostomus plecostomus lifespan

They can live up to 10 years or more. There are numerous reports of anglers keeping plecos alive for over 20 years in captivity. The species is likely long-lived, as indicated by its late maturity and slow growth rates.

Parasites and diseases

A parasite is an organism that spends part of its life cycle living inside a host animal. If you have a bad case of ich, for example, thousands of tiny white worms are probably swimming around in your tank. Hypostomus plecostomus is not as affected by parasites as other fish, but ich or velvet can be introduced to your aquarium through new fish.

These should be quarantined in hospital tanks before being put with your community tank. Fortunately, parasites and diseases rarely threaten healthy Hypostomus plecostomus populations. In fact, most wild-caught Hypostomous plecostomus do not have detectable levels of parasites or disease because their immune systems adapt to live in an environment full of them!


Barbs, Angels, Gouramis, and other cichlids will eat your pleco. Be careful when placing them in tanks with these fish. They may not go after your Pleco right away but they can do damages on them once they get to a certain size! Discus are another threat that you need to watch out for. If placed in a tank with a discus that is smaller than your Pleco, it will most likely get eaten by them.

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Hypostomus plecostomus

Does Hypostomus plecostomus eat other fish?

Yes, Hypostomus will eat any fish small enough to fit in their mouths.

Can pleco live with guppies?

Yes! Plecos can live with guppies, though they prefer larger tank mates. Plecos are also better in groups and if you have multiple of them, they’ll spend less time chasing your guppies. A hungry Hypostomus plecostomus will often chase its tank mates for food until it tires them out.

Can I have 2 plecos in the same tank?

No, you cannot. The reason you’re only able to have one Hypostomus Plecostomus in your tank is that they are known to be territorial with other plecos, even if they are of different species. Having multiple fish competing for territory and food means that they will become stressed and more vulnerable to disease.

You can, however, keep them in a tank alongside other fish as long as there is plenty of room for each individual fish to have its own territory.

Can plecos live with Mollies?

If you’re wondering whether Hypostomus plecostomus can live with Mollies, the answer is yes. It’s not uncommon for aquarists to house these two species together. In fact, they tend to get along well! This makes sense because both fish are bottom-dwellers that naturally gather in schools. And as social creatures, they like having companionship in their tank.

Do they make good pets?

Yes, Hypostomus plecostomus is a popular species of aquarium fish. The fish’s ability to suck up food from between its teeth makes it easy to feed, but be warned; some find their feeding habits disgusting. However, they are quite hardy and require little maintenance and upkeep.

Their small size also means they take up minimal space in an aquarium. If you have your heart set on a pet fish that requires very little work, Hypostomus plecostomus may be right for you!