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Pterygoplichthys pardalis  (Castlenau, 1855)

ack in the days of the 1970s and eighties the "so called" Common Pleco, alongside Ancistrus and Rineloricaria species were the only "kids on the block" from the Loricariidae suckermouth catfishes and the name Hypostomus plecostomus was the name bandied about for this large Loricaria. The name plecostomus has now virtually disapeared, as we know it, as the sub-family Plecostominae is no more and plecostomus is now considered to be a synonym of Hypostomus.

Pterygoplichthys pardalis

Most of the literature from these early days labels the Common Pleco as Hypostomus plecostomus or Plecostomus commersoni but of course the name plecostomus is now invalid, but to this day the name Pleco is still used for all en composing members of the Loricariidae family. Today we have settled on a few Pterygoplichthysspecies with the common name of the "Common Pleco" including P. pardalis, Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus and a few others, including some Hypostomus species. The pictures in the old literature show members of the Hypostomus genera as the dorsal fins have between 5 and 8 rays whereas the Pterygoplichthys genera sport over 10, usually about 13, and this is easy to spot.


The Common Pleco has been introduced to a few other countries and continents and has become a nuisance to Fishermen and to the indigenous fish population. You can now find this species and others in the U.S.A., mainly Florida, Mexico, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore in Asia. They are bred in Fish Farms in the Far East for the Aquarium trade and exported to North America and unsuspecting aquarists have bought them only to find out their potential growth size and latterly they have been released into the local waters where they have thrived.


You may find this fish under the synonyms of Liposarcus pardalis or Hypostomus pardalis. This species can also be mistaken for Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus except it has more of a reticulated pattern on the abdomen where P. pardalis has more of a spotted pattern. Apart from that they are very alike. There are also man made albino variants of this species.


Pterygoplichthys pardalis  = showing head profile



Another common name used mostly in the North American continent is the "Janitor Fish" due to their cleaning capabilities of algae in the aquarium. Can be kept in a wide range of temperatures such as an unheated tank in a centrally heated house.

Questions have been asked about keeping them with Goldfish, but the main worry here is that the "Pleco" will try to suck the slime coatings of the goldfishes body leading to impending infection issues. Better to house the smaller common Ancistrus species if you want an algae cleaner.


Dorsal fin rays 11-13. Anal fin: 4-5 rays. Scutes along the lateral line, 29 to 30.

Geometric pattern on the head and leopard-like, dark spots of variable size's on the abdomen area.

Peaceful on their own but will be territorial with their own kind. Can be kept with most aquarium fishes in a larger tank of 3' 6" or over.

Due to the adult size of these catfish, most successful breeding's 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.

Sexual Differences
Not known.

In their natural habitat, this species feeds on algae, aquatic weeds and other plant matter and small crustaceans. Will eat mostly vegetable fare in the aquarium but will also eat tablet and pellet foods.

Glossary of Terms

Dorsal fin:The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body
Scutes: Bony covering.

Anal fin: The fin forward from the anal cavity.


Pterygoplichthys: Pterygos = wing, fin; pleion = more; ichthys = fish.

Evers, H.-G. & Seidel, I: Mergus, Baensch Catfish Atlas Volume 1, 1st English edn., 2005. Pp.944.
Chavezi, Joel M., De La Paz, Reynaldo M., Manohar Surya Krishna; Pagulaya Roberto C. & Carandang VI1, Jose R. New Philippine record of south american sailfin catfishes (Pisces: Loricariidae)

Photo Credits

First image:  © Jonas Hansel @



Second image: BigFrogFeet


Factsheet 154

Hypostomus pardalis, Liposarcus pardalis, Liposarcus varius, Liposarcus jeanesianus  
Common Name:
Common Pleco, L 021, L 023, Janitor fish.
South America: Lower, middle and upper Amazon River basin. Introduced to countries outside its native range.
30cm. (12ins)
20-26°c (67-79°f.) 
6.5 - 7.2
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                                                                                                                                  Factsheet 154 = updated March 30, 2009, © ScotCat 1997-2018  Go to Top