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Hoplosternum littorale  (Hancock, 1828)

ue to the increased popularity of the new CW numbers of Corydoras and the ever increasing L-numbers of the Loricariidae the Hoplosternum genera tend to be overlooked as they have been available in the hobby for as long as I can remember, but from recent comments from aquarists this is still a real favourite among catfish aficionado's.

Hoplosternum littorale


Hoplosternum littorale inhabits swamps and during the rainy season adults consume a great quantity of chironomids associated with detritus. During the dry season, they feed mostly on terrestrial insects, micro-crustaceans, aquatic Diptera, and detritus and absorb a great quantity of anaerobic bacteria from the substrate. First reproduction occurs after one year. Used to be cultured commercially in Guyana. Cultured in Trinidad on a semi-commercial scale.



Hoplosternum littorale - head view


You can identify this species from Megalechis thoracata and Lepthoplosternum pectorale by the shape of its caudal fin, it being forked while M. thoracata is truncate (square) and L. pectorale's caudal fin is rounded.



Megalechis thoracata=Square Caudal
Lepthoplosternum pectorale=Round Caudal
Hoplosternum littorale=Forked Caudal


Second infraorbital bone extremely developed, articulating with the pterotic-supracleithrum and covering the entire area of skin between eye and opercle; coracoids exposed ventrally but not in contact in the midline even in fully matured males; 4-6 scutes of upper lateral series with lateral line perforations.

Upper parts of body and fins black/brown. Underside slightly lighter.

Aquarium Care

Provide large Echinodorus plants in pots as they will dig plants up if planted in the substrate. Provide floating plants at the surface to darken the aquarium and also provide strong filtration in the tank.


Peaceful. As they can grow to a reasonable size they will predate on small fish so as long as companions are the same size in a good sized aquarium with plenty of room they will be fine.

They are bubble nesters so the male will build a nest at the surface. You could also place a piece of polystyrene in the tank as the male will often use this to build the nest. After the eggs are laid the male will chase the female away and guard the nest. It may be advisable to move the female from the tank as the male will get quite aggressive. The eggs will hatch in three days and the fry should be fed small foods such as Brine shrimp naupli and crushed flake or fry flakes, manufactered small grain foods. You may have to remove the male at this point but this will depend from species to species.

Sexual differences
Sexually mature males have a thick first ray to the pectoral fin which in adult specimens can turn upwards. The females have a thin first ray to the pectoral fin.

Worm foods, tablets, live and frozen foods. Not a fussy eater.

Glossary of Terms

Coracoid : Middle and lower section of the pectoral girdle.

Opercle : The bony covering of the gills of fishes.

Caudal fin: The tail.

Scutes : Bony covering.
Lateral line : A sensory line, along the sides of the body.
Pectoral fin
: The paired fins just behind the head.


Hoplosternum: With armed sternum, (breast).

Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl 1985 Aquarien atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2009.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (04/2011).
Reis, Roberto E. 1996. Hoplosternum Gill 1858. Version 29 April 1996 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Hoplosternum/15336/1996.04.29 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

Photo Credits
©  Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library  
Factsheet 230

Callichthys littoralis, C.laevigatus, C.albidus, C.subulatus, C.chiquitos, C.melampterus Hoplosternum laevigatum, H. stevardii, Cataphractops melampterus, H.schreineri, Cascadura maculocephala, H.shirui, H.littorale daillyi, H.littoralis daillyi, H.thoracatum cayennae  
Common Name:
Clay Hoplo, Cascudo.
South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Fr Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad &  Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela
20cm. (8ins)
18-26°C (64-79°F)   
6.0 -8.0.
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                                                                                           Factsheet no 230 = updated December 14, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top