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Pimelodella gracilis  (Valenciennes, 1836)

genera we have not covered before in this factsheet series is the Pimelodella
from the South American Heptapteridae family and probably because there is not a lot known about them, identification wise anyway, and although some make it into the hobby they are not that well represented in your local fish stores. Pimelodella is the largest genus in the family, however, it is very much in need of taxonomic revision.

Pimelodella gracilis


This genus is found on both sides of the Andes and there are approximately 78 species ranging from Panama to Paraguay and southern Brazil with one species also occurring in Central America (Pimelodella chagresi). This genus also includes two species of troglobitic catfishes, P. kronei and P. spelaea


This genus has been in confusion for a good number of years now especially with another close member of the Pimelodidae family, Pimelodus. These notes are the following distinguishing characteristics from the two genus. Pimelodella: Adipose fin long, low with a curved margin. The humeral process is long and spiky. Body usually plain with a dark lateral stripe; rather depressed body. Pimelodus: Adipose fin short, high, with a straight or sloping margin. Humeral process broad, triangular. Body variously patterned, usually quite deep.



Pimelodella gracilis  = head view


Head view

The genus Pimelodella used to be a sub-family member of the Pimelodidae
before being given full family status.

Dorsal spines (total): 1; Dorsal soft rays (total): 6; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 14 - 15. Adipose fin long, low with a curved margin. The humeral process is long and spiky, rather depressed body. Three pairs of barbels. Caudal fin deeply forked.

Body usually plain with a dark lateral stripe running through the body from the snout to the caudal peduncle.

Aquarium Care

Provide hiding places such as pots and rockwork and if desired, floating plant cover. Fish companions should be as large as not to be seen as potential victims in their night time forays around the tank.


Treat as you would do with any member of the Pimelodus in that they will be predatory on small fishes in the aquarium and it is also better to keep them in small groups rather than singularly, as this will dilute the aggression.

Not reported

Sexual Differences

Not reported


Will eat any aquarium prepared foods such as tablets, pellets, frozen and live foods. Not fussy eaters.

Glossary of Terms

Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Humeral process:
Bony extension of the pectoral girdle.
Dorsal: The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body.
Anal: The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.



Pimelodella: Pimel = fat; odella = a little tooth, (a little Pimelodus)
gracilis: Graceful; slender.


Bockmann, F.A. and G.M. Guazzelli, 2003. Heptapteridae (Heptapterids). p. 406-431. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly
. Editors. 2016.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, ( 06/2016 )
Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl, 1985. Aquarien atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur-und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.

Photo Credits

 Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library

Factsheet 243

Pimelodus gracilis
Common Name:
Graceful pimelodella
South America: Orinoco, Amazon and La Plata basins, Argentina, Brazil and Peru. 
17cm. (6¾ins)
20-24°C (67-75°F)
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                                                                                                                                        Factsheet 243 = updated October 20, 2004, © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top