iPhoneOgraphy – 12 Apr 2016 (Day 103/366)
Hypostomus plecostomus, the suckermouth catfish or common pleco, 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 Plecostomus sold in aquarium shops, most are actually members of other genera.
Suckermouth catfish are of little or no value as a food fish, although they are at least occasionally consumed over their native range. A demand exists for them, however, in the aquarium trade.
This species’ native range is tropical northeastern South America; it naturally occurs in northeastern Brazil, the Guianas, and Trinidad and Tobago. Confusingly, the name Hypostomus Plecostomus (or Plecostomus) has sometimes been incorrectly used for several more-or-less similar loricariid catfishes, both in the popular and scientific literature. For example, it has sometimes been suggested that it occurs in southern Central America, but this is an entirely separate species, Hemiancistrus aspidolepis (also known under another synonym, Hypostomus panamensis).
In addition to its native range in South America, H. plecostomus has been widely introduced to several countries around the world. In the United States, it has been introduced to some regions in the South, most likely released by aquarists into the local waters. For example, they are present in a lake in the neighborhood of Hammock Trace Preserve in Melbourne, FL. In Texas, reproducing populations occur in spring-influenced habitats of the San Antonio River (Bexar County), Comal Springs (Comal County), San Marcos River (Hays County), and San Felipe Creek (Val Verde County), as well as in drainage canals in Houston.
They have also been introduced to several Asian countries. Suckermouth catfish are often cultured in ponds in Singapore and Hong Kong, where they are very popular for the aquarium trade.