Hypostomus plecostomus

suckermouth catfish





Type Locality

Type species (H. plecostomus) Surinam River outlet, Surinam (Boeseman).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name







Maximum size: 600 mm SL (Hensley Courtenay 1980).


Life colors: Frequently have patterns of spots (Hoover et al 2004).




Body shape: Range from 14-50 cm depending on species (Hoover et al 2004).


Mouth position: The mouth is inferior and the lips surrounding it form a 'sucking disk' (Hoover et al 2004).


External morphology: Adipose fin has a spine; pectoral fins have thick, toothed spines which are used in male-to-male combat and locomotion (Walker 1968).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Introduced to many sites throughout the U.S. (Hubbs et al 1991). Populations have been found in Nevada, Hawaii, and isolated specimens from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana and Pennsylvania (Hoover et al 2004). H. plecostomus is the most frequent imported and geographically widespread (Walker 1968).


Texas distribution: Was introduced to the San Antonio River, Comal Springs (Hubbs et al 1991). Was first introduced in 1956 into the San Antonio River, and has maintained a large and obvious presence since (Edwards 2001). 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) (Hoover et al. 2004; Whiteside and Berkhouse 1992; Lopez-Fernandez and Winemiller 2005).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)



Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat:  Occur in lotic fresh and brackish waters (Sterba 1983; Sakuri et al. 1992) with wide temperature ranges (Sterba 1983)


Mesohabitat: In the San Antonio River, Texas, larger Hypostomus are found in swift water, frequently under large boulders, while smaller fish and juveniles are associated with vegetation in slow to moderate flow velocities (Hubbs et al 1978). Thermal minimum for Hypostomus is 12 degrees C (Shafland and Pestrak 1982).



Spawning season:


Spawning habitat: Construct branching, horizontal nesting burrows in stream or pond banks about 120-150 cm deep, to lay live young, guarded by males until free-swimming larvae leave the burrow (Hoover et al 2004).


Spawning Behavior:




Age at maturation:




Growth and Population structure:




Food habits: Feeding is done by plowing along the substrate and using the thick-lipped, toothy mouth to scrape plant materials (filamentous algae, diatoms) from hard surfaces or to suck up fine sediments (Hoover et al 2004). Mainly algal grazers, nocturnal feeders (Hensley and Courtenay 1980).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Distinguished from other genre of suckermouth catfishes by the smaller dorsal fin (fewer than 9, usually 7 rays) and fused opercular bones (Burgess 1989)

Distinguished between species based on pigmentation (Walker 1968).

The taxonomy of the genus remains uncertain, so species identification is not possible at this time (Page 1994).

Number and identities of species established in United States is uncertain (Hensley and Courtenay 1980).


Host Records



Commercial or Environmental Importance

Hypostomus could displace native herbivorous fishes such as the central stoneroller Campostoma anomalum (Hubbs et al. 1978). Hypostomus plecostomus commonly sold in pet stores (Walker 1968).



Burgess, W. E. 1989. An Atlas of Freshwater and Marine Catfishes: A preliminary survey of the Siluriformes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Hensley, D. A. and W. R. Courtenay, Jr. 1980. Hypostomus Spp. Armored catfishes. pp. 477 in: D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r + 854.

Hoover, J.J., K.J. Killgore and A.F. Confrancesco. 2004. Suckermouth Catfishes: Threats to Aquatic Ecosystems of the United States? Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Program Bulletin. Vol.04-1 (Feb 2004).

Hubbs, C. L., R. J. Edwards and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement. 43(4):1-56.

Hubbs, C., T. Lucier, G. P. Garrett, R. J. Edwards, S. M. Dean, E. Marsh, and D. Belk. 1978. Survival and abundance of introduced fishes near San Antonio, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 30:369-376.

Lopez-Fernandez, H. and K. O. Winemiller. 2005. Status of Dionda diaboli and report of established populations of exotic fish species in lower San Felipe Creek. Southwestern Naturalist 50 (246):251.

Page, L. M. 1994. Identification of sailfin catfishes introduced to Florida. Florida Scientist 57(4): 171-172.

Sakuri, A., Y. Sakmoto, and F. Mori editors. 1992. Aquarium fish of the world., Loiselle, V edition. 1992, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

Shafland, P. L. and J. M. Pestrak. 1982. Lower lethal temperatures for fourteen non-native fishes in Florida. Environmental Biology of Fishes 7:149-156.

Sterba, G. 1983. Pages 605 in: The Aquarium Encyclopedia. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Walker, B. 1968. The fish with the folded mouth. The Aquarium Series II. 1(10) 4-5 36-43.

Whiteside, B. G. and C. Berkhouse. 1992. Some new collection locations for six fish species. Texas Journal of Science 44(4):494.

Boeseman, Zool. Verhand., Leiden 99:1-89

Lowe-McConnell. 1975. Fish communities in Tropical Freshwaters.