Armored Catfishes

The armored catfish is well-known in many freshwater aquariums. However, there are major differences between the groups of catfish. Some groups, such as the armored catfish of South America, seem to have been created for the aquarium. While others, such as the African catfish from the genus Synodontis, are considerably less popular, while I always find them great myself. Some armored catfish species are kept as algae eaters. Others simply because they are beautiful or as cleaning fish. Unfortunately, in the country of origin, the larger catfish mainly end up on the plate of the population, which is difficult for an aquarium enthusiast to understand, because they are such beautiful animals.

Armored catfish include fish species from the Loricariidae family. The family currently contains some 800 described species in more than 90 genera and six subfamilies.

The mouth

Armored catfish mouth
Baryancistrus beggini - L239 - Blue Panaque 1

The mouth of the armored catfish is equipped with a suction cup, with which these fish attach themselves to wood and rocks underwater. For example, the South American Wara Wara (Hypostomus ventromaculatus) lives in Suriname. These live in the rivers where the water flows both slowly and quickly. They seem to shuffle over the surfaces of rocks and logs underwater, holding on to the surface with their suction cup.

Many armored catfish reach considerable dimensions in nature. But there are also species that are excellent for the aquarium. Usually they are calm benthic fish, sometimes also schooling fish. They are not aggressive towards other species.

Hypostomus ventromaculatus
Baryancistrus beggini - L239 - Blue Panaque 2


They take food from the bottom. This often consists of leftover food and vegetable food, which are spurned by the other fish. As such, they are extremely useful fish in the aquarium. Depending on the size of the fish, an aquarium from 60 liters is often sufficient. Because they scavenge the food from the soil, the top layer of the soil is turned up, but the plants are usually left alone. Most catfish are omnivores. Live food is of course gladly accepted, but all dry food is also eaten. However, for good condition it is important to give live or frozen food at least occasionally.

Hypostomus plecostomus
Baryancistrus beggini - L239 - Blue Panaque 3

It is also important to bear in mind that by no means all species that resemble the well-known algae eaters Hypostomus plecostomus are also algae eaters. Catfish such as Golden nugget pleco (Baryancistrus xanthellus) and the Zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) definitely need meaty food. Incidentally, even the real algae eaters among the catfish do not eat filamentous algae or blue-green algae.

Breeding armored catfish

In most species of Armored catfish, the eggs are deposited in a cave, usually a clump of fairly large eggs, but this often also happens on leaves or even against the aquarium glass. There are even armored catfish that lay eggs in the mouths of mouthbrooding cichlids as if they were cuckoos like some Synodontis species. The eggs hatch after a few days and the young live on the yolk sac for a few more days.

In some species, the rearing of the young is simple with meaty food, in others, vegetable fodder is necessary. Once the youngsters have exceeded four to five centimetres, further rearing usually succeeds.

The water

Many species of armored catfish are typical fish of soft acidic water, with a pH of 5 to 7 and a hardness of less than 10. Temperatures between 22 and 30 ° C . However, many species can also be accustomed to higher pH and hardness levels, provided time is taken and levels are raised slowly. Especially the much-bred species such as Ancistrus and Plecostomus are quite flexible in this respect.

It is important when keeping Armored catfish that enough wood is placed in the aquarium so that these animals can scrape off the fibers they need for their digestion.

Author and Copyright images

Margie van der Heijden – Ons Natuurgenot Gouda

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