“ Animal Species: Fish „
When it comes to tropical fish keeping, catfish are my favourite to keep!
However the suckermouth catfish is a very broad name as a category!
Under the suckermouth category can be placed the catfish or the loaches... and there are MANY types of both! But as I know, and prefer, the catfish... that is what I am going to review!
There are various types of catfish, some of which grow very large and should only be kept in suitable sized fish tanks.
Sucker mouth catfish such as the Common Plecostomus also known as the common plec for short, are commonly kept in small general aquariums. However keeping one of these in a small fish tank can stunt growth and shorten a catfish's life span.
Catfish can outgrow their tanks very quickly! Common pleco's are being sold at pet stores for cheap as youngsters at around the size of 3 inches. However they can live up to 10-15 years and some people think having a common pleco in an aquarium for 2 years is an accomplishment... when really, their fish has died a youngster!
Catfish are very easy to keep however you sometimes have to be careful when selecting which varieties to keep together. It's not always advisable to keep the most territorial species together when there's a lack of hiding places in the tank.
Catfish make the perfect addition to any community tank! They aren't aggressive to other middle/top swimmers although you may have to be careful sometimes when keeping the long finned cats with fish such as cichlids' or any other fin nippers!
Catfish are also great to keep as they don't eat any other smaller fish. If you like to breed fish such as guppies, the catfish won't touch the fry and do a great job at keeping the tank free of algae.
I personally don't think these pleco's should be sold at pet stores to anybody who is just going to keep them in a small tank, it's cruel! However they are very easy to get hold of and very cheap... they are also good for clearing algae off the tank glass which is one main reason why people keep them.
Catfish don't actually have scales which makes them very sensitive to things such as water medication. If you have poorly fish in the tank, they should be treated in a different tank to the one your catfish is in as medications can give catfish burns.
Using medication such as melafix to fix a problem such as whitespot or fin rot can cause more harm than good and care should be taken!
When keeping certain catfish such as the bristlenose, keeping wood in the tank is a MUST! Bristlenose suck on the wood and it is a very important part of their diet. Wood helps digestion for bristlenose and also other sucker mouths.
There are varieties of wood to buy...
I keep bogwood and driftwood and I have found that the younger bristlenose tend to strip the driftwood and prefer it a lot more! Although driftwood floats as it is found on beaches washed up from the sea, so it has to be weighed down by things such as slate or plastic suckers to stick it to bottom of the tank.
I recently purchased a lot of gorgeous driftwood from someone who collected it from the beach and I've found it has been the best wood I have used so far! It is completely natural and perfect.
However before adding this wood to your tank you have to make you soak the wood for a few weeks... this can be sped up by boiling the wood though to release the tanning's and any dirt.
There are ALOT of many different types of sucker mouth catfish. There are many different types of pleco, many are rare or expensive and others... not so rare.
A favourite of mine is the clown pleco although ive never kept one, I think they are lovely.
The commonly known expensive pleco is the zebra plec! These cost around £100 each sometimes even more! But there are people breeding them in fish tanks and I envy them! Who needs a job when you can be making £100 per fish?!
The bristle nose is another type of the sucker mouth catfish and my favourite of all.
But also with the bristle nose, there are many types!
The common bristlenose is the one which is found a lot in shops.
Apart from just the common BN though, the albino common bristlenose is readily sold and around where I live, the longfin version is also available.
Bristlenose catfish don't grow as big as the usual plecostomus which is a main reason why a lot of people go for keeping them. They only grow to around 6 inches in length when compared to the very large plecostomus, they are a lot easier to keep.
The longfin bristlenose is the usual bristlenose but with fancy long fins and in a lot of countries, these are more costly than the usual common BN.
Theres a debate about whether the longfin is a human invention, or whether it is an actual natural variation. I have read many articles about the longfin being found in wild which could prove it is a natural cause. However I also know people do purposely breed the longfins for their cost and looks!
There are also the rarer types of bristlenose! The one I know well is the Peppermint bristlenose which can sometimes also be known as the starlight bristlenose!
But again, there are many types of peppermint bristlenose!!! And these are set into categories depending on their L numbers. I have the L071 peppermint bristlenose which in some countries is illegal to keep.
These are usually very costly so I am very lucky to have them!
The peppermints are jet black with white spots ... giving them their 'starlight' name. When young, they have tips on their tails which usually goes as they get older however some keep a little white tip with them.
When it comes to sucker mouth catfish, some are a lot easier to breed than others.
In fact with a lot of catfish, there are no known reports of getting them to breed in captivity and it is impossible to do so.
Some types require very special requirements to try to get them breed but there's never any guarantees! Certain types of the starlight bristlenose catfish only breed in black water! Something special has to be purchased to get the water black which I'm unsure about!
I've also known about people having greater success in breeding catfish in tanned water which is required by adding wood into the tank. Although it's not recommended to add wood which hasn't been pre-soaked or boiled so this technique is risky.
As I mentioned before, there have been people who have managed to breed the zebra pleco. Although I know this isn't easy as everybody would be doing it!
The trick to breeding most (possible) catfish is clean water, high O2 levels, a suitable substrate and good filtration. Although some people prefer to not use any substrate, I've heard of people having problems from a build up of bad bacteria on the glass causing them to lose many fry!
The easiest known sucker mouth catfish to breed is the bristlenose catfish.
The common bristlenose is the easiest but as far as I know, they are all possible! However the peppermint bristlenose has proven to be a little trickier to breed so I'm hoping mine get down to it soon!
The bristlenose as far as I know can have up to 100 babies at a time! Although breeders expect about a 10% loss in fry due to natural selection.
To breed any type of catfish, caves are needed! Catfish are spawners and egg layers meaning they need a cave to lay their eggs into.
Bristlenose breed by laying eggs in the males cave, leaving the male to take care and look after the eggs... fanning them with their tails until they have hatched.
The babies will eat from their egg sack for a few days until they are big enough to venture out (if their dad lets them!)
Bristlenose breed very regularly! About once a month on average which is why many breeders tend to take the female away every now and then so they aren't run down with hundreds and hundreds of fish!
If you have bristlenose babies, they can be left with their parents however they can be eaten by other fish, so it's wise to choose your tank mates carefully! And go for something with a very small mouth!
If keeping a few adult bristlenose in one tank as I am, it's vital to watch out for fighting and to ensure you have plenty of caves and hiding spaces to make sure the fish don't fish over spaces! Adult bristlenose can fish till death and with their side spikes on their faces which they pull out when fighting... they can cause damage to eachother! Although having said this, mine squabble every now and then and its nothing too serious it's just the way they are!
Sucker mouth catfish are best fed on things such as cucumber and peas! They are algae eaters but this doesn't mean they can just live off the algae in your tank.. They DO need added food! I feed mine algae wafers, sinking catfish pellets, bloodworm pellets, shrimp pellets, frozen bloodworm and occasionally my frozen mix of beef heart and banana. However meat shouldn't be given often especially when young as it can cause digestion problems.
Other people also feed their catfish pieces of squash and other varieties of veg! Some may need to be boiled for a while... you can't just throw in a frozen pea and expect the little suckers to be able to eat it.
I feed my catfish every other day; they don't need to be fed 'several times a day' as many food tubs advise. Doing this can cause bad water problems and they most likely won't eat that much.
You also have to be careful when feeding veg etc as some dissolve quickly into the water and let off manky food into the water which can build up and cause your water parameters to plummet.
When feeding things such as cucumber, its best to either put it in, in the morning and taken out at night. Or put in at night and taken out in the morning. It shouldn't ever be left for longer and this amount of time is plenty enough.
I prefer to put mine in at night time as peppermint bristlenose and many other catfish are night eaters!
Many foods float, meaning it's hard to get them to stick down so the suckers can eat them. Things such as screw cumber can be bought from eBay which screws into the pieces of food to weigh it down.
Although I personally think these are expensive for what they are! They cost about £7 for one last time I checked, so I tend to just stick the food into the sand/gravel to keep it down.
I have recently converted from a community tank to a bristlenose breeding tank! I love keeping catfish and they have always been my favourite out of the tropical fish.
I would recommend keeping catfish to anybody with a suitable sized tank.
If you have a smaller aquarium and you want a catfish, it's probably best to go for something like the corydoras catfish or the otocinclus as these stay small.
However if you are wanting the larger cats, the bristlenose don't grow as large and wont outgrow a tank as long as it is a suitable size.
Sucker mouths are very easy to keep and cheap to feed, they are suitable to keep with just about any fish and are great to watch!
They are a fab hobby to take up breeding with and it's very rewarding to keep them.
Thank you for reading, I also post on Ciao.
I have a 13 inch (At present) sailfin plec (Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps) who resides in a 300 litre tank. His name is Boris and we inherited him about one year ago. Although sailfin plecs are supposedly largely nocturnal, Boris has overcome this adversion to light, in his search for food. Generally he is a good natured plec who lives quite happily with three freshwater pufferfish and a shoal of goldern wonder Pachaxes. However he is defininately king of the tank, and when he was in the community tank he would quarrel with conspecifics and enforce his own territory. Boris is eclectic in his eating habits and quite happily eats bloodworm, algae wafers and his favorite sliced courgette. Beware he is a very messy animal who creates much waste and therefore requires frequent water changes, not so much for himself, as sailfin plecs are tolerent of variations in water quality, but for any other species in the tank. This species also requires bogwood to rasp on and it is thought that this supplements a dietary requirement. Additionally this species is a fantastic algae eater and Boris keeps the tank glass spotless, but be warned, if he consideres that his dietary needs are not being forfilled he will destroy any of your precious tank foliage. This is not a species for a small tank, as they rapidly grow to a maximum of 18 inches, but as a partner to south american ciclids of other midwater to surface feeders you will be hardpressed to find a more impressive tank mate.