by Yann Fulliquet, uploaded January 20, 2008
Ancistrus species are commonly kept in most of the fish tanks of the world, the common one, labelled on Planet Catfish as Ancistrus sp. (3) is known worldwide and has been bred in captivity for decades now. With the introduction of the L number system in 1988, fancy Loricariidae have shown up from time to time in local fish stores at rather larger prices and more and more beautiful and colourful species have been discovered and are still being discovered yearly. This Ancistrus is no exception, it has yet to receive its own L number and/or species name, but certainly won’t take long to create a real interest among the aquarist fraternity.
The species comes from the Rio Tocantins in Brazil, one of the many larger tributaries of the huge Amazon river. The fish was first imported into Germany a few years ago, first thought to be Ancistrus sp. L159 from the Rio Xingu, it soon appeared it was another species, as yet unknown. They appeared as by catch of another Rio Tocantins Ancistrus species, L156. The species does not grow big, achieving only 8-10cm which makes it one of the best suited species for small tank. A 15 gallon tank is sufficient for a group of 4 to 6 individuals if kept alone. The overall colouration is brown with thin black reticulated line on the body, giving the fish are really striking pattern that certainly makes it one of the most attractive Ancistrus species around. Ancistrus sp. L159 isn’t so heavily reticulated and the overall colouration is much lighter.
I obtained a group of 5 young via my good friend Serge Rubin of France who in turn got them from a German breeder that specialised in Ancistrus. He bought them as L159, and since that person is a reliable source, I didn’t push further investigation even if I thought they were rather beautiful for L159. While browsing through the wells atlas II, I though these were more closely related to A. sp. “Tocantins” rather than L159. Several months later Ingo Seidel confirmed my suspicion. The young were around 4-5 cm long and some were already showing sign of snout tentacles, giving a good pointer that they might turn into males. They are quite fast growers in comparison to the common species.
They are not difficult to feed and will eat anything that is offer like any other Ancistrus. Mine were mainly fed Courgette, spirulina tablets and pellets. Sexing is like with other Ancistrus, the males has many soft tentacles on the snout and snout edge, larger females can have 2-3 very small tentacles on the snout edge. The tentacles of a breeding male get bigger and wider shortly before spawning occurs, then when he starts to take care of the brood, the tentacles grow back to their normal size.
Spawning isn’t too hard to initiate, basically a big water change should do the trick. I keep mine in normal tap water, which parameters are around neutral with a conductivity of 300 microsiemens, they are kept in a 60 liter tank with 500l/per hour filter rate, T°: 27°c. The spawning courtship can last several days, it usually take 4-5 day for the pair to lay eggs and fertilise them. During that time, the plump female will “hang” around the male ‘s cave. At first the male will chase her away from its territory, but then he would let her in but she would then quickly come out. A big female can lay around a 100 eggs, which is quite a feat for such small species, given that each egg is around 2-3mm wide. Once the female has finished, the male will take care of the brood on his own, but it isn’t uncommon that the female would appear again to disturb him once in his duty. The first spawns are usually lost because of the inexperience of the male, the whole brood is ejected after 1-2 days with most eggs turning white because of infertility. I still have part of the eggs being kicked out by the male, shortly before hatching time probably because the eggs aren’t so sticky by then to enable the fry to get out. By then I have usually good success by placing the group of eggs inside a nursery hanging on floating plants, close to the surface with an airstone in it. The eggs hatch within 2 days. It takes about 5 days at that temperature for the eggs to hatch. About 4 weeks later a female can spawn again.
The fry are really quick growers, after a week they have almost completely absorbed their yolk sac. At a month old they are about one inch long (2.5-3cm) and already start to shown the debut of a similar pattern to that of the adult. You can feed tablets, flakes, pellets to you, they are not difficult to feed either. After about 4 weeks the pair is ready to spawn again.
With its relatively easy care and breeding, plus the fact that it is so very productive, this species should be a number one hit in everyone’s tanks in very little time. It has to be the perfect Ancistrus species; small, beautiful, unproblematic. If it hasn’t yet it is only because they aren’t many specimens imported but the species is spreading gently into the hobby.