LDA073, Leopard Cactus Pleco, "l600", Leopard Kaktussugemalle (Denmark) - Pseudacanthicus leopardus   (Fowler, 1914)

Article © Daniel Konn-Vetterlein, uploaded April 30, 2021.

I came to writing this article because a friend from Melbourne asked me to bring him clarity on his new pleco. They are known across groups as "Leopard-Kaktuswelse" in German, or "leopard cactus plecos" in English. Numerous L and LDA numbers as well as trade names have been assigned to these catfishes, sometimes leading to confusion in naming. In the meantime, all forms of the leopardus- complex could be successfully bred and there are numerous publications about the care, therefore this article shall exclusively deal with the naming and delimitation of the so well-known and popular catfishes. This is, then, a journey to discover the real story behind the leopard cactus plecos.

If one wants to get a good overview, it is necessary to deal also with the distribution range of the presented forms and to consider the resulting difficulties in the correct assignment of supposedly undescribed forms to an existing taxon and to consider the aspect of geographical variability.

The Rupununi River, from which Pseudacanthicus leopardus was described, flows in southwestern Guyana and is one of the largest tributaries of the Essequibo River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean to the north. The Rupununi has its origin in the Kanuku Mountains, after which it runs through a savannah landscape that is flooded by the Pirara Creek during the rainy season. This flooding creates a connection to the Rio Takutu and thus also to the basin of the Rio Amazonas in Brazil, which lies to the south. The Rio Takutu, together with the Rio Uraricoera, forms the Rio Branco, which in turn runs semi-parallel to the Rio Demini in a southerly direction until both join the Rio Negro. The mouths of the Rio Branco and Rio Demini into the Rio Negro are only about 100 km apart. Some 200 km in the west of Rio Branco one can find the Rio Jatapu, a tributary of Rio Uatuma, eventually ending up in the Amazon.

P. leopardus juvenileP. leopardus juvenile

Pseudacanthicus leopardus (Fowler, 1914)
The type locality of this species is the Rupununi River in Guyana, but it also occurs in the Rio Takutu and Rio Branco, where most of the specimens in commerce originate. P. leopardus shows the namesake pattern of brown spots on the entire body, and at least the half of all fins near the body. On the head the spots are clearly smaller, become finer with increasing age and can sometimes merge completely into the basic coloration. The ground coloration varies in its brown colouration and can appear both light brown and slightly greenish. Caudal and dorsal fins are fringed with orange-red whereas the pectorals, ventrals, and sometimes the anal fins show a narrow orange-red fringe in at least some specimens. The body is relatively flat compared to other Pseudacanthicus.


Pseudacanthicus sp. L114
Introduced in DATZ magazine October 1992 and based on a juvenile from the Rio Negro, Rainer Stawiskowski assigned the code number L 114 to this cactus pleco. Later it was shown that the catfish came from the Rio Negro catchment area, namely the Rio Demini. Stawikowski pointed out the similarity to P. leopardus and assigned the L-Number because of the different origin. He also mentioned the possible first offspring of L 114, which was already published by Axelrod in 1962 and after this cactus pleco was first imported into the USA in 1961. L 114 differs visually from P. leopardus by a coarser dot pattern on the head, the rather brownish than greenish base colouration and the somewhat higher and thus more compact overall body shape. The red in the fins is usually less intense but can vary. This factor is influenced by food and water parameters. L 114 = Pseudacanthicus cf. leopardus


Pseudacanthicus sp. L427
Presented in DATZ 11/2009. Ingo Seidel assigned this L-Number to a leopard cactus pleco from the Rio Jatapu. In the juvenile to semi-adult stage L427 strongly resembles L114 but becomes increasingly darker and from 12-15 cm is almost uniformly black in colour. Excluded from the dark colouration are only the red fin parts and the ventral surface. Only after the presentation in the DATZ L427 could be imported and observed in the aquarium. Thereby it turned out that the change to black colouration is slower and less acute than was the case with the animals observed in nature. Specimens maintained in the aquarium usually do not take on the intense black colouration observed in specimens immediately after capture. L427 differs from P. leopardus like L114 by the coarser head pattern, the higher body profile and additionally the darker colouration. L427 = Pseudacanthicus cf. leopardus.

Pseudacanthicus sp. "L600"
"L600" is not an official L-number and was never assigned by DATZ. The designation originates from the Asian hobby scene, around 2003, and is purely a commercial designation. L600 = Pseudacanthicus leopardus.

Pseudacanthicus sp. LDA007
Introduced in Das Aquarium 11/1992. The original photo of the publication shows the form, which was introduced one month before in DATZ 10/1992 as L 114. As L 114, LDA007 was also presented from the Rio Demini. To be able to market the real P. leopardus better, the code number LDA007 was later transferred to it by the trade, and the originally intended assignment became a minor matter. Still when LDA073 was assigned, LDA007 was described as identical to L114 (Schraml, 2002), but unfortunately, due to its establishment in the trade, the above error is deliberately adopted in Aqualog News No. 9 and thus LDA007 is presented on page 23 as P. leopardus from Rio Rupununi, including a picture of P. leopardus. LDA007 = originally Pseudacanthicus cf. leopardus L114. LDA007 = known as Pseudacanthicus leopardus.

Pseudacanthicus sp. LDA073
Introduced in Das Aquarium 08/2002. The form was exported via Manaus, that it originates from the Rio Negro inflow is therefore almost certain and the Rio Demini is not unlikely as its origin. The reason given for a new LDA number was especially the lighter ground colouration than in L114 and the coarser spots on the head than in P. leopardus. The picture presented in the article shows the form which was already known as L114 and LDA007, but a very nice specimen. Accordingly, it seems clear that LDA073 represents the same form as L 114, whereas according to Schäfer & Schraml (2021), LDA073 is identical to P. leopardus. In the trade, this LDA number is largely irrelevant, which probably does no harm given the ambiguity surrounding it. LDA073 = originally probably Pseudacanthicus cf. leopardus "L114", however mostly known as Pseudacanthicus leopardus.

L114 brown colour morphL114 brown colour morph

Pseudacanthicus sp. "L 114 - brown"
Never presented as a new L-Number and only rarely available is a form of L114 which shows almost no red colouration in the fins. It's colourtaion is strongly reminscent of Megalancistrus parananus but is surely a Pseudacanthicus and belongs to the form L 114. Even the juveniles of this form show little to no red coloration in the fins but are otherwise identical to L114. To my knowledge, no breeding of these animals has been achieved, so it is unclear whether at least some of the offspring would have a red portion in the fins.

Thanks to Markus Kaluza for some help with the literature cited and to Ole Paulsen for inviting Markus and I over to photograph his fish.

  • Literature
  • Schäfer F. & Schraml E. (2021): "Alle LDA-Nummern", Aqualog News Nr.9, S. 23; 32; 52-56.
  • Seidel, I. (2009): "Aquaristisch neue Harnischwelse aus dem Norden Brasiliens", DATZ 11/2009, S. 10-12.
  • Schraml, E. (2002): "Ist L 114 (= LDA 7) wirklich Pseudacanthicus leopardus?", Das Aquarium, Nr. 398, August 2002, S. 22-24.
  • Stawikowski R. (1992): "Neu importiert: Harnischwelse aus Brasilien", DATZ 10/1992.
Down arrow Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Pseudacanthicus leopardus  (Fowler, 1914)
Common Names LDA073, Leopard Cactus Pleco
"l600", Leopard Kaktussugemalle (Denmark)
Type Locality Rupununi River, Guyana, 2°-3°N, 50°20'W.
Type Locality Notes In the original description of this species, Fowler (1914) wrote that the fish were from “...the Rupununi River, in the highlands of British Guiana. ...approximately secured in North Latitude 2° to 3°, and West Longitude 50° 20'.” Although the latitude data is imprecise, the longitude data must also be inaccurate, because the Rio Rupununi is located at approximately 59°W Longitude, not 50°W Longitude as Fowler reported. So as not to unilaterally revise Fowler’s original record, the type locality data is being preserved, and displayed as “2.5°N, 50°20'W”, averaging the two latitude values reported by Fowler and not correcting the longitude value.
Synonym(s) Stoneiella leopardus
Pronunciation SUE dah KAN thi cuss
Etymology Pseud- Greek: False, Acanthicus - Greek: Spiny, Thorny. Literally "False Acanthicus" referring to this genus being similar to, yet different from, Acanthicus
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Down arrow Species Information
Size 150mm or 5.9" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Pseudacanthicus is a member of the Acanthicus clade. Species of the Acanthicus clade are distinguished from other Loricariidae species by the presence of (1) longitudinal rows of keels (pointed odontodes) along the body sides; (2) eight or more dorsal-fin rays (vs. six or seven in most other loricariids except Pterygoplichthys, Chaetostoma, Pogonopoma and Pseudancistrus pectegenitor); (3) seven to eight infraorbitals (vs. usually five or six); (4) five anal-fin branched rays (vs. usually four); and (5) presence of hypertrophied odontodes along the snout margin (vs. hypertrophied odontodes absent in other loricariids except Isbrueckerichthys and Pareiorhaphis, in Neoplecostominae; Panaque and Pseudancistrus and Neblinichthys, in Ancistrini; and most dimorphic males of Loricariinae). Within the Acanthicus group, Pseudacanthicus is distinguished by the presence of two small plates in the posterior area of the compound pterotic (vs. one median plate or plate absent), and by the presence of narrow premaxillae with a small number of elongate and curved teeth (except from Leporacanthicus).

As juveniles, these fish exhibit vibrant yellow/orange coloured unpaired fins. With increasing age the spotting of the body 'leaks' more and more onto the previously orange coloured fins.
Sexing Mature males have considerably more odontodal growth on most fins rays but the pectorals are most adorned. Females fill out quite considerably in relation to the slender males.
General Remarks Often referred to as L600 but not recognised officially as such by DATZ etc. It actually appeared in the December 1996 DATZ alongside L114. Wels Atlas II also equates this to L114. So while L600 is not an official l-number (never being written as such in DATZ) it was simply introduced by an unknown source and the name stuck. This didn't seem to worry anyone when we were at L300 or so, but now, as we are well past L500, it begins to be something to think about. In short, it is a trade name, not an official L-number.
Down arrow Habitat Information
Distribution South America: Rupununi River basin in Guyana.
Guyana Waters, Coastal Rivers of Guyanas, Essequibo, Rupununi (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Amazon, Middle Amazon (Solimoes), Negro, Lower Negro, Branco (Roraima) (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Not Evaluated
Temperature 25.0-29.0°C or 77-84.2°F (Show species within this range)
Down arrow Husbandry Information
Feeding Carnivore although not a predator, prawns and chopped mussel appear favourites and promote favourable growth. Some vegetable should also be provided and thus balances diet.
Furniture Proportionally sized pieces of bogwood (the fish does not appear to particularly like rockwork) are a good idea as are equally dimensioned pipes. Plants are just a nuisance to this fish and while not orally molested, they tend to be battered by the fishes movement.
Compatibility Generally peaceful but territorial from a young age. Some large specimens are aggressively territorial and may cause problems if housed with other large nocturnal fish.
Suggested Tankmates The temptation with large tough Loricariids is to keep them with large, tough other fish such as Oscars or other brutish characters. This actually works quite well with most omnivorous or mainly vegetarian plecos. Pseudacanthicus however are big messy carnivores, but, like all large plecos, produce vast amounts of waste and as such would require monumental filtration to house alongside non-catfish ''equals''. It is better to think of these catfish as the centrepiece fish and stock their aquarium with medium sized (preferably omnivorous) fish. All sizes of barbs work surprisingly well.
Breeding Has been spawned in captivity and is a cave spawner. The very close relative, P. cf. leopardus, has been spawned in captivity and an article can be found in Shane's World.
Breeding Reports There are 4 breeding reports, read them all here.
Down arrow Further Information
Reference Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia v. 66, pp 271, Fig. 17.
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Last Update 2022 Feb 03 23:50 (species record created: 2021 Apr 30 03:55)

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