Catfish of the Month Right February 2012

Chaetostoma formosae
L187B, L444, Blonde Rubbernose Pleco, Blonde Bulldog Pleco, Blonde Rubber Pleco, Smuk Gumminæse (Denmark), Smuk Gumminæse-sugemalle (Denmark), Striped Bulldog Pleco, Striped Rubber Pleco, Striped Rubbernose Pleco - Chaetostoma formosae   Ballen, 2011

Article © Shane Linder, uploaded February 04, 2012.

This month I'm delighted to feature this species and an article from Shane Linder. He introduces a common catfish that most of us know from one of his most collected, favoured and studied of genera.

After decades in the hobby, and having earned half a dozen common names and two L Numbers, the most commonly imported Chaetostoma finally received a scientific name in late 2011. For many of us that had spent years trying to explain that it was not Chaetostoma thomsoni, as it was commonly misidentified in dozens of resources, it was a great relief.

Chaetostoma formosae is exported from near Villavicencio, Colombia in huge numbers. In the dry season especially (November through January) it can be found in almost any fish retailer quite easily. Even the U.S. mega chain stores, which are heavily focused on farmed fish from Florida, carry them. Any hobbyist with a discerning eye will also note that every shipment of "bulldog plecos" contains not only C. formosae, but its white-spotted cousin C. dorsale.

Ideally Chaetostoma should be maintained in a species tank. This is in part because they need conditions that not many other tropical fishes will appreciate. It is also because they are secretive, and sometimes downright difficult, to get feeding regularly. They can of course be easily combined with other hillstream loricariids that need a similar captive habitat and diet. While I have not tried it myself, I suspect they would do quite well in a tank that also housed hillstream loaches.

Chaetostoma are found in piedmont or hillstream environments (known as a quebrada in Spanish) all along the Andean mountain chain. I have done extensive collecting of Chaetostoma in piedmont streams in Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela and while the species of Chaetostoma change from stream to stream, the environment is always very similar. Due to their gradient, the water is always moving at a good pace, is very clean, rich in oxygen, and typically quite clear (they can become turbid during the wet season). The water's pH is near neutral, or even slightly alkaline, and low in hardness since these streams are fed by snow melt and rain falling higher in the mountains. Their source waters, and the altitudes they are found at ensure that hillstreams remain cool by tropical standards. Dependent on several factors, the water can range in temperature from the low 60s to the upper 70s. The substrate consists of well-rounded stones and course gravel. The stream's current, especially in the wet season, washes light weight materials, like fine sand and driftwood, downstream. Aquatic plants are never found in these environments.

C. formosae species tankThe author's current C. formosae species tank. He swears there are eight of them in there.

The above conditions can easily be replicated in an aquarium. Provide clean, neutral water with good oxygen levels. It is not necessary to replicate the strong current found in hillstreams for these fish to be happy, but many hobbyists use powerheads and or streamers to keep oxygen levels and these have the added bonus of replicating a natural current. For C. formosae a temperature in the low to mid 70s is ideal. It is important to note that these fish can not tolerate poor water conditions as, even in the dry season, the streams they live in remain clean and because they are continually refreshed with run off from the mountains.

The single "hard" thing about these fish can be getting them to accept aquarium foods. For reasons I have never understood some will eat with no problem and others will starve themselves to death even when offered a variety of foods. As they consume many small organisms while grazing along the stones in their natural habitat, their captive diet should consist of both fresh vegetables and more meaty type foods. Some lucky aquarists get theirs to feed even on dry foods. I have had good luck keeping vegetables always available and feeding a frozen meaty food every third day.

C. formosae has been spawned a few times in the aquarium, but in all the cases I am aware of it was "accidental" (for the aquarist anyway). Two specific spawnings I am familiar with occurred when the tank's temp was raised to 78°F for one reason or another. Given their natural habitat it makes sense that a warming of the water might signal the beginning of the dry season and initiate spawning behavior. Spawnings always take place under a stone or similar flat object often near, but not directly in, the current. Chaetostoma ignore the spawning tubes that are necessary to spawn many other loricariids. Their preference is to hollow out a cave-like structure under a stone. In every spawning the group of fish had taken to accepting dry aquarium foods. The fry have proven extremely difficult to raise in all cases.

Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Chaetostoma formosae  Ballen, 2011
Common Names L187B, Blonde Rubbernose Pleco
L444, Blonde Bulldog Pleco, Blonde Rubber Pleco, Smuk Gumminæse (Denmark), Smuk Gumminæse-sugemalle (Denmark), Striped Bulldog Pleco, Striped Rubber Pleco, Striped Rubbernose Pleco
Type Locality Caño Chuy, affluent of río Upía, Boyacá -- Casanare border, upper río Meta basin, Orinoco drainage, San Luis de Gaceno, Departamento de Boyacá, Colombia.
Pronunciation KATE oh STOW mah
Etymology Greek, chaite = hair + Greek, stoma = mouth. This species is named formosae, an adjective in genitive case derived from the latin formosa. The name honours Ballen's sister, Laura María Ballen, in recognition of her unconditional love and support to him.
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right A Chance Spawning of Chaetostoma sp. (L444)
Down Species Information
Size 103mm or 4.1" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The genus Chaetostoma is not straightforward to identify, but as a general rule, the species has spines behind the gill-cover (interopercular odontodes), no plates on the abdomen, and aside from C. platyrhynchus also lack plates on the snout edge. Different from Ancistrus by not having fleshy tentacles on the snout.

This particular species has spots only on the head. All fins are clear and each body armour plate is lined in black. The basic colouration is pale olive green. Aqualog shows this fish as L146/L146a and L187b. The real L146 (introduced in DATZ) is a rather unusually shaped but plainly coloured ancistrine loricariid also from Colombia. L187b is an Aqualog invention and only used here for reference/link back to the old Aqualog literature.
Variously and incorrectly labelled as C. thomsoni and others.
Some sources consider L444 the same as C. tachiraense. This may stem from a confusion about the Rio Tachira in the Rio Meta drainage, and the namesake river in the Maracaibo basin.
Sexing The males have however a somewhat larger and broader head, slimmer ventral sides and disproportionately large pelvic fins. Perhaps the over-sized pelvic fins play a large role in the fertilization of the eggs. By inverting these over the clutch of eggs, they prevent the sperm cells being carried away too fast in the current.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Currently known from western piedmont tributaries of the upper río Meta and Guaviare basins, in departments of Meta and Casanare, Eastern Colombia, Orinoco drainage.
Orinoco, Middle Orinoco, Meta, Upper Meta, Upía (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Orinoco, Upper Orinoco, Guaviare, Upper Guaviare, Ariari, Güejar (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Orinoco, Middle Orinoco, Meta, Upper Meta, Cusiana (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Vulnerable, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2020.
pH 6.8 - 7.8
Temperature 20.0-25.0°C or 68-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Has more stringent demands on water quality than many plecos and requires highly oxygenated water when kept in warmer water. Medium hard water is also beneficial.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding Omnivore. Will eat algae and small live or frozen food. Some individuals can be weaned onto pellet food although this usually takes some effort and trial and error on the part of the aquarist. User data.
Furniture Worn smooth rounded or slightly flat fist sized rocks on a fine sand substrate.
Compatibility A peaceful fish which can sometimes be a little territorial with its own species.
Breeding See Shane's World Article
Breeding Reports There are 2 breeding reports, read them all here.
Down Further Information
Reference Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia, Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo v. 51 (no. 26), pp 384, Figs. 1 and 3.
Registered Keepers There are 144 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
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There are 2 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 38 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2022 Jan 22 09:50 (species record created: 2012 Feb 04 23:13)

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