Catfish of the Month Right Arrow February 2012 • Article © Shane Linder, uploaded February 04, 2012

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

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.

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.

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

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

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific NameChaetostoma formosae  Ballen, 2011
Common NamesL187B, Blonde Rubbernose Pleco
L444, Blonde Bulldog Pleco, Blonde Rubber Pleco, Smuk Gumminæse (International), Smuk Gumminæse-sugemalle (International), Striped Bulldog Pleco, Striped Rubber Pleco, Striped Rubbernose Pleco
Type LocalityColombia: Departamento de Boyacá, San Luis de Gaceno,caño Chuy affluent of río Upía, Boyacá – Casanareborder, upper río Meta basin, Orinoco drainage
PronunciationKATE oh STOW mah
EtymologyGreek, 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.
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 103mm or 4.1" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
IdentificationThe 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.
SexingThe 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.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
DistributionCurrently 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, 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)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
pH6.8 - 7.8
Temperature20.0-25.0°C or 68-77°F (Show species within this range)
Other ParametersHas 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.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
FeedingOmnivore. 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.
FurnitureWorn smooth rounded or slightly flat fist sized rocks on a fine sand substrate.
CompatibilityA peaceful fish which can sometimes be a little territorial with its own species.
BreedingSee Shane's World Article
Jump to next section Further Information
ReferencesPap. Avulsos Zool. (São Paulo) vol.51 no.26 São Paulo 2011
Registered Keepers(1) xingumike, (2) walkinjay81, (3) Silurus, (4) amergim, (5) Sandtiger, (6) VirgoWolf, (7) FishGeek, (8) Matien (k: 3), (9) ani-mal-lvr, (10) Deb (k: 3), who also notes: "Will fight with C. dorsale.", (11) bluenewt, (12) nuth88, (13) Walter, (14) johnny1073, (15) NHL, (16) Martin S, who also notes: "Very skittish when approaching the tank, but is very quick to attach itself to tablet/pellet food and/or vegetables placed in the tank.", (17) Joetee, (18) fivespeed302, (19) Ill (k: 2), (20) ChileRelleno, (21) SoCalDiscus, (22) AU Chief (p: 2), (23) tash, (24) Crel (k: 2), (25) fleahound (k: 4), (26) JimHitchiner, (27) ali12345, (28) pmbooper, who also notes: "4 inch rubbernose in 40 gal.", (29) vman, (30) jha61, (31) andywoolloo (k: 2), (32) Camaroahopp, (33) Lakatu, (34) andy75, (35) storch31, (36) ronalddevries, (37) abaigael04, (38) ayrtoninst, (39) Timberwolf (k: 2), (40) marangmic, (41) hoody47, (42) jefflamb, (43) NC24, (44) TerryCherry (k: 2), (45) bongthecgb, (46) mike h, (47) snakelover, (48) ChanggyChinggy, (49) jimlaroche83 (p: 2, k: 4), (50) Quo, (51) Ecrevince, (52) Mata Negra (k: 2), (53) tropical (p: 2), (54) Terrycherry, (55) dolgolev (p: 2, k: 2), (56) xakkan, (57) flipperfeet, (58) tomr (k: 3), (59) chriscarnivorous, (60) bslindgren (p: 2, k: 3), who also notes: "This, like my other rubber noses, is an absolutely delightful fish. It is out much of the time and is quite attractive. Extremely good at cleaning algae. A little bit territorial, but mainly the other Chaetostoma.", "I had two of these and they were thriving in my loach tank, but one died at a recent tank cleaning. Delightful fish, out almost constantly, excellent at cleaning glass. Favourite "pleco" bar none.", (61) donpetty (k: 4), (62) victoriaz24, (63) adcc (k: 3), (64) FerocactusLatispinus, who also notes: "R.I.P. Michelin. Died from bloat, but none of the others got sick... Was extremely territorial in-store, but not at all at home.", (65) Syno12, (66) Kiara1125, (67) halodude423, (68) shoegazer (k: 2), (69) jonhybravo2, who also notes: "For some reason this one pleco has been the bain of my tanks. I have lost 6 of these and for no good reason. I have one now for about a month and he is just a baby but has been pretty hardy and is in a newer very clean tank. Hopefully this will allow him to adapt well and flourish. So cool looking with the huge mouth and stripes.", (70) jodilynn (p: 2, k: 2), who also notes: "Sadly, never really appeared to eat, tried everything, sweet potatoes, peas, zucchini, every algae pellet and gel, removed the other plecos so it had no competition, very sad to lose it, will try again, hopefully with a more robust specimen", "Update: Purchased a nice specimen that was very active in the tank at the the store. My tank was very well cycled and had plenty of biofilm and soft brown algae. This one is quite the character. Is supremely annoyed by my two Pepper Corys, chases them all over, also dislikes the ghost shrimp, he seems to enjoy running through them when they congregate, sending them flying. Loves zucchini, which he shares with a huge Mystery snail", (71) sabbath (k: 6), (72) Mikey1973, (73) FishyMama, (74) neil187barton, (75) citizencurt, (76) oetheous, (77) LostYeti (k: 4), (78) wax32, who also notes: "Died after less than 24 hours in the tank.", (79) Tamcon83 (k: 4), (80) MrsJP, (81) shad0wfish13, who also notes: "I purchased this little guy under the advertised name "rubber lip pleco," but I'm almost positive after looking at pictures that he was indeed C. formosae (will upload pictures soon). Unfortunately, he just would not thrive despite good aeration and indifferent tank mates (small danio school of 6). Despite my best efforts, I came home to this little guy being dead after weeks of anticipating such an event.", (82) dmcat, (83) dav, (84) funkyt (p: 3), (85) Brett1998, (86) Johnny579, (87) Brucifer, (88) LasagnaPleco, (89) indeliKate (p: 2), (90) TheDoctor, (91) FreshwaterQWERTY, (92) reverendturtle (k: 3), (93) VickyEll7, (94) NCE12940 (k: 2), (95) Dice1790, (96) francoisMtl (k: 6), (97) Jonboy, (98) Wyomingite, (99) N0body Of The Goat, who also notes: "By far the smallest of my remaining mixed species quartet.", (100) Beckie, (101) Phreeflow, (102) lindfieldroy (p: 2), (103) fishiephil, (104) diesel, (105) protopterus, (106) Theblobfishman, who also notes: "Great pleco, plant safe, a bit on the territorial side, one of the smaller plecos, mine has proven to be quite hardy and has thrived in multiple tempeature tanks reaching up to 80 degrees f", (107) chaosfrog142 (k: 2), (108) L-Cait, (109) katagi, (110) dmfd0331, (111) pan (k: 5), (112) angerygrover, (113) Glauko, (114) Generation.

Click on a username above to see all that persons registered catfish species. You can also view all "my cats" data for this species.
Breeding Reports(1) lindfieldroy (b: 13).
Article - Shane's World Reproduction A Chance Spawning of Chaetostoma sp. (L444)
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