Catfish of the Month Right September 2007

Hypancistrus sp(l260)
L260, Queen Arabesque Pleco, Smalstribet Sugemalle (Denmark) - Hypancistrus sp. (L260)   , 1998

Article © Barbie Fiorentino, uploaded August 25, 2007.

Long time moderator Barbie Fiorentino introduces her first catfish month of article on a mainstay among L-numbered catfish.

Hypancistrus sp. Queen Arabesque is a fantastic fish for hobbyists and serious breeders alike. Their attractive coloring, small size, and method of spawning make this one of my favorite fish. Though my bias is partly due to the fact that these were the first Hypancistrus that I successfully spawned. The interesting color scheme, vivid black and white pinstripes in a jagged design, is one that very few fish carry off so well. Their adult size of 3.5" (9 cm) makes them easy to add to an existing community style aquarium, as they require very little additional space. In my experience, Queen Arabesque only show aggression with fish competing for the same hiding places and foods. However, conspecifics are definitely going to squabble to figure out their place in the pecking order.

Mature femaleMature female

Females tend to have an entirely white stomach, although this rule is far from absolute. Males will have a thickened, spiny, first pectoral ray and pronounced interopercular odontodes that lay outside the groove at maturity. Females tend to have a more rounded appearance from above (no comments about that being normal in other species also please!). The pectorals are also more curved for females, while males will have a more straight last half of their first pectoral ray.

I use a general rule for determining the janitorial scale of fish in the Loricariidae family. Super models rarely clean, and janitors rarely look like super models. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but it definitely helps narrow down the categories. These fish are definitely far too pretty to work for their supper! They will eat most meaty foods small enough to fit in their mouths. Fresh or frozen daphnia, bloodworms, mysis shrimp, cyclops, and blackworms are greatly appreciated. Prepared meaty formulas including flake and other sinking catfish formulas are more than adequate for maintenance. You will rarely see this fish come out and forage in the light for it's meals unless it has absolutely no other choice. They take hiding and nocturnal behavior to all new heights.

Male with fry in caveMale with fry in cave

For spawning purposes, you'll need a cave with dimensions just tall enough for the male to fit in, 1.5 times his width, and 1-1.5 times as long as his length. The male must be able to trap the female inside the cave for a spawn to occur. This penchant for bondage appears to be a test of the male's ability to hold predators out, as well as prove to the female that he is definitely dominant.

I originally purchased these fish to use as a "practice" Hypancistrus, prior to working with H. zebra. I found they have many endearing qualities all their own instead. Along with their coloration, they have well defined dominance hierarchies within their groups. While I've had more than one male spawning in a tank at once, it's definitely been less frequently than the spawns with other species. My dominant Queen Arabesque male rarely takes breaks from spawning of more than a couple months before he's conditioned again and ready to start over, as opposed to the 6 months or more with the H. zebra.

To stimulate them to spawn, I've had the best luck using at least a 5 day rainy season. I, personally, use tap water (pH of 7.8 and a TDS of 170 ppm or more), for at least 2 weeks prior to ensure the tank has enough dissolved solids to provide a distinct change once I start the rains. I then use cool RO water and change 30-50% of the tank volume, enough to drop the temperature in the tank 8-10°F. I repeat the process daily and then wait 2 weeks before I start doing their regular water change cycle with tap water again. This will usually result in a spawn within the first 2 cycles, but young or immature fish might require a few more.

Signs of an impending spawn include females hanging at the mouth of a cave or even getting inside, "wear" marks along both sides of the back along the dorsal fin (caused by squabbling for cave rights) and lastly, the male bouncing a ball of bright yellow eggs like a basketball star, only using his mouth. It's not unusual to see females trying to get back into caves after they've already spawned. Don't count on them not having done the deed because she's still wanting in.

The male will care for the eggs and subsequent fry for the weeks it takes for them to mature to the point they leave the cave (this will vary, depending on the temperature their tank is kept at). He will usually stay in the cave during this time and eats only the shells from the eggs of the hatchlings.

The fry will be ready to eat when they leave the cave. Feed them smaller versions of the same meaty foods the adults eat and they will thrive. Fry tend to prefer to attach themselves to the under side of decor, so don't despair if you can't find them for a bit, once they leave his cave.

The pattern on fry appears more distinct than on the parents due to the fish simply adding more of the same size stripes as they grow, not being miniaturized with smaller stripes. The stands to reason as the camouflage purpose of the striping would be less effective if it was not the same size all the way through development.

Young L260Two day old fry Young L260Three day old fry Young L260Four day old fry Young L260Eight day old fry
Young L26015 day old fry Young L26034 day old juveniles Young L26051 day old juveniles Young L260Six month day old juveniles

I've also noticed that Queen Arabesque fry tend to be very sensitive to lower oxygen levels. While the warmer temps the adults seem to thrive and condition well at are great for spawning (83-84°F), the fry will be gasping at the top of a container within 15 minutes without good water flow and oxygenation. The pictures I've included show the distinct appearance of patterning as the fry change from egg sacs with eyes and tails to perfect little suckie fish. The stripes begin as small black spots across the spine with visible growth every day that passes.

I found myself totally fascinated by these fish and their behaviors. Hopefully you will too!

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 Hypancistrus sp. (L260)  , 1998
Common Names L260, Queen Arabesque Pleco
Smalstribet Sugemalle (Denmark)
Type Locality Rio Tapajós, Pará, Brazil
Pronunciation hype an siss truss
Etymology A contraction of the Greek hypo (meaning less than) and ancistrus, an allusion to the reduced number of teeth (particularly in the lower jaw) found in this genus. 
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right Breeding Hypancistrus sp. Queen Arabesque L260
Down Species Information
Size 90mm or 3.5" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Similar to L066, but has spots as well as (generally thinner) stripes. Ultimately a smaller, more squat fish than L066. Shares the same colour pattern as Pseudolithoxus tigris (L257).
Sexing Males slightly bigger, longer interopercular, pectoral odontodes than those on the female. Males also have plate odontodes. The hard ray of the pectoral fins are broader, head wider and longer. Males from this species also seems to have a belly that is marble (totally or partially), females however have all white bellies.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution Rio Tapajós, Pará, Brazil
Amazon, Lower Amazon, Tapajós (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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pH 6.4 - 7.6
Temperature 23.0-28.0°C or 73.4-82.4°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Water should not have any nitrites and as few nitrates as possible. Dissolved oxygen level as high as possible. Fast current.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding A definite carnivore, and absolutely not an algae eater. Not picky, take a wide variety of live and frozen food such as bloodworms, brine shrimps, gammarus. Tablets, especially those with high percentage of Spirulina are also recommended. User data.
Furniture Fine sand, as much cave as possible, the one in the current will be the preferred ones. Driftwood but only for aesthetic purpose as they don't chew it. Dim light Plants can be kept as L260 don't eat them.
Compatibility Peaceful but males will be territorial with each other in confined space.
Suggested Tankmates Choose tankmates wisely as these fish do not compete well for food with particularly fast or aggressive tankmates.
Breeding Has been bred in captivity. Follow details in Shane's World article.
Breeding Reports There are 22 breeding reports, read them all here.
Down Further Information
Registered Keepers There are 411 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There are 28 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 110 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2020 Oct 02 06:58 (species record created: 2007 Aug 25 11:04)

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