Catfish of the Month Right October 2002

L091, Three Beacon Pleco, Orangestiplet Sugemalle (Denmark), Redfin Blackspot (Germany) - Leporacanthicus triactis   Isbrücker, Nijssen & Nico, 1992

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded October 01, 2002.

To mark the launch of version 2 of ScotCat, Planet Catfish accepted their invitation to write this month's article and this article was initially published there. We have updated the text somewhat but, with a quick apology to anyone who has read this elsewhere, decided to go with this comparatively new species of loricariid ourselves this month.

The genus Leporacanthicus is relatively new, being erected in 1989 to house the galaxy pleco, Leporacanthicus galaxias. That said it has been quick to gain a number of members. Within this genus aquarists are most familiar with Leporacanthicus galaxias, also referred to as L007, L029, and the Tusken or Vampire Pleco. It is certainly the most commonly available member of the genus. Others (specifically L. heterodon, L. joselimai and our fish, L. triactis) are also available from time to time. The common name of Three Beacon Pleco is not widely established, but these things have to have their beginnings somewhere and it is an accurate name - more descriptive than L091 at least - and reflects the scientific etymology.

Although usually thought of as a new import, the Three Beacon Pleco has been at least sporadically available for quite some time as its lower l-number suggests. Labelled L091 in April 1992 in which year it was also described, this is an easily recognised pleco and presently has no other L-number "synonyms". Before L-numbers we just didn't know what to call it. As such it does make an appearance in a couple of older catfish books. Eagle-eyed pleco buffs will have noticed it in Burgess' Catfish Atlas on P732 (second photo from top on the left hand side) and is labelled Hypostomus sp. The same picture appears in Kobayagawa's World of Catfishes on page 59 - coincidentally in the same position.

Leporacanthicus display a number of external anatomical features which easily identify them from other genera within their rather complex sub-family. The name "vampire pleco" is more appropriate to the genus rather than any one species as they are all equipped with an unusual and certainly formidable dentition. The upper teeth in the sucker-mouth are long and rasping, giving these fish great power in their search for food. Although not a true bloodsucker (in the Transylvanian sense), this destructive dentistry is most easily witnessed at home should you try feeding certain types of shelled crustaceans or molluscs. These offerings are despatched with alarming ease and presumably form the mainstay of their wild diet. In addition all Leproacanthicus have a small, horn-like protrusion on the top of their head giving rise to the "tusken pleco" moniker. The purpose of this is appendage is unknown and doesn't appear to have any function in captivity although it is shown nicely in the top image.

leporacanthicus triactisThree areas of bright orange on each unpaired fin.

Personally I find this fishes colouration its most strikingly beautiful and intriguing point. Depending on its age, sex, mood or surroundings the fish can vary from brown or grey to charcoal black. It has three vivid orange to yellow blotches; one each on all three of the non-paired fins as shown above. These pulses of colour put you in mind of a two-tone disco light cable lain along the fishes lower back -a point of view especially noticeable when the leading dorsal fin ray is laid flat along the back. Unlike many Loricarids with similar markings, these flashes remain with age. Although not as dark bodied as youngsters, this still makes adults a striking fish. Some aquarists believe that these markings confuse predators as to where the vital (tasty?) parts of the fishes anatomy lie. In my opinion this fish already has some mean predatory protection in the form of spiky fin rays and armour plating; I believe its vivid colouration serves a more specialised purpose. To understand it we must first be familiar with this fishes mode of reproduction.

These fish are cave spawners. It is unclear whether they make their own burrows in the vertical, clay mud walls of riverbanks or inhabit those that birds have abandoned to the rising river in the rainy season. Either way, imagine the underwater scene at breeding time on such an immersed bank. Hundreds of holes, some empty, but many occupied by males in fine colouration - competition for these burrows would be high and they are jealously guarded. Think of it like a cliff face populated by hordes of nesting sea birds all competing for nests, mates and - eventually - tending young.

When in residence the male pleco enters these holes head first - once safely ensconced all can that can been seen in the dark, murky waters are the swaying tail lights of bright orange. It is my opinion that these markings allow the females to find occupied burrows; perhaps even the brightness of them indicates the suitability of the male? Certainly it would allow the female to avoid the potentially damaging mistake of entering a cave occupied by another species of pleco, catfish or other aquatic animal. In other similar plecos two or more females visit one male's nest site laying their eggs for the male to guard - it is not beyond the realms of possibility that this is also true of the three beacon pleco.

This intriguing idea has yet to be tested in the aquarium as captive spawning of this species still eludes specialist pleco keepers. Presumably some suitably sized cave like structures specially constructed from fired clay would be required. More than one pair would require a spacious aquarium as the fish are territorial; even male and female will squabble given insufficient room. Yet it may be that the maintenance of a species group is necessary to facilitate at least a good sized spawn if not a spawn at all.

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Leporacanthicus triactis  Isbrücker, Nijssen & Nico, 1992
Common Names L091, Three Beacon Pleco
Orangestiplet Sugemalle (Denmark), Redfin Blackspot (Germany)
Type Locality Caño Mavaquita, Upper Orinoco, Amazonas, Venezuela, about 2°12'30"N, 65°05'30"W.
Pronunciation lepor ah KAN thi cuss - try ACT iss
Etymology Latin, lepus, leporis = rabbit + Greek, akantha = thorn. 
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right Making beacons, the spawning of L091.
Down Species Information
Size 247mm or 9.7" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification All Leporacanthicus spp. have a small backwards facing slightly proud blunt thorn-like plate on top of their heads.

Depending on its age, sex, mood or surroundings the fish can vary from brown or grey to charcoal black. It has three vivid orange to yellow blotches; one each on all three of the non-paired fins.
Sexing Adult males have a much longer and broader head with small odontodes on the sides of head, more odontodes on pectoral fin spine and on the whole body, a bigger dorsal fin and normally a prettier coloration.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution South America: Upper Orinoco River basin in Colombia and Venezuela.
Orinoco, Upper Orinoco (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Not Evaluated
pH 6.0 - 7.6
Temperature 24.0-27.0°C or 75.2-80.6°F (Show species within this range)
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding Not a true vegetarian so a wide variety of foods, including algae wafers, cucumber or courgette (zucchini), frozen bloodworm, prawns, shrimps and tablet food. Shelled crustaceans or mollusks appear favourite foods but should be fed sparingly or used for conditioning.
Furniture Prefers bogwood and darker rocks.
Compatibility Gets on with small lively catfish but avoid too many other larger bottom dwellers (unless space permits) due to the territorial disputes.
Suggested Tankmates Most small to medium community fish. Tetras and South American cichlids are ideal, unless you really go for it when providing a strong water current.
Breeding See catfish of the month article (link below).
Breeding Reports There is no breeding report.
Down Further Information
Reference Die Aquarien- und Terrarienzeitschrift (DATZ) v. 46 (no. 1) [for Jan. 1993], pp 3, Figs. 1-6.
Registered Keepers Keeping this species? Why not .
There are 196 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
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There are 11 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 55 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2020 Nov 08 06:22 (species record created: 2002 Oct 01 11:22)

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

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