Catfish of the Month Right August 2002

Pseudacanthicus cf_leopardus
LDA007, L114, Leopard Cactus Pleco, Demini Leopard Cactus Pleco, Leopardsugemalle (Denmark) - Pseudacanthicus cf. leopardus   Fowler, 1914

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded August 01, 2002.

Pleco common names are the tabloid press of the catfish world. Honestly. Not a day goes by without a new "super king dragon regal pleco" or the like making an appearance on an import list. It makes l-numbers look downright organised. When writing this I was tempted to write a pleco name generator along the lines of the star wars name generator or similar. These entertaining web sites could surely do with a pleco name version. Why we need to concatenate such words normally reserved for large felines, fantasy creatures and royalty to describe South American loricariids I do not know. Well, I actually do know and it's simple: money. The more attractive or at least outlandish the name, the more likely it is to be ordered, especially in pleco-crazed recipient countries. Fortunately many exporters are now equipped with digital cameras and, as they say, a picture tells (or in this case saves) a thousand words.

So, you might think that I don't like the name leopard cactus pleco. Well, it's a game of two halves really, the leopard bit really is just another way of saying it's got spots. That is unhelpful - why not say spotted and be done with it - while the name cactus pleco (as applied to the entire genus) is brilliant. I believe our German friends are responsible for this particular advancement of the hobby and may I say what a great common name! These fish are just downright spiky! They aren't safe to handle without gardening gloves on and the name cactus pleco perfectly and imaginatively (alright they're not green) describes the distinguishing features. We should all take note from that. Aquarists generally don't have the fun or privilege of thinking up scientific names but can excel at common names (without the academic research effort required to describe a species). Think of all the common names that really stick; (black lancer catfish, moustache catfish, banjo catfish and so on) these are all classy examples of the art.

Leopard Cactus Pleco is a good common name because it identifies the fish (at least down to a few species) and tells us a bit about it too. It has black spots, a tawny background and is spiky. Fair enough, but there is more to this fish than apt nomenclature.

The genus Pseudacanthicus is one of those which most aquarists would say is instantly recognisable but we can't easily say exactly why. Tying individual species down is yet more difficult. The genus was erected in 1862 and houses some species described as far back as 1840. That species was described from a drawing sent from the field and no one knows where exactly! Like many other pleco genera, most tropical South American rivers have their own Pseudacanthicus and many are very similar maybe variants of a theme. What makes this very confusing is that imports from very different parts of the amazon basin appear to contain identical fish while imports from the same locality can conversely show considerable variation. Even amongst the imports of P. leopardus you will find slight differences in colouration, spot intensity and fin colouration. A question mark even hangs over the identify of this species as it was described from a Guyanan river flowing north west into the Atlantic, not from the Rio Negro which flows into the Rio Amazonas proper. It must be said however that the northernmost reaches of the Rio Branco (which flows almost directly south into the Negro) rub shoulders with the Guyanan river system.

Large P. leopardus are magnificent animals, but will only reach such proportions given correct diet. Think of them as carrion feeders; they like nothing better than chopped mussel or dead fish. Green foods are also (reportedly - I have not seen this in my fish) accepted. You get the feeling that, only because nothing more challenging is on offer, that these fish will absent mindedly demolish vegetable matter presented. Looking at the long, well defined claw-like teeth nestled in the circular maw of these fish, you don't imagine cucumber to be naturally top of the menu somehow.

So, a great show fish and one that would be a really great challenge for the specialist Loricariid breeder.

P.S. If playing around with the star wars name generator use fish tank additives instead of supplements - I was Juldi Leedi, Lla Escort of Black Water Extract. It gets really weird if you start using fish scientific names 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 Pseudacanthicus cf. leopardus  Fowler, 1914
Common Names LDA007, Leopard Cactus Pleco
L114, Demini Leopard Cactus Pleco, Leopardsugemalle (Denmark)
Pronunciation SUE dah KAN thi cuss - leo parr duss
Etymology Pseud- Greek: False, Acanthicus - Greek: Spiny, Thorny. Literally "False Acanthicus" referring to this genus being similar to, yet different from, Acanthicus. This specific epithet literally means leopard (leopardus=leopard) and refers to its numerous spots.
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right Breeding Pseudacanthicus leopardus
Down Species Information
Size 240mm or 9.4" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The German common name for this genus is ''Cactus Pleco''. A good name! 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).

A few colour forms exist with more or less red/orange in the fins and, rarely, with no red. Some fish are more camel coloured than the more dark brown base colour. Additionally, the reddish/orange colouration in the caudal fin varies with age as well as amongst individuals. A certain way to ID this fish is the size of the spots on the head, they should be about the same size as the other spots on the body.
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.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution The majority of specimens that enter the aquarium trade originate from the Rio Demini in the Rio Negro drainage, Brazil.
Amazon, Middle Amazon (Solimoes), Negro (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Amazon, Middle Amazon (Solimoes), Negro, Demini (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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pH 5.6 - 7.0
Temperature 24.0-28.0°C or 75.2-82.4°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters A black water fish, best kept in slightly acidic, softer water.
Down 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. User data.
Furniture Prefers a dimmer tank and requires a suitable sized cave.
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 bred in the aquarium, the fish are sexually mature at about 170mm SL, see Shane's World article.
Breeding Reports There are 8 breeding reports, read them all here.
Down Further Information
Reference Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila.v. 66 - pp271 - Fig. 17
Aqualog matched DATZ and shows a nice range of juvenile, sub-adult and adult photos.
Registered Keepers There are 319 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
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There are 13 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 95 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2021 May 03 04:56 (species record created: 2002 Aug 01 11:22)

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