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Family: Loricariidae, Subfamily Ancistrinae

Common Name: Clown Pleco

Origin and Habitat: Venezuela: basins of the Rio Orinoco, Rio Apure and Rio Caroni. Occurs in Andean whitewater streams among roots and branches near the banks. Reported from the Amazon basin but these may be variants or distinct species.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful and rather shy, territorial with its own species so with more than 1 the tank should be larger (3 feet and up)to provide sufficient space for individual territories. Suitable in community tanks of peaceful fish.

Clown Pleco Diet

In its habitat, this fish feeds on logs and branches, eating the wood itself along with aufwuchs [algae mats containing rotifers, small crustaceans, insect larvae, protozoans]. In the aquarium wood must be provided. This fish will eat some species of algae, prepared sinking foods that contain vegetable matter along with shrimp, fish meal, etc. Blanched vegetables such as zucchini, yams, squash, cucumber, spinach, romaine, banana. Live or frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, blackworms.


Attains 3 to 4 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

20 gallons for one, larger if two or more.

Water parameters for Clown Pleco

Soft to medium hard (7-20 dGH), slightly acidic to slightly basic (pH 5 to 7.6), temperature 23-28C/73-82F.


If you are one of those people who needs to see a fish every day (or week or month) to reassure you, this is not the fish for you. And this is not a vigorous algae eater.

The Clown or Ringlet pleco has the characteristic armored scutes rather than scales, and the mouth tucked under the head and adapted for sucking, rasping, and holding fast in strong currents. This is a stocky critter, with a broad head and medium to short tail. The main body and fins range in color for a nearly white beige to black, but most specimens are of a brown somewhere between chocolate and cinnamon. Over this are white to orange transverse stripes ringing the body and continuing onto the fins, and ranging in width from threadlike to so wide as to make it appear a light colored, dark striped fish. The patterning is highly variable from population to population, and in individuals as they age. There are spines in and near the dorsal and pectoral fins, so using a net for capture is not recommended, and double bagging with a layer of absorbent padding between is mandatory for long distance transport.

Their patterning provides excellent camouflage in their natural habitat - submerged tree root structures and driftwood dams. This habitat is characterized by many retreats, lots of shade, and, of course, wood. These are all things that Clown Plecos positively require. In a well lit tank, it will spend all the light period hidden, but in dim lighting it is easier to see moving around the tank. These are territorial fish, and will defend a patch of substrate near their favored retreat or hunk of driftwood from all other fish in the tank, moving along those as it can especially during feeding time.

The filtration must be adequate to handle the large amount of waste produced by a fish with such a diet as this one. And a decent current is welcomed. Males grow elongated interopercular odontodes during the breeding season and develop these along the dorsum as well. With good care, it is not unusual for this fish to live 10 to 12 years, and not unheard of for it to reach 18.

The Loricariidae is the largest Neotropical family of catfish with about 650 described species within six subfamilies. The name is from the Latin lorica meaning a corselet. The Ancistrinae subfamily--the name derived from the Greek agchistron or agkhistron that essentially means "barbed hook"--holds more than 200 known species but ichthyologists tend to agree that further work and revision is needed.

The subject species was described as Panaque maccus in 1993 by S.A. Schaefer and D.J. Stewart, having previously been identified as L 162. Upon discovery, uncertain or assumed new species of Loricariidae are given an "L" number, which usually remains with the fish post-description for reference. The species was transferred into the present genus Panaqolus by Isbrucker et al. (2001).


Isbrucker, I.J.H., I. Seidel, J.P. Michels, E. Schraml and A. Werner (2001), "Diagnose vierzehn neuer Gattungen der Familie Loricariidae Rafinesque, 1815 (Teleostei, Ostariophysi)," Datz, Sonderheft Harnischwelse 2 [Special issue no. 2], pp. 17-24.

Schaefer, S. A. and D. J. Stewart (1993), "Systematics of the Panaque dentex species group (Siluriformes: Loricariidae), wood-eating armored catfishes from tropical South America," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters volume 4 (no. 4), pp. 309-342.

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