Plecostomus Bulldog

Chaetostoma is a genus of freshwater loricariid catfish, of the family Loricariidae, the armored suckermouth catfishes. A genus with many undescribed species, mixed groups or individual members may be labeled for sale as �Chaetostoma spp.�, or �Chaetostoma sp.� meaning, �this is a species of Chaetostoma, but we don�t know which.� The fish illustrated in this profile is usually identified as Chaetostoma thomsoni, or Chaetostoma cf. thomsoni, indicating its formal identification as �thomsoni� is under review. At this time, material has come forward to suggest that the specific name of thomsoni may not apply to this species at all! Also known as L187b, some common names for C. cf. thomsoni are bulldog pleco, rubbernose pleco, green rubber pleco, rubberlip pleco, and variations of those terms. Sometimes the word "striped" is added to the common name. Species of Chaetostoma are collected from many freshwater mountain streams and tributaries of the Rio Magdalena river system in Colombia, South America, on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains. The species that finds its way into the hobby most frequently is very possibly collected from as far away as the fast-flowing mountain stream beds on the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains, in the area known as the Llanos drainages. Despite its small adult size, this catfish has the widest mouth of any of the loricariids! Juveniles offered for sale are quite small, but vigorous. The adults are impressive, with black dots on their faces and a black line articulating each overlapping bony plate of armor on the body. At night, in my community tank of white sand, the little bulldog pleco adopts camouflage, and will turn almost white to match the sand. Chaetostoma cf. thomsoni appreciates clean, highly oxygenated water, which can usually be provided with regular water changes and a swift return flow from your filter. Some hobbyists add a powerhead at one end of the tank, but too many attachments can heat up the water. Remember to keep the water in the cooler tropical temperature range for this species. I provide an open topped set-up, and HOB filter with a splashy return, which helps to keep things cool. My tap water is very soft, and white marine sand substrate, as mentioned above, is my choice for adding a few degrees of hardness and keeping the pH near neutral. If you already have slightly hard water, and your pH stays in the suggested range of 6.8 to 7.8, look into fine substrates that won�t elevate the hardness further. The cooler water temperature is more important than a specific hardness or pH. The bulldog pleco spends a lot of time exploring the glass for food, but ultimately it is a bottom dweller, too, and appreciates a very fine substrate to scoot around on. I use lots of smooth rocks over the sand, in a well-planted tank, and I often see mine bustling through the sand or on the rocks, resting. Even though this species stays small, I would recommend a tank volume of no less than 60 liters, and tank dimensions of no shorter than 60 cm long. When their simple requirements are met, Chaetostoma cf. thomsoni are remarkably easy to keep, despite their exotic appearance. This small suckermouth species can be territorial with its own kind and other small pleco-type catfish, thus the name �bulldog.� It is not shy about approaching food, and will scatter its tankmates with bold movements. It is peaceful, but not timid. I keep only one C. cf. thomsoni per tank, but in larger tanks you could keep more. Provide each fish with a choice of smooth rocks, and arrange discrete areas to satisfy their territorial needs. This fish is a good glass cleaner, and loves algae of the type that forms a film on the glass and other tank surfaces. It will eat most other typical aquarium foods, even flake, but do not make this their main diet. Fresh veggies, such as zucchini, seem to be appreciated. Frozen bloodworms, and other meaty foods, should be offered about once a week, as their protein requirements need to be met. They are true omnivores, and quick to identify delicious food in the tank! I learned a lot from my first Chaetostoma. Within minutes of adding one to a 75 liter South American community tank, the tank dynamics changed. The Chaetostoma rousted the Otocinclus from their room behind a piece of slate - where they had been living for the last 2 1/2 years - and moved himself in. There was no question about who was the boss, and the Otos went off to set up house in a different part of the tank. Peace reigned, and there were no problems between the two species. They even shared a zucchini slice, with the Chaetostoma on top and the Otocinclus circling the rim. Every time the Otos came around, the Chaetostoma would lift his tail to let them pass! Territorial but peaceful; assertive but reasonable - that describes Chaetostoma cf. thomsoni, the bulldog pleco!
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