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Where Have All the Loricariids Gone?

Posted: May 14, 2014, 9:05 a.m. EDT


By Patrick Donston

Loricariids are the largest family of catfish. Known as the sucker-mouth cats, they are found in freshwater rivers, tributaries and brackish estuaries of South America. Diverse and adaptable to a wide range of water conditions, these fish provide eminent behavior vital to ecological biodiversity of the region. They are considered "tier one” detritivores. Sucker-cats are benthic fish, acting as pertinent cleaners needed to clear river bottoms for new epiphont growth. Without these catfish, we would see severe habitat degradation through algae-fauna overgrowth. This would put many other fish species in danger due to the depletion of larval-rearing homes.

The Problem
During the wet season, Loricariids migrate to headwaters of rainforest streams to spawn. Migration is favorable for egg, larva and development of early life stages. Economical development of the Amazon in Brazil has led to damming of rivers such as the Rio Negra and Xingu. Water levels drop, leading to a significant decline in space and migration blockage. Ichthyologists of South America have expressed great concerns for the decline of Loricariid numbers over the past 15 years. For example, the blue-eyed pleco aquarium species, which was popular 20 years ago, is virtually nonexistent today.

 Vampire Pleco
Vampire Pleco. 

More concerning is the ability to convince government authorities of conservation awareness. Most pleco species have not been identified taxonomically. This is why we see plecos in the trade given L numbers. This naming system allows us to identify the plecos because there are no official scientific names designated. It may seem difficult to portray empathy for an animal without a name; that’s why many scientists are working diligently on identifying these catfish. Through the science of taxonomy, we hope to begin conservation programs alerting pertinent agencies of concern for biodiversity and ecological development of fauna within their region.

Please join in on promoting an event of Loricariid awareness at your shop. A great time to do this may be on World Fish Migration Day, which is May 24, 2014. Visit www.worldfishmigrationday.com for more information.

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Where Have All the Loricariids Gone?

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