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Armored Catfish – Invasive Species – Part 4

Invasive Species in USA Waterways - Part 4

Armored Catfish

(Hypostomus plecostomus)

Armored Catfish as Invasive Species

Armored Catfish is native to South America, specifically the Amazon Basin, Costa Rica and Panama. While, there are two types of catfish in this range. Namely, Armadillo del Rio (Hypostomus Plecostomus) and sailfin catfish (Pterygoplichthys). Hypostomus Plecstomus has become an invasive species.

While, the armored catfish is a popular aquarium fish because it scrapes algae from the bottom and sides of tanks (called the Nemo Effect). Although, it is now the most destructive invasive fish in the United States and a true danger to our natural waterways.

Invasive Species Definition

The definition of an invasive species is any species that is not native to our ecosystems and cause harm when introduced to the ecosystems. These may include amphibians, plants, insects, fish, fungus, bacteria and more. Impacts on the environment may cause economic loss or affect human health.

Invasive species tend to grow and reproduce quickly and spread aggressively with the potential to cause harm on the environment, economy or even human health. Therefore, given the label “invasive”.

Armored Catfish Description and Ecological Impact

Has a triangular shape body, covered with bony plates. Further, a smooth bottom with a spotted leopard pattern. Furthermore, can grow to three feet in length reaching twenty-one pounds. The flat bony head of the invasive species, has small eyes and an underslung sucker toothless mouth. Furthermore, flattened ventral surface allows use of ventrally located suckers on most substrates.

Algivorous nocturnal fish. This hearty fish is a successful breeder. Females lay approximately 300 eggs in a cavity nest. Which males will in turn guard for up to twenty days. With the over-abundance of these fish in our freshwater ecosystems, our native fish are out competed and there is a serious reduction in their numbers.

Leading to a collapse of freshwater fisheries. As well as, posing obvious ecological dangers. Armored catfish are found in brackish or freshwater habitats eating algae, invertebrates, and detritus. The genus, Panaque, even eats wood.

Invasive Species Introduction and Management in the USA

Invasive Species - Armored Catfish

Resource manager introduced these fish into the United States to remove algae and control aquatic plants. Furthermore, juvenile versions are common in the aquarium trade to suck algae from tanks. While, irresponsible owners have released these fish into our lakes.

Since 1950s, Hypostomus Plecostomus have occurred in rivers around Florida, Wisconsin, San Antonio, Nevada, Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Mexico.

Not only, are these fish a problem to the United States, but further abroad in Guatemala, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines. While, owners of these fish are advised not to release these fish into local water systems. Furthermore, this is paramount in managing and curbing this invasive species.

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