name = "Pterygoplichthys"

image_width = 250px
image_caption = "Pterygoplichthys" sp.
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Actinopterygii
ordo = Siluriformes
familia = Loricariidae
subfamilia = Hypostominae
tribus = Pterygoplichthyini
genus = "Pterygoplichthys"
genus_authority = Gill, 1858
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "P. anisitsi"
"P. disjunctivus"
"P. etentaculatus"
"P. gibbiceps"
"P. joselimaianus"
"P. lituratus"
"P. multiradiatus"
"P. pardalis"
"P. parnaibae"
"P. punctatus"
"P. scrophus"
"P. undecimalis"
"P. weberi"
"P. xinguensis"
"P. zuliaensis"

"Pterygoplichthys" (from the Greek "πτέρυγ-" ("pteryg-"), meaning "wing", ("hoplon") - weapon and "ἰχθύς" ("ichthys") meaning "fish") is a genus of the armored catfish family Loricariidae.FishBase genus | genus = Pterygoplichthys | year = 2007 | month = May] These fish are commonly known as sailfin armoured catfish or sailfin plecs.


This genus was described in 1858 by Theodore Nicholas Gill. The type species is "Pterygoplichthys etentaculatus" (originally known as "Hypostomus duodecimalis").

"Pterygoplichthys" has undergone much shifting in the past decades. Previously "Liposarcus", "Glyptoperichthys" and "Pterygoplichthys" had been named as separate genera.cite paper|author=C. Weber|title=Nouveaux taxa dans Pterygoplichthys sensu lato (Pisces, Siluriformes, Loricariidae)|publisher=Revue Suisse de Zoologie|year=1991] cite paper|author=C. Weber|title=Révision du genre Pterygoplichthys sensu lato|publisher=Revue Francaise díAquariologie Herpétologie|year=1992] Since then, these genera were recognized as synonyms of "Pterygoplichthys" by Armbruster, as the few differences between the genera were not deemed great enough to validate "Glyptoperichthys" and "Liposarcus", and that recognizing these separate genera would leave neither "Pterygoplichthys" nor "Glyptoperichthys" as monophyletic.cite journal|journal=Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society|url=|title="Phylogenetic relationships of the suckermouth armoured catfishes (Loricariidae) with emphasis on the Hypostominae and the Ancistrinae (abstract)"|year=2004| author="Jonathan W. Armbruster"|doi=10.1111/j.1096-3642.2004.00109.x|volume=141|pages=1] cite web| url=|title=Pterygoplichthys (Gill, 1858)|first=Jonathan W.|last=Armbruster] However, some sources continue to retain "Glyptoperichthys" as a valid genus.FishBase genus|genus=Glyptoperichthys|year=2007|month=May]

Appearance and anatomy

"Pterygoplichthys" can be differentiated from most other loricariids due to their large dorsal fins with 9 or more (usually 10) dorsal fin rays, which gives them their common name "sailfin catfish".cite journal|url=|title=Redescription of "Pterygoplichthys punctatus" and description of a new species of "Pterygoplichthys" (Siluriformes: Loricariidae)|first=Jonathan W.last=Armbruster|coauthors=Page, Lawrence M.|journal=Neotropical Ichthyology|volume=4|issue=4|pages=401–409|year=2006|format=PDF] These fish have rows of armour plating covering the body; the abdomen is almost completely covered in small plates. Other characteristics of members of this genus include an underslung suckermouth, evertable cheek plates, adipose fin present, and an enlarged stomach connected to the dorsal abdominal wall by a connective tissue sheet. "P. anisitsi", "P. disjunctivus", "P. multiradiatus", and "P. pardalis" lack cheek odontodes, but still possess the evertible cheek plates; this was previously used as a trait to determine these fish as part of the genus "Liposarcus". Species of the "P. gibbiceps" group (species formerly classified in the genus "Glyptoperichthys") are easily recognized by a large crest above the back of their skull.

Color pattern is generally dark brown with either darker spots or lighter spots or vermiculations. The adult size of a member of "Pterygoplichthys" can range from about 50–70 cm.

The stomach of "Pterygoplichthys" is greatly expanded with the posterior portion forming a long, thin sac that is highly vascularized.

Distribution and habitat

"Pterygoplichthys"' habitat is most common in sluggish streams, floodplain lakes, and marshes. They are known from the Orinoco, Amazon, Magdalena, Maracaibo, Paraná, and São Francisco systems.

These fish have been introduced into many locations. Several species of "Pterygoplichthys" have been established in the United States in Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, and Texas. Established species include "P. multiradiatus" in Florida and Hawaii, "P. disjunctivus" in Florida, and "P. anisitsi" in Texas. [cite journal|title=The South American Suckermouth Armored Catfish, "Pterygoplichthys anisitsi" (Pisces: Loricaridae), in Texas, with Comments on Foreign Fish Introductions in the American Southwest|first=Leo G.|last=Nico|coauthors=Martin, R. Trent|journal=The Southwestern Naturalist|volume=46|issue=1|month=March | year=2001|pages=98–104|doi=10.2307/3672381] Sailfin catfish are one of the more successful established exotic fish in Florida in terms of their range extension and abundance, yet their presence has not had any measurable effect on native fishes, although they have contributed significantly to the carrying capacity of some fish communities. Moreover, none of the 30 professional water managers, engineers, lake management, and shoreline stabilization company owners contacted in 2004 by a particular study considered erosion caused by the burrowing activity of loricariid catfishes a major problem, except in some man-made lakes in the southeastern part of the state. [cite web|url=|title=The status of loricariid catfishes in Florida with emphasis on sailfin catfish ("Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus") (abstract)|last=Gestring|first=Kelly|coauthors=Shafland, Paul; Stanford, Murray|location=Merida, Mexico|year=2006|accessdate=2007-06-04]

In Mexico, "P. multiradiatus" is established in Campeche, Chiapas, and other localities in central and western Mexico, while "P. pardalis" has been found in southeastern Mexico. [cite journal|title=Amazon Sailfin Catfish, "Pterygoplichthys pardalis" (Castelnau, 1855) (Loricariidae), Another Exotic Species Established in Southeastern Mexico|first=Armando T.|last=Wakida-Kusunokia|coauthors=Ruiz-Carusb, Ramon; Amador-del-Angelc, Enrique|journal=The Southwestern Naturalist|pages=141–144|volume=52|issue=1|month=March | year=2007|doi=10.1894/0038-4909(2007)52 [141:ASCPPC] 2.0.CO;2] In the Philippines, where these fish are known as janitor fish, "P. disjunctivus" and "P. pardalis" have been found, these fish are considered a threat to the freshwater fish population; they are found in the Marikina River and Laguna de Bay.cite journal|url=|title=New Philippine record of South American sailfin catfishes (Pisces: Loricariidae)|first=Joel M.|last=Chavez|coauthors=de la Paz, Reynaldo M.; Manohar, Surya Krishna; Pagulayan, Roberto C.; Carandang Vi, Jose R.|journal=Zootaxa|volume=1109|pages=57–68|year=2006|format=PDF] "P. multiradiatus" has also been established in Puerto Rico and Taiwan. [cite journal|url=|title=The South American Sailfin Armored Catfish, "Liposarcus multiradiatus" (Hancock), a New Exotic Established in Puerto Rican Fresh Waters|first=Lucy|last=Bunkley-Williams|coauthors=Williams, Ernest H., Jr.; Lilystrom, Craig G.; Corujo-Flores, Iris; Zerbi, Alfonso J.; Aliaume, Catherine; Churchill, Timothy N.|journal=Caribbean Journal of Science|volume=30|issue=1-2|pages=90–94|year=1994|format=PDF] [cite journal|url=|journal=Zoological Studies|volume=44|issue=2|pages=252–259|year=2005|title=Size Structure, Reproductive Phenology, and Sex Ratio of an Exotic Armored Catfish ("Liposarcus multiradiatus") in the Kaoping River of Southern Taiwan|first=Shih-Hsiung|last=Liang|coauthors=Wu, Hsiao-Ping; Shieh, Bao-Sen|format=PDF]


Their primary food is plant matter. Their diet consists of algae, aufwuchs, general plant matter and possibly carrion. They are grazing animals or scavengers as opposed to predator fish.

"Pterygoplichthys" are known for being kept out of water and sold alive in fish markets, surviving up to 30 hours out of water.cite journal|url=|title=Modifications of the Digestive Tract for Holding Air in Loricariid and Scoloplacid Catfishes|journal=Copeia|year=1998|issue=3|pages=663–675|format=PDF] Males excavate tunnels into mud banks where eggs are laid.

In the aquarium

"P. gibbiceps" has been bred commercially in fish farms in Florida and Malaysia for the aquarium trade. "P. multiradiatus" and "P. pardalis" are both known as common plecos and are widely sold as algae eaters.


*"Pterygoplichthys" is an exact anagram of "Glyptoperichthys".


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