Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus (Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish)

This rarely seen species in the Aquarium trade is also known as the Vermiculated sailfin pleco that belongs to the Hypostominae subfamily of the Loricariidae family of the Siluriformes order. Furthermore, the species was described first as Liposarcus disjunctivus.

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus is native of South America’s Rio Madeira river (Brazil). In general, Pterygoplichthys species exist in a wide range of habitats, from slow-flowing or stagnant ponds with low oxygen levels to fast flowing streams and tributaries with high oxygen levels.
Furthermore, as with other Pterygoplichthys species, the Vermiculated sailfin pleco has been introduced to other countries by escapes or releases from fish farms.

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus’ body is covered by bony plates which are a characteristic to species that belong to the Loricariidae family. Pterygoplichthys species have a large dorsal fin with more than nine fin rays, flat stomach and round mouth which indicate that are bottom dwellers.
The adult Vermiculated sailfin catfish’s head has markings, while most of the belly’s spots coalesce into vermiculations. The lateral spots detach from each other, without forming chevrons. However, juveniles’ spots on the abdomen and lateral part are separated from each other usually.
There is no sexual dimorphism, but males have a prominent genital papilla than females. Pterigoplichthys disjunctivus grows up to 43-70 cm.

The differences between Hypostomus and Pterygoplichthys:
It’s not unusual in the aquarium trade these two genera to be confused by people. However, they easily differentiated by the number of their dorsal fin rays. Pterygoplichthys species have nine or more dorsal fin rays, while the Hypostomus species have eight dorsal fin rays.

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus Vs. Pterygoplichtys pardalis:
Some species of this genera have almost identical body shape, as well as, a similar pattern pigmentation that results in misidentification. In our case, P. disjunctivus and P. pardalis are confused by aquarists due to their similar patternation.
The differences between the two species:

  1. P. disjunctivus’ head has spots while P. pardalis’ head has a geometric pigmentation pattern.
  2. P. disjunctivus’ abdomen has a vermiculated pattern while P.pardalis’ abdomen has uncoalesced spots.

Temperament and tank mates:
On the one hand, the vermiculated sailfin pleco is compatible with many species due to its peaceful personality, but on the other hand, plecos get aggressive with similar or territorial species and sometimes with small species due to their territorial behavior, so keep an eye on them as their aggressiveness may increase in smaller tanks. Furthermore, some plecos may get aggressive with laterally flattened species such as angelfish, discus.

Water parameters and Aquarium’s size:
The vermiculated sailfin catfish require large tanks with a minimum of 150 gallons and heavy filtration due to their high waste production. A pH between 6.5-7.5, with a temperature between 23-29 Celsius, and a hardness between 4-16 dGH suits the species.

You can decorate the aquarium with caves, rocks, and woods and tried to simulate their natural habitat. Furthermore, plecos usually hide in dark places or caves during the day since they are nocturnal species.
Some individuals may eat plants while others not. The fish may stop eating the plants of the aquarium when it gets fed with a plant source such as vegetables. Furthermore, Plecos have a habit of digging up the plants from the bottom.

Pterygoplichthhys disjunctivus is mainly herbivorous and a great algae eater, but it’s not uncommon for Pterygoplichthys species to eat dead fish. Many beginners use plecos to clean the bottom from the leftovers of other fish in the aquarium, as well as, the algae but like all animals need a proper diet. You should provide them with vegetables (zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, spinach cucumber).
In nature, their diet consists of detritus, algae, plankton, a small amount of wood and vertebrates.

It’s impossible to reproduce the species in the aquarium as breed along the rivers in deep tunnels that the species dig. However, Pterygoplichys species are bred in fish-farms by the Aquarium industry in outdoor ponds with deep burrows in the shore with the proper parameters.
Males dig horizontal holes of about 120-150cm long near the rives as nests. Depending on the Pterygoplichthys species, the female lays 500-3000 eggs in the nest, and the male guards them until the young eat on their own.

Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus harum.koh/ liscenced under CC BY-SA 2.0


  1. Mohammad Y. Hossain 1, Robert L. Vadas Jr. 2, Ramon Ruiz-Carus 3,*, † and Shams M. Galib 2018,Amazon Sailfin Catfish Pterygoplichthys pardalis (Loricariidae) in Bangladesh: A Critical Review of Its Invasive Threat to Native and Endemic Aquatic Species. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2012, Amazon Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis). Retrieved from
  3. Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2019.FishBase, Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus. Retrieved from:
  4. Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus. Retrieved from:

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