Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps (Leopard pleco)

Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps which is also known as the Sailfin or Leopard pleco belongs to the Hypostominae subfamily of the Loricariidae family of the Siluriformes order. Other common names of the species are L083, L165, and Gibby.


  1. Ancistrus Gibbiceps
  2. Liposarcus altipinnis
  3. Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps

Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps is native of South America (Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, etc.) but has been introduced to other continents by the aquarium trade and causes negative impacts to the non-native natural environments.
Because of the resilience of the Pterygoplichthys species, they 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. They usually live in soft and acidic waters of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. However, Pterygoplichthys species are adaptable and can adapt in hard and neutral to alkaline waters.

The Leopard pleco has bony plates that cover the body with a large dorsal fin, a flat belly and round mouth which indicates is a bottom dweller like most catfish. The species has a dark-brown coloration with darker or lighter rounded spots over the body and the abdomen.
There is no sexual dimorphism, but males have a prominent genital papilla than females. The leopard pleco grows up to 18 inches and has a lifespan of 10-15 years.

What species do I have?
The species differ by most of the other species of the genus from its circular markings on the body and fins. Furthermore, the P.gibbiceps group is distinguished by other Pterygoplichthys species by having a large supraoccipital crest (bone).
P. gibbiceps is usually misidentified by people as Hypostomus species. Pterygoplichthys species differ from Hypostomus species by having nine or more dorsal fin rays, while the Hypostomus species have eight dorsal fin rays.

Temperament and tank mates:
In general, the leopard pleco is compatible with many species due to its peaceful personality. Furthermore, the species is an excellent choice for community tanks. However, P. gibbiceps gets aggressive with similar or territorial species and sometimes with small species due to its territorial behavior, so keep an eye on them as their aggressiveness may increase in smaller tanks. Furthermore, the species may get aggressive with laterally flattened species such as angelfish, discus, etc.
The leopard pleco is a hardy fish but not recommended as a beginner fish, due to its size that requires a huge tank.
Moreover, they are nocturnal species that spend most of the time on the glass or at the bottom of the tank.

Water parameters and Aquarium’s size:
The species require large tanks that most hobbyists do not have because of their size. A community aquarium of 150-180 gallons suits one pleco (minimum).
A pH between 6.5-7.5, with a temperature between 23-27 Celsius, and hardness between 5-29 dH, suits the species.

Decorations such as caves, rocks, and woods are essential for them to hide during the day. 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, as Plecos have a habit digging up the plants from the bottom, you may plant them in pots.

The species are mostly herbivores and famous to aquarists as algae eaters. However, they are known to eat dead fish. Furthermore, many beginners use the species 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 prepared food (tablets), live food (earthworms, bloodworms,etc.), as well as blanched vegetables (zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, spinach cucumber, etc.).
In nature, their diet consists of detritus, algae, plankton, a small amount of wood and vertebrates, etc.

It’s impossible to reproduce the species in the aquarium as breed along the rivers in deep tunnels that the species dig. However, P. gibbiceps is bred in fish-farms by breeders in outdoor ponds with deep burrows in the shore with the proper parameters (6,7 pH, 26 Celsius, 60% of oxygen saturation).
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 fry can eat on their own.

Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps 2 by Wisky/ is licensed under
CC BY-SA 3.0


  1. Slawomir Kezska, Remigiusz Panicz, Tanski A. 2008,First record of the leopard pleco, Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps (Actinopterygii, Loricariidae) in the Brda River in the centre of Bydgoszcz (northern Poland). Retrieved from
  2. Li-Wei Wu, Chien-Chin Liu, and Si-Min Lin (2011), Identification of Exotic Sailfin Catfish Species (Pterygoplichthys, Loricariidae) in Taiwan Based on Morphology and mtDNA Sequences. Retrieved from
  3. Rebeca Aneli Rueda-asoo, Antonio Campos Medoza, Francisco Arreguin Sanchez, Edmundo Diaz-Pardo, Carlos Antonio Martinez-Palacios, 2013,The biological and reproductive parameters of the invasive armored catfish Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus from Adolfo López Mateos El Infiernillo Reservoir, Michoacán-Guerrero, Mexico. Retrieved from
  4. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 2018, Leopard Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps). Retrieved from
  5. Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps 2014. Retrieved from
  6. Clarice Brough CFS, Leopard pleco. Retrieved from:

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