Pterygoplichthys pardalis (Amazon sailfin pleco)

Pterygoplichthys pardalis which is also known as the Amazon sailfin pleco belongs to the Hypostominae subfamily of the Loricariidae family of the Siluriformes order. Other common names of the species are L021, L023, Albino pleco, chocolate pleco, and janitor fish.


  1. Hypostomus pardalis
  2. Liposarcus jeanesianus
  3. Liposarcus pardalis
  4. Liposarcus varius

Pterygoplichthys pardalis is native of South America (lower/middle/upper Amazon river basin) but has been introduced to other countries by the aquarium trade.
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. Furthermore, the Amazon sailfin pleco may inhabit low salinity waters up to 12 ppt for a prolonged period.

The Amazon sailfin 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 light-brown spots over the body and the abdomen. The head has a geometric pattern of light lines and dark uncoalesced dark spots on the light-brown abdomen, while the lateral spots form V-shaped stripes (chevrons). There is an albino variation (chocolate pleco) due to the selective breeding of the species.
There is no sexual dimorphism, but males have a prominent genital papilla than females. The Amazon sailfin pleco grows up to 50 cm and has a lifespan of 10 years.

The identification between Pterigoplichthys species:

  1. The P.gibbiceps group is distinguished by P. pardalis by having a large supraoccipital crest (bone).
  2. P. pardalis has ventral uncoalesced spots, while P. disjunctivus has a vermiculate pattern on the ventral side.
  3. P. pardalis has dark spots on a light-brown abdomen, while P. anisitsi has light spots on a dark-brown abdomen.
  4. Pterigoplichthys species are 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 Amazon sailfin pleco is compatible with many species due to its peaceful personality. Furthermore, the species is an excellent choice for community tanks. However, P. pardalis 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.
The Amazon sailfin 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 a hardness between 10-20 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.

Pterygoplichthys 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, Pterygoplichys species are bred in fish-farms by the Aquarium industry in outdoor ponds with deep burrows in the shore.
Males dig horizontal holes of about 120-150cm long near the rivers 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. The species reach sexual maturity at 25 cm in size.

Liposarcus pardalis by Richwales/ is licensed under Public domain.


  1. Pterygoplicthys pardalis, 2017. Retrieved from
  2. Pterygoplichthys pardalis. Retrieved from
  3. Jonathan W. Armbruster* and Lawrence M. Page 2006, Redescription of Pterygoplichthys punctatus and description of a new species of Pterygoplichthys (Siluriformes: Loricariidae). Retrieved from:
  4. Pterygoplichthys pardalis. Retrieved from
  5. 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 ItsInvasive Threat to Native and Endemic Aquatic Species. Retrieved from
  6. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2012 ,Amazon Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis). Retrieved from:

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