Amazon Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis)

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Amazon Sailfin Catfish
Pterygoplichthys pardalis
Amazon Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis)
Name Amazon Sailfin Catfish
Name Lat. Pterygoplichthys pardalis
Synonym Liposarcus pardalis, L21, L23
Family Suckermouth Armoured Catfishes
Family lat. Loricariidae
Order Catfishes
Order lat. Siluriformes
Origin Brazil
Habitat Rivers
Diet Omnivore, soft wood
pH 6.0-8.0
Behavior Nocturnal, peaceful
Keeping Individual, group
Care Level Moderate
Reproduction Substrate spawner
Breeding None reported
Life Span 15-20 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 35-40 cm
Temperature 21-26 °C
Hardness 2-20 °dH
Aquarium ~ 500 l
US Units
Size 14"-16"
Temperature 70-79 °F
Hardness 36-356 ppm
Aquarium ~ 130 gal

Distribution and habitat

Leopard seal catfish are widely distributed throughout the Amazon River drainage. They live in large rivers, preferably in sections with low flow. Roots protruding into the water, sunken tree trunks and branches serve as their habitat.


The aquarium should have robust planting, with roots and branches that provide hiding places and are also part of their diet, as well as caves and a sandy substrate. Subdued light and a weak current is ideal.

No ammonia, ammonium and nitrite should be detectable, and the nitrate value should not exceed 100 mg/l. To ensure the water quality and oxygen content, a filter and heater adapted to the aquarium size is required, as well as lighting for the species-appropriate day-night rhythm of the animals.


They feed on plant and animal food. For a balanced diet, feed once a day with a high-quality dry food for loricariid catfish (granules, pellets, chips, tablets), supplemented with algae leaves, soft wood and fresh vegetables, such as zucchini, broccoli, bruised peas, scalded spinach, as well as zoopankton, cyclops, daphnia, artemia, mosquito larvae, shrimp, etc. (live or frozen)

Feed only as much as will be eaten within a few minutes, excluding plant foods. Regular and varied feeding promotes health and increases resistance.

Behaviour and compatibility

They are crepuscular and nocturnal. Older animals sometimes behave intra-species territorial, therefore several animals should be maintained only in large and richly structured tanks. They are very peaceful towards other fish and can be socialized well with larger fish.

Basically, only compatible fish species with similar demands on water quality and water temperature should be socialized.

Sex dimorphism

The sexes are difficult to distinguish. Females are slightly wider when viewed from above, males usually have slightly larger fins. With some experience, adolescent animals can be distinguished by their genital papilla, which is pointed in the male and ends flat in the female.

Reproduction and breeding

There are no known reports of successful breeding in the aquarium. They are bred in large numbers in fish farms in America and Asia.


Often they are offered as Hypostomus plecostomus. The Hypostomus plecostomus has only 7 soft rays, in contrast to the Pterygoplichthys pardalis, which has 14 soft rays

Aquarium plants are basically not used as food for them, but they can be damaged or uprooted. They have a strong sucking mouth, with spoon-shaped teeth for scraping wood, and an intestinal flora that allows the fish to digest the cellulose

When fishing, use the finest mesh nets possible to prevent the hard rays of the pectoral fins or the skin teeth (odontodes) from getting caught on the bone plates, which can cause painful puncture wounds when touched.

The well-being of the fish should be checked regularly. Temperature should be checked daily, pH, hardness and nitrate levels at least every 14 days. Regular partial water changes are recommended, even when contaminant levels have not yet reached the upper limit. Sudden changes in water quality should be avoided. Newly introduced fish must be accustomed slowly to the water in the aquarium.

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: petdata; Image: petdata

Source: BMEL (1998): Tierschutzgutachten - Haltung von Zierfischen (Süßwasser); RIEHL & BAENSCH (2006): Aquarien Atlas Bd. 1, Mergus Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

  • Gemäß § 21 Abs. 5 Tierschutzgesetz idgF