The Rhino pleco is also known as Alligator pleco and Chocolate pleco. Its scientific name is Pterygoplichthys scrophus , but many sources use the synonyms Glyptoperichthys scrophus or Liposarcus scrophus .
The Rhino pleco can reach a length of 27.5 cm (almost 11 inches). It is equipped with two nasal flutes that look like small horns on the head. The common name Alligator pleco is derived from the ridges that are found along the sides of the body. The body coloration varies between rich brown, mottled brown and black.
You know that this species belongs to the genus Pterygoplichthys since it has more than ten rays in its dorsal fin. The Pterygoplichthys species are sometimes confused with the larger members of the genus Hypostomus, but these two groups are actually easy to tell apart since Hypostomus species have eight or fewer rays in the dorsal fin.
Geographical distribution, habitat and care
The natural environment for the Rhino pleco is Rio Marañon and Rio Ucayali in South America . Rio Marañon is a Peruvian river that begins roughly 160 km (100 miles) northeast of the Peruvian capital and proceeds through the Andean valley, the Andean inland and finally the plains before it reaches Rio Ucayali and confluences with this river. Rio Ucayali has its headwaters 110 km (70 miles) north of the famous Lake Titicaca and is one of several important contributors to the Rio Amazon. Try to resemble the environment in Rio Marañon and Rio Ucayali in the aquarium when keeping Rhino pleco. The water should be acidic or just slightly alkaline, from pH 6.0 to pH 7.5. The water temperature should be fairly high, from 22 to 28 degrees C (72-82 degrees F).
The Rhino pleco is an omnivore species that needs algae, vegetables and meaty food in its diet. If the Rhino pleco gets too much meaty food and too little algae and vegetables it can succumb to illness since it is ill adapted for a diet rich in protein and low in fibres. The natural algae growth in an aquarium is normally not enough to keep a Rhino pleco healthy, so make sure that you supplement with algae based prepared foods and fresh vegetables.
Aquarium set up and tank mates
As mentioned above, the Rio Marañon and Rio Ucayali in South America is the natural home for the Rhino pleco and this fish will therefore appreciate a similar environment in the aquarium. Make sure that you create plenty of hiding spots using rocks and cave, and include at least one peace of wood. The Rhino pleco is fond of destroying plants, but robust and fast growing species might survive. Live plants are not mandatory when keeping Rhino pleco.
The Rhino pleco is a peaceful fish that can be kept in community aquariums with other non-aggressive medium sized fishes. Ideally combine Rhino pleco with fish that spend most of their time in mid-water or close to the surface, since a crowded bottom area can cause territorial clashes and increase the risk of aggressive behaviour. If you have a large aquarium, a large number of bottom dwellers can normally be combined without problem but in small aquariums the fish can feel crowded. You can decrease the risk of territorial clashes by using aquarium decoration to divide the bottom into several distinct territories.
Breeding Rhino pleco
There are no reports of Rhino plecos breeding in aquariums.
What's in a name?
The genus name Pterygoplichthys is derived from three Greek words: pterygion, hoplon and ichthys. Pterygion means "small wing", since it is the diminutive form of the Greek word for wing - pteryx. Hoplon is the Greek word for weapon, while ichthys or ikhthu means fish.
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