Introduction to Royal pleco
The Royal pleco has many different common names in English, including Royal plec, Royal panaque and Royal catfish. In its native South-America, the fish is also known under many different names, such as the Portuguese name Acari-da-pedra and the Spanish name Carachama. Panaque is the Venezuelan name for the fish.
The scientific name for this species is Panaque nigrolineatus and it was described and named by Peters in 1877. In some sources, you might find the synonym Chaetostomus nigrolineatus . The Royal pleco has also been assigned an L-number: L190. There are several different colour variations to choose among when purchasing Royal pleco, such as the colour variation L027 which can trace its ancestry back to Royal plecos collected from different rivers in Brazil , including Rio Tapajos, Rio Tocantins and Rio Xingú.
The Royal pleco can reach a length of 43 centimetres (17 inches). Just like the other members of the genus Panaque it is equipped with spoon-shaped teeth which are wider at the tip than at the base. Panaque species can also be recognized on the absence of buccal papilla. (The buccal papilla is a small skin-flap located inside the mouth of the fish.)
As mentioned above, the Royal pleco comes in many different colour variations. Even the eyes can vary in colour from red to bright orange. Generally speaking, Royal plecos collected from Colombia and Venezuela have barred caudal fin rays as juveniles, while juveniles from Brazil have solid or plain caudal fin rays.
Geographical distribution, habitat and care
The Royal pleco has a wide distribution range and can be found from Colombia and Venezuela to the southern parts of the Amazon basin. The species is present in both lower and middle Amazon, as well as in Rio Orinoco.
The recommended pH-value when keeping Royal pleco is 6.5-7.5. The temperature should be in the 22-30 degrees C (72-86 degrees F) range. The water should ideally be fairly soft, from 2 dH to 15 dH.
Provide your pleco with a varied and nutritious diet. You can for instance combine algae based prepared foods with fresh zucchini, cucumbers, kale etc. Green peas are good for the metabolism. It is also important to always include wood in the set up when you decorate the aquarium, because the Royal pleco needs to chew on wood to stay healthy. In the wild, the Royal pleco probably ingests tiny animals while grazing algae and it can therefore appreciate occasional servings of meaty food in the aquarium. These servings must be small and infrequent.
Aquarium set up and suitable tank mates
Royal Pleco - Copyright fishaliciousfish.blogspot.com
Since the Royal pleco can reach a length of over 40 cm (16 inches) it will eventually need quite a large aquarium. Larger specimens are fond of redecorating the aquarium so it is important that no items can fall and injure them as they scuffle around. Always include bogwood in the set up. Bogwood will function as both food and shelter from the fish.
The Royal pleco does not like to share its territory with members of its own species or similar species. It is friendly towards other types of fish and can be kept in community aquariums without problem. You should however be aware that fast and/or antagonistic fishes can cause starvation in Royal plecos since they eat all the food before the pleco gets a chance to catch any.
Breeding Royal pleco
Royal pleco breeding in aquariums is not common, which is sad since this fish is quite sensitive to harvesting in the wild. The minimum population doubling time is over 14 years and it is therefore hard for populations to recover when large amounts of fish are caught for the aquarium trade.
If you want to induce breeding in Royal plecos, try to mimic a dry season with a subsequent rainy season in the aquarium. The rainy season typically brings cooler, softer and more acidic water combined with plenty of meaty food and green foods. You can use rain water and do a major water change.
Sexing Royal pleco is tricky. In many plecos, sexing can be done by looking at the papilla. If it is round and blunt, the fish is a female. If it is small and pointy, the fish is a male. It is still known clear if this method can be used for the Royal pleco as well.
What's in a name?
The genus name Panaque is the Venezuelan name for the fish. The species name nigroloneatus is derived from two words: nigro which means black and lineatus which means line. The name is a reference to the black stripes that decorate the body of this fish.
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