Astroblepus from Peru imported!

1. August 2011

The L-numbers or Loricariidae belong to the most popular species of catfish from South America. But even very experienced aquarists will hardly ever had the opportunity to see alive a specimen of the genus Astroblepus, although the family Astroblepidae, which includes the single genus Astroblepus, is the closest relative of the loricariids. Astroblepids are distinguished from loricariids by the naked body, which is covered by bony plates in loricariids. So we are very proud that we have been able to import two species of Astroblepus now for the first time ever, although in very small numbers.

There are more than 50 species in Astroblepus and no scientific revision has been done for over 100 years. So a determination of our species would have been virtually impossible without the knowledge of the origin of the fish (thanks Carlos!). But we were informed that our fish had been collected in the upper Rio Ucayali region, which reduced the number of possible species to 6. Although such a determination cannot be done without leaving some doubts our fish are at least very similar to the described species Astroblepus mancoi and A. taczanowskii.

The most attractive species is Astroblepus mancoi with a variable tiger pattern, whereas A. taczanowskii is more or less uniformly orange-brown with a fine marble pattern. Both species become around 8 cm long.

All species of Astroblepus feed on Aufwuchs. The structure of their mouth and teeth reminds one strongly in loricariids. Astroblepus are adopted perfectly to strong current. They do not have only a suckermouth, but also a moveable adhesive apparatus on the belly. Both specializations allow the fish to climb even over the strongest rapids existing. On the upper edge of the opercula is a small aperture that allows the fish to breath althout the mouth is sucked to the ground.

These fascinating catfish should be kept under cool conditions (18-22°C) and a pump for a strong current should be installed in the tank. Despite this keeping Astroblepus can be compared with keeping Ancistrus species. Our specimens have proofed so far to be very peaceful against each other.

For our customers: Astroblepus mancoi has code 208783, A. taczanowskii 208792 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.

Lexicon: Astroblepus: from ancient Greek, means “stargazer”. Mancoi: dedication name “for the Inca Ayar Manco, colonizer of Cuzco, the “Moses of the Peruvian Indians”, who, about 1100 A.D. led the exodus from Tampu-tocco.” (Eigenmann & Allen, 1942). taczanowskii: dedication name for the former curator of the Warsaw museum.

Suggestion of common names: A. mancoi: Tiger stargazer catfish; A. taczanowskii: Orange stargazer catfish.

Text & Photos: Frank Schäfer