From the lower Rio Ventuari in Venezuela – the largest tributary of the Orinoco – as well as from the Orinoco itself in the Ventuari estuary comes a beautiful Hypancistrus. It has large, bright spots on a deep black ground. The coloration of the spots is varying between shy white and orange-pink. There is a high similarity to L201, which was imported earlier from Venezuela, but from the upper reaches of the Orinoco River. L201 has much smaller spots. L201 has remained scientifically undescribed to this day. The large-spotted fish from the Ventuari was therefore called L201a in the trade; by the way, exported species are often mixed, which can give the impression that they occur together in nature, which is not the case according to current knowledge. A “proper” L-number was never given to “L201a Big Spots”, it is also superfluous, because L201a was already scientifically described as Hypancistrus contradens in 2007.
But nothing is as long-lasting as a proper provisional designation: the designation L201a will not be eradicated in the trade.
By the way, L471 looks completely identical (see: https://www.aquariumglaser.de/en/fish-archives/hypancistrus-sp-l471-dwarf-big-spots-2/), which also originates from Ventuari, but remains much smaller. L471 is said to reach only 5-6 cm total length (at least wild caught), while for H. contradens a maximum length of 10 cm is given. One always has to be careful that scientific papers only talk about “standard length”, i.e. body length without caudal fin, because one never knows if the caudal fin of a fish caught in the wild is complete (usually it is not), while aquaristic sources usually give the total length, i.e. including caudal fin. For example, the animal photographed for this post from our current import has 8 cm standard length and 10.5 cm total length. It is, as you can tell by the long interopercularodonts (“whiskers”), a sexually mature male.
Hypancistrus contradens is such a popular L catfish because its beautiful coloration remains throughout its life, whereas many other species become increasingly dull and washed out as they age.
For our customers: Hypancistrus contradens has code 26480-L 201A-3 on our stock list. Please note that we only supply wholesale.
Text & photos: Frank Schäfer