Origin: Amazon River and tributaries
Maximum Size: Possible 8 inches. Six more likely.
Housing: 10 gallons to start, then move to larger quarters
Peculiarity: Air breathers
Sexual Differences: Males sport thicker pectoral fins as they mature
Temperature: 65 to 85 F
Attitude: Peaceful. Good scavenger.
Security: Shy at first. Adapts rapidly.
Foods: Heavy eater
Breeding Comments: Bubble nesters. Males very protective.
Anyone that sees young hoplos cannot help but be struck by their attractive appearance – a bit like an elongated corydoras catfish, which they resemble in many ways. They cost about twice as much as corys, which means they’re still affordable. Since we only see them part of the year, we assume they are a seasonal catfish.
Size. Hoplo catfish usually hit the marketplace at about two inches — an excellent size for most community tanks. Maxing out at six inches after about four years in a large tank, these guys fit into your tank for the long haul.
Space. Because the hoplo will eventually grow to about six inches, you’ll want to sooner or later house them in a 30-gallons or larger aquarium.
Groups. You can keep your hoplos singly, but they seem to enjoy hanging around with their own kind – not in the tight formations like neon tetras but more like the cory cats. They are more active than most corydoras catfish.
Water. Originally from Amazonia, hoplo catfishes probably came from waters with a pH below 7.0. No problem here. They adapt very quickly to a wide variety of pH levels.
Hoplos explore these ornaments but (like the American bison) prefer the wide open spaces.
Tank Decor. Like most catfishes, your hoplo catfish will explore all the nooks and crannies in your aquarium. However, much like cories, your hoplo catfish will often come front and center and loaf in plain sight. They are not hiders and couldn’t care less how you decorate your tank. If you provide caves, they will explore them. However, they are only part-time spelunkers.
Substrate. Your hoplo catfish’s spotted pattern helps it blend into nearly any multi-colored bottom. They show up best over solid colors. Some hoplo owners like to display them over white sand to make them pop out.
Foods. Feed your new hoplos whatever the rest of your fish are chowing on: flakes, pellets, wafers, food sticks, frozen, freeze-dried, or live foods. Maybe feed a little of each. They eat them all with relish. Still, they never seem to put on excess weight. Like most catfishes, they prefer to munch at the night shift cafeteria. Also like other catfishes, they quickly adapt to your feeding schedule – usually within a week.
Sexing. Once they mature, the male hoplos develop thicker pectoral fins. The females probably get plumper. It’s been so many decades since I’ve seen an adult, I can’t remember.
Air Breathers. Hoplo catfish (like their cory cousins) breathe air. This means you can keep them in warmer (low oxygen levels) water with warm water fish like discus and uarus. However, serious discus breeders will not mix other fish with their discus.
Temperature. But you don’t have to hot up your hoplos. As long as you keep them between 65 and 85, they’re happy little scavengers.
Tank Mates. Feel free to keep your hoplo catfishes with same size South, Central, and North American cichlids. Few South American catfishes will co-exist with African cichlids. Hoplos will co-exist with most species. They are ideal in unheated goldfish aquaria.
Breeding. Oddly enough, cool water can trigger them to breed. Rain (cooler water) trips their spawning trigger in the wild. The only time we saw them breed, the male built his bubble nest under a floating yellow lid off a can of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. The owner insisted the yellow color was one of the spawning triggers. Males are very protective of their nest and eggs. You will probably need to remove the female.
Last Comments. Clean water is essential to keeping most catfishes. Use a good filtration system and don’t expect your hoplo catfish to clean up all of your overfeeding mistakes.