Name: Megalechis thoracata
Origin: South America
Megalechis thoracata or Hoplo catfish is a large, hardy, armoured member of the Callichthyinae subfamily. Distinguishable from similar species due to a lack of a forked caudal fin (as found in Hoplosternum littorale) or dark banded caudal fin (as found in Megalechis picta).
Hoplo cats are renowned for their ability to withstand varied and sometimes poor water conditions due to their natural habitat of low oxygen, plant infested pools. Although not an excuse for poor tank husbandry, it does mean they can be kept in a variety of acidic, alkaline, soft and hard waters.
They have an attractive mottled brown body and in males, thickened orange/red first pectoral rays. This is in contrast to their silver abdomen festooned with a black polka dot pattern. In regards to decor and tank size, 120 liters would be the bare minimum for a single fish with few, if any, other bottom dwelling tankmates. Bogwood and plants provide resting places where they will ‘bask’ when not eating, they are generally active for periods during both day and night. Due to their size and inquisitive nature, very few plants remain rooted unless weighted or well established. Amazon Sword plants and Java Ferns appear resistant to their foraging.
They quickly attain their maximum size and although completely peaceful, can be boisterous, particularly during feeding. Additionally, they can be somewhat oblivious to other tank inhabitants, pushing past them or even flipping them out of the way in their search for food. Although not predatory, Neon Tetras and other ‘bite sized’ tankmates should be avoided as a precaution. Other tankmates to avoid are dwarf cichlids, loaches or other catfish that would either be distressed or aggressive during the Hoplos' daily exploration through the tank.
They are not fussy eaters accepting most dried, frozen and fresh (meaty) foods. Due to their large mouths and insatiable appetites restraint is required during feeding to avoid bloating.
Ideally they should be kept singly or as a large group to avoid bullying.
Breeding is apparently straight forward with well conditioned pairs, with the male building a large bubble nest which he guards after spawning until the fry are free swimming.
Hoplos are great characters that make fascinating additions to a well prepared community tank.
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