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The “Royal Panaque Group”

by Francesco Zezza

The correct “labeling” of a wild Pleco (a catfish of the Loriicaridae family) is, at least, debatable. As a matter of fact, as a hobbyist, you’re likely to face a fish of uncertain origin, and possibly, bad general condition.

For the first point (uncertain origin): I refer to the actual collecting place, such as the river and/or area and alike, though in worse cases, even the country of origin, itself. Simply think of fishes collected on opposite sides of rivers flowing along the border of different states! While this makes no difference as far as the fish is concerned, it is a matter of some interest for all the others; ichthyologist for sure, but also, to a smaller extent, collectors/exporters and so on.

For the latter statement (bad general condition) I refer to their actual “well being”; either for newly imported specimens or fishes kept long term in pet-shops at wholesaler/exporters warehouses.

This being said, there are further points to consider:

a)     There are a LOT of fish of similar genus/species (possibly living in closely comparable but different environments) in the many different bodies of water of the Amazon forest.

b)     There are fish of the very same genus/species that show different colours/morphs related to the place of collection.

c)      There are fish misidentified/mislabeled on purpose or not.  Labeling a fish to be of higher “quality” or a different species/genus that is more wanted by aquarist equals higher sales and/or higher prices by “shop-keepers”!

Almost three years after my return from the Amazon Forest (Peru), at least one of loriicarids collected there is still waiting for CERTAIN identification …

After this long, and possibly a bit complicated, foreword (more info on Plecos: here), it should be clear why – oddly enough and for “once in my life”! – I decided to rely on a common name (forgive me!) to identify a “group of catfish” and to introduce the topic of this quick article. Fishes known as Panaque nigrolineatus (and related species, subspecies, morphs) are identified by the name of Royal Plecos.  This “mad debate” begins with pictures George posted in his update at the end of May:

Panaque sp. nigrolineatus "Teles Pires royal pleco"  L027b

Panaque sp. nigrolineatus   L190

Nice fish (both clearly – to me, at least! - belong to the Panaque genus), cleverly pictured, and better kept … but beyond this, in reality (aka: in the wild) things are NOT so easy, and here comes why (if interested in how scientific names works check this):

Scientific name

Common name

L-Number

Type locality

other

Panaque cf. nigrolineatus

Gold Line Royal Pleco

L027, L027c

Rio Tocantins, Xingù, Araguaia. Brasil.

 

Panaque nigrolineatus (Peters, 1877)

Royal Pleco

L190

Calabozo, Venezuela

TL 34 cm/13.6"

Panaque sp.

Dull Eyed Royal Pleco

L191

 

 

Panaque sp. cf, nigrolineatus - A

 

L027b

 

 

Panaque sp. cf, nigrolineatus - B

Longnosed Royal Pleco, Platinum Royal Pleco, Red Fin Royal Pleco

 

Rio Xingù. Brasil

 

To make LONG story short, what does all the above statements (this info is from what is  possibly the best catfish site I’ve seen so far) mean? Nothing! But one thing (and this is NOT a complain about George’s way of dealing with loriicarids)…NEVER SAY NEVER:

·        Never say You’re sure (about what the “Pleco” You’re keeping or going to buy actually is)

·        Never swear on its identification by your supplier (possibly is a pet shop who is likely to know – on plecos – way less of what you know!).

Always be “skeptical”. Study, listen, learn, and then re-start from the beginning…study, listen, learn … it’s sort of an endless game. But this is part of the fun, isn’t it?

Interesting pics (and bit more information on size and place of origin) - by no mean related to the text but may possibly be useful to identify your own fish, or get an idea of “whole matter”- can be found here:

Panaque sp. cf. nigrolineatus ("Green Royal")

Panaque sp. cf. nigrolineatus ("Orange Royal", "Gold Line Royal")

Panaque sp. cf. nigrolineatus ("Orange Royal", "Tocantins Royal")

Panaque sp. cf. nigrolineatus ("Platyna Royal")

Panaque sp. cf. nigrolineatus ("Thunder Royal")

These images come from a Japanese site I like quite a lot.

BTW: it shouldn’t be that difficult to note that the common names of the second list (shown in brackets) differ quite a lot from the ones shown in the previous one in some cases, and they EVEN differ from the ones George himself used. This brings us to another famous DON’T: Don’t use common names (or, at least, try Your best to avoid them!). Enjoy your catfishes!!!

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