Queen Arabesque Pleco – Hypancistrus sp.

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These fish are principally nocturnal, so it is uncommon to see them out during the day. When they do come out, they are very easily scared, and will retreat to a safe haven.

Scientific Name: Hypancistrus sp. “L-260” (Order: Siluriformes, Family: Loricariidae)

Common Names: Queen Arabesque, Queen Arabesque Pleco

Region: Rivers in Brazil, South America

Maximum Size: 4” (not counting tail)

pH Range: Should be low-neutral. Planet Catfish recommends 6.4-7.6

Hardness: Prefers soft water, but can be kept and even bred in moderately hard water

Temperature: 72-78 (22-27 C)

Appearance: Like all Loricariid catfish, the head is wide, with the widest part of the body being the pectoral girdle (which lies between the head and the torso). Mouth is ventral (on the bottom), a complicated suction-based alteration of the usual maxilla/mandible jaw present in most higher fishes. Pectoral and pelvic fins are lateral (have migrated completely to the sides). Coloration is stunning: thin white lines interweave with thicker black lines to create a labyrinthine pattern that extends from the head to the tail, but which does not extend to the ventral surface. Because it is a bottom dweller, the fish may alter is color slighltly to blend in, accentuating the white or black areas, and developing blotchy gray patches.

Environment: Should be kept in a tank with plenty of hiding space. These are timid and principally nocturnal fish. They should not be kept with any crustaceans or aggressive cichlids, as they are easily bullied.

Feeding Habits: Omnivorous. Eat both algae from surfaces, and small invertebrates from the substrate. In aquarium, sinking shrimp and algae wafers are best received. Vegetable matter such as cucumbers and squash is moderately well received. For breeding purposes, diet must be various: full of both plant and animal protein.

Distinguishing Sex: Main criteria are the presence and length of interopercular odontes (spines reaching backwards from just in front of the gills) and the presence and length of pectoral fin odontes (these are present on the pectoral spine, the outermost element of the pectoral fin). Both are greatly more visible in male specimens. Fish must be at least 2.5” before sexing is possible, as sexual dimorphism takes time to be expressed.

Behavior: These fish are principally nocturnal, so it is uncommon to see them out during the day. When they do come out, they are very easily scared, and will retreat to a safe haven. They are minimally aggressive, and will not bother other tank mates, as they fulfill their own, fairly particular niche in the aquarium. They are benthic fish, meaning that they allow their bodies to rest on the substrate or on rocks, leaves and branches.

Breeding: Like most Loricariid catfish, Hypancistrus sp. “L-260” receives its breeding trigger from water temperature changes. In Brazil, the fish’s breeding is triggered by the monsoons, which bring cool water (roughly 60 degrees fahrenheit) to the rivers they inhabit. Breeding must occur in a properly-equipped tank. The fish will choose a small alcove to breed in. This can be created best by a piece of 2” diameter PVC piping, by resting pieces of slate at an angle on top of each other, or by overlapping pieces of ceramic tile. 50% of water must be changed daily for a week, and replaced with soft water at 60 degrees. Allow the heaters to bring the water temperature back up to normal afterwards. Then, the tank must be left alone, and as undisturbed as possible, for a week. The male will pair with the female, and she will lay her eggs in the PVC pipe (etc). The male then protects the eggs until they hatch, fanning them with his fins to oxygenate them. When the eggs hatch, the male continues to defend them aggressively. If the routine of water changes does not work the first time, wait 1-2 weeks and attempt again. It may take several months for the females to carry developed eggs and be fully ready to breed. As noted above, a diet of both animal and plant material must be maintained to keep the fish healthy and willing to breed.

Lifespan: 10+ years.

This is a beautiful and interesting catfish. Though one of the more popular and moderately available Loricariids, the Queen Arabesque is nonetheless one of the most breathtaking. It rivals the Mega Clown Peckoltia (L-340), King Tiger (L-66 and L-333) and even the Zebra Pleco (L-46) in patterning, and is particularly suited to smaller aquaria due to its maximum size of four inches.

The Queen Arabesque, like many other Hypancistrus, Baryancistrus and other Loricariids, is commonly misperceived as a vegetarian. The fact that these fish scale the walls of the tank, and suck some amount of algae off of any ornaments, causes many owners to believe that these fish eat only algae, when they are, in fact, omnivorous.

My experience with QAs has been nothing but positive. They have survived very well in my tanks (I have never lost one, despite a nasty period when I thought medication was the way to go for every problem). They are quirky and full of character. Araby, my first QA, who I purchased 9 months ago, stayed careful secreted behind a piece of Malaysian driftwood for a very long time before he ventured into the open. When he did, he seemed to be able to anticipate the light timers on my tank, for the lights would usually click off a few minutes after he appeared. He would speed along the sides of my tank with an unusual rigor, seldom resting for more than a few seconds before jetting off in another direction. Nowadays, he is more adventurous, and appears when the other fish are fed to grab brine shrimp, earthworm and Omega 1 flakes from the gravel (clearly, he likes his meat).

My other three QAs are less adventurous than Araby. They spent time in a Loricariid-only tank with some Imperial King Tigers (L-333) for two months, but now occupy the 55 gallon with Araby. I have one large female and two, smaller, unsexed juveniles. Though I originally intended to breed these 4, I have decided to forego this until they are all 3-4”. There’s no point in trying to breed immature fish!

I can’t advertise these fish enough. I gain such pleasure from seeing them in my tank, and the fact that they usually hide themselves makes each sighting more and more thrilling. I highly recommend these fish for intermediate-to-expert level aquarists. See my ratings below for a numerical breakdown.

My Rankings:
Price: 5 (usually $30+)
Value: 10 (always worth it)
Hardiness: 8 (not terribly sensitive, but require clean water)
Community: 10 (absolutely fine)
Activeness: 3 (nocturnal, but fun to watch with an actinic bulb if one is available!)
Appearance: 10 (absolute beauties)
Overall: 10 (no doubt about it, they’re worth every penny)


• Helfman, Gene, et al: The Diversity of Fishes. Malden, MA: Blackwell Science, 2003.
• Schaefer, Scott: Osteology of Hypostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus), with a phylogenetic Analysis of the Loricariid Subfamilies (Pisces: Suluroidei). “Contributions in Science,” 394. (As a general reference of Loricariid ostology).

Last update: 2006-02-06 09:32
Author: madasafish

Filed under Fish Profiles, Freshwater.