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Hoplo Catfish (Megalechis Thoracata) Overview & Care

If you think that your current community tank is less attractive, perhaps you need to add more buddies to the bottom layers.

The bottom dwellers have been known as an integral part of the aquarium supporters. Most of these creatures eat up the leftovers and the foods that are unwanted by the middle and top dwellers. Not to mention that they are also the natural cleaners of your tank.

One of the most recommended pets to have for this particular purpose is the Hoplo Catfish. This fish type can be a really fun and interesting choice for you and your fellow hobbyists since it is a peaceful creature. It is also fun to see them supporting the other dwellers through the slower parts of the aquascape.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy to medium
TemperamentPeace loving
AppearanceMain brown / lighter in young and darker in old
Life Expectancy8 – 10 years
SizeAround 12 cm or 5 inches
Tank Size40 L or 10 gallons
Tank EnvironmentDim light, floating plants, coarse sands and pebbles for digging, strong roots plants. 
Tank MatesBarbs, tetras, small cichlids, and rainbowfish

The Hoplo Catfish is a freshwater fish from the Callichthyidae catfish family.

It was discovered back then by French scientists, namely Achilles Valenciennes in 1840.

The genus of the fish is Hoplosternum, which is also the origin of the buddy’s name. It means giant snake fish in Greek. Well, it is a sensible name since the fish has a semi-circular shape with a good size body. The adult ones could reach up to 12cm or more in length. Considering the ideal size, it could make a great bottom-dweller to add to your aquarium.

These moderate-sized pets have rows of bone plates, which are their natural defensive system. These are mostly seen when they are fighting against predator enemies in the wild habitat.

Hoplo catfish have an intestinal respiratory system. When there is a lack of oxygen in the tank, this fun pet will come up to the surface and take the oxygen from the air above the surface of the water. And you’ve guessed it right. The intestine is the one that absorbs oxygen.

It has such an appealing appearance and calm characteristics. Since it is easy to care for, it is a great choice for beginners as well as intermediate-level aquarists.

Natural Habitat

The Hoplo catfish can be found in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. These species can be found in and around the Amazon, Orinoco, and Rio Negro basins, as well as in other parts of the world.

In the Hoplo catfish biotope, small freshwater streams with little flow and dense vegetation distinguish it from other biotopes. The Hoplo catfish can be buried in silt to a depth of 25 cm to survive a brief drought period.

Young hoplos have a pleasing look, resembling in many ways elongated corydores in appearance. Despite the fact that it costs about twice as much as corys, it is still quite inexpensive. Because they are only visible for a portion of the year, we assume that they are seasonal catfish.


As you first see the hoplo, you will first notice the two rows of bone plates in the middle of its body. The fish in the wild habitat can reach up to 15 cm. Meanwhile, in captivity, the fish can reach up to 12 cm with the right treatment and care.

This mesmerizing creature has two sensitive whiskers which are for navigability and their instincts.

The pectoral fins are triangular for adult males. Oval pectoral fins are usually found in females and juveniles.

This fish has a beautiful coloration of brown. Light brown coloration usually happens when this catfish is still younger. Meanwhile, the adult fish will get a darker color.

Your hoplo catfish also has a unique dark sport with an irregular shape. These spots are spread around the body. As you browse around the pet shop marketplace, you will find out that the spots will be different from one fish to another. As you turn the animal over, the white abdomen is there.

But not all these catfish are brown. Some of them are albino. Although it is a rare breed, you can find it in any pet store you can find. It has a milky color with dark spots.

Hoplo catfish looking at you

Tank Setup

A huge tank is necessary if you plan to put more than one hoplo in your community tank. Since Hoplo is a schooling fish, you must set up a tank that can cater to their group. A group of three to six specimens can be a great choice. They will thrive and survive for a long time when doing their things in a group.

A catfish needs at least 40 liters of water to survive. Consider bringing the cover as well as the aquatics, since your fun pets need a place to hide and enjoy their special time.

Therefore, you will want to provide a nice mat for your little buddy. The soil combinations must consist of coarse sand and round pebbles.

Since this catfish needs a cover, you could add some helpful items like stones, snags, as well as grottoes.

The addition of plants is also an important part of the dwelling system for your hoplos. Consider focusing on plants that have a stronger root system. These can revolve around anubias, cryptochromes, and so on.

Your hoplos tend to be ignorant of the plants. So, if you add decorative plants to your aquarium, you can rest assured that your catfish won’t ruin them. Make sure to add plants with strong roots, though.

This type of catfish loves to dig soil more often. So, plants with weak roots could float in your aquarium. You don’t want to ruin your plants because of your fish’s behavior.

You could also add floating plants to make the lighting dimmer, providing enough cover and shade for your catfish to have their private time. Riccia is a popular floating plant that effectively dims the light. But you can go with an easier choice, like water lettuce, since you can find this option anywhere in the marketplace.


Consider checking the overall quality of your filter and compressor system. Just like other catfish species, your Hoplos are fond of clear and fresh water. Make sure the oxygen level in the tank is adequate for your catfish.

As mentioned, they will use their intestines to absorb the air from the near-surface of the water. You will often see them moving to the top dwelling area. It is also important to ensure that your fish has good access to the surface of the water. They will come up to the top part of the aquarium as part of their routine to get more oxygen.

Replace at least 20% of the water to reduce nitrogen accumulation.

The water pH should be around six to eight. The GH is around five to twenty.

Tank Mates

Two hoplo catfish swimming

You can keep your hoplo solo in the tank, accompanied by the other species of tank mates. However, they seem to be happier and healthier when they are doing activities with their same-species group. When you put them in a group, they will last a long time. Some also reported that they have healthier and longer bodies when captive in a group.

The Hoplos are peaceful catfish. They can get along with most of the tank mates.

In their original habitat, they tend to seek darker spaces. But in the aquarium, they are always active all the time.

The good tank mates are cherry barbs, black tetras, small cichlids, and rainbowfish.

Do not tag along with the territorial fish since there will potentially be a conflict between them. Also, exclude any predatorial fish from your tank.

Food & Diet

Hoplo catfish feeding is easy. Since it is an omnivore, it will take everything you add to your tank. The live foods they favor the most are small crustaceans and larvae, as well as plant debris. If you have leftover veggies, it can be a great idea to add them to the aquarium.

But if you add the catfish to other dwellers, it is not recommended to feed them with live or frozen foods. It is unbalanced and can increase the risk of infections in the aquascape. The conditions of the aquarium need to be maintained with proper care. You could focus on quality dry foods instead.

If we are talking about commercial products for your catfish, they could take the form of tablets or wafers, since these will sink to the bottom. The tricky part is that when you add floating foods, your hoplos will compete with the other dwellers. That’s why sinking foods can be helpful for them.

Breeding Guidelines

The breeding activities of hoplo are very unique. You don’t need to prepare for something special. The process is not complicated at all.

You just need to make sure that the water is cool enough to trigger the fish couples to mate. The rain trips their spawning causes. The males will prepare the nest under rocks, caves, or other hiding places. After the eggs are fertilized, the males will protect the nests and eggs from the other species, even from the mother of the eggs. So, it is much better to prepare the specific tank for this.

Set the couple to mate. And then, move the female to the main tank. In the breeding tank, the males will protect the babies until they are born. When the babies can eat by themselves, you will want to move the male adults back to the main tank. Move the children to the main tank when they have comparable sizes.