|Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela.
|pH: 6.5-7.5, dH: up to 15 degrees.
|Difficult to sex. It is possible that, as in similar species, the genital papilla of the female may be round and blunt, and that of the male will be smaller and pointed. It is also thought that males develop much longer odontodes on the cheeks.
|Algae wafers, catfish pellets, granules, flake and frozen foods
The Royal Plec has a wide area of distribution, from the Rio Orinoco basin in Venezuela and Colombia to tributaries of the lower and middle (Solimaes) Amazon in Brazil. As we've seen with other amazonian fishes, a wide distribution often turns out to be a number of undescribed species and this certainly seems to be the case with a variety of L numbers and subspecies known. In all locations, this fish is generally associated with waterlogged wood and its spoon-shaped teeth enable it to process large volumes of material, turning bogwood into sawdust which needs good filtration to remove. It's likely that this xylophage is feeding on the invertebrate microfauna within the wood and it's wise to offer a variety of different bogwood types to aid gut health. This secretive species grows to a substantial size and will require a spacious, mature aquarium with neutral to slightly soft and acidic water. Provide dim lighting, a dark substrate, and an abundance of shady retreats amongst bogwood and sturdy rocky caves, ensuring all decor is secure as larger specimens can be a little clumsy at times. Unfortunately, most plants will be eaten - even relatively hardy species - although some aquarists have success cultivating Java Fern, which reportedly has a bitter taste. Filtration should be efficient (adult fish produce a substantial amount of waste, especially when grazing on bogwood) with areas of brisk water movement along with some quieter resting spots out of the current. There should be a decent level of oxygenation, and small frequent partial water changes will help keep nitrate to a minimum. The Royal Plec is generally peaceful and mixes well with most community fish, although it can be rather territorial with its own kind and similarly sized Loricariid species. If more than one specimen is to be kept in the same tank, it must be very spacious with the provision of multiple hiding places/visual barriers. May also be seen on sale as the Royal Panaque.
As all Panaque species feed on wood, it is essential that the aquarium contains some bogwood. Small specimens will also enjoy leaves such as Catappa. Offer a variety of different foodstuffs containing a good proportion of vegetable matter, including a quality dried food to ensure vitamin deficiences are avoided. Courgette, cucumber, lettuce, potato, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato etc should all be enthusiastically consumed, and these can be supplemented with the odd treat of frozen foods such as bloodworm and chopped prawns. These fish have a very long digestive tract which is utilised in the breaking down of foods high in vegetable content, so do not offer an excessive amount of meaty foods as this will lead to health problems.
There are one or two claims that this species has been bred in the home aquarium, but these have never really been substantiated in any detail. It is believed that the spawnings followed a false dry season (low water level, warm temperature, and not much current) followed by a rainy season whereby the tank was topped off with cooler water and current increased. This sort of approach requires much care so as not to shock the fish. Would make a good breeding project for the serious hobbyist.
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