The Loricariidae

by Dr. Jonathan Armbruster

Photo by M.H. Sabaj

The Loricariidae is the largest family of catfishes with over 825 nominal species, 709 of which are considered valid as of 9 January 2006. There is also a large number of genera with 83 genera currently considered valid. Many loricariids common in the fish trade and most go under the names of plecos or plecostomus. These pages are meant as a means of identification of the largest subfamily of loricariids, the Hypostominae. The taxonomy followed is that of Armbruster (2004), which deviates in many significant ways from that often seen in aquarium journals and web sites. My work has largely been an attempt to make sense of the myriad genera of the Hypostominae through the use of phylogenetic systematics (determining how the fishes are related to one another and recognizing only monophyletic entities). Many of the genera described in the past 30 years were found to be without basis or that their continued recognition left other genera as paraphyletic. What results is a taxonomy that is on much firmer scienctific grounds, but which will still require a lot of work to get right.

The Neotropics is full of species in need of description, and one of the greatest groups for the discovery of new species has been the Loricariidae. Each year, many new species of loricariids are described. This work is being done under the umbrella of the All Catfish Species Project, a US National Science Foundation funded study that will attempt to describe all catfish species. Some of the work in my lab for ACSI has collected over 20 new loricariid species from Venezuela and Guyana in the last couple of years, and we are rapidly trying to describe these species. Although this web page started out mainly as a means to identify hypostomine genera, we are trying to add species descriptions and revisions as we do them.

If you have any questions about loricariids, please contact me. For copies of my scientific papers, please visit my website:


This website would not be possible without the great pictures by Mark Sabaj and Kevin Cummings. Also of particular help was William Eschmeyer's Catalog of Fishes and the "The Check List of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America" by Roberto Reis, Sven Kullander and Carl Ferraris, and particularly the chapters by Claude Weber and Sonia Fisch Muller.

Armbruster, J. W. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships of the suckermouth armoured catfishes (Loricariidae) with emphasis on the Hypostominae and the Ancistrinae. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 141:1-80.