Common name: bristlenosed catfish
Synonyms and Other Names: antenna armored catfish
available through www.itis.gov
Identification: The genus Ancistrus contains ~50 described species (Burgess 1989; Armbruster 1997). Members of this genus exhibit marked sexual dimorphism (Ferraris 1991) and are primarily identified by the presence of fleshy tentacles on and around the snout (Burgess 1989). Burgess (1989) and Armbruster (1997) gave distinguishing characteristics of the genus and a key to loricariid genera; Burgess (1989) also provided key to selected species. Photographs were given in Burgess (1989) and Ferraris (1991).
Size: 15 cm (Burgess 1989)
Native Range: Tropical America. Central and South America (Armbruster 1997).
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Puerto Rico &
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps
Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Ancistrus sp. are found here.
Table last updated 2/27/2023
† Populations may not be currently present.
Ecology: Bristlenosed catfish, like many other loricariid catfishes, are benthic fishes that primarily consume algae and detritus (Burgess 1989).
Species in this genus are found throughout rivers and floodplain areas. Ancistrus cf. cirrhosus inhabits streams ranging from still, turbid water with clay substrate to free-flowing, clear water with gravel substrate (Froese and Pauly, 2012). The unique tentacles are thought to be used in sensing speed and direction of stream currents and perhaps in detecting odors (Burgess, 1989). Another hypothesis is that they resemble juvenile fish and are used to attract females (Sabaj et al. 1999). Only the males develop the bull, bushy tentacles (Sabaj et al. 1999).
Ancistrus species have the capability of obtaining oxygen by breathing air their modified stomach. This allows them to survive in conditions with low oxygen levels (Gee 1976; Sabaj et al. 1999).
Breeding takes place in hollows, caves, and mud holes in banks. The female may lay 20–200 adhesive eggs, usually to the ceiling of the cavity. The male takes care of the young. During this time, a male usually will not leave the cavity to feed, or will leave occasionally and quickly return. The eggs hatch in 4–10 days; the male guards the eggs for 7–10 days after hatching. The fry remain in the cave and become free swimming in 2–4 days (Sabaj et al. 1999).
Means of Introduction: Aquarium release; bristlenosed catfish (along with many other species of the armored catfish family Loricariidae) are highly popular in the aquarium trade.
Status: Unknown. Shafland et al. (2008) listed this species as 'possibly established', citing the collection of a small (122 mm TL) individual as evidence of reproduction. However, individuals of this size are common in the aquarium trade, and no further specimens have been reported.
Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.
References: (click for full references)
Armbruster, J.W. 1997. Phylogenetic relationships of the sucker-mouth armored catfishes (Loricariidae) with particular emphasis on the Ancistrinae, Hypostominae, and Neoplecostominae. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL.
Burgess, W. E. 1989. An atlas of freshwater and marine catfishes: a preliminary survey of the Siluriformes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.
Ferraris, C. J., Jr. 1991. Catfish in the aquarium. Tetra Press, Morris Plains, NJ.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly (eds). 2012. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Available from: http://www.fishbase.org. Version (08/2012).
Gee, J. 1976. Buoyancy and aerial respiration: factors influencing the evolution of reduced swim-bladder volume of some Central American catfishes (Trichomycteridae, Callichthyidae, Loricariidae, Astroblepidae). Canadian Journal of Zoology 54(7):1030-1037.
Sabaj, M.H. and R.A. Englund. 1999. Preliminary identification and current distribution of two suckermouth armored catfishes (Loricariidae) introduced to Oahu streams. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 59:50-55.
SeriouslyFish. 2012c. Ancistrus cf. cirrhosus Common Bristlenose Catfish. Available from: http://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/ancistrus-sp-3/ Accessed 3/26/2013.
Shafland, P.L., K.B. Gestring, and M.S. Stanford. 2008a. Categorizing introduced fishes collected from public waters. Southeastern Naturalist 7(4):627-636.
Shafland, P.L., K.B. Gestring, and M.S. Stanford. 2008b. Florida's Exotic Freshwater Fishes - 2007. Florida Scientist 71(3):220-245.
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson
Revision Date: 5/9/2019
Peer Review Date: 8/7/2013
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2023, Ancistrus sp. Kner, 1854: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2598, Revision Date: 5/9/2019, Peer Review Date: 8/7/2013, Access Date: 3/24/2023
This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.