The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Pterygoplichthys sp.
Pterygoplichthys sp.
(sailfin armored catfish)

Copyright Info
Pterygoplichthys sp.

Common name: sailfin armored catfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Weber (1991, 1992) assigned sailfin catfishes to three genera. Armbruster (1997), after a detailed systematic review, placed the genus Liposarcus into the synonymy of Pterygoplichthys. Weber (1992) provided a key and distinguishing characteristics and photographs of specimens; Armbruster and Page (2006) present a revised key to species in the genus Pterygoplichthys (except P. ambrosettii).

Pterygoplichthys and other suckermouth armored catfishes (family Loricariidae) can be distinguished from native North American catfishes (Ictaluridae) by the presence of flexible bony plates (absent in ictalurids) and a ventral suctorial mouth (terminal in ictalurids). Pterygoplichthys is often confused with Hypostomus: these genera can be distinguished by the number of dorsal fin rays (7-8 in Hypostomus vs. 9-14 in Pterygoplichthys).

Native Range:
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

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 Pterygoplichthys sp. are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL201420141Mobile Bay
AZ201820243Lower Gila-Painted Rock Reservoir; Lower Salt; Yuma Desert
AR201120111Beaver Reservoir
CA200520243Lake Tahoe; Los Angeles; Lower Sacramento
CO200520092Alamosa-Trinchera; Beaver
FL1958202429Alafia; Big Cypress Swamp; Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Charlotte Harbor; Chipola; Choctawhatchee Bay; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Daytona-St. Augustine; Everglades; Florida Southeast Coast; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Lake Okeechobee; Little Manatee; Lower St. Johns; Manatee; Myakka; Northern Okeechobee Inflow; Oklawaha; Peace; Pensacola Bay; Santa Fe; Sarasota Bay; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Vero Beach; Western Okeechobee Inflow; Withlacoochee
GA201420141Upper Chattahoochee
HI198620203Hawaii; Hawaii Region; Oahu
ID201620161Lower Boise
IL200420202Chicago; Lower Fox
MD201420223Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Monocacy; Patuxent
MS199219921Middle Pearl-Strong
NV200120234Lake Mead; Las Vegas Wash; Muddy; Truckee
NJ202020201Sandy Hook-Staten Island
NM202020201El Paso-Las Cruces
NC199720081Upper French Broad
PR199220234Cibuco-Guajataca; Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico
SC199220202Saluda; Upper Broad
TX1996202419Austin-Oyster; Buffalo-San Jacinto; East San Antonio Bay; Los Olmos; Lower Brazos; Lower Brazos-Little Brazos; Lower Colorado-Cummins; Lower Rio Grande; Lower San Antonio; Lower West Fork Trinity; Medina; Middle Guadalupe; San Ambrosia-Santa Isabel; San Marcos; South Laguna Madre; Upper San Antonio; Upper Trinity; West Fork San Jacinto; West Galveston Bay
WA200220021Puget Sound
WI200220021Upper St. Croix

Table last updated 7/16/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Status: Sailfin catfishes are established in Florida, Nevada, and Texas. Failed in other locations.

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


Male members of the genus Pterygoplichthys use crevices in canals or dig into river banks to create burrows in which an attracted female will lay and guard her eggs. When populations are large, this burrowing behavior by Pterygoplichthys contributes to problems with siltation. In addition, the burrows potentially destabilize the banks, leading to an increased rate of erosion and potential bank failures (Nico et al. 2009). Several authors have shown interactions between the endangered Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and Pterygoplichthys catfishes in Florida freshwater springs that are used by both species as winter thermal refuges. Nico et al (2009), Gibbs et al. (2010), and Nico (2010) described this behavior and determined that manatees onto which Pterygoplichthys catfish (possibly P. disjunctivus) had attached demonstrated higher activity levels and numbers of active behaviors.

Remarks: Sailfin suckermouth catfishes (Pterygoplichthys spp.) are capable of surviving mesohaline conditions (up to 10 PSU) for extended periods of time, allowing them to use estuarine and coastal areas for dispersal (Capps et al. 2011; W. Loftus, personal communication).

Museum specimens: California (LACM 56272.001), Florida (FSBC 18751, 19238, 19945, 20867; UF 91916, 114678, 135348, 174367), Illinois (INHS 98890).

References: (click for full references)

Armbruster, J.W., and L.M. Page. 2006. Redescription of Pterygoplichthys punctatus and description of a new species of Pterygoplichthys (Siluriformes: Loricariidae). Neotropical Ichthyology 4(4):401-409. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1679-62252006000400003.

Brean, H. 2004. Habitattitude campaign: Fish stories have bad endings. Las Vegas Review Journal. September 27, 2004.

Brean, H. 2013. Discarded, non-native fish find home in Clark County waterways. Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas, NV. http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nevada-and-west/discarded-non-native-fish-find-home-clark-county-waterways. Created on 03/17/2013. Accessed on 09/16/2013.

Capps, K.A., L.G. Nico, M. Mendoza-Carranza, W. Arévlo-Frías, A.J. Ropicki, S.A. Heilpern, and R. Rodiles-Hernández. 2011. Salinity tolerance of non-native suckermouth armoured catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) in south-eastern Mexico: implications for invasion and dispersal. Aquatic Conservtion: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 21:528-540.

Champeau, T.R., P.W. Stevens, and D.A. Blewett. 2009. Comparison of fish community metrics to assess long-term changes and hurricane impacts at Peace River, Florida. Biological Sciences 72(4):289-309.

Dutka-Gianelli, J., D. Tremain, and R. Paperno. 2009. Fish assemblages in tidal and non-tidal freshwater tributaries of the Indian River Lagoon. Final report for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Project SWG06-010. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Tallahassee, FL.

Gibbs, M., T. Futral, M. Mallinger, D. Martin, and M. Ross. 2010. Disturbance of the Florida manatee by an invasive catfish. Southeastern Naturalist 9:635-648.

Idelberger, C.F., C.J. Stafford, and S.E. Erickson. 2011. Distribution and abundance of introduced fishes in Florida’s Charlotte Harbor estuary. Gulf and Caribbean Research 23:13-22.

Nico, L.G. 2010. Nocturnal and diurnal activity of armored suckermouth catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) associated with wintering Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Neotropical Ichthyology 8(4):893-898. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/ni/v8n4/aop1610.pdf.

Nico, L.G., P.L. Butt, G.R. Johnston, H.L. Jelks, M. Kail, and S.J. Walsh. 2012. Discovery of South American suckermouth armored catfishes (Loricariidae, Pterygoplichthys spp.) in the Santa Fe River drainage, Suwanee River basin, USA. BioInvasions Records 1(3):179-200. http://www.reabic.net/journals/bir/2012/3/BIR_2012_3_Nico_etal.pdf.

Nico, L.G., H.L. Jelks, and T. Tuten. 2009. Non-native suckermouth armored catfishes in Florida: description of nest burrows and burrow colonies with assessment of shoreline conditions. Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Program Bulletin 9(1): 1-30.

Nico, L.G., W.F. Loftus, and J.P. Reid. 2009. Interactions between non-native armored suckermouth catfish (Loricariidae: Pterygoplichthys) and native Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in artesian springs. Aquatic Invasions 4(3):511-519. http://www.aquaticinvasions.net/2009/AI_2009_4_3_Nico_etal.pdf.


Other Resources:
Suckermouth catfishes: threat to aquatic ecosystems of the United States.  Army Corps of Engineers

Fact Sheet for Pterygoplichthys anisitsi - USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database

Fact Sheet for Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus - USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database

Fact Sheet for Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus - USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database

Fact Sheet for Pterygoplichthys pardalis - USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database

Author: Matt Neilson, and Matt Cannister

Revision Date: 5/9/2019

Peer Review Date: 10/21/2013

Citation Information:
Matt Neilson, and Matt Cannister, 2024, Pterygoplichthys sp.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=770, Revision Date: 5/9/2019, Peer Review Date: 10/21/2013, Access Date: 7/16/2024

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.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/16/2024].

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For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.