Baryancistrus xanthellus - L018 / L177
This week’s Fish of the Week is one of the more popular, prettier fancy pleco catfish available in aquatic shops. The gold nugget pleco (Baryancistrus xanthellus) is a beautiful black and yellow spotted catfish that lives in the rocky rapids of the Amazon river. It can reach an adult size of 25cm, although mostly seen in aquatic stores as youngsters. Because of their native range, the aquarium should be both warm (minimum 27 °C) and high in dissolved oxygen. Use of powerheads and air stones will increase movement (simulating their habitat) and allow more oxygen to enter the water.
The 'L numbers' are used to name’ a new specimen before it is officially recognised and given its own scientific name. The catfish family Loricariidae contains over 680 species. Before the gold nugget pleco was described as B. xanthellus, it was known as L018. The name xanthellus comes from the Greek xanthe forgold or yellow referring to the golden colouration of the species.
There are a few different variations of the gold nugget pleco. L177, the queen gold nugget has a brighter yellow fringe on the dorsal and tail fins. L081, the fine spotted gold nugget has smaller yellow spots. In the wild, these variations are found in different locations across Brazil, and could be considered an early stage of speciation.
The gold nugget pleco is less tolerable of poor water conditions than many other catfish. Many are taken home with a naivety that they will "clean the glass" and need little care and consideration. As with many other’fancy’ pleco species, the gold nugget pleco will not fair well unless given special care. They are an omnivorous species, so offer not only algae wafers and fresh vegetables, but also prawns, bloodworms and mussels. Feeding once the lights are out gives this nocturnal species a better chance of receiving food.