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Megalechis thoracata - (Valenciennes, 1840)

Male Hoplo with orange-colored pectoral spines. Aaron Norman


The Hoplo is an attractive catfish as a juvenile, with a speckled body pattern on a brown background. It is a mainstay among catfish fanciers, but it becomes less attractive with age as the colors may soften.

Its name is derived from its former scientific name, Hoplosternum thoracatum.

Family: Callichthyidae

Other common name(s):

  • Bubblenest Catfish
  • Brown Hoplo

Native range:

Habitat: Prefers a planted tank with subdued lighting and lots of open swimming areas. Provide a fine-grained substrate that allows for digging without damaging the barbels. Include lots of driftwood, rocks and inverted flowerpots for hiding.

Maximum length: 15 cm (6 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 114 L (30 gal)

Water: Freshwater 22 °C (72 °F) - 26 °C (79 °F)

General swimming level: Bottom to midwater.


Carnivore. Will accept a wide variety of commercial meaty catfish foods in the aquarium, such as flakes, pellets and sinking wafers with shrimp, as well as live and frozen foods like bloodworms and Tubifex worms. Eagerly accepts chopped earthworms. Feed first thing in the morning and just after the lights go out at night.

Aquarium Compatibility

May eat small fishes and also becomes aggressive during spawning.


Males develop a blue-violet sheen on their bellies, and orange-colored pectoral spines (see photo above) and build a bubblenest at the surface of the water. Male tends the nest and eggs, and then the young until they are free swimming.


The Hoplo is relatively peaceful but somewhat disruptive in quiet community tanks where its incessant digging may not be appreciated.

Reference: 101 Best Tropical Fishes
Image credit: AN
Text credit: KW