Brown Hoplo is native to South America where it is widespread from east of the Andes and north of Buenos Aires, including the Rio Orinoco, Trinidad, coastal rivers of the Guianas, Rio Amazonas basin, Rio Paraguay, lower Rio Parana and coastal systems in southern Brazil. In the United States it was first introduced into the Indian River Lagoon of Florida. Since then it has been found throughout central and south Florida from the St. John's River to Lake Trafford. One specimen has been collected from Bexar County, Texas.
It can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats, such as muddy bottomed, slow moving rivers, streams, side channels, ponds, marshes, and man-made waterways. While the young feed in shallow vegetated waters, the nocturnal adults prefer foraging in deeper, open water. As it has the ability to breathe by gulping air, it is tolerant of low oxygen. Hoplo are also tolerant of high hydrogen-sulfide levels.
Brown hoplo generally less than a foot long and have bony armor consisting of two rows of large hard scales forming plate-like armor their sides. Coloration is dark brown to black. They have two pairs of long barbells on the chin. Few fish live longer than four years.
Spawning can occur several time during the year, typically the hottest month and they prefer flooded areas. Floating nests are built (primarily by the male) in vegetation near shore consisting of bubbles covered with plant material. Generally, two to four females spawn together in one nest. The male fertilizes them and then takes them into his mouth and blows them up into the floating nest. Once the eggs are in place, the male runs off the females and guards the nest for a day or two. The eggs hatch in 2-3 days depending on temperatures.
Hoplo feed on a variety of aquatic insects and detritus.
Brown Hoplo in Florida
Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Appearance: Brown hoplo is less than a foot long and belongs to family of fishes known as Callichthyidae; has bony armor consisting of two rows of large hard scales forming plate-like armor along each side; dark brown to black in color with two pairs of long barbells on chin.
Range: First documented in the Indian River Lagoon system in 1995; now found throughout central and south Florida from the St. John's River to Lake Trafford. Native to eastern South America.
Habitat: Occur in a variety of freshwater habitats including muddy bottom and slow moving rivers, streams, side channels, ponds, marshes, and man-made waterways such as ditches and borrow pits; larvae and juveniles inhabit shallow water areas with lots of vegetation; adults prefer foraging in deeper, open water areas; gulps air, and tolerant of both low oxygen and high hydrogen-sulfide levels.
Behavior: Spawning Habitats: Males build floating nests in vegetation near shore that consist of bubbles covered with plant material. Eggs are released by the female below the nest. The male fertilizes them and then takes them into his mouth and blows them up into the floating nest. Breeding males develop enlarged, red pectoral spines with hooks at the tips that are used to defend territories against other males. The eggs hatch in about four days.
Feeding Habits: Primarily feeds on benthic invertebrates and detritus.
Age and Growth: Grows to about 2 inches in 2 months; however, rarely exceeds 10 inches.
Sporting Quality: Little to none, but can be caught using live worms; normally fished for with cast nets.
Edibility: Highly sought after as food by Floridians with cultural ties to Trinidad and parts of South America; raised as a food fish in native range; no bag or size limits.