The sailfin catfish is a member of the Loricariidae family in Florida, as well as the other three suckermouth catfishes. It is distinguished by a worm-like pattern of dark markings on the head over a dark-golden background. The pectoral fins stout resemble sandpaper as the surface is rough. A disc-like protrusible mouth is under the head and is used like a suction cup to attach and feed on algae. You can distinguish a male from a female as the males than to be about 18 inches long with the females being much shorter. Hollowed-out and lifeless “armored” bodies can sometimes be seen on canal and lake banks.
Sailfin catfish can be found throughout central and south Florida and by far the most successful and abundant of the suckermouth catfishes. All of the suckermouth catfishes are native only to South America. The life in slow-moving streams, canals, ponds, and lakes. They are most abundant along the shore and in shallower waters.
While similar but not as abundant in Florida are the Vermiculated sailfin, with the scientific name of Pterygoplichtys disjunctivus and the Hypostonum was known as the suckermouth catfish. The vermiculated sailfin has similar worm-like markings they tend to be bolder. This is the easiest way to tell them apart. With regards to the suckermouth catfish, it is shorter and stouter. The maximum size tends to be less than 17 inches with black spots and its head and less than 10 dorsal fin rays. The other suckermouth catfishes tend to have 10 or more dorsal fins.
Both male and females start maturing when they are 13 and 11 inches long respectively. A female will lay about 2,000 eggs in shoreline burrows, holes or crevices during April and September. A nest is guarded until the eggs hatch. Adhesive eggs clump together in masses. Quite often, egg masses are collected from the wild, aerated, hatched and grown on tropical fish farms for sale to the pet industry.