Huge body, flat head, high fins, white patterns, and the most recognizable sucker mouth, Common Pleco has been described as a monster creature in Taiwan’s ecology of water. Hypostomus Plecostomus, commonly called “Common Pleco” or “Suckermouth catfish” is a tropical fish originally from Tropical South America. It can be widely seen in regions including Brazil, Guyana, Tobago, and Suriname etc. However, in the past 30 years, this South American fish has slowly invade and destroy Taiwan’s original water species and ecology system.
Around 1970s, aquarium becomes a popular thing in Taiwan. People started to collect fishes from everywhere including abroad for exhibiting them to other people. The common pleco was, therefore, introduced. With a title “Scavenger,” which the sellers promoted these fishes as a cleaner in the aquarium, many people are fascinated by it’s title and appearance. It was a wonderful cute little fish that will eat moss and excrements in the aquariums.
However, the “Scavenger’s dream” is broke when the fish starting to grow up. Their “cute” and protective appearance start to transform when they get older and bigger, and at the end, transform into a creature that scares the owners. Most people treated their aquariums as a decorative area with beautiful fishes inside that make them feel happy for watching them. But, now, a black ugly monster just breaks the peace in the aquariums. Nevertheless, the owners of these common plecos discovered that these fishes are becoming ferocious and ambitious as they grown up, which they started to attack other fishes in the water. The common plecos, has soon become a huge threat in the aquariums. Hence, people dump the fishes they don’t want into the water in Taiwan, which they may think as the most easy and humane way of releasing lives in the containers.
“Garbage Fish” is a nickname for Common Plecos in Taiwan, and they are named for this because this fish eats not only mosses, but also everything, including other original fishes in Taiwan. Most of the native fishes in Taiwan are around 10 ~ 20 cm, however, the common pleco can grow up to at 50 cm, which enable them to become a major predator in the water. Their gigantic mouth has also unlimited the size of fishes they can have, it is not a problem for them to swallow fishes around their size. Their thick skin has also protected themselves from dying out of water for a while. They are strongly motivated and highly productive to survive under any conditions of water, and with lack of predators in Taiwan, these common plecos has becomes a major threats for Taiwan’s native water species.
Even though people in Taiwan slowly realizing the terrible results that this fish can bring to Taiwan’s native species and life system, it still needs time to limit and to prevent further expansion of these Garbage fish. The idea of how to prevent people from dumping unknown fishes into nature will be the main focus for protecting the native land in Taiwan.