Brown Hoplo: Hoplosternum littorale
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.
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.
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.
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.
Little to none, but can be caught using live worms; normally fished for with cast nets.
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.
Image Credit: Diane Peebles