November 13, 2020
AZ Animals Staff
Sucker Fish Scientific ClassificationKingdom: Animalia
Sucker Fish Fun Fact:Found in rivers & streams across America!
Sucker Fish Facts:
Fun Fact: Found in rivers & streams across America!
Biggest Threat: Pollution and dams
Gestation Period: Average of 10 days to eggs hatching
Water Type: Fresh
Habitat: Freshwater streams and lakes
Number Of Species: 79
Location: United States, Russia, and China
Slogan: Commonly found throughout America!
Sucker Fish Physical Characteristics:Skin Type: Hair
Lifespan: Bigmouth buffalo can live up to 112 years!
Weight: Maximum of 80 pounds (bigmouth buffalo)
Length: 1 to 3 feet
Sucker fish belong to the family Catostomidae and live in freshwater environments across the world. It’s believed that sucker fish first evolved roughly 50 million years ago and today more than 79 species have been identified.
Although sucker fish are bony fish, they’ve historically been an important food source and can be found in streams and rivers across not only America, but also other countries such as China.
Sucker fish are different from the species Hypostomus plecostomus, which is commonly called the ‘suckermouth catfish.’ The species is commonly used in aquariums and is frequently called the ‘janitor fish’ as it cleans algae build up.
Remoras are another fish family often colloquially called ‘sucker fish’ thanks to their sucker-like organ that allow them to attach to large marine animals like sharks.
Sucker Fish Facts
- Long-living fish: A suckerfish named the bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is believed to be the longest living freshwater fish on Earth! A study that used carbon dating estimated one bigmouth buffalo fish lived to be 112 years old!
Sucker Fish Classification and Scientific Name
Suckerfish belong to the order Cypriniformes and the family Catostomidae. As of November 2020, there are 79 described species across 13 genera.
Examples of scientific names for specific sucker fish species includes:
- Black redhorse: Moxostoma duquesni
- White sucker: Catostomus comm
And specific generas include:
Species of Sucker Fish
With 79 identified species, there is a substantial amount of diversity across sucker fish species. Some of the most well-known include:
The white sucker is found in streams and lakes across the Mississippi watershed. Typically a smaller sucker species weighing little more than 2 pounds, white suckers have occasionally reached sizes of 8 pounds. Thanks to its large distribution, the white sucker is sometimes known as the ‘common sucker.’
River redhose are another sucker fish that was once quite common across the Mississippi watershed. However, in recent decades their range has declined. While ‘redhorse’ is often synonymous with suckers in local areas, there are a number of different species with ‘redhose’ in their name. Other examples include the golden redhorse, silver redhorse, shorthead redhorse, and greater redhorse.
Considered Near Threatened by the IUCN. Like other sucker fish, their population appears to be declining due to pollution and dam construction that has impacted their preferred environments.
Sucker Fish Appearance
Sucker fish can grow to be up to about 3 feet (1 meter) long. Most species are between 1 to 2 feet. The largest species of sucker fish is the bigmouth buffalo, which can reach a maximum of 79 pounds (36 kg). An example of a smaller sucker species would be the blue sucker, which has an average mass of 5.5 pounds.
The name ‘suckers’ is derived from their lips, which are thick and help the fish cling to the bottoms of streams and other freshwater habitats.
Sucker Fish Distribution, Habitat, and Prey
The vast majority of sucker fish species live in freshwater streams and lakes across the United States and North America. They can be particularly common in slower moving channels of rivers or in reservoirs. Outside of North America, fish in the Catostomidae family can be found in Russia and a single species lives in China.
Suckers are bottom feeders and live on an omnivorous diet. They’ll consume algae, zooplankton, insects, small invertebrates, crustaceans, and plants.
Sucker Fish Predators
Smaller sucker fish are preyed on by larger fish such as trout, bass, catfish, and walleye. Species such as the buffalo fish that can reach larger sizes are generally not preyed upon once fully grown.
Sucker Fish in Fishing & Cooking
Sucker fish were a dietary staple for earlier civilizations, especially across America where Native Americans fished for this widely available and abundant species.
Today, consumption of sucker fish varies. Smaller species like the white sucker are often used as bait. Larger sucker species need to be carefully cleaned to remove bones. Once cleaned, suckers are often fried. The meat is often described as sweet and flavorful.View all 67 animals that start with S
- John Paxton, William Eschmeyer (1970) Encyclopedia of Fishes
- Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Catostomidae/classification/
- Springfield News-Leader, Available here: https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2019/05/10/ozarks-tradition-grabbing-eating-sucker-fish-creeks-fishing/1151434001/