NANFA-- Hogsucker husbandry secret revealed?

Todd Crail (
Sun, 27 Jun 2004 23:57:00 -0400

Greetings Listizens...

I've watched this too many nights in a row now... I can't help but wonder
if having sand available isn't the key to northern hogsucker husbandry. I
know Moon has had long term success with them with sand as a substrate...
There's got to be something there.

While on the Grand River trip May 29th (report to come, I'm "in the parking
lot" on Saturday morning of Tippecanoe right now ;), I brought home two
hogsucker juveniles, each about 2.5" long. I have them in a 30 long with
with "special needs" feeders such as banded, greenside and johnny darters,
pirate perch, trout-perch, silverjaw minnows, and the beefy orangethroat
darters, that I like to keep in there cause, well, they look so cool

There was no problem getting them to feed on frozen foods, which I think
anyone who's kept one has had a similar experience.

What I've observed is a normal "routing" through the substrate... Sand goes
in the mouth, out the gills. No big deal, no secrets there, and is very
engaging to watch... What a fun fish.

What I'm getting-in-is... Something _very_ different happens when there's
actually food present. I noticed this right before I left with the
Zarlingas for Pre-Convention fun and have been watching closely since I've
been back. Nick and I kinda kicked it around, guessing that there were
micronutrients fixed in algae or something like that in the sand, or just a
constant flow of larvae et al that they were grazing on all day.

Initially, they stuff their mouths with food and kinda "chew" on it. Their
lips are super extended and you can see them working their pharyngeal teeth.
They then sort of suck-in-the black brush algae on some of the rocks (which
does have sand trapped in it, but my guess is there would also be
microinverts, in addition to loose "greens" in a real system).

Then it starts. They go for the sand. They'll suck in a mouthful (you can
see the depression they leave) and none or very little comes out the gill
plates. The kicker? They spit the larger granule Seachem Flourite out
through the mouth, but no sand! And still nothing has passed for the last
few seconds out the gill slit! They're sifting, sorting it in their mouths
and swallowing it!

I wonder if there isn't any info out there about hogsucker gut contents and
stuff? It may be that it's an obligate part of digestion, like a chicken's
gizzard, and that's what been the missing link for many lost sucker souls in
aquaria. I think it's pretty established you'll never find hogsuckers (or
just a completely odd one) in silted to heck streams, and so I'd say this is
a decent whack-in-a possiblity. Might even make a decent life history
theiiiissssss..... Wait. I shouldn't be sharing this huh? ;)

Agreeably, it's only been a short run-in-barely a month. But these fish
have already shown growth, their bellies are convex, as opposed to the
normally flat to concave. They seem to be flourishing. And they do this
_every_ time they eat!

I've also seen this happen, but to a much more limited degree, with a
juvenile spotted sucker I've been maintaining and growing since the
Tippecanoe trip, a 5" shorthead redhorse I've maintained in robust fashion
since early May.

Interestingly... I've never seen this behavior in the white sucker. I need
to watch him more carefully before I just casually say that's a real

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
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