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A Fishy Story
Our Mother's Burl
This page contains a story about our Mother's Burl and the Plecostomus Catfish that ate most of it.
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A long time ago our mother had a big elm-wood burl. She paid quite a bit for it. It was a strange looking gnarly piece of wood that measured about two feet long. She used it as a decoration around the house maybe as a center piece on our dinner table. Often she put flowers and little imitation birds on it. This burl was beautiful to our mother's eyes, and she loved it.
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Somethings Phishy sells directly to hobbyists. Click here to buy rare Plecostomus Catfish.

At that time my brother and I were young and kind of junior Tropical Fish importers. One day we boldly ordered some Plecostomus Catfish, the common variety that were called Hypostomus back then. We got a lot of them. They ranged from about 4" to 6" long. We had them in a bare tank, just glass, water, a heater, and a filter. No gravel or rocks. My brother decided they'd do better with some "habitat", and whenever I heard a new word like that from him, I always agreed.

So my brother put our mom's prized big elm burl in the bare aquarium with the Plecos., and soon the Plecos. were hanging on and under the burl. They looked much happier. But I didn't want to tell my mother what we were doing with her favorite burl, because I was sure it would worry her. Besides I was sure my brother knew what he was doing, and eventually she'd get her burl back and everything would be fine.

A few days later I noticed strange particles all over the bottom of the aquarium. Lots of particles. At first I didn't catch on to what was happening, but after a couple of days I realized that the Plecos. were eating the burl, and turning it into little wooden droppings that were now in piles on the bottom of the aquarium. I took the burl out to save it, but it was already more than half gone. The Plecos. had reduced it from about 24 inches to about 12 inches in just a few days.

My mother never really knew what happened, and she never really complained, but she did mention several times that her burl didn't seem quite so big and nice as she remembered it.


The Fish Exporter
A few years later an exporter of Plecos. and other wild fish from South America visited us. I told him the story about my mother's burl, and he said, "Every year when it rains, the waters rise up against the big trees in the jungle, and the Hypostomus Catfish suck onto the trees and eat right through them, until trees start falling down everywhere. Not because the roots are wet, but because the Hypostomus are eating right through the trees, and any trees that fall into the water are eaten by the Hypostomus and completely disappear."

I said, "That can't be true? Can it? Hypostomus Catfish eating trees in the jungle? Really?" And this old man, the fish exporter, who was usually very mild tempered and nice to us, got mad and put his face very close to mine, and as I looked at the perspiration and wrinkles on his face, he said, "This is a true story. Exactly true. I swear it. Exactly true." And I remember getting the feeling that maybe it was true.

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This page was updated on May 11, 2015.