Northern Hog Sucker

Hypentelium nigricans

Copyright, Jay DeLong

The Northern Hog Sucker is one of several species of suckers in our area. It has a large head and long, slender body. The body is reddish-brown or olive-brown with dark bands. This fish has a white belly and is known for its sucker mouth on the underside of its head. Northern Hog Suckers usually grow from 7 to 14 inches long, although they are known to grow up to 22 inches.

This fish lives in clean streams with a medium to swift current. It does not do well in polluted water. The hog sucker likes a gravel or rocky bottom, where it is well-camouflaged by its color pattern.

Copyright, Garold W. Sneegas

 

John Lyons

Northern Hog Suckers spawn when they are three years old. Each fish, which lives on its own for the rest of the year, will swim upstream in April or May with other suckers.

Several males will join one female in shallow water with riffles (small rapids), and using their fins, they will hollow out an area about three feet wide. After the female lays her eggs, the males fertilize them while standing on their heads with their tails out of the water.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves

John Lyons

Parents do not care for their eggs, which will hatch in about 10 days. Young fish have many predators, especially larger fish. If not eaten when they are young, these fish can live up to 11 years.

Northern Hog Suckers get most of their food on the bottom. They scrape algae from rocks, turn over stones for aquatic insects, and suck up ooze from the bottom for plant and animal matter. Other foods include snails, clams, worms, mussels, fish eggs, and crustaceans (such as crayfish, copepods, and water fleas).

Copyright 2002, KDFWR/photo by John MacGregor

John Lyons

Hog suckers are associated with other fish, including Smallmouth Bass and shiner species, which follow the suckers as they turn over rocks, grabbing whatever the suckers miss. They also associate and compete with other bottom-feeding species, such as Channel Catfish.

Northern Hog Suckers are an important host for the larvae of some mussels, especially the Elk Toe.

Although they eat the eggs of many species of fish, hog suckers seem especially fond of Creek Chub eggs and those from the Sunfish family.

Hog suckers are difficult for people to see, partly because of their camouflage, and partly because their movements. Hog suckers tend to dart quickly from one spot to another. Northern Hog Suckers tend to avoid places with too much vegetation (plants).

Konrad P. Schmidt

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Eastern Dobsonfly

Belted Kingfisher

Black Willow

Golden Shiner FP

Green Algae

Bluegill

American Sycamore

Channel Catfish EC

Northern Caddis Fly

Creek Chub

Yellow Poplar

Large Diving Beetle

Golden Shiner

Red Maple

Green Darner

Common Snapping Turtle

Pickerelweed

Ebony Jewelwing

Great Blue Heron

Green Algae

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Raccoon

Common Duckweed

Crayfish

Crayfish

Copepod

Channel Catfish

Water Flea

Bald Eagle

Creek Chub

Double-crested Cormorant

Bluegill

Crane Fly

Golden Shiner

Aquatic Worm

Euglena

Rotifer

Freshwater Leech

Eastern Lamp Mussel

Stagnant Pond Snail

Relationship to Humans:

Suckers are not considered good eating by most people, even though they can grow quite large. They do control populations of insects and other animals, and they are a good indicator of clean water.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Bony Fish
ORDER
Cypriniformes
FAMILY
Castomidae
GENUS
Hypentelium
SPECIES
Hypentelium nigricans

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