Fresh gut contents of the wood-eating loricariid Panaque and a generalized loricariid Liposarcus sp. had enzymatic activity directed against both cellulose and hemicellulose. Aerobic cultures made from the guts of Panaque exhibited growth on a minimal salts medium containing only crystalline cellulose as a carbon source as well as on a variety of other substrates containing carbon polymers found in wood. Anaerobic cultures made from Panaque guts only grew with glucose as a carbon source. Cultures of whole gut contents grown on a yeast extract basal salts medium had significant cellulolytic activity. However, no culture of individual microbes had significant cellulolytic activity, suggesting that any cellulose breakdown which occurs in loricariid guts is by a consortium of micro-organisms. A variety of aerobes, microaerophiles and facultative anaerobes were found in the guts of Panaque; several of these bacteria appear to be new species.