The karyotype of the Ancistrini catfish Ancistrus taunayi was analyzed by conventional (Giemsa staining, AgNOR staining and C-banding) and molecular cytogenetic (5S and 18S rDNA-FISH) methods. The diploid chromosome number was 2n = 50 (22 metacentrics + 10 submetacentrics + 10 subtelocentrics + 8 acrocentrics) for both sexes. A single NOR-bearing acrocentric chromosome pair (No. 24) was detected after Ag-staining and 18S rDNA-FISH, while 5S rDNA was found only in the subtelocentric pair No. 21. Conspicuous GC-rich heterochromatin blocks corresponded to the NOR sites and were also observed in the distal regions of the acrocentric chromosome pairs Nos. 22 and 25. Chromosome pair No. 22 differed between males and females; in males, only a small interstitial block of GC-rich heterochromatin was present in both chromosomes, whereas in females, 2 blocks of GC-rich heterochromatin flanked a euchromatic region in one of the homologues, suggesting the occurrence of a ZZ/ZW sex chromosome system. Two mechanisms for the origin and evolution of this simple ZZ/ZW sex chromosome system in A. taunayi are proposed: (1) a paracentric inversion followed by amplification of the proximal heterochromatin and (2) amplification of the interstitial heterochromatin followed by a paracentric inversion. Although ZZ/ZW systems have already been described for other Ancistrus species, our results do not show the same pattern, suggesting an independent origin.