Clown Pleco, also Known as Panaqolus Maccus, Clown Panaque, Clown Plecostomus, Or Ringlet Pleco, is a low-maintenance freshwater fish.

They are active driftwood and algae bottom-feeding species that are native to the Venezuela waters. But they are aggressive, particularly to its kind, and would become chase off any straying fish from its territory.

Read and discover in-depth knowledge about the complete life of a clown pleco fish, what to feed them, how to breed and take care of them.

Clown Pleco Stats

Quick stats

Clown Pleco Size 8cm
Tank 36 inches 29 US Gallon
Strata Bottom
PH 6.6 to 7.8
Hardness Soft to hard
dH range 2.0 – 30.0
Temperature 75 F to 82 F (24-28 C)

Classification stats

Order Siluriformes
Family Loricariidae
Subfamily Ancistrinae
Genera Panaqolus
Species maccus

Quick stats:

– Name

The clown pleco is also known as Panaqolus maccus, Clown panaque, ringlet pleco, clown plecostomus, heavily clad fish, and suckerfish.

– Origin and Distribution

The clown pleco species are originally from the South American waters, particularly Columbia and Venezuela. The wild clown pleco fishes are common in the Rio Las Marinas, Rio Orinoco drainage, and the great Amazon River.

– Behavioral Characteristics

Clown plecos are calm and peaceful but only when there is no co-specifics insight. They have an inbuilt instinct to struggle for dominance amongst their kind, both male and female clown pleco or other pleco variants.

They may show less aggression in a school of two or three clown plecos only if they top the hierarchy system. But it may get overly boisterous sometimes. They love to play at the bottom of the aquarium and occasionally hide in tank plants or behind rocks. They move actively and can be a delight to onlookers.

A clown pleco may sometimes show interest in other fishes. They spend most of their time digging at driftwood or sucking algae and debris at the bottom of the aquarium. They create gigantic waste due to their large appetites and are hyper-sensitive to nitrates. The clown pleco is a nocturnal species; it spends its nights hunting for food.

– Body Form

A clown pleco growth rate is not alarming; they grow to about 8cm to 10cm or 3-3.5 inches. However, a few clown pleco species can grow bigger than the stated size. But they do not get to the common pleco, which has a rapid growth. They have a minute dwarf body form with a big head, circular bulgy eyes that seem to be pushing out of their head, and convex-shaped bellies. Surprisingly, the clown pleco does not have scales on its body!

They have rigid plates securing their bodies, and their spine bones are solid enough to give them adequate balance. But the bony plates do not cover their stomach area. The clown pleco seems sturdy but appears slender from the dorsal fin to its caudal peduncle. The dorsal fin fans out impressively or looks compacted sometimes, and their pectoral fins are equally big enough to lay behind when they rest on a driftwood surface.

However, the clown pleco caudal fin is similar in size to their dorsal fin. The clown plecos have a suckermouth that faces downwards like a suction cup to intake all nutrients they can find in the tank. Their mouth also provides balance support while they are in fast-moving water. The clown plecos teeth look like a spoon; it is broad at the top and narrow at the base.

They, like other panaque genus members, do not have buccal papilla in their mouths. It is the flappy skin found in other fishes’ mouths.

  • Male clown pleco: they appear short and slender, and long odontodes are visible on their head and dorsal fins when they are ready to mate. The male clown pleco has developed enamel on their back region, and they have more barrels, unlike the female clown pleco.
  • Female clown Pleco: they have elongated plump bodies but short odontodes during breeding sessions.

– Coloration

The clown pleco can have a dull and dark background or a light brown to white body coloration. It has fascinating orange rings of about five to twelve randomly placed all over its body with a white belly region.

The orange markings can be thick that it appears to have orange background and dark lines instead. However, the ring’s coloration intensity is affected by the clown plecos diet, quality of its health, its tank and water parameters, and its age.

It ranges from tan to deep orange hues, but there is no definite color scheme as some parts of the rings are straight while others are wavy. The clown plecos fins have similar markings and stripes to the remaining parts of its body. A young clown pleco has a more vibrant color compared to mature ones but fades off eventually. Also, there is a slight color variation between a tank-bred clown pleco and a wild bred clown pleco.

– Clown Pleco Lifespan

The clown pleco can live for 12-18 years. However, the primary influence of their life expectancy is their living conditions and feeding. If you keep your clown pleco comfortable and happy, they outlive the average life span of most pleco species.

Clown Pleco Care Guide

Adequate clown pleco care is easy for an informed fish-keeper. The clown pleco, like other species, have needs, crucial tank, and water requirements. However, the hardy clown pleco is beginner-friendly for new fish-keepers as they require minimal care. Here are some factors critical to the clown pleco maintenance.

1. Tank Requirements

In the wild, the clown pleco is distributed along the densely packed river basin of Caroni and Apure. The fast-moving rivers contain an ample amount of driftwood along with other wood types like bogwood. The clown pleco species require hiding shelter for entertainment and rest. Their aquarium should closely mimic the environment to make them comfortable.

The clown pleco has since grown to adapt to environments with low visibility like other catfish species. Their natural habitat contains many rotting wood, roots, tree barks, and vegetation, causing their water to appear black with little or no light penetration. When you simulate these conditions, you may not be able to spot your pet fish in its tank physically.

They would occasionally eat algae in their tank, so you should encourage the growth in their tank.

Add in rocks and smooth stones; their surfaces permit their growth. Sometimes algae or biofilm grows on some plant’s surfaces; the clown pleco may chomp off on their leaves without a care in the world! For decorative purposes, consider sturdier plants with tough leaves like the Amazon swords. They are territorial fishes and would use driftwood to mark their area.

Driftwood is very important to a clown pleco as they use them as shelter, entertainment, food, and territorial position.

2. Tank Lightning

The clown pleco does not require bright lights and would rather hide in the dark behind wood and rocks.

3. Water Requirements

The clown pleco survives the different seasons in their natural habitat, from the winter to rainy periods. However, a tank-bred clown pleco thrives in the water temperature of 75 F to 82 F (24-28 C) with alkaline PH levels ranging from 6.6 to 7.8. You can use a water heater to increase and reduce their water temperature to simulate seasons.

They love the water with a variety range of between soft to hard. The hardness (dH) should be somewhere between 2.0 and 30.0. They would need frequent water filtration because they produce a lot of waste. The filter should mechanically and chemically get rid of their waste without disturbing the tank nitrogen cycle. A canister filter would suffice, also add in air stone to aid water oxygenation.

4. Aquarium Plants

The aquarium plants serve as food sometimes and shade from the aquarium lights. You can plant some hornwort plants around the tank. The clown pleco would not destroy the plant, but you should plant a variety of options.

5. Tank Size

A clown pleco tank size should be a minimum of 36 inches of about 29 US gallons of water. If you can afford a standard long breeder a tank, you should get one because they give your bottom-feeding clown pleco more space to play around its driftwood.

6. Substrates

The clown pleco likes to dig when spawning, so the substrate must be soft. You can use sand as it would not cause any form of injury to the clown pleco and allows you to grow your aquarium plants.


Some Aquarists prefer not to use substrates in the clown pleco breeding tank. They leave the aquarium bottom bare, but you should use fine sand to allow the clown pleco to dig during spawning. The clown pleco can breed randomly without triggers, especially when there are male and female species in the tank.

However, it is a controversial conversation between aquariums; some believe the clown pleco breeding is difficult others think otherwise. You can breed them effortlessly under the right conditions and set-up discussed below.

– Tank Setup

The clown pleco tank is similar to their breeding tank. They require a lot of driftwood and hiding shelters as they need the surfaces to spawn. You can add a wood-material cave into the clown pleco tank. Create a small opening in the wooden cave as the clown pleco would like the thrill of pushing themselves in for spawning.

Other spawning shelters can include a PVC-material cave, driftwood cave, bamboo cave, and bogwood cave. Construct them to have enough room for both sexually mature fishes.

– Requirements

The clown pleco requires a lower water temperature before spawning as they simulate the rainy season. The wild clown pleco mates frequently during this period, mainly when the water is hard and has higher alkaline levels. You have to regulate the tank heater, so the water goes a bit warm and cool again. The warmer temperature is a natural breeding trigger for the clown pleco. Perform a large water change to get rid of toxins in the tank water.

– Food Triggers

Feed the clown pleco meals rich with high levels of protein like blood worms. They would have a larger appetite than usual, so make sure to feed them regularly.

– Pre Breeding

The male and female clown pleco would try to fit their selves into the breeding cave. The females are oviparous, so they lay while the male fertilizes the eggs.

– After Breeding

The male clown pleco develops a protecting instinct to guard their eggs as they incubate. The female clown pleco and other fish tend to try and eat the eggs if they can. The eggs hatch after a few weeks (like 3-4 weeks), depending on the water conditions. You should immediately take out the baby clown pleco and feed them a balanced meal combination comprising algae, protein sources like blood worms or brine shrimp, and driftwood. You may not take out the male clown pleco even before the eggs hatch.

– Sexing Before Mating

If you cannot differentiate between a male and female clown pleco, it makes the breeding tricky. The two species look closely alike, but the male has bristles on its head, and the female would have a bulging stomach.

Tank Mates

A clown pleco lives calmly in a community aquarium with most fishes, particularly non-aggressive species. They get boisterous and violent and are ready to injure the straying fish which enters its territory! They are only territorial around their species and fishes that look like them.

Some suitable clown pleco tank mates include; Ember Tetra, Pygmy Corydoras, little Rasboras like the harlequin rasboras, dwarf gourami, and primary tetras, German blue rams, Corydoras habrosus, White cloud mountain minnows.

The clown pleco can live with fishes that are middle to top dwellers.

Unsuitable tank mates for the clown pleco species are;

  • Co-specifics, but they can stay with their kind if the tank has enough room for each of them to maintain their territories.
  • Large, aggressive predator fishes; would eat up the clown pleco without overthinking about it. They may be hungry or bored.
  • Fishes that feel it’s compulsory they fight to survive like the flower horn cichlids.


The clown pleco diet comprises of an omnivorous combination, flesh and plant matter. There are avid driftwood eaters but would occasionally eat algae and biofilm in their tanks.

You can feed your clown pleco fish pet a variety of vegetables like shelled peas, mashed potatoes, cucumber, lettuce, and zucchini. Blanch the vegetable so they can chew them easily.

The clown pleco fondness for the driftwood diets is advantageous because it speeds up digestion rates in your clown pleco. A clown pleco fry feeds more on algae than a mature one. They would also eat high-protein fleshy goods like live worms, shrimp pellets, blood worms, and daphnia but do not give them often. Add algae supplements and algae-based meals into their first, like algae wafers and tablets, as the natural source may not be sufficient to meet the clown pleco needs.

Feed your clown pleco at least twice daily, in the morning and night-time. Leave their wood food source permanently in their tank; it can act as mid-day snacks. The clown pleco can also eat yams but make sure to cut them up into fish bite sizes. You can feed your clown pleco with cholla wood because they are aquarium safe and economical.

However, if you have a wooden tank decor you do not want the clown pleco to eat, you should consider taking it out of the aquarium. Like all animals, the clown pleco gets bored eating the same food and switching up their diet tactfully. Give them frozen live food from time to time. The clown pleco is born scavengers; they like to scout for food at night or when it’s dark. If you want to feed them, you can mimic the setting by turning their aquarium lights.


The clown pleco is hardy and does not have a chronic illness it suffers from, but it is prone to some infections as freshwater fishes. The disorders arise from poor living conditions and inadequate feeding. The clown pleco disease is caused by the following.

1. Poor Living Conditions

Dirty water is indeed bad for the clown pleco. They are likely to have poor water quality because of the amount of waste they produce. Their waste turns into ammonia and can get toxic fast leading to ammonia or nitrate poisoning. It is fatal to the clown pleco and its tank mate. You can prevent ammonia poisoning by:

  • changing their tank water often
  • By not over-feeding the clown pleco.
  • Performing water screening tests to check its PH and other water requirements.

A clown pleco enjoys staying at the bottom of the tank, but if you notice your pet fish swimming to the top and trying to leave the aquarium, then something is wrong. The aquarium water is likely filthy, and they are having difficulties breathing inside it. In some cases, the water oxygen content is not sufficient.

2. Ich

Ich is a freshwater disease that the clown pleco can contact. It is a parasitic infection that causes the clown pleco’s eyes to become swollen than it already is with random red spots all over its body. The infected clown plecos’ stomach would look swollen also. Once you detect the symptoms above, you can be sure your pet fish has a bacterial disease.

The solution to ich in a clown pleco is to use antibiotics to fight the infection. You can use either erythromycin or penicillin to treat ich. However, the visible spots on the clown plecos body are whitish; it is likely a fungus infection.

Whatever condition plagued your clown pleco, try to tackle it as soon as you notice any symptom. Follow the antibiotics or medication dosage and rules as given by its manufacturers. Invite a veterinary doctor or take your fish to a hospital if too severe.

3. Stress

The territorial disputes stress your clown pleco; it does not want to be around other pleco species. Leave them alone or add fishes it does not mind being around, mainly when the tank is small. In some cases, they fight each other to the point one or both bleeds.

4. New fishes

You should quarantine new fishes to prevent a disease outbreak. Put the new clown pleco in a separate tank and watch it closely for two weeks before adding them into the community tank. When you notice a symptom in your tank fish, separate the infected fish and treat them.

You may also need to treat other fishes in the tank. Perform water changes to eliminate the parasite or reduce the potency of the bacteria present in the tank. You should occasionally add a bit of antibiotic to the clown pleco tank to help them stay healthy but do not use it too often. It kills the good bacteria (nitrifying bacteria) and encourages the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Remember, the tank must have an active nitrogen circle.


  • The clown pleco is peaceful fishes but aggressive towards co-specific.
  • The female clown pleco has a rounder belly during the breeding period.
  • The male and female clown pleco mate at the end of the dry season and beginning of the rainy season
  • You can simulate their ideal mating conditions by increasing the water temperature gradually and performing a water change with cool water.
  • They eat driftwood, algae, and blood worms.
  • They prefer dim lights in their tank with some aquarium plants.

The clown pleco is an interesting fish with orange ring markings. You should get a pet fish clown pleco and add it to your community aquarium because it lives long and gets along with most fishes.

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