The pleco fish, also known as hypostomus plecostomus or suckermouth catfish, belongs to the family of Loricariidae. They are bottom dwellers characterized by heavy plates on their bodies and mouths shaped like suckers. Plecos are nocturnal and favor an omnivorous diet.

Caring for these fishes is essential to enjoy their long lifespan. Thus, in this article, you will find detailed information on how you can manage the Pleco fish.

Pleco Fish Stats

Quick stats:

Origin South America 
Care Level Intermediate
Temperament Peaceful
Lifespan 10 to 15 years
Size Up to 24 inches
Diet Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size 30 Gallons
Temperature 72 to 86°F
pH Neutral


Order: Siluriformes
Family: Loricariidae
Genera: Pterygoplichthys

Overview of Plecos Fish

Plecos are native to the fast-flowing waters of South America. They grow to their full size pretty quickly; thus, they require huge tanks. They have a friendly temperament; however, it is best to keep them in a tank with their species. You should avoid putting more than two males in their tank.

They are bottom-dwelling fish and swim slowly across the tank. While they move, they suck up all the algae in the tank, causing many to falsely assume that they can thrive on a diet of only algae.

– Appearance

The color of most plecos is dependent on their environment; most are brown. One unique thing about these fishes is their large bony armor-like plates. These bony plates cover the whole of their body.

They also have a mouthpart adapted to feeding on algae; it is sucker-shaped. Pleco fishes have large heads and tiny membrane-covered eyes that reduce the amount of light passing through.

Their tail fin is shaped like the moon, and the bottom part is longer than the top portion. Their dorsal fin is well developed and has seven soft rays and one coarse ray.

– Lifespan

Plecos have an impressive lifespan. The common pleco lifespan is 10 to 15 years. They can live longer than 15 years if you care for them well.

– Breeding

Plecos are egg-layers, and in the wild, they prefer to spawn in caves. The male stands guard at the mouth of the cave until the eggs hatch. Unfortunately, breeding this fish species in captivity is difficult.

– Size

In the wild, a common Pleco can grow as big as 24 inches. However, it doesn’t reach this length in captivity. It grows only to about 15 inches.

Pleco Fish Care

Caring for your pleco is a critical way to ensure it stays healthy and lives long. We have detailed how to care for your pleco fish.

– How to Select Tank Mates

Before buying any fish species to add to your Pleco fish tank, there are some factors that you must carefully consider. These factors ensure freshwater pleco has compatible tank mates, reducing the risk of territorial brawls and stress.

We have outlined these factors below:

1. Tank Size

Common Plecos require a large tank because they grow big. The tank must at least have a 150-gallon capacity. Thus, you must take care to ensure that the fishes you add to the tank have a tank capacity of around or below 150 gallons.

2. Temperament

It is essential to consider the other fish species’ temperament to add to your established plecostomus tank. Avoid adding enormous, aggressive fishes to the same tank as the shy and peaceful juvenile pleco fish. The result will be a lot of bloodshed and a shy pleco that displays visible signs of stress.

However, as the pleco grows and becomes bigger, they become aggressive and territorial. At this stage, they begin to attack small, slow-moving fish. Thus, while selecting tank mates for the common pleco, you must consider their temperament as juveniles and mature fish.

3. Food

Common plecos are omnivores. They will eat anything you give them and love to feed at night. The same is not valid for some fish species; to reduce stress, we advise that you select tank mates with similar eating habits.

If you choose fish species with different eating habits, you would have to struggle extra to cater to them. You will have to purchase food best for carnivores if they are carnivorous and herbivores if herbivorous. All of this can be expensive and tasking.

Another thing to consider is the size of food your pleco and its tank mates can consume. Some fish species find it difficult to eat fish pellets.

4. Water Parameters

Plecos are not picky about water hardness; however, they prefer neutral pH conditions. Thus, it would help if you considered the fish’s desired hardness and pH range you want to add to the tank. Yet another factor to consider is the temperature.

Plecos thrive in warm water with temperatures ranging between 72 to 86°F and love dimly lit areas. Thus, it won’t do to add fish species that love higher temperatures or brightly lit areas. Do not sacrifice the happiness and comfort of other tank species in your quest to build a happy swimming area.

5. Swimming Habits

One last thing to consider is the fish’s swimming habit; each fish has a somewhat different swimming habit. Common plecos prefer to swim in the bottom layer of the tank; thus, it is a wise decision to pair them with fish that swim in the top or middle layer.

– Tank Mates

Based on our tips on selecting tank mates for your Pleco fish, it is clear now that you should avoid placing them with Angelfish and Discus. Angelfish and Discus nip at the juvenile pleco fish, causing them significant stress.

Select only fish that prefer swimming at the surface or middle layer of the tank. It is a terrible idea to add bottom dwellers to the same tank as your pleco.

That being said, we have listed some ideal tank mates for the Pleco fish:

– Tank Setup

You need to pay attention to three main categories when setting up a tank for your pleco fish. First off, your tank must be big enough to suit the plecos large size. If you have just one pleco, then you can get a 20-gallon tank. However, with a larger community, you will need a much larger tank of at least 150 gallons.

Once you have gotten a suitable tank, it is time to start replicating the plecos natural habitat. Let’s explore what you will need to do, shall we?

1. Filtration

In the wild, suckermouth catfish live in a clean, fast-moving river. Thus, your water movement and filtration must mimic these factors. Your filter should have a capacity of ten turnovers per hour. We advise that you filter off 25% of your tank water weekly.

2. Aeration

Although plecos are most times sedentary, they require high levels of dissolved oxygen. Thus, you must ensure that the ammonia and nitrite levels in the tank are low.

Insufficient oxygen levels make it difficult for your pleco to breathe; therefore, it is not uncommon to find them at the water surface gasping for air in such situations.

3. Substrate

Another phase of your tank setup is the choice of substrate. Thankfully, plecos are hardy and can thrive on any substrate. However, we recommend using fine gravel, sand, or aquatic soil because they do not bruise the fish’s delicate abdomen.

4. Water and Temperature Parameters

Common plecos prefer warm water with temperatures around 72 to 86°F. Thus, you may not need to buy a heater for the tank. They prefer neutral pH conditions and are not picky when it comes to water hardness.

5. Lighting

Plecos do not do well in brightly lit areas; they prefer shaded areas. Thus, it would help if you kept the tank dark. Feel free to add rocks and trees as decors to your tank. They save as perfect hiding space for your fish.

6. Plants and Decorations

The ideal decor for a pleco tank is lots of tree roots, bogwood, branches, rocks, and sticks. These decorations serve as hiding places for your fish in the light of the day. We recommend fast-growing plants like the Hornwort.

– Diet

Plecos are often sold as algae eaters. However, that is not the whole story. Common plecos are not just herbivorous; most of them still enjoy smaller fishes, crustaceans, and invertebrates.

They will not outrightly kill others for meat; however, they have nothing against scavenging for meat. We advise that in feeding pleco fish, you balance out their protein and vegetable requirements carefully.

Standard food options for pleco fish include:

  • Commercial Food – Feel free to feed your plecostomus store-bought fish foods. Spirulina pellets and sinking algae wafers are great options.
  • Veggies – You can feed your common pleco with vegetables like Spinach, zucchini, cucumbers, shelled peas, etc. You can spice it up with freshly blanched vegetables like carrots and peas.
  • Protein – Offer your pleco fish live, frozen or dry insect larvae, bloodworms, or brine shrimps a few times a week.
  • Wood – Oh yes. Some pleco species eat wood. So ensure that you are meeting the dietary requirement of the fish.
  • Live Food – To supplement the plecos diet, you will need to feed it live food. Earthworms, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and crustaceans are great options. Our personal favorite is the worms because they sink to the bottom of the tank.

Feeding Frequency

Pleco fish should be fed small portions of the recommended meal several times at night. They are nocturnal, so it is vital to feed them at night. They eat best in dim light.

– Common Diseases

Pleco fishes are tough aquarium fishes. They are usually the last in the tank to show signs of infectious or parasitic diseases. They are not usually affected by the usual diseases like gill fluke and Epistylis that plague the wild pleco fishes because they are farm-bred and raised.

In most cases, the diseases they suffer are brought on by environmental stress resulting from being kept in a small tank or with the wrong tank mates. The next leading cause of illness and death in Pleco fishes is poor nutrition and less than sterling water quality.

Correcting the water conditions, diet, and tank size is often a great way to solve health issues.

Pleco fishes are hardy fishes. However, they can still come down with the common freshwater disease. We have listed two of the conditions they are most likely to come down with, their symptoms, and proven ways to treat them.

With proper care and the right treatment, your pleco fish should be better in no time at all.

  • Cloudy Eye

The cloudy eye is a common disease that affects pleco fish. It causes the eye of the fish to become covered with gray or white slime. Due to the clouded vision, the pleco fish may experience difficulty seeing and may begin to swim in an awkward pattern. Improving your water quality is one way to treat cloudy eyes.

  • Ich

Ich is a common freshwater disease that attacks pleco fishes. It is marked by the telltale white spots on the fish body and fins. It causes the fish to rub against hard objects and swim in strange patterns. To treat ich, you must quarantine the affected fish and administer the correct dosage of copper-based treatments. The medications are best administered in very soft water with little or no salt in them.

Before starting the copper-based treatment, you should remove the activated carbon filters because they can become poisonous to the fish. Increasing the tank temperature is also a great way to combat this parasitic Pleco disease.


  • Pleco fishes are very large bottom dwellers
  • They can live for up to 15 years with proper care
  • They are hardy fishes and are usually the last to show signs of diseases in any tank

They look like really easy fishes to raise on paper, thanks to their peaceful behavior and feeding habit. However, because of their large size, they can prove entirely unsuitable for beginners to handle. Hopefully, you can decide if you want to raise these suckermouth catfishes with the help of this article.

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