Plecos are popular bottom-dwelling fish that many people like to keep in fish tanks. They have a reputation for being great fish to put in community fish aquariums.
Some types of plecos are incredibly large, though. For example, common plecos can grow to be twenty-four inches long once they reach adulthood.
There are a lot of really big plecos, and they’re going to need big fish tanks. Some might find it more practical to keep these fish in a pond.
Can plecos live in ponds safely? Read on to learn everything that you need to know about this topic.
Are Plecos Bad for Ponds?
Plecos aren’t good fish to put in natural ponds. If you have a natural pond on your property, it’ll be a bad idea to put plecos in there.
This is because plecos aren’t tolerant of cold water. As the temperatures drop, the water won’t be suitable for plecos.
These fish can be kept in artificial ponds, though. So long as you have the means to heat the pond, it’ll be fine to keep plecos in an artificial pond.
In fact, many of the larger types of plecos do very well in artificial ponds. Some of the largest plecos might seem impractical to keep in a home aquarium, but keeping them in a larger pond outdoors will be doable.
Which Plecos Are Good for Artificial Ponds?
There are many plecos that you could keep in artificial ponds. Most seem to enjoy keeping the larger types of plecos in ponds.
Common plecos are rather large fish, and they’re going to have more room to move around in a big pond. It’s recommended to have a 1,000-gallon artificial pond if you plan to keep common plecos.
Sailfin plecos are great for when you want to keep a smaller artificial pond in your yard. You can get away with keeping these fish in a 100-gallon pond.
Royal plecos will also be a very good choice. These are big fish that look incredibly beautiful.
It’s also fine to pick smaller types of plecos such as bristlenose plecos. Just be sure to protect the fish and heat the pond properly.
In many ways, you’ll be caring for the fish just how you would in a fish tank. You’ll still need to feed them and monitor the water conditions to help them thrive.
Are Plecos Cold Water Fish?
No, plecos are not cold water fish. They are tropical fish that generally thrive in warmer water temperatures.
Since plecos are going to need the water to be warm enough, it’s not possible to keep them in natural ponds. It would get too cold during the autumn and winter months for plecos to thrive.
So it won’t be a good idea to keep plecos in cold water. Some plecos can tolerate temperatures in the low 60s, but they don’t do well if kept in those temperatures for long periods of time.
You’ll need a good heater for an artificial pond if you wish to keep plecos outside. Even then, it’s not wise to keep your plecos outside all year.
Can Plecos Live in Cold Water?
Plecos absolutely cannot live in cold water. If you try to keep plecos in cold water, you’re just going to wind up killing them.
These fish do best when kept in warmer water. There are many different types of plecos, and they all have different temperature ranges that they prefer.
Common plecos can temporarily tolerate temperatures in the low 60s. They shouldn’t be kept in such cool water for a long time, though.
Remember that plecos are tropical bottom-dwelling fish. They simply aren’t the type of fish that can thrive in cold water.
Can Plecos Stay Outside During the Winter?
It likely isn’t going to be possible to keep plecos outside in a pond during the winter. Even if you have a heater for the artificial pond, it’s going to be better to move the fish or pond indoors when it starts to get really cold.
If you were to keep the plecos in a pond outside during the winter they would likely die. They don’t deal with cold weather very well.
They’re fish that come from tropical regions and they can’t tolerate colder temperatures. Even with a heater, you’d struggle to keep the water in the right condition.
You can move the pond to an indoor environment where the fish can be protected from the elements. Some people build structures to help protect their outdoor ponds when the weather gets cooler.
Is it Practical to Keep Plecos in Ponds?
Some might say that it isn’t all that practical to keep plecos in ponds. Since they can’t be kept outdoors during the winter, it’s going to be a bit of an annoyance to move them.
If you don’t want to have to bother with moving the artificial pond to a safer location when the weather gets cold, then keeping plecos in ponds might not be for you. It’s something that some people choose to do, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
Those who want to buy fish for an outdoor pond might be better off purchasing more resilient fish. There are fish that are good at surviving when the temperatures get cold.
Plecos simply aren’t good at putting up with cool water. You could look into other more common options if you have your heart set on an outdoor pond.
The most practical thing to do is to move plecos to an aquarium when the winter comes. This might be seen as a pain by some.
You would have a much easier time if you bought fish that are better suited for ponds. Koi fish are some of the most popular pond fish that you can buy.
A koi fish can tolerate cooler temperatures and should be able to survive in a pond outside all year so long as you set things up properly. Plecos simply won’t be able to do this.
Advice for Keeping Plecos in Ponds
Now that you know that keeping plecos in ponds will be challenging, it’ll be important to know how to approach things. If you still wish to keep plecos in ponds, then you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
Below, you’ll find advice about how to best keep these fish in ponds. It’ll give you some things to consider and should help you to decide whether doing this is a good idea in your situation.
You Need Experience to Successfully Do This
To successfully keep plecos in ponds, you’re going to need experience. This isn’t a good idea for people who are new to caring for plecos.
Ideally, you should have experience caring for plecos and you should understand how to maintain an outdoor pond. Otherwise, this is going to be a very trying situation.
Plecos aren’t good beginner fish when placed in a pond setting. You’ll have to look after them carefully to ensure that they survive.
Monitoring the water quality will be very important. You’ll also need to ensure that the heater is working constantly to keep the water temperature in the right range.
Aside from this, you’ll also need the right equipment and experience to transport plecos. You’ll need to move these fish during the winter or they won’t survive.
Moving plecos can be difficult because they’re large fish and they’re fighters. If you lack experience and the right equipment, it’ll be easy to make mistakes.
For novices, this is going to be a very unappealing prospect. Only attempt this if you’re confident in your abilities and you have the right equipment to transport the fish when the time is right.
It is also possible to keep a pond inside of a structure of some sort. This would eliminate the need to move the fish, but you’d still need to be careful to ensure that the structure doesn’t get too cold as the weather gets cooler.
Plecos Like Moving Water
Plecos enjoy moving water because they can be found in waters with high flow. As such, you’d help them to acclimate to the pond better by including certain water features.
Adding a waterfall to the pond is a good idea if you plan to keep plecos. It’ll make them feel more natural and it should help them to enjoy living in the pond.
Installing some type of artificial waterfall won’t be overly difficult. You’ll just need to ensure that you have the room to do it.
Fountains will also help the fish to better enjoy living in the pond. Just do your best to add some water features when you plan to keep plecos in your pond.
Plecos Are Hard to See in Ponds
Understand that you won’t be seeing plecos often when you put them in ponds. These are bottom-dwelling fish that hang out at the bottom of the pond looking for algae.
They’re also nocturnal and they hide during the daytime. You’ll find that plecos will be mostly resting during the day and won’t be that active.
If your goal is to put fish in the pond that you’ll enjoy looking at, plecos might not be the best option. You won’t be seeing them very often at all.
For many, it’d be better to go with a more active and visible fish such as a koi fish. If you won’t get a lot of enjoyment out of the plecos, it’d likely be best to shy away from putting them in ponds.
Can Plecos Live with Koi Fish?
Yes, plecos are going to be fine when kept in a pond alongside koi fish. Many people have chosen to do this and haven’t encountered any issues.
Plecos are generally regarded as peaceful fish that don’t bother others. In fact, plecos are very commonly kept in community fish tanks.
Putting them in ponds with other fish will be fine, too. Koi fish are compatible with plecos and should be able to live well alongside plecos.
The plecos will simply ignore the koi fish and you won’t have problems. Of course, you will need to ensure that there is enough room for all of the fish that you want to put in the pond.
How to Feed Plecos
Feeding plecos in a pond setting won’t be that different from feeding them in a fish tank. The plecos might eat some algae, but they’re going to need other food as well.
You can feed plecos algae wafers if you want to. They’ll likely get more than enough algae from the pond, though.
Many pleco owners feed the fish bloodworms, shrimp, and prawns. These fish are omnivores that will eat many different types of food.
Try to give the fish a balanced diet that will meet their nutritional needs. You might even simply wish to buy nutrient pellets that can sink to the bottom of the pond.
Since plecos are nocturnal, it’ll be best to feed them early in the morning or just when it starts to get dark. Give the fish enough food that they can thrive, but try not to overfeed them since that can lead to various health issues.
Plecos can be kept in ponds, but it might not be an ideal choice. These fish don’t thrive in cold water, and they’ll die if you try to keep them outside during the winter.
You can keep plecos in artificial ponds that are being heated. However, you’ll still need to move them to an aquarium during the winter months.
For many, this is going to be impractical. Plecos are a bit tough to keep in a pond when you don’t have the necessary experience and equipment.
That being said, it can still be a good experience if you’re willing to put in the effort. Plecos are good fish that will eat a lot of algae in the pond.
They can also live alongside koi fish just fine. For some, it might be a fun choice to put plecos in an outdoor pond.
Just understand that this isn’t the easiest situation. You’ll want to ensure that the plecos have hiding spots and that there are water features such as fountains or waterfalls.
It’ll also be imperative to monitor the water parameters to keep the fish safe. If you’re willing to put in the effort, then you can move forward whenever you’re ready.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.