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How Big Do Plecos Get? (Expected Size By Type)

How Big Do Plecos Get? (Expected Size By Type)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Plecos are very nice fish that many people love putting in their aquariums. Of course, it’s going to be wise to learn more about the fish before deciding to buy some for your tank.

For example, you’re going to want to know how big plecos get. Are they relatively small fish or do they grow to be very large?

Keep reading to learn about different types of plecos and how large they will become as they continue to age. This should make it a lot easier to make informed purchasing decisions.

You’ll also get answers to common questions such as how fast plecos grow. You’ll feel prepared to keep these fish in your aquarium once you have all of the right information.

Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose plecos are among the most popular that people like to keep in their aquariums. These fish are more modest in size compared to many of the larger pleco specimens.

A bristlenose pleco is going to grow to be between four and six inches long at maturity. For many, this will be the perfect fish to add to a community aquarium.

Many people like buying bristlenose plecos because of how good they are as algae eaters. These fish love eating algae and will do a good job of cleaning up your tank.

They’re also interesting fish to look at. There are quite a few different color variations of these plecos on the market that you can choose from.

You’ll need to keep bristlenose plecos in a 40-gallon tank or something larger. They’re easy to care for overall and should be among the best options for beginners.

Gold Nugget Plecos

Gold nugget plecos are such pretty fish that you might want to own some based on looks alone. They’re definitely eye-catching due to their dark brown color and the golden dots that are located all over their bodies.

These fish are somewhat big since they will grow to be nine and a half inches long. It also means that you’re going to need a sizable tank if you plan to care for these plecos.

It’s recommended to keep gold nugget plecos in a fish tank that is at least 75-gallons. You should also note that these fish are a bit harder to care for than bristlenose plecos.

That isn’t to say that they’re fragile fish. You can get used to caring for gold nugget plecos, but they require a bit more work than the simpler bristlenose plecos.

Zebra Plecos

Zebra plecos are very good options for those who want smaller fish. Perhaps you want to be able to keep plecos in a smaller fish tank.

If that’s the case, then you’ll be glad to know that zebra plecos only grow to be three inches long. This means that you should be able to keep some of them in a 20-gallon fish tank.

These fish require about the same attention and care that gold nugget plecos do. They aren’t the easiest plecos to care for, but they’re far from the hardest.

It’s also simply neat that these fish look so nice. They really do resemble zebras with the stripe pattern that they have on their bodies.

If you’re looking for a fish that is aesthetically pleasing and not too big, then going with zebra plecos will be a sensible choice. You won’t regret buying this fish for your fish tank.

Clown Plecos

Clown plecos are good fish to consider adding to your aquarium. They’re very beginner-friendly since they’re easy to take care of.

They don’t grow to be overly big either. These fish will grow to be between three and a half inches and four inches long at maturity.

It’s notable that these fish will eat algae for you as well. They aren’t great cleaners, but they will eat some algae.

If you want a pleco fish for the purpose of cleaning up algae, then buying a bristlenose pleco will be a better choice. These fish are nice mostly because they look cool, but it’s also nice that they will fit in a 40-gallon fish tank perfectly.

The coloring of the fish is really appealing overall. Clown plecos love to eat wood fiber from sunken logs so that’s something to keep in mind when setting up the tank.

Common Plecos

Common plecos are very big fish. You’re going to need a large aquarium to care for these fish.

It’s recommended to keep common plecos in a 100-gallon fish tank or something even larger. This is because they have the potential to reach twenty-four inches in length.

Typically, common plecos will have a maximum size between eighteen inches and twenty-four inches. These fish can grow pretty fish and might even reach twelve inches in length within about a year.

For many, it won’t be practical to own fish this large. If you don’t have a large 100-gallon tank right now, then you should avoid purchasing common plecos.

Even if they look small at the pet store, they’re going to get very large quite fast. It’s also notable that they’re not the most beginner-friendly fish when it comes to care.

Royal Plecos

Royal plecos are also considered to be very big fish. They don’t have the potential to get quite as large as the common plecos, though.

A royal pleco fish will reach seventeen inches in length at maturity. This makes it large enough that you will need a 100-gallon fish tank to house it properly.

Much like with the common plecos, the size of this fish will make it impractical for many home aquariums. If you don’t have the space for a huge fish tank, then it’ll be best to admire this fish from afar and never actually buy one.

These fish do totally stand out in a fish tank, though. They have red eyes that are very noticeable and the color pattern of the fish will certainly interest you.

Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber lip plecos are pretty popular overall. They’re fish that will grow to be seven inches once they become adults.

A rubber lip pleco fish is going to look quite similar to the common plecos. They just aren’t nearly as big as those monster fish.

You’ll still need a 55-gallon fish tank or larger to care for rubber lip plecos. This is a much more manageable tank size for most hobbyists.

These fish will eat algae a little bit, but they also need to be fed meaty foods. You’ll enjoy keeping these fish in your tank if you decide to buy some.

Sailfin Plecos

Sailfin plecos are gigantic fish that rival the common plecos in size. They don’t have quite the same maximum growth potential as those fish, though.

A sailfin pleco has the potential to reach nineteen inches in length. Some of them will only wind up being thirteen inches long.

Regardless, it’s recommended to keep these fish in 100-gallon fish tanks. Since they can get so big, they won’t fit in smaller tanks.

One good aspect of owning sailfin plecos is that they’re easy to care for. These fish are good for beginners so long as they have the room for a really big aquarium.

Snowball Plecos

Snowball plecos are much more manageable fish than the sailfin plecos mentioned above. These fish only grow to be a bit under six and a half inches long.

They’re great fish to put in your fish tank. They’re not known to bother most plants and they scavenge at the bottom of the aquarium for uneaten food.

Overall, these fish are well-loved because they look really good. They’re pretty fish that you’ll be proud to have in your fish tank.

You’ll need to keep snowball plecos in a 40-gallon fish tank or larger. If you plan to keep these fish in a community tank, then you’ll certainly need something larger.

Vampire Pleco

Not only does the vampire pleco have a cool name, but it is also a carnivorous type of fish. This means that it won’t eat algae at all.

Vampire plecos grow to be eight inches long on average. They love snacking on things such as snails and shrimp.

Many people consider this to be among the prettiest pleco fish options. It has a brown or black body with interesting yellow dots that sort of resemble stars in the night sky.

To keep this fish, you’ll want to have a 75-gallon fish tank. It’ll be a good experience if you have the room.

Butterfly Plecos

Butterfly plecos are another popular type of fish that deserves to be mentioned. It’s well-known for having prominent fins that stand out in the fish tank.

It’s also great that this fish can change its coloration like a chameleon. Sometimes it will appear completely black as a way to blend into the environment.

These fish grow to be five and a half inches long. They can be kept in 40-gallon fish tanks just fine.

They’re good fish to buy for those who want to have an easy time caring for fish. Butterfly plecos aren’t picky and they will look beautiful when you pick a light color for the substrate.

Sunshine Plecos

Sunshine plecos grow to be twelve inches long. They’re big enough that they will require 100-gallon fish tanks to be able to thrive.

This makes them impractical for many fish tank enthusiasts. Regardless, those who own these fish do love them a lot.

These fish are either brown or olive green in color. They have bright orange spots all over their bodies that make them look very pretty.

People buy these fish because of how colorful they are. They don’t really eat algae very well, but they’re going to look amazing in your aquarium.

How Big Can Plecos Get?

Plecos have the potential to get very big. Common plecos are known to grow to be twenty-four inches in length.

Many other types of plecos will grow to be twelve inches or longer, too. Of course, there are also smaller plecos out there that you can enjoy.

Keeping large plecos in your home aquarium can be very satisfying. You just have to possess the room to house a large fish tank.

If you don’t have enough room for a 100-gallon aquarium, then you won’t be able to enjoy the largest plecos. It’ll be more practical to seek out modestly-sized plecos for your home fish tank.

What Plecos Stay Small?

Many types of plecos will stay relatively small. For example, zebra plecos will only grow to be three inches long at maturity.

Those fish are small enough that they can comfortably fit in a 20-gallon fish tank. They’re a great example of small plecos that will be perfect for your aquarium.

Bristlenose plecos might be the most popular modestly-sized pleco fish. They grow to be between four and six inches in length.

You’ll need a 40-gallon fish tank for a bristlenose pleco, but they’re truly great fish. They’re some of the best algae eaters that you will find.

Clown plecos stay between three and a half and four inches long. These fish are very interesting to look at and are well worth considering if you only have a 30-gallon fish tank.

Finally, butterfly plecos only grow to be five and a half inches long. They have gorgeous fins and can even change color.

You’ll be able to fit butterfly plecos in a 40-gallon fish tank. Choose which plecos you want to buy carefully so that you can have a good experience.

What is the Smallest Type of Pleco?

There are dwarf variants of plecos that are going to be quite small. The gold spotted dwarf pleco will be under two inches long even at full growth.

Zebra plecos are one of the most popular types of small plecos. They grow to be three inches long and look beautiful with their stripes.

There are a number of different plecos that are under four inches long. You’ll just have to decide which small plecos appeal to you the most.

Pleco Max Size

Common plecos are considered to be the largest type of common pleco fish that people buy. It has the potential to reach twenty-four inches in length.

Since this fish is so large, it will need to be kept in a 100-gallon aquarium or something even larger. For many, the largest plecos are going to be too big to be able to keep in their homes.

If you don’t have room for a very big fish tank, then it’s not a good idea to buy common plecos. Likewise, you won’t want to purchase other types of large plecos such as royal plecos or sunshine plecos.

Thankfully, there are many types of plecos and you can find options that will work in smaller aquariums. Just be sure to understand how big the fish will get before you purchase one at the pet store.

How Fast Do Plecos Grow?

Plecos can actually grow pretty fast overall. It’s impressive how fast a young pleco fish can grow to be fairly big.

However, the growth rate of plecos will vary based on the species. Some of them will grow several inches in just a few months, but others will grow slower.

Bristlenose plecos usually stay under an inch in length for the first several months before hitting a growth spurt. The growth spurt causes them to grow several inches.

Common plecos take approximately five years to reach their full growth potential. These fish have the potential to grow a lot in just the first year.

Since common plecos can get very large, this makes sense. Some common plecos will grow to be twenty-four inches long.

How Old is My Pleco?

It isn’t always easy to tell how old a pleco is. You might be able to judge based on its current size, though.

To do this, you’ll need to look up growth information. See how much a specific type of pleco is supposed to grow in a given amount of time.

If you measure the fish, then you’ll have a basic idea of how old the pleco fish is. Since different plecos have different growth rates, you’re going to have to look the information up for each type of fish.

Usually, plecos are sold in pet stores when they’re a month or two old at most. This might help you to have a general idea of how old your pleco fish is.

Final Thoughts

You’ve learned a lot about plecos and how big they can get. These fish come in many different varieties, and the variation in the size of these fish can be vast.

Some fish such as common plecos are going to be gigantic. They can grow to be twenty-four inches long.

Other fish such as zebra plecos will only grow to be three inches long at maturity. Depending on what you’re looking for, you might want to look for plecos that are either really big or somewhat small.

For most, picking plecos that are modest in size will be easier. You might not have enough room in your home for a gargantuan fish tank that is 100-gallons or larger.

Keep all of this in mind so that you can make the best decision for your home. Plecos are really neat fish to own, but you will want to research the type of pleco fish that you’re interested in before buying it.

Remember that some plecos are great algae eaters while others are not. Some are just pretty fish that will add some color to your fish tank.

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