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How Long Do Plecos Live? (Lifespan by Type of Pleco)

How Long Do Plecos Live? (Lifespan by Type of Pleco)

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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.

Many people like to buy plecos for their fish tanks. They are great fish that hang out at the bottom of the tank.

If you’re thinking of getting some for your aquarium, then it’ll be smart to learn a bit about them. You want to know if they’re easy to care for as well as how long they’re expected to live.

Are plecos going to live for a long time in your aquarium? Or are they relatively short-lived fish?

Continue reading to get all of the information that you need. It’ll help you to understand how long various types of plecos live on average.

There Are Many Different Types of Plecos

Before going further, it’s important to note that there are many types of plecos. Pleco fish might live for longer or shorter periods of time depending on what type they are.

Below, you’ll learn about different types of plecos that you can buy for your aquarium. This will teach you about the differences between them as well as how long they are expected to live.

Having a greater understanding of each type of pleco fish will help you out. It should make it easier for you to pick out the right type of fish for your aquarium.

Some plecos will be easier to care for than others. If you’re a beginner, then you might wish to stick with the fish that are the most beginner-friendly.

Sunshine Plecos

Sunshine plecos are neat fish that have dark olive bodies. They look really nice because they have orange spots all over their bodies.

These plecos can add a lot of color to the tank. They’re fairly large fish that will reach 12 inches in length at maturity.

This is a fish that will need a pretty big fish tank. It’s said that you should keep them in a 100-gallon fish tank.

You should be able to keep sunshine plecos alive in the fish tank for over 10 years. They live between 10 and 15 years on average.

Vampire Plecos

Vampire plecos are well-loved because of how interesting they look. Sometimes these fish are sold as galaxy plecos.

They reach eight inches in length upon maturity. This is a carnivorous type of fish that likes to eat shrimp and snails.

A vampire pleco stands out in a fish tank due to its dark brown or black body. These fish have yellow spots that almost resemble stars in the night.

These fish are well-known to live for up to 15 years with proper care. If you do a good job caring for vampire plecos, they will live in your tank for a very long time.

Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose plecos are probably the most popular types of plecos that you will find. They’re on the small side since they grow to be between four and six inches long.

These fish are popular because they’re so easy to care for. They look nice and they’re very peaceful fish overall.

A bristlenose pleco should live for at least five years in a fish tank. Some bristlenose plecos have lived for as long as 12 years in an aquarium setting.

The life span of the fish will depend on the quality of care that it is receiving. If you do a good job of caring for the fish, then it’s likely that it will live longer than five years.

Gold Nugget Plecos

Gold nugget plecos are really interesting to look at. They have brown bodies and have many golden spots.

It’s easy to tell how these fish got their name once you look at them. They grow to be nine and a half inches long at maturity.

Sadly, gold nugget plecos don’t live quite as long as most plecos in captivity. It’s very common for these fish to die after about five years have passed.

They aren’t as easy to care for as some types of plecos. You’ll need to ensure that the water has a high flow rate and that it’s heavily oxygenated.

Zebra Plecos

Zebra plecos are among the prettiest plecos that you can buy. They do resemble zebras because of the stripe patterns on their bodies.

They’re popular fish because of how nice they look. Expect to care for these fish for a long time if you buy some.

A zebra pleco will live between 10 and 15 years with proper care. If you’re doing a good job maintaining the fish tank, then these fish will stick around for a very long time.

Zebras are very small, too, and this makes them good fits for average fish tank owners. They only reach three inches in length, and you should be able to keep them in a 20-gallon fish tank just fine.

Clown Plecos

Clown plecos should be able to live between 10 and 12 years. These are very small plecos that will be good choices for average fish tank owners.

Since they only grow to be between three and a half and four inches in length, it’ll be easier to find a home for them in your aquarium. These fish should do well in a 20-gallon aquarium, but you might want a 30-gallon aquarium depending on how many you wish to purchase.

These plecos are omnivores, and they should be pretty easy to feed. You won’t have a hard time with the basic care needs of this fish.

Anyone who is interested in buying plecos should look into getting clown plecos. They’re very good fish that you’ll love having in your community fish tank.

Common Plecos

Common plecos are among the largest types of plecos that you can purchase. As such, they’re going to require 100-gallon aquariums or even larger fish tanks.

Most people should shy away from buying common plecos. Although they are interesting fish to keep in an aquarium, they won’t be easy to care for if you’re a beginner.

You should expect this fish to live between 10 and 15 years. It will be necessary to care for the fish really well if you want it to live this long, though.

If you have a large fish tank, then you might want to buy some common plecos. They are truly a sight to behold, but they just aren’t practical for many fish owners due to their size.

Royal Plecos

Royal plecos are rather big fish. Expect these fish to grow to be 16 or 17 inches long at maturity.

The sheer size of the fish will make it impractical for many beginners to own. There are even some variants of the royal pleco that can grow larger.

Typically, royal plecos will live for just about 10 years in an aquarium. Depending on the quality of the care that the fish is receiving, it might live a bit longer or it could die sooner.

Only buy royal plecos if you have a large fish tank. They might not seem that big at first, but they will grow to be large enough that they will require a 100-gallon aquarium.

Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber lip plecos are very popular because they’re a bit on the small size as far as plecos go. These fish will only grow to be between five and seven inches long.

They’re really neat-looking fish, too. You’ll have an easy time taking care of rubber lip plecos as a beginner.

These fish should live between 10 and 12 years. If you’re doing your best to care for them, then they will stay alive for quite some time.

Consider rubber lip plecos to be among the most practical types of plecos to own. They’ll fit in 30-gallon fish tanks well enough, and they aren’t too hard for newcomers to care for.

Sailfin Plecos

Those who are looking for plecos that eat algae will want to consider buying sailfin plecos. These are some of the best algae eaters that you can find.

This beautiful fish will grow to be between 13 and 19 inches at maturity. Since it’s so big, you’re going to need to have a 100-gallon fish tank or you won’t be able to keep this fish in your home.

Sailfin plecos are going to live a bit longer than an average pleco fish. Expect sailfin plecos to live between 15 and 20 years in a fish tank setting.

Overall, this is a great fish to buy so long as you have the room for it. It might not be as practical for beginners who only have smaller fish tanks.

Snowball Plecos

Snowball plecos are very pretty, and they’re said to make very good community fish tank members. These black fish have large white spots that cover their bodies and fins.

They grow to be between five and a half inches and close to six and a half inches long. They’re nocturnal fish that generally keep to themselves and like to hide in caves.

These fish do well in 40-gallon fish tanks. You should have a fairly easy time caring for them overall.

You should expect snowball plecos to live between 8 and 10 years. One thing to keep in mind is that these fish are susceptible to diseases such as ich.

Butterfly Plecos

Butterfly plecos will typically live for around five years. It is possible to keep them alive for several years longer with very good care.

Some have reported that these fish have lived for seven years in a fish tank. Doing a good job of keeping the fish tank clean and feeding the fish well should allow it to survive for as long as possible.

These fish will grow to be approximately six inches long. It’s best to keep them in a 40-gallon fish tank once they reach full size.

It’s also notable that these fish need the water to stay very clean. You’ll want to keep the water properly aerated while using a good filtration system.

How Long Do Plecos Live in Captivity?

Of course, the average life span of plecos in captivity will differ depending on what type you own. The information above is what you want to focus on because it will tell you how long specific types of plecos are expected to live.

When looking at general information, plecos will live a bit less time when kept in home fish tanks. It’s said that wild plecos live longer than captive plecos.

You can expect the life span of an average pleco fish to be between 10 and 15 years. This assumes that you do a good job of taking care of the fish.

If you meet the needs of plecos and feed them properly, they can live in your fish tank for a long time. You’ll be able to keep enjoying them so long as you put the effort in.

Final Thoughts

You’ve learned a lot about plecos and how long they’re supposed to live. Depending on the type of fish that you’re caring for, the life span can differ a lot.

Some types of plecos, such as gold nugget plecos, don’t often live longer than five years. Others such as common plecos can live between 10 and 20 years.

It’s common for plecos to live longer than 10 years. Typically, the life span of the fish will depend on how well you’re caring for them.

If you’re doing a great job taking care of the fish, then it’ll probably live a bit longer. You should be able to do a good job of caring for your plecos so long as you’re willing to put the effort in.

Look up the information that you need to know about each type of fish. This will allow you to keep the water parameters in the right range while also feeding the fish properly.

Buying these fish will be a bit of a commitment. Even when buying the ones that are easy to care for, you’ll need to plan to care for them for a long time.

Anyone who wishes to own fish that will survive for quite some time will want to consider getting plecos. They’ll be fantastic additions to your fish tank.

Just remember that some of them grow to be rather large. It might not always be practical to buy the biggest types of plecos if you don’t have room for a 100-gallon fish tank or something even larger.

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Bev Doherty

Monday 14th of November 2022

i have a male pleco with white covering his eyes and some whiteish coloring on his dorsal fin. I have been treating it with melafix and pimifix and the white is still there. He is in a 75 gallon community tank with a ph of 6.8 and 78 degrees. He is 14 inches long so I can not move him to treat him and I just purchased maroxi but I am afraid to treat the others at the same time because it is a strong treatment. I have 1 red-eye tetra,6 gold-barbs 5 patchwork corys and 1 striped catfish. My pleco is 14 inches long and he is 34 years old so I don,t want to lose him. Thanks for your help, Bev. Doherty

Dawn kerr

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

How can you tell female pleco


Tuesday 14th of June 2022

Sorry for the delay. We actually have a post that covers the differences here: