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Full Pleco Breeding Guide (Everything You Need to Know)

Full Pleco Breeding Guide (Everything You Need to Know)

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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.

You likely love plecos if you’re keeping them in your tank. These are fun fish that look really nice in your aquarium.

Perhaps you’d like to get more plecos for the tank. Is it possible to breed these fish in captivity?

Continue reading to learn everything that you need to know about breeding plecos. You’ll learn about how these fish breed and what you need to do to try to successfully breed them in your tank.

Once you’ve learned everything, it’ll be easier to get good results. You should be able to enjoy baby plecos in your fish tank if everything goes right.

Do Plecos Lay Eggs?

Yes, female plecos are going to lay eggs when it’s time for them to breed. These are fish that lay eggs and they are not live-bearing fish.

Plecos are fish that lay their eggs in caves. Thus, you’re going to need to have a breeding cave in the tank for the plecos to do their normal mating rituals.

They will not mate unless they have a suitable cave or something that can be substituted for a cave. Often, people will place garden pots in their fish tanks so that plecos can use them as caves.

Simply turn the pots on their sides and they should make decent breeding caves for the plecos. You can also buy a pleco cave for the aquarium from a pet store.

What Do Pleco Eggs Look Like?

Bristlenose Catfish Eggs

It’s interesting to note that pleco eggs are fairly large. The eggs will usually be between two- and four-millimeter large, orange balls.

They’re round, orange, and laid in clutches. Depending on the species of pleco fish that you’re dealing with, there can be anywhere between 10 and 300 eggs.

You might not ever see the eggs, though. If things go as planned, then all of the eggs will stay in the cave where the male pleco fish is protecting them.

Occasionally, a male pleco might accidentally push a few of the eggs out of the cave. That’s when you might get a look at them.

How Do Plecos Mate?

As mentioned earlier, plecos are going to mate inside of caves. When the time is right, you’ll notice the male pleco fish spending more time in and around the cave.

The female fish will also start spending more time near the cave. You might see that the male pleco will be breathing faster and trying to show off for the female.

Eventually, the two plecos will enter the cave together. They will go through their mating ritual inside of the cave.

After some time has passed, there will be eggs in the cave. After the two fish have done the deed, the male is going to kick the female out of the cave.

You see, male plecos are responsible for caring for the eggs. The male can’t care for the eggs properly unless the female gets out of the cave.

The male will then look after the eggs and protect them until they have hatched. This is the basic information about how plecos breed.

How Often Do Plecos Breed?

Two Green Phantom Plecos on Sand in Aquarium

Plecos need to reach a certain age before they will be able to breed. Once plecos are around a year old, they’ll be mature enough to breed.

They lay a lot of eggs at once, too. So just one time breeding might produce hundreds of eggs.

The breeding pair has the potential to keep breeding every two weeks. You’ll need to make the conditions right to try to coax them to breed, though.

Many types of plecos can breed so often that it’ll be easy to have many baby plecos in your tank. Of course, you need to know how to do things right to get the best results when breeding plecos in your aquarium.

How Many Babies Do Plecos Have?

How many babies plecos will have at once will depend on various factors. Some plecos are going to lay more eggs at once than others.

A pleco fish can lay as few as 10 eggs at once. Some fish will lay hundreds of eggs at once, though.

It’s possible for dozens or hundreds of baby plecos to hatch. Of course, it’s not likely that all of the eggs that are laid by the fish will wind up hatching.

You should also know that the size of the fish can influence how many eggs it will lay. Larger plecos lay more eggs at once, and more mature plecos will lay more eggs due to being larger as well.

Of course, older plecos are also less fertile than younger plecos. It’s worth knowing that plecos will continue to breed until they die.

How to Breed Plecos

Two Snowball Plecos

Breeding plecos is generally considered to be easy. Many types of plecos are easy to breed, but that might not be the case for every type of pleco fish.

It’s a good idea to look up specific information about the types of plecos that you own. This will ensure that you understand what to expect.

The information below will give you a general idea of what you need to do to breed plecos. This will allow you to enjoy good results when breeding these fish in your home aquarium.

So long as you follow the right steps, it should be easy to keep breeding plecos. You might wind up with more plecos than you’ll know what to do with.

Put the Plecos in a Breeding Tank

Ideally, you’re going to want to put the plecos in a separate tank. Take your breeding pair and put them in their own breeding tank where they won’t be bothered.

You’ll be able to easily adjust the temperature of the tank to encourage breeding. Also, they’ll be able to focus on breeding instead of feeling threatened by other fish.

Some types of plecos will certainly try to breed even in a community tank setting. If they have a cave, then they might try to breed, and things could go fine.

However, it’s just safer for you to do things in a proper breeding tank. It’s easy enough to set up a separate tank for the fish, and it’ll make it more likely that the fish will successfully breed.

Ensure That the Plecos Have a Cave

Plecostomus Outside of Hiding Spot With a Couple Plecos Inside

Ensuring that the plecos have a cave where they can breed will be the first big step. You will want to either go buy a pleco cave from the pet store or make one of your own.

The easiest thing to do will be to buy one. You need to ensure that the cave is large enough that the plecos will be able to use it for mating purposes.

Pleco caves should be big enough for the male with a bit of extra room, but they shouldn’t be too big. The male needs to be able to block the entrance to the cave so that it can protect the eggs.

When plecos mate, the female will enter the cave and the male will then trap the female in the cave. It usually takes a few hours for the mating process to finish.

Once the eggs have been laid, the male will chase the female out of the cave. It’ll fertilize the eggs and then guard them until they hatch.

Encouraging Plecos to Breed

Getting plecos to breed will usually involve encouraging them by manipulating the temperature of the water. In the wild, plecos will breed when the water gets a bit cooler.

You can get the plecos to want to breed by lowering the temperature in the tank. Lowering the temperature of the water too fast can be bad for the fish, though.

It’s best to lower the temperature a little bit each day until it reaches the ideal breeding temperature. This should get the plecos to start breeding.

Many enthusiasts say that the ideal breeding temperature is between 77 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If you take the time to do this, then it should help them to start breeding.

Another thing that might help some plecos start breeding is feeding them specific types of food. It’s said that feeding certain types of plecos live foods will encourage the females to lay more eggs.

There are plecos that don’t need to be coaxed to breed, though. Bristlenose plecos are going to breed very easily and don’t require much encouragement at all.

Breeding Takes a Lot of Energy

Of course, breeding does require a lot of energy. If the fish aren’t eating enough, then they might not be as motivated to breed.

Most enthusiasts recommend feeding plecos a high protein diet when you’re trying to get them to breed. Males really need to be fed well before breeding because they don’t leave the eggs until they hatch.

So it’s worth putting some effort into feeding the fish. This helps to ensure that they stay as healthy as possible so that they can keep breeding for you.

How Long Do Pleco Eggs Take to Hatch?

Thermometer in a Fish Tank

It’s going to take several days for the eggs to hatch. Typically, pleco eggs will take between 3 and 10 days to hatch.

Exactly how long it will take the eggs to hatch will depend on the species. Some types of plecos lay eggs that take longer to hatch than others.

It’s notable that higher water temperatures can help eggs to hatch faster. You’ll just want to keep your eyes open to see how long it takes the eggs to hatch.

When the eggs do finally hatch, the fry will live off of the yolk sack for several days longer. Pleco fish fry live off of the yolk sack for between 5 and 10 days after hatching.

Should You Pull the Pleco Eggs?

Some choose to pull the pleco eggs and care for them by themselves. You might choose to separate the pleco fish from the eggs.

If the male pleco is eating the eggs, then this might be a good idea. However, male plecos generally do a very good job of caring for the eggs.

This is part of what makes plecos so easy to breed. You don’t really have to do much to find success.

You really only want to pull the eggs if the male isn’t doing a good job. The male will likely get better and better as it continues to spawn with its mating partner.

It’d be better to pull the fry out of the tank to raise them in a breeder box. To pull the fry out of the tank, try to scare the male out of the cave.

It might be necessary to pull the male out, but it’ll probably move out of the cave if you attempt to coax it out. You then place the fry in the breeder box where they can be raised safely.

You don’t need to feed the fry until after they’re done feeding off of the yolk sack. Keep this in mind so that you don’t make mistakes.

How to Care for Pleco Fish Fry

Caring for pleco fish fry won’t be too tough overall. They eat off of the yolk sack for 5 to 10 days, and then you can start feeding them after that.

Once you’re able to start feeding them, you’ll need to give them small pellets or cut-up pieces of vegetables. These are some of the easiest fish fry to care for overall.

Some types of pleco fry will take longer to grow than others. For example, bristlenose pleco fish fry stay small for the first three months.

They will remain under one inch in length and then hit a growth spurt after that period. By the time they reach six months old, they might be close to four inches long.

Do Plecos Eat Their Fry?

Generally, plecos aren’t going to eat their own fry. Some fish do this regularly, but it’s not typical for plecos to eat their young.

Plecos will only eat their fry if they are dead or if something is wrong with them. Otherwise, they leave them alone.

This means that you don’t necessarily need to separate the fry from the parents if you don’t want to. Many people allow the pleco parents to stay in the tank with the fry.

You can decide how you want to go about doing things. If you want to encourage the parents to keep breeding every few weeks, then raising the fry in a separate tank might be the way to go.

Can Plecos Spawn in Community Tanks?

Pleco in Community Tank

Yes, plecos can spawn in community tanks. In fact, it’s pretty common for bristlenose plecos to spawn in community tanks so long as they have a cave that they can utilize.

The downside to doing this is that it can put the eggs at risk. Male plecos will protect the eggs to the best of their abilities.

However, some of the other fish in the community tank might cause problems. They might try to eat the eggs or otherwise bother the plecos.

This is why it’s recommended to place the breeding pair of plecos in their own sequestered tank. It simply makes it so that they can breed in peace without having to worry about issues with other fish.

Final Thoughts

Breeding plecos has the potential to be very satisfying overall. You should be able to enjoy great results if you follow the advice above.

The easiest thing to do is to place the breeding plecos in a breeding tank. This ensures that they can focus on breeding, and you’ll be more likely to see the eggs hatch without encountering problems.

Plecos are fish that lay eggs in caves. You’re going to need to have some type of cave in the tank where the two plecos can breed.

The cave is supposed to be big enough for the male with a bit of extra space. The male and female will mate in the cave, and then the male will kick the female out.

You’ll see the male pleco fish protecting the eggs in the cave. It’ll look after them until they have hatched. The eggs should hatch sometime between 3 and 10 days after being laid.

After the eggs have hatched, the pleco fish fry will subsist by eating the yolk from the egg sac. They will keep doing this for 5 to 10 days.

It’s only necessary to feed the pleco fish fry after they are done with the yolk. Once you start feeding them, you’ll be giving them foods such as small pellets and cut-up pieces of vegetables.

Since male plecos look after their young, you don’t need to separate them from the eggs or the fry. Generally, plecos won’t eat the eggs or the fry.

Plecos will be able to breed every two weeks or so. It is necessary for the male to recover after breeding since it spends so much time looking after the eggs.

Now that you know all of this, it should make it easy for you to breed these fish. You understand how the process goes and it’ll be simple enough to set up a breeding tank for your plecos.

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Wednesday 26th of April 2023

EDIT: I believe i was wrong about the type of plecos i have. They are sailfin plecos. My apologies. When i got them the store said they were common plecos but that does not appear to be the case. They look exactly like the sailfins and not much like the commons at all.


Wednesday 26th of April 2023

I am curious if plecos will breed in a community tank with a red eared slider turtle, a very large common goldfish, some minnows, and a gang of small snails? The turtle has grown up with these plecos so he doesnt mess with them at all and he only has the minnows and the goldfish in the tank because they were gotten when they were very small and were meant to be snacks and he never tried to eat them. They have all lived together for nearly a year now with no casualties. I will be moving them into a larger tank in the next month and giving the plecos a more suitable cave (probably an undergravel type cave or tunnel) that the turtle wouldnt be able to fit in since the one they have now is open on both sides and not very private. Sometimes they like to hide during the day so i want them to have a space where they can do that if they want. I also am looking for a more complete guide to their dietary needs but having issues finding something more indepth. They are common plecos, one is around 4 inches long and the other is near 6 inches long. I know they absolutely love bloodworms and they seem to like the wafers. I gave them a skinned grape cut into pieces today and they went nuts for it, so im pretty sure grapes are now an occasional menu item. I just am curious to know if that is ok to feed them or if there are any fresh foods that wouldnt be ok for them to have. I know they cant have processed stuff at all. But that fruits and veggies are ideal, so i am looking for information on what fruits and veggies they can have and if any (aside from iceberg lettuce) are off limits for them. Any information or advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you so much.

Also, how can i tell if they are male or female?