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Pleco Care 101 (A Guide for Beginners)

Pleco Care 101 (A Guide for Beginners)

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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 some of the best bottom-dwelling fish that you can buy. Many people love buying plecos because of how nice they look.

Some choose to buy them because they want fish that will eat algae in the tank. Whatever your reason is for being interested in plecos, it’s important to care for them the right way.

Before buying these fish, it’ll be good to learn more about pleco care. Read on to learn everything that you need to know about to care for plecos optimally.

This will ensure that you have the easiest time possible caring for these fish. You should be able to enjoy having these fish in your tank when you understand what to expect.

What Is the Ideal Temperature for Plecos?

One of the most important things to get right for plecos is the temperature. There are several types of plecos, but they’re all pretty much going to be able to thrive in the same water temperatures.

Plecos prefer water temperatures that stay between 74 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This does mean that you’ll need a heater to keep the plecos safe.

If you allow the water to get too cool, the plecos won’t do nearly as well. It can be tough for these fish to survive for too long in cooler water.

Do your best to ensure that the heater keeps the water in the right temperature range. Your plecos should be fine so long as you are using a high-quality heater for the tank.

Ideal Pleco pH

Man Holding PH Tests for Freshwater Aquarium

Of course, the pH balance of the water is just as important as the temperature of the water. You should monitor the pH balance carefully to keep your plecos in good shape.

Generally, plecos can tolerate quite a range of pH balance settings. If you keep the pH balance somewhere between 6.5 and 7.8, you’ll do just fine.

You should be testing the water regularly to keep things safe. Remember to use a pH balance testing kit to see where things are at.

If the balance is thrown off, it can cause your plecos to experience stress. This could make them sick if you don’t fix things.

Do Plecos Need Driftwood?

Plecos like to have hiding spots in the tank. They like being able to hide during certain times of the day.

Therefore, it’d be good to have driftwood and other types of hiding spots in the tank. This will ensure that the plecos feel very comfortable.

Technically, not all plecos require driftwood, but many of them do. Driftwood is something that they will eat and it helps them to have a healthy digestive system.

It’d be good to put little caves and hiding spots in the tank as well as pieces of driftwood. The driftwood can be for helping digestion and the cave will be for hiding.

Do Plecos Need a Heater, Filter, and an Air Pump?

Plecos absolutely need a heater, filter, and an air pump. All of these pieces of equipment will be crucial when it comes to keeping the fish safe in the aquarium.

You’ll find that plecos are fish that are susceptible to low oxygen in the tank. This is why having a high-quality filter is such an important part of caring for these fish.

Air pumps also help to keep the air flow going in the tank. You want the water to be clean so that ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels won’t get too high.

A good filter helps out a lot with this. The heater is important for keeping the temperature of the water in the right range.

When you go to set up the tank, you’ll want to buy all of the necessary equipment. It isn’t a good idea to try to care for plecos without a heater, filter, or air pump.

What Do Plecos Eat?

Bristlenose Pleco Eating Algae Off of Rock

Plecos eat many different things. Some people mistakenly think that plecos eat nothing but algae.

Some plecos don’t even like algae. Certain plecos will turn away from algae if you try to give it to them.

Even plecos that do eat algae are going to need other types of food to survive. You’ll need to feed them all sorts of things to keep them healthy.

People feed plecos fish flakes, sinking nutritional pellets, veggies, frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, and many other types of fish food.

Mixing up the diet helps to ensure that the fish are getting the right nutrients. It’s recommended to give your plecos a good mixture of different foods.

Do Plecos Eat Algae in the Tank?

Many plecos do indeed eat algae in the fish tank. However, not all plecos like to eat algae.

Plecos such as vampire plecos would never dream of eating algae. So you can’t assume that any pleco that you purchase will be a good algae eater for you.

You should endeavor to choose plecos that eat algae if that’s something you want. Some plecos are very good algae eaters while some are just so-so.

It’s important to understand that plecos likely won’t keep the tank clean by themselves. You won’t be able to use plecos as an alternative to regular tank maintenance.

Will Plecos Eat Fish Poop?

A lot of people think that plecos are fish that like to eat fish poop. They seem to have gained a reputation as poop-eating fish that help to keep fish tanks clean.

This isn’t actually true at all. Plecos don’t try to eat fish poop, and they would only ever eat poop by accident.

Sometimes a pleco fish might eat some fish poop while it’s trying to suck algae off of the surface of the tank. This is just accidental, but the poop isn’t going to harm the fish or anything.

Don’t expect plecos to help you eliminate fish poop in the aquarium. If they eat fish poop, it’ll always be by accident.

It isn’t a replacement for regular water changes. You’ll need to keep doing tank maintenance to keep the fish tank clean.

Common Pleco Behavior

Plecostomus on Bottom of Community Tank

Plecos are going to hang out at the bottom of the tank since they’re bottom-dwelling fish. They’re also known to be fairly shy fish that like to hide.

These fish hide a lot, but some of the larger plecos grow out of that. Certain types of giant plecos can even be aggressive toward tank mates.

Mostly, these fish hang out near the bottom of the tank and scavenge for food. They eat algae off of the side of the tank and they’ll also eat driftwood.

It’s even normal for these fish to eat plants. As such, it can be tough to keep them in planted aquariums since they will munch all of your plants.

Do Plecos Blink?

Plecos aren’t capable of blinking because they don’t possess eyelids. Sometimes it might look as if the plecos are blinking, though.

These fish can roll their eyes in the back of their heads. When they do this, it might make it look as if they’re blinking.

You’ll need to look closer at the fish to be able to tell the difference. It’s normal to think that the fish blink when you don’t know that they don’t have eyelids.

It’s also normal for the fish to roll their eyes sometimes. Don’t worry that something is wrong when you see this happening.

Do Plecos Sleep?

Plecostomus Outside of Hiding Spot With a Couple Plecos Inside

Plecos are nocturnal fish that are far more active during the night. They spend their time sleeping during the day.

It’s typical for plecos to hide among the caves and logs during the day. Once the evening comes around, these fish will be much more active.

They will start scavenging and looking for food. If the fish seem sluggish during the day, it’s likely just because they’re resting.

Plecos are meant to sleep during the day. Don’t worry if they aren’t the liveliest fish when you’re awake.

Since they are active during the night, plecos might not be the most entertaining fish to own. You likely won’t see them doing much while you’re awake.

Do Plecos Sleep Upside Down?

Sometimes plecos will sleep upside down. You might worry that this is an indication that the pleco is sick or dead.

However, it’s pretty normal for plecos to sleep hanging upside down on a piece of driftwood. Many pleco enthusiasts have noted that their fish always sleep like this.

You’ll likely see plecos in such positions during the day. Since they sleep during the day, that’ll be the most likely time that you’ll notice them being upside down.

Don’t worry when the fish sleep upside down. It might look strange, but it isn’t unusual for plecos.

Are Plecos Nocturnal?

Yes, plecos are nocturnal fish that are more active during the night than they are during the day. During the daytime, these fish will be resting or sleeping.

They often simply hide during the day and don’t do much at all. Plecos might even seem boring to you since you’ll not likely ever see them doing much.

Since these fish are active while you’re sleeping, they might not be ideal fish if you’re looking for fun fish to observe. Regardless, many people love them.

You’ll enjoy having these fish in your tank. They are good community tank fish when you pick the right types.

Pleco Tank Setup

Plecostomus on Glass in Community Tank

Setting up a pleco tank is going to involve researching specific types of plecos. Below, you’ll learn about different types of plecos.

You’ll get information about the tank size that you’ll need for each pleco type. This should make it easier to pick out plecos that are appropriate for your home.

Some are going to be so large that they will need huge aquariums. These might not be good options for average fish tank owners.

What Types of Plecos Are There?

There are so many different types of plecos that you can buy. Some are small, whereas others are humongous.

Before deciding which plecos you want to buy, it’ll be wise to learn about your options. Plecos are similar in certain ways, but they can differ in various ways as well.

Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose plecos are perhaps the most popular plecos that you can purchase. They aren’t too big since they grow to be between four and six inches long at maturity.

These fish are among the easiest to care for. They’re beginner-friendly fish that you’ll be able to keep in 40-gallon aquariums.

Consider getting bristlenose plecos if you want to have a good time as a beginner. They’re great fish that work well in community fish tanks.

Common Plecos

Common Pleco on Driftwood in a Freshwater Tank

Common plecos are pretty much the opposite of bristlenose plecos. These are the most gigantic types of plecos that you will find.

At maturity, these fish can grow to be as long as 24 inches. They’re truly huge fish that you must keep in 100-gallon fish tanks.

Since they’re so big, they won’t be practical for most fish tank owners. Only buy these fish if you have experience caring for fish and you have enough room in your home for a very large aquarium.

Gold Nugget Plecos

Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold nugget plecos might be among the prettiest plecos that you can buy. Many love buying these fish because of how gorgeous they are.

The bright yellow spots that they have contrast nicely with their black bodies. These are fairly big fish that grow to be between 7 and 10 inches long.

The minimum tank size for gold nugget plecos is 50-gallons. If you want to keep these fish in community tanks, you’ll need a bigger tank than that.

Zebra Plecos

Zebra Pleco Laying on Aquarium Gravel

Zebra plecos are the smallest plecos that you can buy. These fish only grow to be three and a half inches long.

Since they’re tiny as far as plecos go, they can be kept in smaller tanks. You can get away with keeping zebra plecos in 30-gallon fish tanks.

They can be a bit tougher to care for than bristlenose plecos. Even so, they won’t be overly tough for beginners to get used to.

Royal Plecos

Royal Pleco

Royal plecos are big fish that grow to be seventeen inches long once they reach adulthood. They’re huge and they’ll need 125-gallon fish tanks to be able to stay in your home.

The good news is that they’re rather simple to care for. If you have enough space for a big tank, it’ll be easy enough to get used to caring for them.

These fish look very interesting, too. Their red eyes really help them to stand out.

Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber lip plecos are interesting fish that will appeal to many people. They have a good look and they’re also fairly low-maintenance fish.

They grow to be seven inches long at maturity. You’ll need at least a 30-gallon fish tank if you plan to buy a rubber lip pleco.

You can find these fish being sold in a few color variations as well. It might be worthwhile to look into the different options if you care about the aesthetic aspects of these fish.

Sailfin Plecos

Sailfin Pleco

Sailfin plecos are named as such because they have prominent fins that look like sails sticking up vertically. Sometimes these fish are sold as leopard plecos.

An average sailfin pleco will grow to be between 13 and 19 inches long. Since they’re so big, they’re going to require 100-gallon aquariums at a minimum.

They’re pretty good for beginners to care for so long as they have enough room. The sheer size of these fish might make you shy away from buying them, though.

Snowball Plecos

Multiple Snowball Plecos

You might think that snowball plecos look similar to gold nugget plecos. Although they are similar in some ways, they’re also quite different.

These fish are covered in either white or yellow spots. They can have black, gray, or brownish-red bodies.

They grow to be around six inches long at maturity. To have an ideal experience, it’s recommended to keep them in 50-gallon aquariums.

Vampire Plecos

Vampire Pleco on Driftwood in Aquarium

Vampire plecos are quite interesting because they are carnivorous plecos. These plecos only eat meaty types of food.

You’ll need to feed them foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms to keep them healthy. They’re beautiful fish that are either black or dark brown.

They even have gorgeous spots that resemble the night sky against their dark bodies. They’re often sold as galaxy plecos.

You’ll need a 40-gallon aquarium for these fish since they grow to be nine inches long. They’re okay for beginners but better for those with intermediate experience.

Butterfly Plecos

Butterfly Pleco

Butterfly plecos are very interesting types of plecos because they’re known to change color. They can change colors in a similar fashion to chameleons.

These fish wind up matching the color of the substrate. Some who buy butterfly plecos like to pick beautiful light-colored substrate materials to make the fish really stand out.

Overall, these fish are great options for most fish enthusiasts. These fish grow to be six inches long at adulthood, and that makes them very practical fish to own.

They should be able to live in 40-gallon fish tanks and thrive. Don’t hesitate to buy these gorgeous fish if you’re interested in getting plecos that aren’t overly large.

Can Plecos Live Together?

It isn’t usually a good idea to keep many plecos together in the same tank. For most types of plecos, it’s recommended to keep no more than two of them in the same aquarium.

Larger plecos are often quite aggressive. Since they can become territorial, it’ll be difficult to keep them in the same tank without encountering issues.

It’s usually okay to keep one male and one female in the same tank. Of course, you’ll need to ensure that the tank is big enough or things won’t go smoothly.

Some smaller plecos can be kept in slightly larger groups. Bristlenose plecos can be kept in groups of two to five without encountering problems.

You’ll just need to give them a large enough fish tank and they will do fine together. It’s also fine to keep these fish alone if that sounds more convenient to you.

Keeping Plecos as Community Tank Fish

Pleco in Community Tank

Keeping plecos as community tank fish can work out well. Some fish such as bristlenose plecos and zebra plecos make great tank mates for many freshwater fish.

Larger plecos such as royal plecos and common plecos are a bit different. These are larger fish that can be territorial and aggressive.

They can still be kept in community tanks, but you’ll need to be careful. No matter what types of plecos you’re interested in, it’s important to pick compatible tank mates for them.

Always keep the size of the aquarium in mind, too. You never want to keep plecos in tanks that are too small.

So long as you keep this in mind, it’ll be easy to find good tank mates for the fish. Buy a big enough tank and give the fish enough space to spread out.

Plecos will be great additions to many community tanks. Many plecos are incredibly calm fish that simply mind their own business and stay at the bottom of the tank.

Final Thoughts

You should now have a good understanding of what it takes to care for plecos. You’ve learned a lot about what care requirements these fish have.

How you’re supposed to care for plecos might differ a bit depending on what type of fish you buy. Since there are so many different types of plecos, it makes sense that you should learn about the specific type that you have.

Do your best to take care of the water parameters while keeping the aquarium clean. Feed the fish appropriate foods that will meet their nutritional needs.

This will ensure that the fish are able to thrive under your care. If you put in the effort, you’ll have a good time keeping plecos in your home aquarium.

They can even be good community tank fish. Just be sure to pick out appropriate tank mates for them.

Now that you know everything that you need to know about caring for plecos, you can decide which ones you’d like to buy. Some might appeal to you while others might seem impractical.

Just be honest about your situation and make the best choice for your home. Have fun with the plecos.

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