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The Best Pleco Tank Size (By Type)

The Best Pleco Tank 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.

No matter what type of fish you’re looking into purchasing, it’s imperative to put them in a tank that’s big enough. Fish won’t do well if you try to cram them into a tank that is too small for them.

This is certainly true for pleco fish. Plecos are popular fish that occupy the bottom areas of fish tanks.

If you’re planning to buy plecos sometime soon, then you’ll need to be sure that you have a big enough fish tank. There are different types of plecos out there, and all of them are going to be different in size.

Keep reading to learn about various types of plecos and what tank size they require. This will ensure that you can care for the fish properly.

Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose plecos might be the most popular type that you can find at pet stores. These plecos are of a reasonable size, and that makes it more practical to own them.

These fish grow to be between four and six inches long. At this size, they’ll be able to do well in 40-gallon fish tanks.

If you want to keep many of them in the same tank, then you might want a slightly larger tank. One great thing about buying bristlenose plecos is that they’re beginner-friendly.

These are hardy fish that are quite easy to care for. They’ll be great fish to buy for a community fish tank, too.

Gold Nugget Plecos

Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold nugget plecos are pretty big fish. They grow to be nine and a half inches long at maturity.

You’ll need to have a 75-gallon fish tank or larger if you want to care for these plecos. They’re also slightly harder to care for than beginner-friendly options such as bristlenose plecos.

For many, it’ll be well worth taking the time to care for this fish. Gold nugget plecos are truly beautiful fish.

They have dark brown bodies and golden dots all over their bodies. Gold nugget plecos will be fun fish to own so long as you have the space for a 75-gallon fish tank.

Zebra Plecos

Zebra Pleco Laying on Aquarium Gravel

Zebra plecos are some of the smallest plecos out there. This means that they’re good to purchase for those who want plecos that will thrive in smaller fish tanks.

A zebra pleco fish will only grow to be three inches long. Since it’s small, it’ll be fine to keep it in a 20-gallon fish tank.

There’s a good chance that you’ll love the way that these fish look. The stripes on the fish make them resemble zebras.

Interestingly, these fish are carnivorous despite being so small. They enjoy eating meaty foods such as shrimp and bloodworms.

Clown Plecos

Clown plecos are pretty small as far as plecos go. They’re just a bit larger than the zebra plecos mentioned above.

You’ll find that these fish grow to be between three and a half and four inches long. They’re very easy to care for, and that makes them excellent for beginners.

Keeping clown plecos in 30-gallon fish tanks will be just fine. They’ll be able to do well in tanks of that size.

These fish are neat to look at, but they aren’t good to buy if you’re looking for a fish to clean up algae. They eat algae a little bit, but they’re better purchased for aesthetic purposes.

Common Plecos

Common Pleco on Driftwood in a Freshwater Tank

Common plecos are gigantic fish by most standards. There’s a good chance that you will find this fish to be too large for your home aquarium.

It can grow to be between 18 and 24 inches long once it reaches adulthood. Since it’s so big, it won’t be possible to keep it in a small or modest fish tank.

These fish require large 100-gallon fish tanks to thrive. You’ll need to ensure that you have enough space to house such a large aquarium before you commit to buying common plecos.

Common plecos are herbivores, but they’re a little harder to take care of than some plecos. They aren’t delicate fish, but they aren’t the best options for beginners either.

Royal Plecos

Royal Pleco

Royal plecos are among the biggest plecos that you will find people keeping in home aquariums. They’re fish that grow to be between 16 and 17 inches long.

Since they’re so big, they’re going to require 100-gallon fish tanks. This makes them fish that will only appeal to those who are very dedicated to the hobby.

If you have a huge fish tank, then you might be interested in buying some royal plecos. Just know that they’re not great options for beginners.

They’re stunning fish that will be a lot of fun to observe. They also like to eat algae in fish tanks, which can be a nice perk of owning them.

Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber lip plecos are small enough to be practical for many types of fish tank enthusiasts. These fish will grow to be seven inches long.

They actually look a lot like the common plecos, but they’re a lot easier to keep in your home aquarium. You’ll be able to keep these fish in 55-gallon fish tanks.

These fish will eat algae at least a little bit, but that won’t be enough to sustain them. You’ll need to give these omnivores meaty foods from time to time to keep them healthy.

Many say that rubber lip plecos are very cool to look at. If you’re interested in owning an aesthetically pleasing fish, then look into buying some rubber lip plecos.

Sailfin Plecos

Sailfin Pleco

Sailfin plecos are another huge type of pleco fish that you will want to know about. These fish grow to be between 13 and 19 inches long.

As you likely suspect, these fish need a large fish tank to be able to thrive in a home aquarium. You’ll need to give them a 100-gallon fish tank or larger to keep them healthy.

These fish are well-known for having large dorsal fins. The dorsal fin is quite tall and that’s how this fish got its name.

It’s easy to care for sailfin plecos so long as you give them a big enough tank. You will need to monitor the water parameters closely as well, but they’re good fish for those who have large aquariums that can house them.

Snowball Plecos

Snowball Pleco

Snowball plecos are medium-sized fish that grow to be between five and a half inches and just under six and a half inches long. These are omnivores that you’ll love having in your fish tank.

These fish live to be at least eight years old in captivity. Often, they will live to be 10 years old, but it depends on how well you care for them.

A snowball pleco should do well in a 40-gallon fish tank. Depending on how many you wish to own, you might want to go with something larger.

These are hardy fish that are also quite pretty. They’ll be beautiful additions to a community fish tank if you choose to buy some.

Vampire Plecos

Vampire Pleco on Driftwood in Aquarium

Vampire plecos are also sometimes called galaxy plecos. These plecos are carnivorous and that means that they like to eat meat.

It’s common for vampire plecos to eat snails and shrimp. They’re incredibly pretty and have dark brown or black bodies.

These fish also have yellow spots on their bodies that look almost like stars. They grow to be eight inches long at maturity.

Since they’re fairly big fish, they’ll need to have a tank that is big enough to house them. You should be fine if you choose to go with a 75-gallon fish tank.

Caring for these fish is a bit harder than caring for some plecos. As such, they’re not the best options for beginners.

Butterfly Plecos

Two Butterfly Plecos

Butterfly plecos are also going to be great to consider buying for your home. These fish grow to be five and a half inches long.

Since they aren’t that big overall, they’ll be practical choices for most fish tank owners. These fish can be kept in 40-gallon fish tanks easily.

They’re also very easy to care for, and this makes them great fish for beginners. Butterfly plecos even have the ability to change colors.

A butterfly pleco will look amazing in your tank. It can change its color to match the substrate so you might want to pick a pretty substrate type that has a light color.

Sunshine Plecos

Sunshine Pleco

Sunshine plecos are rather big fish, and this means that they need large fish tanks. These fish grow to be 12 inches long once they’re adults.

You’ll want to keep them in a 100-gallon fish tank to get the best results. They’re pretty fish, though, and this might make it worth looking into these plecos.

These fish have olive green bodies, and they have bright orange spots all over. It makes them very colorful, and they’ll surely stand out in your fish tank.

If you have enough room in your home for large fish like this, then sunshine plecos are among the prettiest pleco fish you can buy. It just won’t be practical for many fish tank enthusiasts who are working with less space in their homes.

How Many Plecos Per Gallon?

It isn’t really possible to tell you how many plecos can fit in a tank per gallon. As you learned above, plecos come in a variety of different sizes.

Some plecos are gigantic, whereas others are a lot smaller. Zebra plecos are only three inches long, whereas common plecos can grow to be as long as 24 inches.

As such, you’re going to need to find out what fish tank size each type of pleco fish requires. Look things up on an individual basis. You shouldn’t put too many plecos in a tank as a general rule, though.

Typically, you’re only supposed to put plecos in tanks together when they’re very young. Even then, you’re supposed to stick to just two plecos.

How Many Plecos in a 10-Gallon Tank?

There aren’t really any plecos that are small enough to fit in a 10-gallon fish tank. Therefore, zero plecos should be placed in a 10-gallon tank.

Ensure that you have enough room for plecos before you decide to purchase them. These fish usually need large fish tanks, but some will fit just fine in modest tanks.

How Many Plecos in a 20-Gallon Tank?

Zebra Pleco

The only common pleco fish that can be kept in a 20-gallon fish tank is a zebra pleco. This is a fish that grows to be three inches long.

Other types of plecos are going to be too large to keep in a 20-gallon fish tank. Even fish that are only an inch or two larger than zebra plecos will need at least a 30-gallon fish tank.

Only one zebra pleco can be kept in a 20-gallon tank. It’s also said that it’d be better to give the fish more room and keep it in a 30-gallon tank.

If you wish to keep two zebra plecos together, then you should give them a much larger tank. Some people keep plecos in groups of five or more, but you need much larger tanks to make this happen.

Pleco Minimum Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a pleco fish will depend on the species. A zebra pleco can be kept in a 20-gallon fish tank, but it’d do better in a 30-gallon fish tank.

Some plecos have a minimum tank size of 100-gallons. This means that you need to look up specific information about the species to determine the minimum tank size.

Read the information about individual types of plecos above. This will help you to determine the minimum tank size for the fish.

Can a Pleco Live in a Fishbowl?

No, plecos will not be able to live in fishbowls. Fishbowls are rather small, and some are even as small as one gallon.

There are fishbowls that might contain five gallons of space. Even those would be too small for the smallest pleco fish.

A zebra pleco requires a 20-gallon fish tank or larger. Thus, you won’t be able to make do with anything that is smaller than a 20-gallon fish tank.

Trying to force a pleco fish into a fishbowl would lead to poor results. This is not something that you should ever try to do.

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Wednesday 1st of February 2023

I have a 108 litre tank and was wondering if it would be okay for a short fin green dragon pleco or not?

As well as if the long fin green version would also be able to be in the same tank with it??

I currently only have a few nano fish so I'm not planning on being a bad owner


Saturday 3rd of December 2022

Thank you for writing articles such as this. I am a pleco aficionado and currently have a male common pleco, a female sailfin, and a female bristlenose, each in a different tank. I had two common plecos live 22 and 24 years before they died, so I appreciate that you warned people they must be committed to raise these fish.

People fail in love with my Sailfin and often get one after seeing mine. I have tried in vain to convince some to avoid the larger plecos until they have larger tanks in place. (They reassure me that they'll buy a larger tank once theirs grows a bit, but don't always follow through). In the future, I plan to give them a link to your article so that, between the two of us, we can save some poor plecos from the fate of being raised in a tank that is much too small for their massive size.


Thursday 8th of December 2022

You bring up a great point, as keeping fish in an undersized tank is an all-too-common problem. Great to hear that you're being proactive and letting people know how important it is to accommodate the future growth of plecos.