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5 Clear Signs of a Stressed Pleco

5 Clear Signs of a Stressed Pleco

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

Generally, plecos are considered to be fairly easy fish to care for. Many of the most common types of plecos are beginner-friendly fish.

You can still make mistakes when taking care of them, though. If you aren’t careful, you could cause the fish to become stressed.

Stressed fish will be more susceptible to disease. If you’re worried that your fish is stressed, you might be wondering what the signs of stress are.

Read on to learn about the signs of a stressed pleco. This will show you what might happen if your plecos truly become stressed in your fish tank.

1 – Hiding

Plecostomus Outside of Hiding Spot With a Couple Plecos Inside

One of the most common signs that a pleco has become stressed is hiding. Hiding is normal for plecos, but excessive hiding might be a sign that the fish is stressed.

Typically, plecos will hide during the day because they’re nocturnal fish. They’ll still swim around sometimes and probably won’t hide all the time.

If your plecos are hiding and won’t seem to come out no matter what, it’s a sign that something is amiss. Will the plecos come out when it’s time to eat or do they just stay in their hiding spots?

It could be that the plecos are unhappy or they might be scared of something in the tank. Since plecos are common additions to community fish tanks, it makes sense that the fish might be scared of their tank mates.

Putting plecos in a tank with aggressive fish that they aren’t compatible with won’t be a good idea. They could get bullied and hurt when you don’t take the time to research the compatibility of all of the fish in the aquarium.

Never put incompatible fish in the same tank. Some of your fish could wind up dying.

2 – Glass Surfing

Plecostomus Swimming Upwards in a Planted Tank

Glass surfing is another sign of stress that you need to be aware of. This is a term that refers to fish swimming up and down the glass of the fish tank.

When fish do this, it’s a sign that they are looking to escape. Typically, fish only start glass surfing when they’re very unhappy with the state of the fish tank.

It could be a sign that the water conditions are wrong for the fish. Or they might be unhappy due to being forced to live in a cramped environment.

Either way, glass surfing shows you that your fish wants out. The fish is looking for a way to get to better waters.

Of course, the fish doesn’t fully comprehend that it’s stuck in a fish tank. When you see any of your fish glass surfing, it’ll be wise to consider what is wrong with the tank.

You might wish to test the water quality and see how things are going. It might be necessary to clean the fish tank better or make other changes so that the plecos can thrive under your care.

3 – Strange Swimming Patterns

Plecostomus Resting on Leaf in Planted Tank

Sometimes plecos will start swimming erratically when they’re stressed. It could be that the plecos are having a hard time in some way.

Often, fish will swim unusually when something is wrong in the tank. The water might be too dirty and it’s throwing the plecos for a loop.

The fish could be stressed due to overcrowding in the fish tank as well. You should try to figure out what’s wrong if the fish aren’t swimming as they normally do.

Of course, swimming strangely can also be tied to conditions such as swim bladder disease. If you see your fish swimming in circles or swimming upside down, it’s more likely that it has some type of swim bladder problem.

4 – Color Fading

Pleco at Bottom of Tank With Fading Colors

Another important sign of stress to know about involves the color of the pleco fading. If a pleco starts losing color, it’s a sign that it’s not doing well.

There are some plecos that can change color under normal conditions. For example, the butterfly pleco can change its color to match the substrate.

Not all plecos are like this. Typically, when a plecos color starts to fade it’s a sign that it’s stressed. There is some source of stress in the aquarium that’s making it tough for the pleco to live normally.

It’s up to you to determine what is causing the stress. Once you’ve figured it out, you can take steps to fix the issue so that the plecos in the tank can do better.

5 – Lack of Appetite

Plecostomus Resting at the Bottom of a Tank

It’s possible that the plecos might stop eating if they’re very stressed. When fish get very stressed they will stop doing the things that they normally do.

The pleco might seem a bit lethargic and it might not want to eat as much as it used to. In some cases, the pleco might stop eating entirely.

If the fish doesn’t seem enthusiastic about eating, it’s safe to say that it’s stressed for one reason or another. This stress could be related to so many different things.

Fish become stressed when they are forced to live in overcrowded fish tanks. They also get stressed when they aren’t being fed the right types of food.

You might want to consider whether you’re feeding the plecos properly. Remember that not all plecos like to eat algae.

Even those that do eat algae will need other types of food to supplement their diets. You are supposed to give plecos a balanced diet that will help them to stay healthy.

It’s also notable that some types of plecos such as the vampire pleco are carnivorous. These fish only eat meaty foods such as shrimp and bloodworms.

What Should You Do to Fix Things?

View of a Large Planted Community Aquarium

Fixing problems with stress will mostly involve recognizing what is going wrong in the tank. You’ll have to first acknowledge that you’re not doing certain things right.

There are many common mistakes that pleco owners make when they’re getting used to caring for the fish. You might not be monitoring the water parameters properly.

It’s important to ensure that you keep the water temperature and pH balance of the tank in the right range for the fish that you’re caring for. Each type of pleco is going to have preferred water parameters.

These fish can suffer when the water gets too dirty, too. This is why it’s imperative to clean the fish tank regularly.

You’ll also want to do regular water changes to keep the water from getting too dirty. Ideally, you should be doing weekly water changes of 15%.

Try to make sure that the fish tank is the right size as well. Some plecos are rather large and require big fish tanks to be able to live properly.

You never want to stuff the aquarium with too many fish either. Plecos need enough space and they should be placed in large tanks if you wish to put together a community aquarium.

Always research compatibility when adding fish to the community fish tank. You must ensure that all of the fish that you put in the tank will get along for safety purposes.

It’s also important to give the fish the right types of food. Feeding the fish the right foods will keep it healthy and ensure that it won’t get stressed due to improper nutrition.