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7 Signs Your Pleco Is Dying and Needs Attention

7 Signs Your Pleco Is Dying and Needs Attention

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.

You want to do the best job that you can while caring for plecos. These are great fish and you want them to thrive under your care.

If your plecos don’t seem to be doing so well, then you’re probably disheartened. You might even be concerned that the plecos are dying if things are going particularly bad.

What are some signs that your pleco is dying? Is there a way to tell if a pleco fish is about to die?

Read on to learn about things to look out for that show that your plecos might be dying. You’ll also learn about why plecos might die so that you might be able to turn things around moving forward.

What Are the Signs?

There are actually many signs that show you that plecos are in rough shape. Knowing what signs to look out for might allow you to turn things around before it’s too late.

Below, you’ll see some of the common signs that show that your pleco fish might be dying. You’ll also get a bit of information about why these signs are occurring.

1 – Loss of Color

Pale Pleco

Loss of color is a common sign that something is wrong with your plecos. If your plecos seem to be losing color rapidly, then it’s a sign that they’re dying or getting very sick.

Typically, loss of color is associated with poor tank conditions. The water might be dirty or the parameters could be way off of what they should be.

It’s also possible that plecos will lose color when experiencing significant stress. Check to see if anything is causing the fish stress.

Poor nutrition might cause loss of color as well. Ensure that you’re feeding the fish appropriately.

2 – Rotting Fins

Rotting fins is a sign that your fish have some type of bacterial infection. Most likely, the fish have fin rot due to poor water conditions in the tank.

When the water quality is poor, it’ll weaken the immune system of the plecos. This makes it easier for them to get bacterial infections.

This situation can be turned around if you act fast. Fix issues with the water quality and give the fish antibacterial treatments.

3 – Lethargy

Pleco Laying Still

Are you noticing that your fish doesn’t have a lot of pep? Perhaps it seems lethargic and it might even be laying on its side.

Sometimes fish will get like this when they’re sick. It’s a sign that something is wrong, and you might need to make some changes.

Check the water quality and try to fix anything that is wrong. You might need to do a better job of doing regular water changes.

Fixing the water conditions will usually be enough to get the fish to become more active again. Leaving things alone could cause the fish to die.

4 – Cloudy Eyes

Cloudy eyes will be a sign that the fish is being kept in bad water. Water quality problems will sometimes cause plecos to develop a condition known as cloudy eye.

One or both eyes might wind up being covered by a white or gray slime. This can make it very tough for the fish to swim around normally.

You might notice the pleco fish swimming erratically. Try to fix this issue by isolating the fish and fixing issues with the water quality.

Injury and stress can also cause cloudy eye issues. Make sure that you don’t have improper tank mates in the fish tank with your plecos.

5 – Abdominal Swelling

Abdominal swelling typically means that the fish has some type of internal infection. It could also mean that the fish is constipated, though.

Fixing constipation issues will be easy. You can feed the fish foods that are high in fiber to clear it up.

Infections can be remedied by giving the fish medications. It’s wise to isolate the fish during the treatment process by setting up a quarantine tank.

Poor conditions in the tank can contribute to infections. You might need to address water quality issues.

6 – White Spots on the Body

Snakeskin Barb With Ich or White Spot Disease
Snakeskin Barb With Ich or White Spot Disease

White spots on the body can be seen as signs of ich. Ich is a condition that involves the fish being infected by parasites.

This parasitic infection causes white spots to appear all over the fish. It’s very uncomfortable for the plecos, and they might rub against objects in the tank in an attempt to find relief.

Both stress and poor water quality can make it more likely that the fish will get infected. Keeping an eye on the water parameters and cleaning the tank regularly will help to prevent things like this from happening.

Ich can be treated by using medication that will get rid of the infection. You’ll also need to fix issues with water quality in the tank while solving stress problems.

7 – Popeye

Popeye can be caused by a few things. Poor water conditions, bacterial infections, and even injuries have been known to make this happen.

If an injury is to blame, then it might get better on its own if you keep feeding the fish and monitoring the tank conditions carefully. If the water condition and bacterial infections caused the situation, then you’ll need to fix those problems.

When you don’t treat this disease, it can cause the fish to lose vision or even lose the eye. As you can tell, it’s important to treat things as soon as you can.

Isolate the fish and then treat it to try to get the swelling to go down. Often, people use aquarium salt to treat this issue, but you can always consult an exotic veterinarian if you have questions.

Why Do My Plecos Keep Dying?

pH Test Strips for Aquarium

If you have plecos that just keep dying in your fish tank, then you probably aren’t caring for them properly. There’s a good chance that you’re not doing regular tank maintenance.

The signs above have a lot of things in common. Most of them can be caused by poor water conditions in the tank.

You need to monitor the water parameters to keep things in check. If you aren’t regularly testing the water using a pH balance testing kit, then you’re going to have a harder time keeping the fish alive.

It’s also imperative to regularly clean the fish tank. When the fish tank stays dirty, it’s going to cause stress to the fish, and that will make them sick.

Regular water changes are an important part of fish tank maintenance. You should be changing 15% of the water on a weekly basis.

Nutrition might be playing a role in the fish dying as well. You need to feed the fish the right type of food to keep them alive and healthy.

You might even be making the mistake of thinking that plecos can subsist entirely on algae in the tank. This typically isn’t the case, and some plecos don’t even eat algae.

Why Are My Baby Plecos Dying?

Taking care of baby plecos can be challenging in some ways. If you’re not taking good care of the tank, then the fish might die.

Baby plecos have been known to die when the water temperature fluctuates too much. If the temperature of the water gets too low, then that could kill them.

You might not be feeding them enough either. They love to eat, and you should try to feed them as much as you can.

Of course, some of the fish might simply have genetic issues. It isn’t uncommon for some baby plecos to die even if you’re doing your best to care for them.

Do Plecos Play Dead?

Pleco Upside Down

Many enthusiasts say that plecos will “play dead” sometimes. You might see a pleco fish laying at the bottom of the tank motionless.

Sometimes the fish might even be upside down. This will make you assume that it’s dead.

However, if you tap the fish tank, it’ll likely spring up and start swimming. If it doesn’t move if you try to touch it, then it’s truly dead.

Is My Pleco Dead?

You can tell if a pleco is dead by looking to see if it’s breathing. Are its gills moving or does it appear to be motionless?

If it truly isn’t moving at all, then there is a good chance that the fish is dead. Of course, it’ll be prudent to try to touch the fish to see if it moves.

Touch the fish and see if you can get it to spring up. If there is no reaction, then the fish is truly dead.

My Pleco Died Overnight

What does it mean when a pleco fish dies overnight? Does this mean that something happened during the night?

It could simply be that the pleco fish succumbed to an illness during the night. A fish dying during the night doesn’t necessarily indicate that something happened the very night that it died.

The fish could have been on the verge of death for some time. There is a possibility that something happened in the tank, though.

For example, a temperature fluctuation could have killed the fish. Perhaps the heater stopped working and the water temperature dipped far too low.

Fish could die due to being bullied by other fish as well. If the plecos are in a community fish tank, then it’ll be important to ensure that they are kept only with compatible tank mates.

Plecos Dying Due to Malnutrition

Pleco Spirulina Wafer

It’s very plausible that plecos can die due to not being fed properly. Malnutrition can make plecos get sick, and they will certainly die if you don’t feed them enough.

Many people mistakenly think that plecos don’t need to be fed. Some even buy them specifically to try to keep the fish tank clean.

The assumption is that plecos will simply eat the algae in the tank. Although some plecos do like to eat algae, not all of them do.

There are even plecos that are considered to be carnivorous. Vampire plecos need to be fed meaty foods such as shrimp and snails.

Even the tiny three-inch long zebra plecos are carnivores. They like to eat shrimp and bloodworms.

Plecos that like to eat algae such as bristlenose plecos will need to be fed as well. Do your best to give your plecos the right food based on what is recommended for their species.

Final Thoughts

You’ve learned so much about signs that your plecos are dying. There are many things to consider, and you don’t want to ignore signs that your fish are in trouble.

If you catch some of the signs early enough, then it’ll be possible to turn everything around. Many conditions that have the potential to kill plecos can be fixed with the right treatments.

Ich is something that can be cured if you catch it in time. Problems such as fin rot and pop eye can be dealt with so that the fish can get better.

Of course, it’s often human error that causes plecos to die in fish tanks. People don’t monitor the water parameters closely enough, which winds up killing the fish.

Issues with water quality can stress the fish and make them sick. Very bad water conditions might even directly kill the fish.

Do your best to determine what is wrong with the fish. Start looking closely at the water parameters so that you can keep the fish safe.

Remember to do regular tank maintenance. Clean the fish tank and regularly change the water to keep things clean.

You should be able to keep plecos alive for many years with proper care. The average life expectancy of plecos is between 10 and 15 years.

If you can learn how to care for these fish properly, then they shouldn’t be dying fast. They should be living for a very long time under your care.

All you need to do is solve the issues that are making the fish sick. It could be related to water quality, malnutrition, or even other things in the tank that are causing the fish stress.

Moving forward, it should be easier to look out for problems with the fish. You’ll be able to fix things before they get bad so that your fish will stay alive.