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What Do Plecos Eat? (The Best and Worst Food Options)

What Do Plecos Eat? (The Best and Worst Food Options)

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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.

Taking care of plecos shouldn’t be too tough for you if you have some experience caring for fish. In fact, many plecos are rather beginner-friendly fish.

No matter what, you’re going to want to ensure that you care for these fish right. Some people make mistakes because they assume things about plecos that aren’t true.

For example, some people think that plecos can live simply by eating the algae in the tank. It’s true that some plecos like to eat algae, but they need more food to live.

Continue reading to learn about what types of foods plecos like to eat. You’ll also learn about different types of plecos so that you’ll better understand the different care needs of these fish.

Do You Need to Feed Plecos?

You absolutely do need to feed plecos. There are no plecos out there that can subsist on only algae from the fish tank.

If you don’t feed the fish, you’re going to wind up killing them. Plecos could starve to death if you don’t feed them food.

Different types of plecos are going to have different dietary requirements. There are many types of plecos out there to consider.

Some plecos are herbivores and will only eat plants, veggies, and other such things. Others are omnivores that will eat just about anything within reason.

There are even some carnivore plecos out there that you can buy for your fish tank. Fish that are carnivores will eat meaty types of foods.

It’s important to feed plecos the appropriate foods based on their dietary requirements. As such, you’ll need to look up what each type of fish likes to eat.

Later, you’ll learn a bit about some of the popular types of plecos and what they eat. For now, you’ll learn some basic information about plecos and food based on common questions that people have.

Do Plecos Eat Algae?

Plecos Eating Algae

Many types of plecos will eat algae. Not all of them like to eat algae, though.

Bristlenose plecos are known to eat algae. So are royal plecos, butterfly plecos, and several other types of plecos.

Some fish do a good job of eating algae in the fish tank to keep things clean. Certain plecos will do a good job acting as tank cleaners, but others will just eat a bit of algae.

Either way, you can’t rely on algae to be the sole source of nutrition for the fish. Plecos will need to eat a lot more than just algae.

You should also know that many plecos won’t eat algae at all in a fish tank setting. If you want to buy plecos for the purpose of controlling algae in your fish tanks, it’s wise to do your research to get the right type of fish for the job.

Some people will feed fish algae by giving them algae rounds. Many plecos will happily eat algae rounds, but some might not be interested in them.

Just try to vary the diet of the fish. Even if the plecos that you own are herbivores, it’ll be best to give them more than just algae.

Do Plecos Eat Brown Algae?

Plecos that eat algae should also eat brown algae. However, you might not want to rely on the fish to clean the fish tank of algae.

They will help to control the algae by eating a bit of it. But a lot of brown algae might be too much for plecos to handle.

Many types of plecos are known to eat brown algae. Even the standard bristlenose plecos will eat brown algae in a fish tank setting.

You can get other types of fish that will also help to eat the algae if you want to. Remember that plecos won’t be able to live by just eating brown algae.

Do Plecos Eat Plants?

Pleco Near Plant

Plecos are known to eat plants. This can actually be a bit of a problem.

Sometimes it’s tough to keep plecos in planted aquariums because of how they munch on plants. They won’t eat every single type of plant, but they do eat a lot of different plants.

If you want to keep plants in the fish tank, it’ll be smart to choose the plants carefully. These fish like using aquarium plants as hiding spots, but you need to pick options that they won’t devour.

There are some really good plants that you can choose that these fish won’t eat. Amazon sword is one of the most popular options.

Java ferns should also work nicely in pleco fish tanks. Other options include anubias plants, jungle val plants, and java moss.

Do Plecos Eat Other Fish?

Certain types of plecos will eat other fish. However, plecos generally don’t eat healthy fish.

Some plecos that are carnivorous will eat dead or dying fish that have sunk to the bottom of the aquarium. Omnivores might also do this.

They won’t eat healthy fish for no reason. You shouldn’t have to worry about plecos becoming a problem in community tanks.

If you don’t want the plecos to eat dead fish, it’ll be wise to keep them fed properly. When fish are hungry, they will choose to eat when presented with an opportunity to do so.

Do Plecos Eat Snails?

Plecos normally don’t go after snails, but carnivorous plecos might eat them. If a pleco is hungry, it certainly will try to eat a snail if it thinks it can do so.

Some people might even try giving certain types of snails to carnivorous plecos as a snack. They might be eaten by plecos such as vampire plecos.

This doesn’t mean that snails are a standard part of a plecos diet. It’s something that some plecos might try to eat under certain circumstances.

Generally, only omnivores or carnivores would consider eating snails. You probably won’t be buying snails to give to your plecos.

Do Plecos Eat Shrimp?

Shrimp in Fish Tank

Shrimp will be a very common type of food that plecos will enjoy. Not all plecos eat meat, but omnivorous and carnivorous plecos will love eating shrimp.

Many pleco owners feed their fish shrimp regularly. You can buy freeze-dried shrimp from pet stores to give to plecos.

This will be a good source of protein for the fish. Some plecos such as vampire plecos and zebra plecos will live on a steady diet of shrimp and other meaty foods.

Omnivores love eating shrimp pellets and freeze-dried shrimp, too. This is a typical food for many types of plecos.

Do Plecos Eat Bloodworms?

Bloodworms are another normal food that omnivores and carnivores eat. If your fish likes to eat meat, it’ll enjoy being fed bloodworms.

It’s probably more common for bloodworms to be given to fish as a snack. You can buy these from the local pet store and give them to your fish on occasion.

Giving fish snacks like this will be a good way to give them protein. It’s healthy for the fish to eat bloodworms from time to time.

This isn’t a very expensive type of food either. You can buy freeze-dried bloodworms, but you can also purchase live food to feed to the fish.

Can Plecos Eat Watermelon?

There are mixed opinions on whether it’s okay to feed plecos watermelon. Many pleco owners note that their fish seem to love eating watermelon.

However, some think that it’s a bad thing to give to fish. Many types of plecos love to eat veggies, but it’s more common to give them things such as zucchini or cucumbers.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that giving plecos small pieces of watermelon will be okay. Since some say that it isn’t okay, it might be better to err on the side of caution.

Staying away from using watermelon as a food source for plecos seems like a better bet. You don’t need to feed them watermelons since there are better options out there that are known to be safe.

What Vegetables Can I Feed My Pleco?

Chopped Romaine

Plecos can eat many different types of vegetables. Of course, only herbivores and omnivores will eat vegetables.

You can give plecos a variety of different vegetables. Romaine lettuce is one of the most common types of veggies that these fish eat.

They can also be given tops of celery as well as other leafy types of veggies. These can be a great food source for herbivorous plecos.

Another common veggie that is loved by plecos is cucumber. Cucumbers can be sliced up and given to plecos as snacks.

You can do the same thing with parboiled zucchini slices. Likewise, parboiled peas are said to be good for plecos.

How Often to Feed Plecos

Most experts agree that plecos should be fed once per day. Some people choose to feed plecos every other day, though.

It should be fine either way, but many plecos will do much better if you ensure that you feed them daily. You’ll also have an easier time getting into the groove if you just fed them daily on a schedule.

You should supplement the diet of the plecos once or twice per week as well. A few times a week, you should give them treats such as cucumbers, zucchinis, and romaine lettuce.

Of course, this only applies to herbivores and omnivores. Carnivorous plecos can be given other treats such as meaty foods.

How to Feed Plecos

Feeding plecos is relatively easy. You will likely get the best results if you feed your plecos every single day.

You should feed the fish algae wafers or sinking nutritional pellets regularly. They do well if they get plenty of fiber in their diet.

Understand that many types of plecos need driftwood for digestive purposes. Driftwood is something that many plecos will nibble on all the time.

Feed carnivorous foods such as bloodworms and shrimp on a daily basis. It might be easier to give them shrimp pellets for convenience.

How to Feed Plecos Cucumber

Opening a Microwave

The best way to feed plecos cucumbers is to blanch the cucumbers first. Doing this will ensure that the cucumbers can sink to the bottom of the tank.

Blanching the cucumbers softens things. One easy method to try involves putting the cucumber slices in the microwave for 30 seconds.

You might also want to try weighing it down with pieces of driftwood. If you blanched it properly, this shouldn’t be necessary.

Plecos should eat the cucumbers up. They will like cucumbers so long as they have been cut into convenient slices.

How to Feed Plecos Zucchini

Giving plecos zucchini slices will be similar to the method for giving them cucumber slices. It’s best to place zucchini slices in a cup of water first.

Place the cup of water in the microwave. If you microwave things for between 30 seconds and one minute all should be well.

You can then drop the zucchini slices into the fish tank. They should sink and the fish will eat them up.

This will be a pretty common thing that you can give to plecos. They’ll love it so long as they’re the type of plecos that eat veggies.

How to Know If Your Pleco Is Eating Enough

You want to be sure that your pleco is getting enough food. How can you tell if your pleco is eating enough, though?

One method is to observe the pleco when you feed it. Does the pleco immediately gobble down the food when you feed it?

This could be a sign that the fish is hungrier than it should be. You might want to try feeding it a bit more than you have been.

If the pleco ignores the food, then you’re likely feeding it too much. So long as you’re feeding the fish daily, you’re probably giving it enough food to stay healthy.

Can a Pleco Eat Too Much?

Pleco Spirulina Wafer

Plecos can indeed eat too much food. You never want to overfeed your fish since it can cause various health issues.

It’s possible that plecos might die from overeating under certain circumstances. This sometimes occurs when fish eat too much protein without getting enough plant matter in their diets.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to carnivores. You should also know that when plecos eat too much, they can become constipated.

A constipated fish will wind up bloating and getting a swollen belly. This can lead to swim bladder issues that will make the fish unable to swim normally.

Usually, you can clear up constipation issues by feeding plecos peas. This makes them poop a lot.

Even knowing this, it’s best to avoid overfeeding the fish. Don’t feed the fish more than they need to eat or it’ll be bad for them.

Are Plecos Carnivorous?

Some plecos are carnivorous. Most plecos are either herbivores or omnivores.

There are a few types of plecos that are carnivorous and eat only meaty foods. The most popular and well-known pleco carnivores are vampire plecos and zebra plecos.

Interestingly, zebra plecos are rather small. Despite being the smallest plecos, they’re still meat-loving carnivores.

Carnivorous fish such as this will only eat things such as shrimp and bloodworms. They won’t eat algae or any type of plant matter.

You’ll need to buy these plecos appropriate food to keep them healthy. This is why it’s important to know about the types of plecos that you’re interested in before purchasing them.

What to Feed Pleco Fry

Pleco fry will need to be fed specific types of food while they’re small. They won’t be large enough to eat the standard types of food that you give to normal plecos.

At first, you’ll need to feed baby plecos infusoria or powdered spirulina. After some days have passed, you’ll be able to start feeding them baby brine shrimp.

The pleco fry might also eat algae sometimes. Of course, not all pleco fry will eat algae.

You need to keep looking after the pleco fry and feeding them appropriate food as they grow. Many plecos grow rather fast and will be able to eat normal food before much time has passed.

Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose plecos are herbivores that will eat pretty much whatever types of veggies are appropriate for plecos. They will eat algae in the tank, but you need to feed them other types of food, too.

Be sure to feed them veggies on occasion. You might want to give them sinking nutritional pellets and algae rounds on a daily basis.

Common Plecos

Common plecos are huge fish, but they’re still herbivores that only eat plants. They will eat algae as well as various types of veggies.

They’ll also eat plants and wood fiber. These fish grow to be 24 inches long at maturity, and that means that they might not be practical to keep in your home.

Royal Plecos

Royal Pleco

Royal plecos are fish that grow to be 17 inches long. They’re not as big as common plecos, but they’re very pretty.

These fish are also herbivores. They like to eat sunken logs and plant matter, but they’ll also eat algae in the tank.

Rubber Lip Plecos

Rubber lip plecos look like common plecos except they are a lot smaller. These fish are only seven inches long and they’re omnivores.

You can feed them a combination of veggies and meaty treats. They’ll eat a bit of algae in the fish tank, but not enough to help with cleaning the tank.

Sailfin Plecos

Sailfin Pleco

Sailfin plecos are omnivorous types of plecos. They will pretty much eat whatever they can at the bottom of the tank.

To keep them properly fed, it’ll be wise to vary their diet. Give them veggies, meaty foods, and access to driftwood.

Snowball Plecos

Snowball plecos are really pretty fish that many people love. They’re omnivores that will eat algae, veggies, and meaty foods.

You’ll love owning snowball plecos if you choose to buy some. They’re truly among the most interesting types of plecos that you’ll find.

Clown Plecos

Closeup of a Clown Pleco on Black Sand

Clown plecos are somewhat small herbivores. They only grow to be between three and a half and four inches long.

As herbivores, they will be eating plant matter. These fish mostly eat wood fiber from sunken logs, but they’ll also eat some algae in the tank.

Zebra Plecos

Zebra plecos are the smallest types of plecos that you can buy. They also happen to be carnivores.

You have to feed these fish various types of meaty foods. They will eat brine shrimp, bloodworms, and other such things.

Vampire Plecos

Vampire Pleco on Driftwood in Aquarium

Vampire plecos are larger carnivorous fish. They aren’t that big when compared to fish such as common plecos, but they’re much larger than zebra plecos.

As you’d expect, you’ll be feeding these fish shrimp and bloodworms. You can give them dry food such as shrimp pellets if you’d like to.

Gold Nugget Plecos

Gold nugget plecos are omnivorous types of plecos. You’ll need to feed them a mix of meaty foods and plant matter to keep them healthy.

These are pretty fish that don’t usually eat much algae in the fish tank. Even so, many people love owning them simply because they’re pretty.

Final Thoughts

You now know a lot more about plecos and the types of things that they will eat. Some plecos are herbivores that will only eat plant matter and other such things.

There are also carnivorous plecos that eat meaty foods such as shrimp. Omnivores are less picky and will eat almost anything that they can.

You’re going to want to ensure that you give the plecos in your care the right food. Mix up the diet of the fish to ensure that they get the best nutrition possible.

Feeding plecos each day is the recommended course of action. It has been said that feeding the fish every other day is okay if you need to go that route.

Never overfeed the fish because that can be bad for their health. Be careful and try to feed the fish on the right schedule.

You should have an easy time feeding plecos now. So long as you understand what you’re getting into, it’ll be good to buy these fish for your aquarium.

Research the specific type of pleco fish that you want ahead of time. This will ensure that you will be able to care for the fish optimally.

Remember that some of these fish are rather large. Many people won’t be able to own some of the larger fish due to not having enough room.

It might also be more expensive to feed some of the bigger fish. Factor this information in when making your choices.

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