Common Plecostomus Fish Care, Size, Tank Mates, and Lifespan

Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.

Plecostomus Care Guide

The common plecostomus is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. This is the “suckerfish” often seen stuck to the aquarium glass, munching on algae. Some fish keepers stock plecos hoping they will help control algae in their tank. Indeed, these fish do an excellent job of that, but they also come with a handful of concerns that are hard to ignore. Most novice fish keepers don’t realize that the tiny 3-inch fish they bought from the pet store is a monster in the making.

Scientific Name and Natural Habitat

The scientific name for the common plecostomus is Hypostomus plecostomus. It is classified within the genus Hypostomus and the family Loricariidae. However, there is a range of species in the aquarium trade often referred to as common pleco. In the wild, they populate the rivers and streams of northeastern South America as well as the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

Note: For the purposes of this article I will not be differentiating between the species of "pleco". Unless otherwise noted, the information here applies to all.

Plecostomus Size

Plecos can grow to an adult length of up to two feet. It is easy to see why this fish is not appropriate for all but the largest home aquariums. They are usually sold as small juveniles, only three or four inches in length.

There are smaller plecos you may consider. Rubbernose and bristlenose plecos only reach an adult size of about six inches. They are algae-eating fish like their bigger cousins, but much more appropriate for most tanks.

Plecostomus Care Sheet

Scientific Name:

Hypostomus Plecostomus / various


South America

Care Level:




Maximum Size:


Minimum Tank Size:

150 Gallons


Algae, sinking pellets, algae wafers, veggies

Tank Mates:

Peaceful community fish

Plecostomus Tank Size and Setup

An adult common pleco requires a 150-gallon tank, minimum. However, as juveniles, they can be kept in smaller aquariums as long as there is a plan in place to move them as they get bigger. Consider at least a 55-gallon tank to allow a young pleco room to grow.

Water Parameters

Plecos are fairly hardly fish. Follow the general guidelines for tropical fish care and practice proper tank maintenance

  • Water Temperature: 75-80 Degrees
  • Ammonia: 0
  • Nitrates:< 20 ppm
  • Nitrites: 0

It should go without saying that a pleco should not be added to a new tank until it is fully cycled. It’s smart to test your water and keep an eye on your water parameters. I recommend the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. It’s affordable, and I have found it is accurate and easy to use.

Plants and Decorations

Plecos can be hard on live plants, as they attempt to scrub them of algae. For this reason, consider avoiding broad-leafed plants in your planted aquarium. Do make sure you have natural driftwood in the tank for your pleco to rasp on, as well as hiding spots where it can retreat when necessary.

Temperament and Behavior

Plecos are generally docile, but they can become more aggressive as they age. They can lash out at other fish at times. This can occur if their nutritional needs are not met and the behavior is especially prevalent at feeding time. As mentioned above, plecos can also demolish live plants as well.

As the plecostomus is a nocturnal fish, they are most active at night time. This means they need a few safe spots in the tank where they can hide during the day.

What do plecos eat?

Your plecostomus will eat algae in your tank, but that should only make up a part of its diet. You will need to feed both algae wafers and sinking pellets to make sure its nutritional needs are met. Also, consider adding some fresh veggies to its diet. Plecos are scavengers and will take advantage of leftover food that lands on the substrate.

Behavior Concerns

As long as your plecos needs are met, you should have little trouble with this bottom dweller. Choose the correct tank size, keep it well fed, and make sure it is comfortable with plenty of hiding spots and you plecos could live for over a decade.

Best Plecostomus Tank Mates

Because plecos are hardy, peaceful fish, they are appropriate for a wide range of tank mates. Some of the fish from their same region of the world include:


Angelfish are large, new-word cichlids from South America. They grow up to a foot tall, and like the common pleco, they require a large tank. A pair of adult angelfish in a large planted tank looks amazing. They occupy the middle-to-top section of the water column. Freshwater angelfish care requirements aren’t difficult, but you do want to understand what you are getting into when you stock this popular fish.

Neon Tetra

Neons are another commonly available freshwater fish that hail from the same region as the plecostomus. Neons are schooling fish, which means they are going to be happiest in groups of six or more. This should be no trouble if you have a tank large enough to house an adult pleco. Other tetras you might consider are the rummy-nose, cardinal, and the larger black-skirt.

Cory Catfish

Cories are a type of bottom-dwelling catfish, like the pleco. But, unlike the pleco, they do not eat much algae. Instead, they serve as the clean-up crew for your freshwater tank, munching up old fish food, dead plant matter, and maybe even a few snail eggs. Remember that plecos require a little animal matter in their diets as well as algae and plant matter. If you stock cories, be aware that they will be competing with your pleco for some of the food. Make sure you feed enough sinking pellets for everyone!


These guys are among my favorite aquarium fish. They have an interesting shape, but an even more interesting behavior. When they are startled, they leap out of the water! This is a defense mechanism, and in the wild the whole school may leap out of the water when a predator comes around. This means you want to make sure your tank is fully covered, and you want to avoid fast-moving fish that may scare them. They are schooling fish, so you want to stock six or more.

Silver Dollar

If you are going to have a pleco in a huge tank, you may as well have other large freshwater fish to take advantage of that tank as well. Silver dollars grow to about six inches across and should be kept in schools of six or more. A long tank is preferred, as these fish are quite active. Like the plecostomus, they are also tough on live plants and may eat their leaves.

Plecostomus FAQ

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the plecostomus:

How many plecos can I have in my tank?

You should only keep one plecostomus per tank. This is because they can be territorial, especially as they age, and having more than one can lead to aggression. By keeping only one pleco, you are also ensuring that there is enough food to go around.

Do plecos attack and eat other fish?

Plecos are generally docile, but they will eat dead and dying fish if they can. They do not usually attack live fish. If you do notice your pleco lashing out at other fish, it is likely because something is lacking in its diet.

How many years do plecos live?

The common pleco can live for ten years or more. You can increase the chances of your plecostomus living a long life by keeping him in a big enough tank, following smart tank management practice, and making sure he gets enough good food to eat.

Will plecos really clean your tank?

Plecos can clean up some of the algae in your tank. However, no fish or group of fishes can completely keep your tank clean. Most tank maintenance, including dealing with algae, is up to the human in charge of the aquarium.

What fish can live with plecos?

Plecos are peaceful, community fish that can live with most other tropical fish. You may wish to stock them with other large fish from the Amazon River region, where plecos are found in the wild.

Do plecos need a heater?

Yes! All tropical fish require a heater. Plecos are not cold-water fish. Even if they were, it would be a good idea to include a heater in the tank to make sure the water temperature never drops too far.

Should You Get a Plecostomus for Your Tank?

Most issues with the common pleco are remedied by keeping them in a large enough tank and making sure they get enough of the right food to eat. Otherwise, this is a very easy fish to keep.

Unfortunately, they are among the most misunderstood fish in the aquarium trade. I got my first fish tank almost four decades ago when I was a kid. It was a ten-gallon tank, and my parents took the advice of the pet shop owner and bought a common pleco to eat the algae. My parents didn’t know any better, and I certainly didn’t, but I expect the pet shop guy should have. I cringe when I think of that today.

These days, it is super easy to find out everything you need to know about a fish with a few minutes of online research. Yet, somehow, baby plecos continue to end up in 10-gallon tanks.

I’m not going to try to dissuade you from keeping this wonderful fish. Just know what you are getting into and plan accordingly. The common plecostomus is a very cool fish and, in the right setting, a wonderful addition to a freshwater tropical aquarium.

Pleco Poll


Common pleco, or the Hypostomus Plecostomus in the zoological world, is how the catfish that fall into the Loricariidae family are usually known. You can hear some of them calling these the armoured catfish as well – thanks to the arrangement of four bones on the back that looks like the armour worn in the war in the earlier times. These were originally found in the Amazon River that flows all through South America and going by that these are fish that prefer fresh water with a vibrant undercurrent and with a lot of driftwood and stones.

In their natural habitat, these fish enjoy the woods and the riverbeds that are present in the natural course the river takes and love the same kind of set up if they are put in a tank too. If you are going to house this fish in an aquarium, then it is best you create a feeling of it living in a river in the forest, so it seems closest to its natural home.

Since this fish needs a lot of oxygen, it requires perfect fresh water all the time. The ideal temperature of the water is between 72 degrees and 86 degrees F and the most optimal pH level between 6.5 and 7.5.

There are close to 150 species in this family, and the most common of them all is termed as the common pleco. The color of this fish varies from a dark grey to brown, and there are sand brown patches on the skin. This fish can grow really large and can become as big as 24 inches in its natural surroundings.

However, when housed in a tank, this will grow up to about 15 inches. In the aquarium, the fish can live anywhere from 10 – 15 years. This makes them one of the largest and longest living fish in the aquarium and hence most pet owners prefer to have them in their tanks at home.

Plecos have long bodies, with well-formed bones, pectoral and tail and dorsal fins. The tail fin has a quixotic crescent shape to it and is bigger at the bottom than the top. Another interesting feature that needs mention is the eyes of this variety of fish.

On their giant heads, the eyes look really small, but these eyes act like the lens of a photo camera. The eyes have a layer of tissue that covers the eyes and helps in regulating the amount of light that goes in.

Pleco fish are highly nocturnal creatures, and this membrane helps in completely covering out the light during day time, thereby helping them to sleep blissfully. During the night, the lens like organ helps the fish to let in just the right amount of light needed for them to swim through the tanks feeding and nibbling. They have a small cute mouth, that can suck up almost anything, and that is why these fish are also referred to as suckerfish. The fish is seen stuck at different parts on the tank, using its mouth.


In this article, we talked about pleco fish growth. At first, I mentioned that pleco fish (not all of them) can grow up to 24 inches long. The most popular type that grows this big, is the Common Pleco.

Also, I gave you some advice about the aquarium you need to house such big fish. After that, you learned about 6 different pleco breeds, that won’t grow big. Most of these, only grow to 4 or 5 inches long.

If you plan to buy pleco fish, make sure you do everything as the chosen breed needs it. Do a thorough research before you make a purchase. Set up everything accordingly, to meet the requirements.

And be really careful about the tank itself. Buy one that’s big enough even if your plecos grow to full size.


The appearance of the Gold Nugget Pleco is what draws aquarists in from the get-go. Unlike a lot of their relatives, this species stands out no matter what!

In fact, they’re one of the most colorful freshwater fish out there. While they’re only yellow and black, the contrast and pattern on their body are quite eye-catching.

Gold Nugget Plecos are pretty much entirely black with a multitude of small yellow spots that cover their whole body. These spots are evenly spaced and roughly the same size all around.

The only area where this pattern isn’t present is at the end of their dorsal and caudal fins. These areas are completely yellow (with the color being a little bit brighter than the spots on their body).

When it comes to their general shape and build, these fish are right from the standard pleco mold. They have the suckermouth and head that angles down to the substrate. The body is widest around the eyes and pectoral fins and gradually gets thinner to the caudal peduncle.

These fish have very large pectoral fins that point backward (especially when they’re resting on the substrate). They have a fan-like dorsal fin and a symmetrical caudal fin that’s slightly larder.

Koi Fish Care - Cyprinus carpio

Published May 13, 2020
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
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The Koi is a carp that was selectively bred originally in Japan for desirable colors. Japanese Koi can get to be very large with 2 feet plus being a common size for adult fish. Because of their large size these are pond fish and they do best in large outdoor koi ponds. Each fish needs several hundred gallons of water to adequately care for them. A common mistake is to buy too many fish for your outdoor pond. While young, the volume of water in the pond may be fine, but as these fish grow they will need larger volumes of pond water to prevent growth stunting.

There are many varieties of them available with some fetching ridiculous prices for this pond fish. The names of various types are based on the patterns and colors exhibited by the fish. The Tancho variety is highly sought after having a primarily pure white body with an orange colored pattern on the top of the head. It is a beauty.

People often confuse goldfish and koi. These fish are similar, both being carps, but koi get much larger and have barbels on the sides of the mouth that they use for foraging and finding food. They also have similar care requirements such as feeding and temperature but they need much larger living quarters than goldfish.

The great thing about keeping them is that they can and will develop personalities which makes them great pets. This fish lives for a very long time with a life span of 20 years and likely much longer if cared for properly. Proper care means providing large enough volumes of water, feeding high quality fish foods specifically made for them and keeping the water clean. Clean out the pond filter media often and remove debris from the water surface and the substrate on a regular basis.

Overall, this is a fantastic fish for the properly sized outdoor pond. Keeping them in climates where it drops below freezing or gets above 90 °F (32 °C) for extended periods of time will be difficult due to water temperature issues. If you do live in an area like this, you will need a deeper pond.

Watch the video: What Fish Can I keep with my Flowerhorn? Flowerhorn Tank Mates Pt. 1 (July 2021).