How to Care for a Plecostomus Aquarium Fish

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Plecostomus are catfish that originally came from Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. This small catfish species use their sucker fish mouths to nibble bits of leftover food and algae from the glass, substrate, and tank decorations. However, plecos need additional food and a roomy, well-filtered environment to thrive. The hardy fish can live for 10 to 15 years with proper plecostomus care.

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Plecos eat more than algae.
Image Credit: Asergieiev/iStock/GettyImages

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Make the space

Ensure you have ample room for your plecostomus. Most species can grow up to be between 1 and 2 feet in length. This means that you might need to get a 50 to 100 gallon tank when your fish reaches its full growth, or find it a new home. Plecos also make plenty of mess. Make sure you have adequate filtration for all your tank mates or every fish in the tank can suffer.

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If you find your sucker fish is getting too large for his surroundings, you will want to move him to a larger tank. Alternately, choose a species like the bristlenose plecostomus, which generally do not exceed five inches when they are fully grown. It is also best to keep only one pleco per tank since they can become territorial to other plecos.

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Cool it down

Keep the pleco temperature in the tank mild. Plecos like waters that are in the mid-70s. Although they can survive water temperatures that are lower or higher than this, they do best in moderate temperature. Attach an aquarium thermometer to the outside of the tank and check the temperature every few days to ensure your temperature is correct. If needed, place an aquarium heater in the tank and adjust it as needed.

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Give them shelter

Plecostomus like to hide and burrow, especially during the day when they sleep. Keep rocks, driftwood and bogwood, which is preserved wood similar to driftwood. Using soft substrates such as sand instead of gravel also gives them a hiding space to burrow down into.

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Enjoy the nightlife

Feed your plecostomus at night. Plecos are nocturnal fish. Before you head to bed, turn out the aquarium lights and feed them. Wait until you have turned out the lights to feed the fish. This can help prevent the other fish in your fish tank from eating the food before your plecostomus can reach it.

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Roll out the buffet

Give them a variety of foods. If a plecostomus eats only animal matter it can cause digestive problems. They will enjoy eating romaine lettuce or boiled spinach. The bristlenose variety enjoy cucumber, zucchini, peas and green beans. Algae wafers and shrimp pellets are another way to meet this omnivore's dietary needs.

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Plecos also need wood in their tank that they can chew on. Make sure the wood isn't treated or dyed.

Peaceful plecostomus care

Keep the tank peaceful. Plecos prefer mild-mannered fish, such as mollies or angelfish. Avoid aggressive varieties, such as cichlids, unless fish are approximately the same size. Keep in mind that although plecos are peaceful, they don't have a problem sucking up small fish in your aquarium as an appetizer. Large freshwater fish for the aquarium of a grown pleco will help keep peace in the tank.

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