Plecostomus, also called plecos, are a small catfish species often used in aquariums to keep tanks clean. In the wild, they're found in freshwater streams in South America and can grow up to 24 inches long. Plecos have a potential life span of 10 to 15 years, so they're a worthwhile investment for aquarium hobbyists. However, you'll need to feed them more than the algae growing in the tank because they require additional nutrition. These are peaceful tropical fish who are typically only aggressive toward other plecos.
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What do plecos eat?
Plecos, sometimes called suckers, are bottom dwellers that slowly move over surfaces, like rocks and the glass of an aquarium. Because they eat algae, they're often added to a fish tank to keep it clean. However, plecos can not live on algae alone, especially if you have a water filter in the tank. There won't be enough algae available, and the fish might starve.
Plecos are omnivores, so they can eat both meat and vegetation. If algae is growing in the tank, you will not have to feed a young pleco much, but as he grows, you'll have to add meat or vegetation about twice a week. Feeding at night is a good idea because plecos are nocturnal.
Pet stores sell the commercial fish food specifically designed for algae eaters that you'll have to add to your pleco's diet. Veggie wafers, which are entirely vegetarian, are one example. It's also possible to make your own pleco food by blending vegetables into a paste or even boiling vegetables, like peas, and cutting them into extremely small pieces. Earthworms, bloodworms, and shrimp can also be part of this fish diet.
Plecos have a sucker mouth that attaches to smooth surfaces in the tank. As they move over surfaces, they eat algae, cleaning the tank as they move. However, algae alone will not provide proper nutrition, and their potential life span will shorten. Also, they will not remove all algae from the tank, so water filters are still important.
Plecos require larger tanks and can grow rapidly. Hiding places are necessary, and they prefer heavily vegetated habitats. It's common for these fish to eat part of the plants in the tank as well. Driftwood serves as both a hiding place and a snack for these fish, and java moss is an ideal plant for both cover and a food source.
Do plecos eat other fish?
Because plecos are omnivores, they will eat smaller fish, invertebrates, or crustaceans, especially if they are near the bottom of the tank. Typically, they don't kill other fish for food but will scavenge dead fish. Some species even feed on driftwood. Surprisingly, plecos require a lot of fiber. Small worms and larvae can also become part of the pleco diet.
Best plecos to live with other fish
Most plecos can grow to a significant size, and they require at least a 150-gallon tank. They are not suitable for smaller tanks or bowls. Pleco are peaceful tropical fish and can live together, but due to their size, they require tanks so large that they're impractical for most aquarium owners. Two plecos, for example, might require a 300-gallon tank.
There are 150 distinct species of plecos. The less common types, such as the candy-striped pleco, vampire pleco, and leopard frog pleco, are much smaller and are the best plecos because they can live comfortably in 30-gallon tanks.
These bottom feeders can live with other species of freshwater fish, including cichlids, tetras, and other community fish. Don't include fish smaller than the pleco's mouth because they might be consumed along with the algae.