Common Pleco: Complete Guide to Care, Breeding, Tank Size and Disease

Belonging to the Loricariidae family, Common Plecos or Plecostomus are a species of armored catfish. Primarily found in South America, this family of catfish is the largest in the world.

Common Plecos are a staple of the aquarium hobby. They are prominent algae eaters that originate in the streams of the Amazon Forest in South America. Common Plecos attach themselves to rocky grounds with particularly adapted sucker-shaped mouths. It is for the same reason they are often referred to as suckerfish. Since they are scavengers, they consume roughly anything. This guide would show you all the necessities of Common Plecos care. In addition, you would learn about their suggested tank mates, diet, tank size, and even how to explore the reproducing system.

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Information ChartCommon Pleco
Scientific Name:Hypostomus Plecostomus 
Care Level:Medium
Color:Brown and gray 
Lifespan:10-15 years
Size:Up to 24 inches
Minimum Tank Size:30 gallons
Temperature:72-to-86-degree F (22 to 35 degrees C)
WaterConditions:Freshwater: driftwood and caves 
Tank Mate CompatibilityLimited due to size constraints

Common Pleco Fish Appearance

Common Pleco belongs to the Loricariidae family. You all must know that Common Pleco has a signature shape. Like a catfish, all the types of Common Pleco have an under turned mouth, flat stomach, and vast fins.

When it reaches coloration, Common Pleco is quite modest. They have a brown base with tiny black splotches, formulating a distinct net-like impact coating the whole body.

Common Pleco has attractive fins. 

On their head, Common Pleco has tiny beady eyes. Common Pleco is nocturnal. Therefore, their eyes are prepared with a tissue that oversees the percentage of light getting into their eyes. 

Lifespan Of Common Pleco

The typical lifespan of a Common Pleco is 10-15 years. Therefore, these fish do not require much care. But it does not mean that you would not care for them. On the contrary, if you want that your Common Pleco lives a long life, you are required to care for them. 

People can get attached to these fishes very quickly as they have extremely catchy personalities. However, they have a long lifespan of around 15 years if you provide proper care to them.

Common Pleco Size

The typical Common Pleco fish grows up to 20 inches on the lower end and 24 inches for larger specimens. The normal Common Pleco size is around 15 inches when they are fully grown. However, common Pleco commonly has a maximum size of 24 inches.

Although this is quite unusual, various inhabitants inhabiting the vast atmosphere could attain the same lengths in imprisonment. Therefore, when you purchase a Common Pleco, it would probably be smaller in length. But do not be fooled by the smaller size because Common Pleco could get an enormous size and have a smooth development rate.

Natural Habitat and Origin

Most Common Pleco is native to South America. Although they can survive in a broad span of habitats, most Common Pleco lives in fast-flowing rivers and creeks with a rough substrate. Nonetheless, some could also be seen in brackish estuaries.

Like most plecos, the Common Pleco natural habitat comprises superficial rivers and streams originating through tropical woodlands. This water inclines to be fast-flowing and littered with plants. Thus, you would find the Common Pleco hiding behind these logs and plants during the day.

Common Pleco Care & Tank Set-Up

You are required to know that each breed is distinct, and two plecos breeds would not expect the same environment or a tank setup. For instance, smaller plecos would be able to live in a 10 gallons tank; on the other hand, larger breeds would require a tank of a minimum of 25 gallons.

Common Pleco Tank Size and Specifications

Common Pleco is generally hardy fish, but they do have specific aquarium requirements that must be met. Since an adult Common Pleco can attain 24 inches or more, it is crucial to consider the size of the tank.

Optimum Tank Size for Common Pleco

The recommended tank size for Common Plecos is 30 gallons. Fully grown Common Plecos at the very first would require a minimum of 75-80 gallons tank. Nonetheless, to assist your fish in gaining its full size, you would probably require a tank of at least 150 gallons. A tank of substantial size is constantly adequate with the Common Pleco.

Tank Shape for Common Plecos

The size and shape of the tank are required to be contemplated according to the size of the fish. If the tank is narrow, fish will face a lot of difficulties to live in. They would not be able to turn around at the end of the tank. For the fully grown Common Pleco of size around 24 inches or more, the size of the tank is required to be sufficient, enabling the fish to turn around with no jerking into the walls easily.

Filter Type

The Common Pleco is massive in phrases of girth and weight, now no longer simplest in length.  The method is that these fishes have a massive bioload. As a result, they eat quite a few meals and convey plenty of waste.An aquarium filtration system like the canister filters,  is required for Common Plecos to comfortably take care of the filtration needs of the tank. 

How Many Common Pleco in A 75 Gallon Tank?

For Common Plecos that are fully grown, the minimum size of the tank must be 75-80 gallons. Nevertheless, a tank of 75 gallons or larger size is necessary for a single Common Pleco. A minimum of 30 gallons tank size per fish is required to keep various smaller Oscar fishes in a single tank. If you want to keep two or more fully grown Common Pleco, a tank of 150 gallons or larger would be suitable.

Water Parameters for Oscar

Below are some essential parameters to stick to when arranging a new home for your Common Pleco. Stick to a compatible plan when it reaches testing the water at least twice a week. It is extremely crucial to be convinced the parameters and common situations are strong. 

Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for Common Pleco is 72-86°F. But, unfortunately, Common Pleco cannot control its body temperature. Hence, it depends upon the temperature of the water in the tank to maintain its body temperature.

pH Level

The perfect water pH level for Common Plecos is between 6.5-7.5

Water Hardness

Water hardness must be up to 25dGH for Common Pleco. Generally, for the tank of fish, normal tap water would be favorable for the hardness.

Common Pleco Fish Tank Landscape

Common Pleco Fish Tank Landscape

The manner you set up the tank for your Common Pleco will considerably affect their enrichment and difficult grades over time. Therefore, if you wish your Common Pleco to be comfortable and healthful, the following are some sections on which you should pay tight attention:

  • Hiding places: It is essential to provide your Common Pleco with an area to hide so they can feel safe and comfortable. Driftwood and gravel would be incredible alternatives. The Common Pleco are not finicky as that would assist as an adequate hiding place is satisfactory.
  • Plants: If you wish to put some plants in the tanks of Common Pleco, you should be very careful while choosing them because they are some ideal plants, and there are some bad plants for the tank of Common Pleco. You are required to go with the plants that could waft like Hornwort. 
  • Substrate: You shall want to make sure there is a soft substrate on the bottom of the tank. When Common Pleco becomes aggressive, they start rooting around the substrate, but there is a fear of getting cut when doing this. Therefore, you are required to be very careful to choose a soft substrate.

Best Plants for Common Pleco Tanks

You must be careful with the selection of the best plants. But, most importantly, you are required to be very comprehensive when selecting the space to keep your Oscar fishes in the tank. 

Best plants for this purpose

java moss
Java Moss

Worst Plants for Common Pleco Tanks

Common Pleco and live plants do not manage to do adequate together. Hence, live plants can be considered as the worst plant for Common Pleco tank.

Decorations For Common Pleco Tanks

Decorating the tank of Common Plecos could be a challenging task. Common Plecos require some hiding areas in the tank to keep up during the day because they are nocturnal. Some areas for hiding could be built with the help of utilizing all kinds of decorative items of aquariums such as gravels, dark pipes, artificial plants, and wood.

But you should always keep in mind that if you decorate the tank of Oscars too much, this can reduce swimming space for the Oscars. Hence, the Oscars would face various difficulties, and even they could feel unhappy. 

Lighting For Common Pleco Tanks

As far as the lighting is concerned, Common Pleco only appreciates moderate to dim lighting. Lighting should be fixed on a day-to-day cycle to imitate the natural day and night process. When it comes to adequate lighting hours, 9-10 hours would be considered reasonable. Common lighting of the aquarium would be sufficient. LED lighting will help display the color Common Pleco very well.

Nitrogen/Other Nutrient Requirements for Common Pleco Tank?

Common Pleco prefers to have an altered diet of vegetables and protein-based foods as their essential nutrient, especially for Common Pleco. High protein food is considered to be the nicest food for a growing Common Pleco. As you all know that Common Pleco prefers an omnivore diet, a high protein diet is needed for rapid development. 

Feeding Common Pleco

Best Diet Common Pleco

Common Pleco is always considered algae eaters, which will imply that they are herbivores and could live entirely on algae. Nonetheless, maximum common plecos are omnivores and eat fish of smaller size and invertebrates that they find at the lower part of the tank. 

Generally, common plecos do not kill other fish for their food, and they always eat dead or dying fish which makes them omnivores. Specific spices of plecos also eat wood. 

The following is the list of some diet food that some breeders suggest feeding the Common Pleco:

  • bloodworms 
  • live black worms
  • spinach
  • earthworms 
  • grasshoppers
  • zucchini
  • crustaceans
  • shelled peas
  • lettuce

How Often Should You Feed Common Pleco?

Identifying how much to feed your Common Pleco would be very difficult. Therefore, you should opt for a golden rule which says that provide the quantity of food to your Common Pleco which he can ear in 2-3 minutes. 

This golden rule is minding blowing because this can prevent the problem of overfeeding. You are required to repeat the same procedure every day with Pleco particular food. You can also feed your Common Pleco some pieces of zucchini, lettuce, or cucumber, zucchini once or twice a week. 

Providing them more than suggested in the golden rule could be hazardous because Oscar fish could face many digestive issues. Therefore, it has always been suggested not to overfeed your Oscar fish.

Common Pleco Behavior and Temperament

When Common Pleco is young, it’s are quite easy to handle. Common Pleco gets along nicely with other fish of any size, especially with the smaller ones. Nonetheless, once Common Pleco are fully grown up, they could demonstrate contentious behavior, creating problems for their tank mates to survive with them.

This is mainly because they can become territorial. You can see the same behavior even in other fish of a similar breed. Generally, Common Pleco chooses to inhabit alone and would not have any difficulty attacking any other fish. Mostly they target dazzlingly colored fish that have streaming fins, such as Discus and Angels.

You would not be able to see much movement in these fish during the day. Common Pleco generally spends their days hiding as they sleep. When the sun sets, Common Pleco goes into scavenging mode. Plecos are always seen eating. Therefore, it is never a dark time when they are attentive.

Tank Mates

Plecos are a popular choice for aquariums as they are friendly. Pleco has territorial behavior, due to which they are semi-aggressive. However, they are not too aggressive, making them a great companion for aggressive fish, around which they can fight. They are also good to keep with peaceful fish as they do not indulge in fights without reason. Hence, we can say that they have the perfect balance of aggression and gracefulness. 

These fishes know how to co-exist, which makes them social fish. The thumb rule for picking the suitable tank mate for plecos is finding the fishes that occupy other parts of the water column. For example, you can look for small fishes which spend most of their time on the top of the tank. As the common plecos invest most of the time in the bottom of the tank, top or middle-level swimmers won’t bump into the plecos.

However, these fishes should never be kept with other plecos. They do not tolerate fish of their kind. They are docile when they are juvenile, but they grow as aggressive fish. However, they are appropriate tank mates for few fish.

Ideal Tank Mates

Bad Tank Mates

Discus fish

When they are juvenile, you should avoid putting them with Angelfish and Discus fish. Also, avoid any fish which is too small. Fish below the size of 5 inches should not be kept with a common pleco. They have a big mouth, so if you don’t want to put another beloved fish in the mouth of the Pleco, you must not keep them together.

Breeding Of Common Pleco

Breeding common plecos are difficult. They are community fishes and do not breed in a fish tank. As an aquarist, you need to put in too much effort if you want them to breed. Firstly, you would need a massive tank, and we are talking about a 300-gallon tank to keep them safe and healthy.

Next, the territorial condition in the tank is not suitable for them to breed. Most of the fish will fight, or they will die during spawning. However, if you are lucky enough to get the plecos in pairs when they are juvenile, you can breed them.

Put the pair together in a tank so they can get familiar with each other. Provide the right environment, and then the breeding procedure is effortless. The female plecos lay the eggs in a cave, and male plecos watch and guard over it until they are hatched. It takes a few days to hatch the eggs, and the pleco fry is demanding eaters. So, they need lots of proteins.

However, it would be best if you had professional guidance during the breeding of common plecos. Unfortunately, there is no substantial evidence or result of the successful breeding of these fishes. 

Breeding Level


Sexual Dimorphism

To distinguish between males and females, you need to look at their body shape. You can get the best understanding from the top view. The females have a more rounded body while the males are skinnier. When viewed from the side, they both appear as round bodies, while from the top view, you can understand which one has a fat belly and which one is thinner.

Common Disease and Treatment of Common Pleco

Common plecos suffer from all the diseases that are common in freshwater fishes. Plecos are sensitive to disease. They have large scales or armor, which does not protect them from contamination. As a result, the scales get contaminated with bacteria and fungus. 


It is one of the common diseases of freshwater fishes. Dropsy is a bloating in which too much liquid is filled in the fish’s body, and they start to swell up with fluids. It becomes difficult for them to swim. It is preventable. When you change the water weekly, it prevents the growth of bacteria and fungus, hence avoiding the disease.


Most common fungal infection of freshwater fishes. This happens due to parasites. The fishes are not immune to the parasite in water and quite often fall prey to it. The parasite gets attached to the scales hence making them itchy. You can see the symptom of ich when the fish is scratching the body against the wall of the tank or driftwoods. To prevent water parasites, use a water test kit to check whether or not the water has a parasite. Next, you can treat them quickly by increasing the temperature of the water tank.

If the fish gets infected with any infection that contracts with another fish, quarantine them in a different tank. Use Pleco-approved medication to give them proper treatment. The common plecos are sensitive to copper-based medicines, so read the instructions properly and help professionals before putting the medicine in a tank.

Facts About Common Pleco

Here are some of the interesting facts that you must know about common Pleco. They are the most exciting community fish. Here are some of the interesting facts:

  • The common Pleco is native to South America, and they are a member of the catfish family.
  • Common pleco fish feed on algae.
  • Keeping these fishes has a significant advantage, as they clean the walls of the aquarium by eating any build-up of algae.

Is Common Pleco Suitable for You?

If you are looking for large and unique fish for your tank, then common Pleco is right for you. They are docile fish when they are juvenile and easy to keep in a tank. In addition, they are social fish and can co-exist with other fishes.

The best part about keeping common Pleco is they don’t need much maintenance. They keep the tank clean on their own, and the fish is perfect for anyone who has a big tank. This might seem easy to maintain, but they are not due to their extensive size. They are even unsuitable for experienced fishkeepers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Plecos Should I Keep in A Tank?

One, you should not keep more than one Pleco in a tank. This is because they become territorial and aggressive with age and do not get along with their tribe. By keeping one Pleco, you ensure they get enough space in the tank and get appropriately fed.

What Do Plecos Need in The Tank?

The plecos like solid waves or currents, so you should keep wave-making machines pumps in the tank to give them the right environment. The fish’s mouth is designed to suck whatever comes along the way, so they live to suck the rock in speedy waves.

Will My Pleco Attack Other Fish?

Plecos are moderately aggressive. They are generally docile fishes. They won’t attack another live fish. If you notice them threatening other fish or attacking them, this can be due to nutrient deficiency. To prevent this, you need to provide them with an adequate amount of staple food.

Do Plecos Require a Heater?

Yes, plecos do need the heater. They are not cold-water fishes. That’s why to maintain the optimum temperature of the water in the fish tank. You should keep a heater in the tank.


Plecos look marvelous in a tank. However, they are not the easiest to keep. In this article, we have researched and provided you with enough information on caring for this fish. They are community fish, so you can put them in a community pleco tank or pond so they can grow and thrive well. However, there is something about their simplistic behavior that makes you mesmerized by the fish. Follow this fish care guide, and you can give them the best care in the tank.

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