Clown Pleco

Clown Pleco: How to Care This Species Properly

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Clown Pleco is a common fish species. In spite of their tropical appearance, they are freshwater fish with fairly easy maintenance and care requirements. These fish are bottom feeders that can excellent spruce up your tank.

For those reasons, clown plecos might be a delightful addition to any aquarium, especially for beginners. This article will give you an overall introduction of clown plecos, including how to care for them and how to breed them successfully.

Clown Pleco Overview

Clown Pleco Overview
Clown Pleco Overview

Natural habitat

Clown plecos hail from Venezuela and have been seen in some areas of Columbia. The heaviest inhabitant areas of the fish are in the Caroni and Apure river basins. Within the two river basins, there are huge amounts of vegetation and wood along the shores of the powerful current rivers. Clown plecos get used to the life of densely wooded and vegetative areas.

Thanks to their incredible adaptability, these species can see through muddy and dirty water and seek places to hide and eat among the woody bottom. Notably, they can navigate through the cloudy water without suffering serious health effects.

The fish are small and hardy, making them an ideal choice for smaller community tanks.


Clown plecos can live up to 10-12 years. However, water quality and diet will have a direct impact on their lifespan. If you easily get attached to pets and love taking care of them for long periods, introducing a clown pleco to your aquarium is a great idea.

Nevertheless, as they’re freshwater species, you need to be careful about the kind of living conditions in the aquarium. These pets are not very demanding in maintenance, so don’t worry!

Maintain the water quality, offer them the proper diet and check for signs of stress, and you can have a tiny friend for more than a decade.

If they do not have enough space to hide and live in continuous stress, their life can be significantly shortened.


These fish have become well-known for their aesthetic qualities. It features a series of patterns that help it stick out from other tank mates. The base of the clown pleco is black with colored bands that spread its entire body. The common band coloration is orange or yellow combined with white.

The vibrancy of their colors is impacted by many factors, including both genes and their diet and health. If the fish are not provided with sufficient nutrition, their colors might be dull.

Like other plecos, clown plecos have a big thick head and body. Their bodies slim out past their dorsal fin and the caudal peduncle. Their dorsal fins fan out, and their big pectoral fins will rest behind them when the fish rest on the bottom of the aquarium.


Clown plecos are tranquil and peaceful. They tend to live in harmony with other tank mates and mind their business by swimming around the bottom of the tank. The fish prefer scooting around the bottom or sides of the aquarium, feeding off algae and driftwood.

Though getting along with other species, male fish still can show a territorial behavior. Therefore, make sure your aquarium is big enough so that each male can build a territory to ease any aggression.

As nocturnal, the fish love hiding in shaded areas like driftwood or caves during the day while foraging for food at night.

How to Set Up a Clown Pleco Tank?

Tank Setup for Clown Plecos
Tank Setup for Clown Plecos

Tank size

Due to their small size, they can be housed in a tank with a minimum size of 20 gallons. Add on 10 gallons for each female and 20 gallons for each male. These tank sizes will enable the fish to construct their own territories, reducing incidents of aggression significantly.

Water conditions

In the natural environment of clown plecos,, there are multiple seasonal variations in water parameters such as temperature and water hardness.

You need to maintain the water temperature anywhere from 73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should vary from 6.8 to 7.6 and the hardness stays around 10dGH. Regularly change partial water to control the chemical levels and buildup of wastes.


As these species prefer hiding, driftwood is a must for your aquarium. Driftwood can provide a hiding room whenever the fish feel anxious. Remember to place the driftwood in the right way, so your pets can shelter in more places. Besides, if the fish feel hungry, they can bite on driftwood to absorb important nutrients.

Moreover, clown plecos tend to get frightened if there is too much light in the aquarium. To solve this problem, you can put a dark background on the back and side of the tank. Or adding some floating plants can both generate areas of shadow and mimic the fish’s natural habitat. One great plant option is hornwort which can be planted in the soil at the tank bottom.


Putting together the aquarium for your clown pleco first includes choosing the right substrate. It is recommended that you should pick a sand substrate. Stay away from gravel or rocks with sharp edges as the fish might scratch and hurt themselves.

In addition, you’ll need a heater that keeps your aquarium on the warmer side of the temperature range. Beyond maintaining a consistent temperature, a heater also helps you decrease the water temperature when your fish breed.

Since clown plecos produce a lot of waste, your tank requires a high-quality filtration system. A good-sized HOB or canister filter or one with replaceable filters will handle this job well.

Your filtration system should create a moderate water flow. You can also put an air stone to keep the bottom area of the aquarium well-oxygenated.

Tank mates

Clown plecos will be a peaceful tank mate for similarly-sized, non-aggressive fish species. Remember to avoid any aggressive fish or any bigger species that can snack on the slower clown pleco.

Here are some fish to pair with your clown pleco:

  • Rasboras (smaller ones)
  • Dwarf gouramis
  • Tetras
  • Loaches
  • Minnows (white cloud mountain, rosy reds)
  • Corydoras
  • Other plecos (clown, candy stripe)

And there are some fish NOT suitable for a clown pleco tank:

  • Flowerhorn cichlid
  • African cichlid
  • Any bigger, more aggressive fish

Clown Pleco Diet

These pets bite on driftwood and rely on nutrients in the wood to support their diets. They also happily feed on living plants for nutrients and sustenance, including cucumbers, yams, zucchini, peas, lettuce, and blanched vegetables. Live plants are optional and can be replaced by artificial ones, but driftwood is a must in any clown pleco tank. 

Besides, the fish also need some kind of protein added to their diet. Popular fish food like daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms should be provided two times a week. You should not offer this food every day because the food might go uneaten and break down into detrimental compounds. 

What’s more, clown plecos require algae as part of a proper diet. And algae naturally grows on surfaces in your tank, such as rocks, plants, and your substrate. Therefore, make sure you install a large substrate and add a lot of decorations to foster algae development. 

Clown Pleco Breeding 

How to Breed Clown Plecos?
How to Breed Clown Plecos?

There are several details for you to distinguish the gender of clown pleco. The female is usually bigger and looks plump and round when they are going to lay eggs. The male tends to be shorter, leaner, and contain small spines along with their gill covers and caudal fins. These spines are called odontodes. 

If you want to breed clown pleco, you need to do some setup and preparation. The first thing you need is a breeding tank. Make sure this tank has the same water and setup as your main tank. To promote your fish to breed, you can also add plenty of driftwood and caves. 

Lower the water temperature by 3-5 degrees and increase the pH levels by a point. That way, you are simulating the rainy seasons when these fish usually spawn in their natural habitat. The closer you can mimic their native environment, the higher chance they’ll breed. 

The breeding tank should be filled with distilled or reverse osmosis water. Additionally, you should provide your clown plecos with enough protein from live food (bloodworms) or frozen and freeze-dried worms.

These fish are known for being cavity spawners, so they’ll require a clap pot, pipe, or small cave for producing their eggs. 

After the female lays eggs, the male will take up the responsibility to guard the eggs until they hatch (10-14 days). Then, the male still guards them until the baby fish can absorb all of their yolk sacs and search for food. At this point, you separate the fry from the adult fish and feed them with algae, driftwood, and protein. 

Clown Pleco Common Disease

Clown plecos are not highly disease-susceptible, which is a considerable advantage. If you keep your aquarium proper and feed them adequately, you will avoid most of the conditions. 

Ich is a parasitic disease mostly found in plecos. If you notice any red spots or swollen belly and eyes, your fish might catch a bacterial infection. You need to treat it immediately before other tank mates contract it. Antibiotics can be utilized to treat bacterial diseases, including penicillin or erythromycin. 

If your tank is small, it’s recommended to keep pleco alone. That will help them roam stress-free. Stressing the fish over territorial problems can result in injuries and make them aggressive. Therefore, you should use a hospital tank to quarantine them before introducing new fish to the tank. The quarantine aquarium’s water must not be mixed with the main tank’s water.

If you find your clown plecos hitting their head on the lid or trying to jump out of the aquarium (this is abnormal as clown plecos prefer swimming in the lower levels of the tank), your tank conditions might not be good. They would want to get out and escape when they cannot breathe and end up gasping for oxygen. 

Moreover, digestive issues are often seen in clown plecos, which stems from not giving them adequate driftwood. If they don’t have enough fiber in their diet, their stomach bacteria can be unbalanced, resulting in sickness. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Clown Plecos

1. Do clown plecos need to be kept in groups?

These fish do not need to live in groups. They can happily live on their own. 

If you’re going to raise a group of plecos, ensure you get a big enough aquarium so that each fish can build its own territory. 

2. Are they getting aggressive?

No, these creatures are truly peaceful. However, some aggression can happen if you house many plecos in a too-small space. 

3. How big will a clown pleco become?

Clown plecos are also known as dwarf plecos. When you buy them in the fish store, they might range from 1.5 to 2 inches. They will grow up to 3-4 inches and female adults tend to be slightly bigger than males. 

4. Do clown plecos need driftwood?

Yes, driftwood is a requirement to a clown pleco’s diet. It comes with the necessary nutrients and fiber, keeping their digestive system working correctly. 

5. How much does a clown pleco cost?

You can find clown plecos mostly in any fish store, with the price ranging from $4 to $12 for each. 

Are Clown Plecos Right for Your Aquarium?

Thanks to the ease of maintenance and long lifespan, clown pleco is an ideal candidate for your tank. Just follow the instructions, keep track of the water parameters, and ensure you add lots of driftwood to keep your fish occupied. 

As a stunning addition to your tank and an effective algae cleaner, clown plecos deserve to be the next member of your aquarium. 

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