Common Pleco

Common Pleco: Features, Care Guide, Breeding, and Disease

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Anyone who has ever considered raising an algae cleaner of some soft has heard of Common Pleco. These fish from the armoured catfish family have stunning patterns and come in different types. Whether you have a small or big tropical aquarium, Common Plecos will be a great choice. 

However, there are numerous considerations before bringing home a Common Pleco. Here are some things you need to note down about this fish before introducing one to your tank. 

Common Pleco Overview 

Common Pleco Introduction
Common Pleco Introduction

Natural habitat 

Most Common Plecos come from South America. Although they can live in a wide span of habitats, most live in fast-flowing rivers and creeks with a rough substrate. However, you might find them in brackish estuaries. 

Like most plecos, Common Plecos’ natural environments are superficial rivers and streams originating through tropical woodlands. This water tend to be fast-flowing and filled with plants. Therefore, you might find Common Plecos hiding behind these logs and plants during the daytime. 


Common Plecos feature a signature shape that you might have seen before. Similar to catfish, all kinds of plecos contain an underturned mouth, flat belly, and expansive fins. 

The fish are fairly simple when it comes to colouration. They have a base colour of brown with tiny black splotches throughout the whole body, generating a unique net-like effect. Besides, you might see some plecos with lighter colours or those with sand-coloured spots. The colouration of the fish differs depending on the environment they hail from. 

These species have a unique physical characteristic on top of their body – several rows of armour plates. The plates are hard and provide loads of protection against predators. 

Like other members in the Loricariidae family, Common Plecos feature impressive fins. Their dorsal fin is large and has a few rigid fins. The same goes for the tail, pelvic, and pectoral fins.

These fish have small beady eyes on their head. As being nocturnal, their eyes have tissue that can regulate the amount of light getting in. Their iconic sucker mouth stays on the bottom of the head. 


On average, Common Plecos in captivity stays around 15 inches long when becoming grown. They are known to reach up to 24 inches in the wild. 

Some specimens inhabiting massive environments can reach similar lengths in captivity, yet this is quite rare. 

Typical behaviour and temperament 

Common Plecos are friendly fish that keep to themselves. Naturally, they are nocturnal, so it’s common for them to hide throughout the day and become active at night. However, some adapt to the aquarium life and might be seen more during the daytime, particularly when you are feeding other fish. 

The fish forage for food along the bottom, off the glass walls and from any plants in the aquarium. 

They may wiggle from puddle to puddle during dry periods in their wild environment, searching for a safe heaven. They can inhale some oxygen through their stomach. You might find your pleco will move to the top of the aquarium and gulp air. 


The typical Common Pleco lifetime varies between 10 and 15 years in proper conditions. They have a longer lifespan than most tropical fish species, so be ready for years of care. 

Apparently, there’s no guarantee with any fish when it comes to life expectancy. The quality of care you give will directly impact the fish’s overall health for better or worse. 

Common Pleco Tank Setup

How to Build a Tank for Common Pleco?
How to Build a Tank for Common Pleco?

Tank size 

Adult Common Plecos require an aquarium size of at least 75 to 80 gallons. However, you will need at least 150 gallons to help your fish grow to its full size. 

If you’re going to start small, these fish live well in aquariums that can hold up to 30 gallons of water when they are juveniles. However, it would help if you moved them to a far bigger tank when they grow up. 

Tank shape 

The size and shape of the aquarium are required to be contemplated based on the size of the fish. If the aquarium is narrow, Common Plecos will encounter a lot of difficulties. They will not be able to turn around at the end of the aquarium. 

For the fully grown fish of size around 24 inches, the size of the aquarium should be sufficient, allowing the fish to turn around without jerking into the walls. 

Water parameters 

Common Plecos perform best in environments that mimic their natural habitat in the wild. This covers both water conditions and decorations. 

  • Water temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Ammonia: 0
  • Nitrates: < 20 pp,m
  • Nitrites: 0
  • pH level: 6.5-7.5
  • Water hardness: <25 dGh

Stick to a stable schedule when it comes to testing water (1 time/week should be great). It’s very crucial to ensure the parameters and general conditions are proper.


Common Plecos often appear massive in girth and weight. It can be said that their one goal in life is to eat and poop, so they will put a strain on even strong filters. The solution to keeping up with their enormous bio load is installing a HOB(hang-on-back) filter and a big sponge filter. 

If you have a generous budget, then these fish are an ideal candidate for canister filters. They are the best choice, keeping the water crystal clear even in aquariums with a prolific pooper like Common Plecos.


Common Plecos prefer moderate to dim lighting. Lighting should be fixed on a day-to-day cycle to replicate the natural day and night process. 9-10 hours would be great when it comes to adequate lighting hours. Common lighting of the tank would work, but LED lighting will help display the colour of your fish better. 


How you build the tank for your fish will significantly impact their enrichment and difficult grades over time. Hence, if you want your Common Plecos to stay healthy and happy, here are some things you should pay attention to.

Hiding space: It’s necessary to offer your plecos with a wide area to hide so that they can feel safe and comfortable. You can use driftwood or gravel to create some hiding places for the fish. 

Plants: If you want to add some plants to the Common Pleco tank, be careful because there are some plants bad for your tank. 

Best plants for a Common Pleco tank:

  • Java Moss
  • Java fern
  • Amazon sword
  • Anubias
  • Jungle Vallisneria 

Substrate: You will want to have a soft substrate on the bottom of the aquarium. As Common Plecos turn aggressive, they begin rooting around the substrate, so they need a soft one to prevent being hurt. 

Tank mates 

As Common Plecos are hardy and friendly fish, they are suitable for a wide array of tank mates. 

  • Angelfish: Angelfish are large, new-world cichlids coming from South America. They reach up to a foot tall and require a large aquarium. The fish take over the middle-to-top section of the water column. 
  • Neon Tetra: Neons hail from the same region as Common Plecos. Neons are schooling fish, so they feel happy when kept in groups of six or more. 
  • Cory Catfish: Cories are a type of bottom-living catfish. Unlike Common Plecos, they do not eat many algae. Instead, they act as an excellent clean-up crew for your freshwater tank, munching up leftover fish food, dead plant matter, and snail eggs. 
  • Hatchetfish: These fish have an interesting shape and behaviour. As they are startled, they’ll leap out of the water. This is called a defence mechanism, and in the natural environment, the entire school will leap out of the water when a predator appears. Hence, make sure your tank is fully covered and avoid fast-swimming fish that can scare them. They are schooling fish, so you’ll want to house six or more. 
  • Silver Dollar: Silver dollars can reach up to 6 inches and should be raised in schools of six or more. A long aquarium is preferred because these fish are fairly active. 

Common Pleco Diet & Feeding

Common Plecos are known to be algae-eaters. However, the fish are also omnivores and eat fish of smaller size and inverts that they find at the lower part of the aquarium. Generally, these species do not kill other fish for food; they consume dead or dying fish instead. 

The diet of Common Plecos should include the following:

  • Bloodworms
  • Live blackworms
  • Earthworms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Zucchini
  • Crustaceans
  • Shelled peas
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

Common Pleco Breeding 

How to Breed Common Plecos?
How to Breed Common Plecos?

It’s a challenging task to breed Common Plecos. They are community fish and do not breed in a fish tank. You need to make every effort if you want them to breed. Firstly, you’ll need a large tank, a 300-gallon aquarium, to keep them safe and happy. 

The territorial condition in the aquarium is not ideal for them to breed. Most of the fish will combat or die during spawning. However, if you can get a pair of Common Pleco when they are juvenile, the chance of breeding will be higher. 

Put the pair together in an aquarium so they can get familiar with each other. Provide the right conditions and the breeding procedure will be easier. The female plecos lay eggs in a cave, and the male will watch and guard over them until they are hatched. It takes several days for the eggs to hatch, and you can feed fry infusoria for the first few days. Then the fry can eat available fry foods and baby brine shrimp. 

Common Pleco Disease 

These fish might suffer from all the diseases that are common in freshwater species. They have massive scales or armour, which does not protect them from contamination. 


Dropsy is a bloating in which too much liquid is in the fish’s body. The fish will swell up with fluids, making it difficult for them to move around the tank. The solution is to change the water every week, preventing the development of bacteria and fungus. 


Ich happens because of parasites. Common Plecos are not immune to the parasite in water and often get infected. The parasite gets attached to their scales, making them itchy. You can notice the symptom of ich when the fish scratch their body against the wall of the aquarium or driftwood. 

You can use a water test kit to check whether the water contains the parasite or not. Increase the temperature of the tank to treat them quickly.

If the fish are infected with any infection that contracts with other mates, separate them in a different tank. Use Pleco-approved medication to provide them with proper treatment. Common Plecos are susceptible to copper-based medicines, so read the instructions carefully before putting the medicines in the tank. 


If you’re searching for a large but low-maintenance freshwater fish, you can go for Common Pleco. Watching this large aquatic pet move around the aquarium is mesmerizing. 

Even though it’s hard to breed these fish, it’s easy to keep them in a community tank. If you have any questions about Common Pleco care, please drop a line in the comment box below. 

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