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How to Choose the Right Plecostomus (Pleco)

I have three fish tanks and enjoy giving advice to others about their aquariums.

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco

What Are the Different Types of Plecos?

There are many plecostomus (pleco) species in the world. Pleco is the common name for catfish species in the family Loricariidae. There are all different types and colors of pleco, and they have all different personalities.

Plecos come from South American rivers and lakes. Depending on the species, they can range from 5 inches to 2 feet long. They can either be kindly and peaceful or territorial and need a whole tank on their own. They are useful for keeping unwanted growth out of the aquarium, since they eat algae and plants in the wild.

Choosing the Right Pleco for You

They are some of the most popular aquarium fish, and this article is about choosing the right pleco for you, along with the basics of what that pleco needs. Below, I have listed a few pleco species that are interesting and fairly easy to find, but there are many more species out there!

Bristlenose Catfish Quick Facts

  • Size: 5–7 inches (15 cm)
  • Common Names: Bushynose catfish, sucker-mouth catfish
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons (75L)
  • Diet: Algae and plant growth in the aquarium. They also eat algae wafers.
  • Setup: Any sort of tropical tank design, but preferably with a piece of wood and plants.
  • Water Parameters: pH of 6.5–7.5. They love soft water that is slightly acidic or alkaline.
  • Temperature: 70–79F (21–26C)
Common Pleco

Common Pleco

Common Pleco

  • Size: 1–2 feet (30–60 cm)
  • Common Name: Common pleco, armoured sucker-mouth pleco
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons (378L)
  • Diet: Feeds on algae and plant material, use algae wafers too. These fish also accept vegetables willingly.
  • Setup: These fish eat plants and love wood. Keep the aquarium decorated, with lots of cover or use fast-growing plants.
  • Water Parameters: pH of 6.0–7.5
  • Temperature: 68–82F (20–28C)
  • Other: Even though it doesn't seem like it, these fish do jump! These fish can be kept with any fish except big fat ones or flat-bodied ones. These fish can also live to be 20–30 years old.
Sail Fin Pleco

Sail Fin Pleco

Sailfin Pleco

  • Size: 15 inches (38 cm)
  • Common Name: Sailfin pleco
  • Minimum Tank Size: 80 gallons (300L)
  • Diet: Algae-based foods, meaty foods, and vegetables are all very important to its diet.
  • Setup: Well-fed ones will not eat plants, but they may eat plants if they are hungry. This pleco needs lots of hiding places and loves wood.
  • Water Parameters: pH of 6.5–7.5. Moderate water hardness is good.
  • Temperature: 75–86F (24–30C)
  • Other: These fish cannot live with members of their own kind or species of pleco closely related to them.
Rubber Lipped Pleco

Rubber Lipped Pleco

Rubber Lipped Pleco

  • Size: 7–8 inches (17cm)
  • Common Name: Rubber lipped pleco, Rubber lip pleco, bulldog pleco
  • Minimum Tank Size: 25 gallons (95L)
  • Diet: algae, algae-based foods, and vegetables
  • Setup: Most set-ups but preferably with hiding places. They can live with live plants.
  • Water Parameters: pH 6.5–7.5
  • Temperature: 70–78F (21–25C)
Royal Pleco

Royal Pleco

Royal Pleco

  • Size: 17 inches (43 cm)
  • Common Name: Royal pleco, royal catfish
  • Minimum Tank Size: 90 gallons (340L)
  • Diet: Vegetables, algae products, algae, a rare meaty treat
  • Setup: Must use wood in the aquarium
  • Water Parameters: pH of 6.5–7.5 with soft water
  • Temperature: 72–86F (22–30C)
  • Other: Should not be kept with members of its own species or similar species.
Golden Nugget Pleco

Golden Nugget Pleco

Golden Nugget Pleco

  • Size: 8 inches (20 cm)
  • Common Name: Golden nugget pleco, gold seam pleco
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons (190L)
  • Diet: Plant-based and meat-based foods. It may munch on driftwood. It likes leftover food and will eat algae on the bottom of the aquarium.
  • Setup: Wood is a must-have. You should also have hiding places and plants.
  • Water Parameters: pH of 6.5–7.5. These fish need high water quality and a high current.
  • Temperature: 77–86F (25–30C)
  • Other: These plecos are rare and expensive ($50), but very pretty.
Clown Pleco

Clown Pleco

Clown Pleco

  • Size: 4 inches (10cm)
  • Common Name: Clown pleco, clown panaque, and ringlet pleco.
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons (75L)
  • Diet: It eats wood, sometimes algae, meaty foods, vegetables. If hungry it may eat plants.
  • Setup: You must have wood in the aquarium, ideally you should keep several types of wood.
  • Water Parameters: pH of 6.8–7.6
  • Temperature: 73–82F (23–28C)
King Tiger Pleco

King Tiger Pleco

King Tiger Pleco

  • Size: 5 inches (12cm)
  • Common Name: King tiger pleco, gypsy king tiger pleco
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons (112L)
  • Diet: Flake food, meaty foods, algae, algae-based products, leftover food
  • Setup: This fish may eat plants. Keep hiding places.
  • Water Parameters: pH 6.5–7.4
  • Temperature: 77–84F (25–29C)
  • Other: Expensive ($100) and hard to find.
Butterfly Pleco

Butterfly Pleco

Butterfly Pleco

  • Size: 5–7 inches (13–18cm)
  • Common Name: Butterfly pleco, flounder pleco
  • Minimum Tank Size: 35 gallons (135L)
  • Diet: very good algae eater. They also eat algae-based food, vegetables, rare and small servings of meaty foods.
  • Setup: Stay away from dark substrate so it is more colorful. Have hiding places. Plants will be eaten if hungry.
  • Water Parameters: pH 5.6–7.0. Must have tons of oxygen in the tank! Current for them is nice.
  • Temperature: 77–82F (25–28C)
  • Other: Can change color to camouflage.
Albino Pleco

Albino Pleco

Albino Plecos

Most pleco species are able to be albino, especially bristlenose and common plecos. Albino plecos need just as much care as the rest of their species requires. They do have red eyes, but instead of being pure white, they tend to be more light pink or tan.

© 2011 FishAreFriends


April on July 26, 2020:

I have a 20galln tank, I did have a fat lipped pleco in my tank, then a friend gave me an albino Pleco and I didn’t really understand Plecos at the time, & just how much mess the larger ones actually make & the big pleco killed my little Pleco somehow. So now I would like some advice on a Pleco for my 20 gallon tank, and if I should have one or two in my tank, thanks.

Egyption on March 14, 2019:

Plecos are scary

Mann on June 21, 2018:

are there any cold water plecos for outside ponds in cold places like Canada. it's warm during the summer and spring but in south Canada it can get cold enough to snow. if there aren't i will just have a tank for it when it gets too cold. on October 24, 2017:


Jenn on July 12, 2016:

I have 75 g with 3 angelfish , lots of algae on rocks and my decor log , great hideout for fish . Which Pleco would be best , don't want one that will be to big

Lydia on July 19, 2015:

Good post really useful info, just one thing some people dont realise useally cause fish shops say they dont grow that big and they dont need much room, sailfins plecs can easily grow to 1-2 foot(or more my freinds grandads was over 2 ft closer to 4ft) my brother had one that grew to about 2 foot and my sailfin that i just gave to a bigger tank (out of my 4ft) was getting close to a foot and was very broad, this sailfin and his freind a common of nearly the same size are sharing their new tank with a albino and a sailfin quite happily and peacefuly.

Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on September 07, 2012:

Thanks for the article. It was just what I was looking for. I had a pleco in a tank I had as a kid and I've wanted another. I had no idea there were so many types.

Randomgirl on May 08, 2012:

This was pretty cool, just woderind what other fish to get with my common pleco. Only hove a ten gallon tank but will up size once he and his soon to be cichlid companions grow up. Voted up and put useful and interesting

FishAreFriends (author) from Colorado on February 10, 2012:

Thanks :)

CZCZCZ from Oregon on January 03, 2012:

I have an Albino Bristlenose Pleco in my cichlid tank and they all get along great. The pleco is a fun fish for what they do servicing the tank by cleaning all of the algae from the tank. It was interesting to look at all of the varieties that are presented in this hub. I would enjoy getting a couple of additional kinds of plecos in a future tank there is so many cool designs of some of the more strange plecos.

Derdriu on June 30, 2011:

FishAreFriends: Your compassion towards nature shines through your hubs. Voted up + useful

FishAreFriends (author) from Colorado on June 27, 2011:

And there are even more than this!

mariekbloch on June 26, 2011:

Very informative hub. Did not know there were so many kinds of plecos. Voted up!

FishAreFriends (author) from Colorado on May 01, 2011:


JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on April 30, 2011:

Nice Hub! Voted Up and Useful!


apStumbo on April 30, 2011:

These are sweet!