Plecostomus or Pleco or Hypostomus Plecostomus or suckermouth is an umbrella name for a group of catfishes belonging to the family of Loricariidae.  It is the largest family of catfish in the world. There are numerous varying varieties of bottom feeder catfish pleco species. Systematic research must be done before you acquire one of its kind for your aquarium. Pet shops may label it as common Pleco but it could be Bristlenose catfish (Ancistrus Dolichopterus) or Suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus Plecostomus). These are the two commonly occurring in the fish aquarium trade. Slightly less popular species are Sailfin catfish or Liposarcus Multiradiatus. It is also called armored catfish because of armor-like longitudinal rows of scutes or bony external plates or scales placed on the upper parts of its head as well as the body.

The Distinctive Features of Plecostomus

Plecostomus or Pleco or Hypostomus Plecostomus or suckermouth catfish is either brown or grey. In nature, they grow up to 24 inches and in an aquarium to 15 inches. The body is concealed with bony plates; the lower part of the head and abdomen stay naked.  The body is spotted or patterned. The upper part of the body or dorsal is well developed, pectoralis paired one on both sides and tail fins. The tail fin is shaped like a moon; the bottom section longer than the top. Puny eyes are situated high on the head. The eyes are equipped with a unique membrane that regulates the exposure of light to the eye. This way vision is protected from sunlight. Light during the day covers the eyes and when it is dark eyelids arise and their day begins. 

Plecostomus Closer Look in Tank

Plecostomus range in size from 15 inches to two inches in length. Before buying find out how big the species will grow. For instance, a tiny 8 cm Pleco may turn to be 60 cm as an adult and will be required to be accommodated in a bigger tank. Different Pleco comes with varying colorations while others can be recognized by anatomical characteristics. Bristlenose Pleco or Ancistrus Dolichopterus is acknowledged by its projecting horns. They live for 10-15 years.

The total species of pleco fish is about 150 but not all are suitable for aquarium. Most of them are native of South America categorically from the Amazon River basin. The aquarium pleco is the following variety:

  • Bristlenose plecostomus
  • Gold nugget plecostomus
  • Clown plecostomus
  • Sailfin plecostomus
  • Royal plecostomus
  • Snowball plecostomus

How to Take Care of Pet Plecostomus?

Plecos are versatile and can live in fresh and brackish estuaries' water. In the natural habitat, they occur in rivers in places like Costa Rica, Panama as well as South America. The water level of the river falters with rainwater sufficiency. In case the river bed dries up in some seasons the Pleco lives on very small water bodies. In the high flow region, Plecos attach themselves by sucker-mouths to rocks or submerged trees to prevent being swept downstream. Plecos are not valued as food fish. However, demand happens for the aquarium trade. These fishes are also called janitor fish because they clean up the algae in the tank. They prefer a pebbly substrate. Its coloring differs because of its surroundings and environment. At times they show black spots of differing sizes on their sand-colored bodies. They can also be dark brown and dusky.

Big bony plates cover the whole body except the belly. The dorsal fin is prominent and has a single set of barbules. The name Plecostomus in Latin means folded mouth. The mouth looks like a suction cup and is situated underneath the head. They sleep during the day in a dark place like a cervix.

Pleco can breathe through the skin and modifications in their digestive tract.  Pleco wriggles from one water pit to another for positive living conditions. Plecos survive for 30 hours outside water in case they have stored oxygen in their belly. You will find this species gulping air at the water surface Plecos was brought to the USA by fish farmers to control algae in their tanks.  

Plecos spend their time as bottom existing fish in the aquarium or hanging from the side. They connect to glass, rocks, and tunnels with their mouth. By nature extremely territorial towards other Plecos. They are nocturnal meaning active at night. They are adaptable to several varying tank environments and conditions. They are friendly and good-natured.

How to Set Up a Tank for Pet Plecostomus?

In nature, Plecos catfish like to live in gushing streams and rivers with a pebbly substrate. However, the species is highly adaptable. The pet shop usually sells 3 inches long fish which has to be placed in 20-gallon water in the aquarium. A foot-long fish should be accommodated in 100 gallons of water. The calculation should be made as 1 inch of fish requires 10 gallons of water.

Plecostomus At Bottom of Tank

The aquarium conditions should be like the tropical waters of the Amazon River. The temperature should be between 22-30 degrees Celsius. The pH level of water should be maintained at 6.5-7.5. Clean and filtered water is a must. Make use of canister filters. Preference is given to strong water current.

The tank should be set up by the habits of pleco. As they sleep during the day make use of hiding places by placing flower pots, hollowed logs, caves, and plenty of plants. This fish is in the habit of nibbling so place hardy and quick-growing plants like java moss in the tank. Driftwood is also acceptable. This way the fish stays fresh and healthy.

Breeding plecos is not an easy task as mating does not come easily to them. As they put in years they get aggressive towards mating. This species lays about 300 eggs at a time. Large hollow caves should be placed to lessen their aggression. The female lays eggs in the cave. The male guards it till the eggs are hatched.

The aquarium should have plenty of hiding places in the form of tunnels caves or hollowed logs or both. They sleep in them during the day. This fish prefers a tank that is very rich in the plantation. The aquarium canopy or tank cover is a must but securely laid otherwise they come on the surface to breathe the chances of jumping out are bright.

The best time to feed these fishes is just before you turn off the lights. This way other fishes will not eat the food of the plecos as Plecos can see at night.  

What to Feed Pet Plecostomus?

Plecos or janitor fish are omnivores and eat algae, plants, invertebrates, and puny fish. They relish dead fish at the bottom of the tank. Algae tablets should reach the bottom of the tank. Drop them as you reduce the lights at night. Keeping this fish prevents from algae overgrowing in the tank. They also consume fresh zucchini, romaine lettuce, spinach shelled peas, and cucumbers or spirulina pellets. Rotate the fish diet daily. For live foods, earthworms, crustaceans, and larvae are sufficient.

What are the Health Concerns of Pet Plecostomus?

A healthy pleco has clear eyes, remains at the bottom of the tank. It gets attached to the glass aquarium and other hard materials. It is a vigorous eater.  An unhealthy pleco has a bacterial infection called dropsy and fin rot. Give good quality food and make water quality better to get the fish back to health. At times white spots or fungus is seen on the body and mouth, it is a skin infection. Less water temperature and occasional water change lead to fungus multiplication. It also results in protruding eyes. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Plecostomus

Some of the generally asked questions about Plecostomus are answered below:

 What Fish Can Live With a Plecostomus?

Pleco is a peaceful fish and other fish in the tank could be Cichlids, Gouramies, and Tetras. The Discus, as well as Angelfish, will nip plecos. Smaller fish will easily be accommodated in their mouth and this is not what you want. Pleco fish survives with other of the same breed but a tank of 300 gallons will be needed for two pleco fish. It is advisable to keep only one Pleco per tank. 

Do Plecos Clean Your Tank?

Plecos are natural scavengers and keep the tank clean. They are bottom eaters and will consume uneaten food, and leftover matter. If these are not removed the water will get harmful nitrates.  Plecos help shrink and maintain algae growth. So algae do not built-up. Plecos stir up the substrate in the tank. They loosen and consume food that falls and gets deposited in the cervices of the substrate. This way oxygen is blended with the substrate.  Beneficial bacteria thrive. The nitrogen cycle is established. If leftover food remains at the bottom then as it rots it will give out toxic material or gas spoiling the tank environment. As Pleco ages, they consume fewer algae and it has a negative effect on the habitat.

Will a Plecostomus Eat Other Fish?

The fish that is troublesome for pleco is unusual aggressive fish. To name a few is Piranhas, Oscar fish, etc. Very flat fish gives chance to pleco suckerfish a good hold position and Pleco can kill it.  Multiple Pleco cannot live together because they are territorial around each other.  They are not docile towards each other.

Are Plecos Aggressive?

Most Plecos are peaceful fish. Most of them either calmly graze on the tank bottom or prefer to rest. They attack dead fish which lands at the bottom of the tank. Plecos of full size with other small-sized fish in the tank may appear intimating but it is peaceful and goes about its business. Plecos should not reside with another pleco. It is difficult to breed them in the aquarium. 
Thus, Plecos are not difficult to maintain in an aquarium. It has no complex care requirements.