Clown Pleco – Scientifically known as the Panaqolus maccus– is a species of fish commonly found in aquariums all over the world. This is a small-sized, beautiful, and peaceful fish species that fish keepers love for various reasons. It has multiple common and trade names that are used for the aquarium trade of the Clown Pleco, these include the Ringlet Pleco, Clown Plecostomus, and Clown Panaque. It is a dwarf fish species from the Pleco genus. It has a unique facial structure and positioning that allows this fish to forage on the bottom of the rivers, lakes, and fish tank.

It belongs to a family of fish known as the Loricariidae. The members of this fish family are also known as the armored catfish. This is because their fins are structured in a way that helps them protect from attacks of other fish species. There are more than 150 species in their genus, but only a few are found in aquariums. Its unique appearance, color patterns, and peaceful nature make it a great candidate for any peaceful community aquarium. It is also one of those fish species that are easy to care for in the tank. Below is complete information about this fish species and a complete care guide to help you take care of them inside your tanks.

Basic Facts Table

LifespanUp to 15 years
SizeUp to 4 inches
ColorsBlack, Brown, Silver, and Yellow
Freshwater or SaltwaterFreshwater
Care LevelMinimum
CompatibilityPeaceful Community Aquariums

Tank Companions

Here is a list of the possible tank mates or tank companions of the Clown Pleco.

  • Minnows
  • Small Rasboras
  • Small Catfish
  • Ember Tetras
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Livebearers
  • Acaras
  • Bala Sharks

How To Select Tank Companions?

The Clown Pleco Fish is one of the smallest plecos in their family, also they are the most peaceful species. So, you need to be careful about their tank mates. You should select tank mates that are compatible with living in a peaceful environment. It is best to select a fish species that rarely visit the bottom of the tank to avoid any kind of skirmishes over the territory. Clown Plecos are peaceful, but they are also partially territorial, so you need to keep this in mind when selecting a potential tank mate for them. Below are details about some other factors that you need to consider while selecting a tank mate for the Clown Plecos.

  1. Make sure to select the tank mates that have equal size. A tank mate that is too big will be a danger for the entire tank while a tank mate too small will be eaten by the members of the tank. For these reasons, you should select fish species that are small and can only reach three to four inches in length.
  2. Apart from the size, you also need to consider the nature of the fish. It is recommended to select a peaceful fish species as the tank mate of Clown Plecos. Because if you do not do that, you will notice that there are always fights inside the tank. Also, this type of hostile habitat environment impacts the health and lifespan of the fish. So, it is better to select only the peaceful species of fish as the tank mate of Clown Plecos and leave any aggressive fish out of the tank.
  3. You also need to make sure that you are selecting a fish species that can live in the same type of tank conditions. For example, you cannot select and pair a marine fish with the Clown Plecos in a freshwater environment. This would kill the marine fish. So, you need to make sure that both fish are compatible and can live in the same type of conditions such as water temperature, pH levels, and hardness.

You should test the compatibility of every possible tank mate by comparing these three factors. If the fish is peaceful, has the same size, and can live in the same condition, it can be paired with the Clown Plecos, otherwise, it cannot be paired.

Species Overview

Clown Plecos are some of the beautiful algae eaters that you can buy for your tanks. This fish has a unique facial structure that allows it to stick to the stones, and walls of your tank. Also, it feeds on the algae that it filters from the water. It is very common behavior in this species to stick to stones or at the bottom of the tank and filter the water. Some aquariums used them to clean their tanks and prevent algae blooms in their tanks.

This is an endemic fish species that is only found in two rivers in Venezuela and Colombia. The Caroni and Apure River basins are known as the common habitat of this fish species. But, you can find them in tanks all over the world. This fish is easy to keep and care for in the tanks, hence a lot of new fish keepers and expert fishkeepers like to keep them around. This fish lives in the bottom of these rivers, where it can find a lot of places to stick, and filter algae. Their natural habitat contains a lot of vegetation that allows for the growth of algae that this fish eats most of the time. But it is not just an algae eater, it also eats small crustaceans, invertebrates, and worms inside the water.

Also, this fish likes to live near the banks of rivers, where the flow of water is moderately fast, and there is a lot of driftwood and stones at the bottom of the river. The unique appearance of their face allows them to forage the ground better as compared to fish with an uplifted mouth. The areas where these fish lives are also covered with woods that restrict the light from reaching the bottom layer. This is helpful for them as it protects them from being the prey of large fish species that live in the same habitat. Their black and brownish appearance allows them to disappear in the muddy waters at the bottom of the river.


The Clown Pleco fish has a different appearance as compared to most of the aquarium fish. This is because it belongs to the Plecos family. In this family, the face of the fish is not present in the middle of their face, instead, it is present at the bottom of their face. It helps them in getting food and foraging the bottom layer of the rivers. Also, they have small tentacles around their mouth that help them detect the presence of other fish nearby. To get a better idea about their shape, you should think about Bristlenose Pleco, because both of these have similar shapes.

It is known for having a unique color pattern on its body. They have brownish-yellow and black stripes that cover the body, fins, tail, and mouth of the fish. On the body of the fish, these stripes go from top to bottom, meanwhile, on the fins, they go from left to right horizontally. This unique color pattern and stripes make them appear distinctively in your tank. This is one of the smallest species of Plecos, meaning that it only grows for a few inches. Meanwhile, most other species of this genus can grow up to 15 inches.

This species rarely reaches 4 inches, and the average size is 3.5 inches. In most cases, the size of this fish depends on the lifespan and the type of care that you provide. A mature fish from this species can be 3 inches if the care is not excellent. Meanwhile, some members who are receiving excellent care can be larger than 3.5 inches. They have bulging eyes that are present on the sides of the head.

Part of their bodies that is closer to the face is thicker and wider, meanwhile, it becomes thin from gills towards the tail of the fish. Also, the frontal part of the fish body is wide while the backside is narrow, giving it more like an arrow shape. This fish has hard fins, these fins are used as protective tools as well as for swimming. If you are looking for a species of fish that stands out in your aquariums, it is a perfect choice for you.


This fish species is known as an endemic fish because it is only found naturally in two places. It is native to the Caroni and Apure River basins in Venezuela and Colombia. There are some variations of this species that may have been found in other places. But the original Clown Pleco species lives only in these two rivers. Apart from this, it is not found anywhere else in the world. It became a popular aquarium species after it was discovered and brought to the United States. This species became famous and a go-to choice for those who wanted a Catfish in their aquariums.

Natural Habitat

As you know that this fish is only found in two rivers, which indicates that this fish only lives in a specific environment and habitat. This habitat is only found in this region of Venezuela and Colombia. The habitat conditions that this fish needs include a lot of driftwood, soft sand, stones, and a lot of vegetation. Most of the time, the light would not reach the bottom layer where this fish lives.

This is because they are found in places that are covered with plants and trees. Branches of these trees and plants often act as a shelter for this species when it needs to hide from predators. Also, this kind of environment helps them find a lot of algae to feed on or find smaller insects to prey on.

Clown Pleco Lifespan

This is one of the fish species that can live for a very long time in your tank if you provide them with excellent care. Clown Plecos can live for up to 10 years if you properly take care of them. With minimal care, this fish can live for up to 5 years. Meanwhile, with good care, its lifespan can be extended and it can live for up to 8 to 9 years. But if you provide them with excellent care, a peaceful environment, and a large tank, this fish can live for more than ten years. Some Clown Plecos have been known to have lived for up to 12 years. But this is a rare phenomenon. In the native habitats, this fish has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

As mentioned above, if you want this fish to live longer, and stay healthy, you need to provide them with excellent care. This includes providing them an excellent tank, water conditions, tank setup, and maintaining certain parameters. These parameters are very important in keeping your fish. For example, the temperature is one of the parameters that you need to maintain, and if you fail to maintain it within the given range, your fish would die because of that. Similarly, other factors are also important as they directly impact the lifespan and health of your fish. Below is a list of these parameters that you need to maintain, and the factors that you need to consider.

Tank Size

Fish care for the Clown Pleco starts with the tank selection. There are a lot of sizes, and types of tanks that you can pick. But you need to make sure that the tank you pick is sufficient for keeping the Clown Pleco. Because if you failed and selected a short tank or a very large tank, you will be making a mistake. Small tanks do not have enough space that your fish needs and it can cause multiple issues including territorial fights. Also, selecting a very large tank would not be a good thing as you will be spending too much money, time, and effort on a large tank because the large tanks are difficult to maintain.

Another thing that you need to take care of is the shape of the tank. As you know that this fish lives in the bottom layers of the water, you need to select a tank that is wide and long, instead of being tall. A wide and long tank would have more surface area that would allow more oxygen absorption to keep your fish healthy. Apart from this, it would also provide more territory for your fish two explore. Meanwhile, a tall tank would have a short surface area and a small territory.

There are a lot of sizes of tanks that you can use, but to know the exact size of the tank for your community of Clown Plecos, you need to know the number of fish that you are planning to keep in that tank. You also need to know the average fish per gallon ratio of the fish inside the tank. After that, you need to multiply it by the total number of fish. It will give you a rough idea of the size of the tank that you should select. For a healthy community of Clown Plecos, most aquarists advise the use of a 20 gallons tank. But you can also use a large tank of 30 gallons if you are planning on introducing more fish in the tank later. Some aquarists also use short 10 gallons tanks, but they are not an ideal size of tank for this species.

Tank Setup

After you have selected an appropriately sized tank for your Clown Plecos community tank, you need to start creating a tank setup. A tank set up for Clown Pleco would contain a lot of things that they need to live inside that tank. These include plants, decorations, substrate, driftwood, filtration systems, lighting, and everything else. Here is how to create a perfect tank setup for the Clown Pleco fish.

  • It is a good idea to start at the bottom layer. You should use treated sand to spread in the bottom layer of the tank. A lot of aquarists do not add the sand in the bottom layer as it can sometimes cause cloudy and muddy water conditions when Clown Pleco forages in the bottom. But using just the stones and pebbles or a refined substrate is not a good idea. It is better to use a combination of sand, substrate, pebbles, and stones.
  • If you want to plant something in the bottom layer, you should use the amazon fern to cover the bottom layer of your tank. Also, there are other aquatic plants that you can use for the tank of Clown Plecos. These include Amazon swords, Anubias, Hornworts, and some other aquatic species of South American origin. Plants would provide a cover and shelter for the members of the tank and would also allow them to breed.
  • The next thing that you need to put in the tank of Clown Plecos is the driftwood, caves, and other decorations. These decorations would make your habitat more interesting for the fish to explore.

After you are done decorating your tank, it will be time for a water filtration system in your tank. The size of the filtration system depends on the size of the tank. You should use an active filtrations system that produces a lot of vibrations in the water. These vibrations would simulate the water motion or flow that this fish gets in its natural habitats. A filtration system would keep the water clean and would allow more oxygen to be absorbed in the water.

Apart from this, you also need to put in a water heater to control the temperature of the water during winter. To keep your tank lit during the day if it is indoors, you will need to use standard aquarium lights. Using a lid to cover the tank is not a requirement, but it is better to have a cover over the tank to prevent any kind of dust or foreign objects from entering the tank water.

Water Conditions/Parameters

Once you have created a tank setup, and all of your decorations and devices have been set, you will need to start working on the parameters. These parameters need to remain within the given limits. Here is a list of these parameters that you need to maintain and their recommended ranges.

  • Water temperature should be maintained between 73°F-82°F.
  • The pH level of the water should be maintained neutral, or 6.8 to 7.6.
  • Water hardness needs to be maintained under 10 dGH.

You can maintain the temperature of the water during the winter using a heater. Meanwhile, in summer, you will have to add something to cool the water. You can add cool water or some ice cubes in the tank to lower the temperature if it becomes too high. pH level maintenance may require using alkaline or acidic materials in the tank. Meanwhile, hardness can be maintained using driftwood and softening pillows in the tank. You will have to take measures to prevent fluctuations in these parameters because any change can be harmful to Clown Pleco.

Water Source

For a tank of the Clown Pleco, you can use water from any source. For example, you can use the water of your local freshwater resources such as rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, and dams. You can also use the tap water for the tanks of Clown Plecos. But you will have to make sure that the water is clean and it does not contain any bacteria or harmful chemicals. For this purpose, you may have to test the water. If there are contaminants in the water, you will have to filter them. You can also buy tank water from different online and offline resources that provide clean water for your tank.

Behavior and Temperament

The Clown Pleco fish is known for being a peaceful species of fish. It is also a social, and active fish species that likes exploring the bottom of the tank and eating algae. They can swim very fast, but they prefer living a slow life. You will notice that they spend a lot of time on the same spot. This is because they stick to a single place and filter algae from the water. Algae is a major source of their food. Most of the time, you will notice any aggression in the tank, but they do fight sometimes.

It happens because there are more Male Clown Plecos in the tank. These fights are not severe and they happen because of the territory invasions. That is why it is advised to keep them in a large tank where it is easy to prevent these fights. In large tanks, each male would stick to one side of the tank and would not invade the territory of another male and this would not cause any fights. Also, you may notice that your fish eats driftwood. This is something that you would only see in Clown Plecos.

Breeding Clown Pleco

You can breed the Clown Pleco fish in your tank but it would require extra effort. Below is a complete guide that can help you through the breeding process of Clown Pleco.

  • The first thing that you need to do is to create a separate breeding tank with the same rules, setup, and parameters. This is important as breeding in the same tank can cause multiple issues and reduce the chances of success.
  • You should add some wooden caves in the breeding tank, as it would allow the Clown Plecos to spawn. You may have to shower water over their tank to create the rainy season conditions, also drop the water temperature to induce the breeding conditions.
  • During this process, you should feed a lot of protein to Clown Plecos as the female would need an additional diet for the process of egg formation. Once the spawning starts, the male would circle the females and they would hide in the caves. Also, females would lay eggs and the male would protect those eggs.
  • To prevent the females from eating the eggs, male Clown Plecos may even attack the females. So, you should remove the females from the breeding tank and allow the males to guard the eggs.
  • In this species, eggs take a lot longer to hatch. Once they hatch, the male would guard the fry for a few days.

Eggs and Fry Care

Initially, the male would care for the young fry. But after that, you will have to feed them special food to keep them healthy and support their growth. You should not introduce them into their parents’ tank unless they are one inch long. It is better to create a separate tank for the Fry to grow or let them grow in the breeding tank if you are not planning on using it again.

Diet of Clown Pleco

The diet of Clown Plecos is an omnivore, meaning that they eat everything in their natural habitat. But the major food source in this species is algae that they absorb from the water. This fish has a mouth that allows them to forage on the bottom of the river to find food. Inside the tank, you can feed them algae flakes, food pellets, and live worms. Make sure to feed them twice to keep them healthy and well-fed. Do not put a lot of food in the tank at the same time, because the remaining food will decompose and create a higher carbon concentration in your tank.

Diseases of Clown Pleco

Here is a list of the possible Clown Pleco diseases and how to treat them.

  • Ich: Ich is a common fish problem that is seen in various fish species. It is identified by the white spots formation on the scales of the fish. You can treat it using fish medicines.
  • Fin Rot: Fin rot happens when the fins of a fish are damaged, and bacteria inside the water cause the infection. It is very important to keep your environment clean to prevent this from happening.
  • Dropsy: This is a lethal disease in which the belly of your fish would swell, and it is caused by the fluids build up inside the fish. It can happen for several reasons, and it is treated using medicines.

What is the Ideal Size For The Tank?

The ideal size for the tank of Clown Plecos is 20 gallons. This tank is sufficient for a small number of Clown Plecos. If you want to add more fish, you will need a bigger tank.

Is Clown Pleco Saltwater or Freshwater Species?

Clown Plecos are Freshwater fish species.

Is the Clown Pleco a schooling species or not?

No, Clown Plecos are a social species of fish that lives with other members of the tank. But it is not known for displaying schooling or shoaling behaviors.

Conclusion – Is Clown Pleco Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Yes, this fish species is suitable for anyone’s aquarium. This is because it is a unique looking, small, beautiful, colorful, and peaceful species of fish. Also, it is very easy to care for and you can breed them in the tank. It is also good for the new fish keepers who do not know about fish keeping as it does not require much care to stay alive in the tank. Based on these arguments, it can be said that this is a suitable species for your aquarium.


Question: What is the scientific name of Clown Plecos?

Answer: The scientific name of Clown Plecos is Panaqolus maccus. It also has many other trade names including Ringlet Pleco and Clown Panaque.

Question: Are Clown Plecos rare?

Answer: No, they are not a rare species, they are an endemic and unique species of fish. Endemic species means it only lives in one specific region of the world. Also, it is found in a lot of aquariums so it is not a rare species.

Question: Are Clown Plecos aggressive?

Answer: Mostly Clown Plecos are non-aggressive. But if a male invades the territory of another male, there can be aggression and fights. But you can prevent this by selecting a large tank.

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