The Royal Pleco, scientifically known as panaque nigrolineatus, is an incredible freshwater fish that originates from different parts of South America. This species is so unique and will definitely be the center of attention in your tank. This species is so common among aquarists, and this is mainly because they bring a neat aesthetic in the tank and they are easy and cheap o maintain also.

This species is highly sought after since it has so much to offer. They are beautiful and have some unique biological quirks that make this fish an interesting addition to your tank. They are mainly found living in Orinoco and Amazon River basins. In the large Riyal Plecos family, there are a number of subspecies that are included. They have the same appearance and also require the same care.

Despite the type of Royal Pleco that you are going to get, they will give you a rewarding experience. This species can also make a great addition to a community tank due to its unique behavior and docile nature. Before getting yourself in the business of keeping this fish, you need to have a proper understanding of their baseline care requirements before getting one.

This species can, at times, be sensitive to poor tank conditions, and therefore they need an owner who understands exactly what they need. This guide seeks to give you the information you need about the care of this fish. By the end of this guide, you are ready to venture into the business of keeping Royal Plecos.


Scientific Namepanaque nigrolineatus
ColorLight and dark grey stripes
Size17 inches
LifespanTen years
Tank size25 to 30 gallons
Care LevelEasy
Freshwater or SaltwaterFreshwater
Temperature72 to 78 degrees F
CompatibilityAggressive with other plecos


The Royal Plecos are nocturnal, which implies that they are active during the night. They are also bottom dwellers, and this means the ideal tank mates should be dwelling in the middle or upper section of the tank to avoid a lot of confrontations. Also, they should be active during the day so as to allow this species to be free alone over the night. The Royal Plecos are peaceful in nature, and therefore the tank mates should also be peaceful. However, this species is only aggressive to their own kind, and keeping them in the same tank with more aggressive species can stress them out.

Also, this fish should not share the tank with more fats and energetic swimmers. These species are not the most adept swimmer, and therefore they are not able to defend themselves if they are nipped by a faster fish, or they are threatened. This fish should also be housed in the same tank as the fish that are of the same size. This is because housing them with big-sized fish will get bullied, and also housing them with fish that are too small, they will not be able to defend themselves in case they get aggressive. Some of the ideal tank mates include:

  • Flag cichlids
  • Angelfish
  • Congo tetras
  • Silver Arowanas
  • Head stander
  • Black Skirt Tetras
  • Rummy nose Tetras
  • Silver dollar fish
  • Bloodfin Tetras
  • Jaguar Cichlids


As stated earlier, this species is peaceful when housed with other species but is very aggressive towards their own kind and towards other catfish. Therefore, it is advisable to house only one Royal Pleco in the tank. This is why most experts do not recommend keeping this species in a home aquarium unless you have got a pair that has already bonded.


This species has a bold and intimidating appearance. They also have some distinct physical characteristics too. They have a large head, large fins, and a downturned sucker mouth. In terms of mass, the Royal Plecos are a bit different. Compared to the rest of the species, this fish is a bit girthier. Most of that weight is found in the head, and this makes it stronger.

This species also has bright red eyes on top of the head. It offers a stunning contrast against the muted tones of the body. Among the numerous subspecies, there are different color variations. However, grey and black is the most common color morph you will see. The base color is usually the gray color, and sometimes it takes on a brownish hue.

The base colors are accompanied by some bold black and dark brown stripes. These stripes run along the entire length of the fish. These stripes are not perfect, and therefore they create a unique pattern from one fish to the other. The larger dorsal fin tip is covered in gold color that is creamy. Sometimes you may also come into contact with the black Royal Plecos that is made of some spots instead of stripes. However, these species are rare to find in the fish trade.

Just like the rest of the Plecos. This species does not have scales. Instead, they are covered in a tough armor-like skin plate. Although these skin plate cover the whole body, the belly is a bit softer.


This species can really grow big in their adulthood, and they are also heavy. A mature Royal Placo can grow to a maximum size of 17 inches in length, which is around 43 cm. This, however, means that you must ensure that you have a big tank o comfortably house this fish before buying. They are not the biggest fish, but they have a considerable big size, and you should ensure you can be able to maintain this species.


This species can be found in the turbid waters of the Xing River and its tributaries in Brazil. This is an area with low oxygen levels in the water, and this makes it suitable for those fish species that do not like residing at the water surface. This fish lives surrounded by dark waters and plenty of rocks where they hide and evade the predators.

This fish originates from South America, and lately, it has been in other parts of the world such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. They can also be found in other parts where they were released in water by the owners who do not want to keep them anymore. In some places, this fish is considered standard, but they are rare in other places due to over-collection for the aquarium trade. As a result of their rarity, you should expect them to be very expensive when buying them.


With the optimal care and the right living conditions, the average lifespan of this species is ten years. This does not imply that they are not capable of living beyond this age since there is some incident where they have outlived this limit. By having this long lifespan, it means that you must be ready for a long-time dedication and relationship. There is no guarantee that your fish will lie for ten years, but this is greatly determined by the general care, the diet that you feed them, and the water conditions.


This species is very peaceful and will not use its large body to bully other species in the tank. However, they are aggressive to other fish f their own kind. They are truly gentle giants. Due to their long lifespan as an owner of this fish, you should be committed to attentive care for a long period. This species needs to be provided with optimal conditions in order to reach its full potential. This included everything to do it a clean tank and enough swimming space.

If you provide this fish species with optimal conditions, it will happily enjoy its life as a scavenger and explore the bottom level of the tank. As they do that, they will not bother other tank mates living in the middle and the upper sections of the tank. This species is nocturnal, and this means they spend most arts o the day hiding under the driftwoods and other places in the aquarium; they will be more active during the night, and that is when you will find them slowly swimming at the bottom of the tank as they scavenge for food.

It is important to take note of the behavior of this species and that is their aggressive nature toward each other. This fish will ignore and not bother the other fish in the tank until they see another Royal Plecos. This explains why it is advisable not to keep this species with other fish of the same kind.


This fish is easy to take care of, but there are some conditions that you should ensure are met in order to provide optimal living conditions. The tank needs some equipment so as to enhance the living conditions. Remember, the tank should always be a mimic of its natural habitat. Below are some of the tank requirements that you should meet.


Royal Pleco is large fish that requires at least 30 gallons of tank per fish. This fish can grow up to 17 inches, and this tank size will be enough to offer good swimming space. The tank should have some driftwood and a flat surface for grazing some algae. This species should be kept alone unless when introduced to each other at a young age and allow them to create a bond over time. This species has a high rate of growth, and therefore you should consider buying a large tank even for a juvenile instead of regular changes.


You should ensure that you provide a good and excellent filtration system in the aquarium since this species has a high bioload. When you provide a poor filtration system, there will be an improper flow of water inside the tank, and this will make this species feel suffocated inside.


It is important to add some decorations in the tank so as to act as hiding places. As said earlier, this fish is nocturnal, and they spend most of the time hiding during the day, and therefore there is a need to have plenty of hiding places. You can also add some rocks inside the tank. The decorations should have no sharp edges and rough edges to prevent the fish from getting injured.


This fish is a bottom dweller, and therefore as an aquarist, you need to pay a lot of attention to the bottom area of the tank. The bottom of the tank should be covered in a soft substrate such as sand or gravel. You need to ensure the individual pieces of the substrate are not too small for the fish to swallow. This can be a bit challenging as a result of the size of the fish.


It is important to include some plants inside the tank so as to replicate the natural habitat. If you decide to include them, ensure that you select fast-growing plants rather than slow-growing ones. Slow-growing ones will take long before this fish can start grazing on them since they are naturally herbivores. The substrate used should be gravel or sand so as to support the growth of these plants.


This species being bottom dwellers, live in dark waters, and therefore the tank should be dim-lit. You can do so by providing some plants inside the tank to provide a shade and reduce the amount of light in the tank.


As time goes the tank becomes dirty, and there is a need to keep it clean; this is because a dirty tank can be very dangerous to the health of this fish. Ensure you clean the tank using lukewarm water and a piece of cloth. You should not use any soap-based or chemical product when cleaning. This is because they may hurt the fish health-wise. All the equipment’s in the tank should also be cleaned.


`This species is very sensitive to water changes, and therefore it is important to ensure that you provide the best quality water possible. If the water is not up to the standards, it stresses the fish, and they are affected health-wise. They become prone to some diseases also. The fish end up becoming sluggish, lose appetite and stop interacting with other fish in the tank. Some of the water parameters that should be maintained include;


In the wild, this species enjoys water that is warm and dark with plenty of food to scavenge. This should be replicated in the aquarium, and therefore the average water temperature should be between 72 to 78 degrees F. You should ensure that you maintain it within this range all the time since constant changes can affect the fish. You can use a heater to always raise the temperatures in case of drop and a thermometer to keep monitoring water in the tank.


The average ph. of water in the aquarium should be between 6.6 to 7.5.


This fish opts for slightly hard water that is not too soft. The average water hardness should be between 5 to 10 dKH.


This species is large in size and has a high level of bioload. It is therefore advisable to change water on a weekly basis. Ensure that you change at least 25 percent of water in the tank every week, and there should be strictly followed. Do not replace the water in its entirety since the beneficial bacteria will be killed. The new water you are putting in the tank should meet all the parameters as that in the tank already.


Royal Plecos are herbivores in nature, but they sometimes feed in a métier diet. They also have a penchant for wood consumption. They actually have teeth that have evolved into wood carving machines. They also resemble a spoon with tips being larger than the base. These powerful teeth, together with their powerful jaws, enable this species to demolish wood.

 This species does not, however, consume just woods. They also get nutrition from algae detritus and microorganisms that are found in the wood. In addition to wood and its companions, this species will feed on plants and food remains from the bottom of the tank. This is because they are bottom dwellers. You can also provide this species with other foods such as flakes, wafers, pellets, both algae-based and meatier as well.

This species also enjoys feeding on blanched vegetables such as peas, cucumbers, and zucchini. Ensure that you provide a variety of food to your fish so that they can receive all the necessary nutrients.


Breeding this species is a difficult task. It is rare to successfully breed this fish. It is only done by professional breeders, but there are far too many factors out of your control in a standard tank. Furthermore, the behavior of this species getting aggressive towards other fish of their own species can make it difficult. This is because they will not pair but instead will fight.

However, this does not mean that you cannot breed them completely. If you are lucky to come across a bonded pair, you can progress with it and try your luck. In the wild, the breeding season happens during the rainy season. The best way to go about breeding is to simulate the breeding season. The heavy rains bring about changes in water conditions. It usually raises the acidity levels and softens the water a bit, and decreases the temperatures a bit.

To trigger breeding, you need to feed your fish with plenty of high-quality foods. The Vinewood is a favorite among the breeders because it is soft and easy to digest. If it is successful, the females will go ahead and lay eggs at the bottom of the tank. Typically the eggs will be an laid in a pile of debris. So you might want to hold off on vacuuming the substrate if you are trying to breed your Plecos.


Both the male and female Royal Pleco grow to the same size of around 17 inches. Generally, the males tend to be smaller than the females of the same age range, but this is not the case. It may be a bit difficult to notice any physical differences between the male and female versions of this fish, but you can always consult an expert fish keeper in case you are not sure about it.

It is almost undoubtedly a male if this species has red eyes instead of black and pink or red anal or facial fins. Suppose you notice that the body shape of your fish is slim at the bottom and chunky instead of wide they will be female if the body tapers off towards the tail. Males usually have a pretty even thickness from top to bottom.


This fish species belongs to the royal category, and it is not free from diseases. Being freshwater fish, they are prone to common freshwater fish diseases. They include;


This is a common disease among fish, and it is also known as the white spot disease. When these species get infected by this disease, it develops some spots on their body and fins. This disease is mainly caused by poor water quality in the aquarium. If you notice that your fish has this disease, the best thing is to immediately consult a doctor and obtain treatment. You can have the aquarium test kit and keep monitoring the water standards at regular intervals. During the treatment, it is advisable to move the sick fish from the tank to a quarantine tank until it recovers fully.


This species does not like moving too much, but that does not imply that they are idle. Once you notice there is some lethargy among this fish species, and there are high levels of food leftovers in the tank, it means they have been affected by appetite loss. This is mainly dropsy, and you need to immediately seek medication from a vet.


Bacterial infection is so common among fish species, and it causes bloating loss of coloration and some lethargy among this species.   To avert this disease, ensure that you feed them with high-quality wood and give them immediate medication immediately after you notice these signs in your fish.


You should keep monitoring your fish constantly, and in case you notice some strange white-colored, ball-shaped growth on their bodies, then that may be as a result of mycosis. This disease is also known as fish fungus, and it is caused by water molds. It can be treated with a lot of ease.

When you see these cotton ball-shaped growth, you have to ensure that they are treated immediately. This is because this disease can spread so easily. The fish should be separated from the other species and put in a quarantine tank until they have fully recovered. The medicines and excellent quality of water in the tank should help your fish to overcome this disease.


Sometimes you will find the eyes of this fish are swollen. You should not be worried much since this is common among freshwater fishes. To avert this, you can use medication, frequent changes of water, and feeding them with vitamin-rich foods.

These fish also get infected by a disease which is the hole within the head. This happens due to the erosion of the lateral lines. The specific case of these diseases is yet to be established.

Generally, in order to reduce the possibility of your fish getting these diseases, ensure that you provide them with high-quality tank conditions, and water should adhere to the parameters. Also, feed them with the right diet, and this will boost their immune system against the diseases.


Maintain a suitable diet

By feeding them in a high-quality feeding schedule, your fish will remain healthy and avoid the diseases that come as a result of a lack of nutrients in the body.

Keeping debris and uneaten food cleaned up.

Ensure that you clean all the food leftovers and debris from the tank since they will rot if left lying around. After rotting, they will release some harmful toxins that attract pests.

Ensure they are getting enough exercise

You should ensure that you provide these fish with enough swimming space so that they do not become stressed. Overcrowding an aquarium will end up stressing your fish which will contribute to the development of diseases.


Is the Royal Pleco Freshwater fish?

Yes, the royal Pleco is a freshwater species of fish that originates from South America.

How much is the Royal Plecos?

As said earlier, this species is rare, and therefore their cost is a bit high compared to the common fish. The average cost of this species is between 20 to 150 euros. This depends on the size of the fish.

Can I put 2 Royal Plecos in the same tank?

This fish is peaceful towards other species, but they are aggressive towards their own species.   This does mean that they cannot coexist in their entirety. You can keep two or more together as long as you place them in a big aquarium that is big enough for the fish to establish their own territory. If you want to keep two of them in the same tank, ensure that you have plenty of hiding places for them.

Are Royal Plecos Nocturnal?

Yes, the Royal Plecos are nocturnal, which means they are active during the night and they sleep during the day. However, you will still see some of the fish during the day. They may sometimes spend sometimes looking for food during this time. They will be tucked inside the tank sleeping in most cases.

Do Royal Plecos feed on Algae?

Yes, these species feed on algae. This species is scavenging for that will eat anything as long as it fist in their mouth. Ensure that you place some flakes or some algae wafers a different position in the tank so that your Plecos can have different choices and choose whatever they want.


Without a doubt, this fish is beautiful and exciting in appearance. As long as you get this fish from a credible source, you need to have no worries rearing this fish as long as you give them the food care they need. This fish makes a great fish, and with its long lifespan, you are guaranteed to have a long-lasting relationship. 

All you need about this fish is to have some foundational knowledge, and you will be good to go. They are among the most interesting fish around, and you can be sure of no regrets when you go for them. The experience will be rewarding after all. It is our hope that this guide has given you the extensive foundation knowledge you need before venturing into keeping the Royal Pleco. You should go for it.

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