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The Plecostomus – scientifically known as the Hypostomus Plecostomus – is a beautiful aquarium fish species that is loved by fish keepers from all over the world. It has many common names such as Sucker Mouth Catfish, and Common Pleco. This is a freshwater fish species from a tropical region. The Plecostomus or Sucker Mouth Catfish belongs to a family of fish called armored catfish. It is called armored catfish because it has protective fins around its body that act as a shield and protect this fish from predator attacks.

Dquai, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Plecostomus has greenish body coloration, with dark black spots that are spread throughout the body of the fish. Apart from that, it also has transparent fins that give a greenish look with black spots similar to the rest of their bodies. The spread of these blackish spots is uneven and irregular, but the size of the spots remains the same. This fish is known for its habit of sticking to stones, decorations, and walls of your aquariums. It has specialized structures that work like a vacuum to help them stick to surfaces. This is why they are named the Sucker Mouth Catfish. It is easy to care for this species in an aquarium, but you need proper information about the species, and how to take care of it. Read the article below to know more about caring for the Plecostomus fish.

Basic Facts Table

FamilyCatfish, Loricariidae
LifespanUp to 15 years, depending on care.
SizeUp to 24 inches, depending on care.
ColorsGreenish-brown, sand, gray
Care LevelMinimum
CompatibilityPeaceful community aquariums

Tank Companions

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

  • Guppy fish
  • Molly fish
  • Gouramis
  • Cichlids
  • Hatchets
  • Swordtails
  • Platy fish
  • Corydoras
  • Some crabs and shrimps of freshwater origins.

How To Select Tank Companions?

The Sucker Mouth Catfish is one of the most peaceful species of fish for aquariums. There are a lot of fish species that you can keep in the same tank with Plecostomus or Sucker Mouth Catfish. Its peaceful nature makes it a perfect tank companion for a variety of fish species, frames, and crabs of freshwater origin. Some species are incompatible with this fish. So you need to be careful when selecting a tank made for this species. There are a few guidelines that you can follow while selecting a possible tank mate for this species. It will help you find suitable tank mates that are not only compatible to live in the same conditions but can thrive in the company of Plecostomus fish.

The first rule for selecting a possible compatible tank mate is to select a fish species that has the same size. Having two fish of the same size in the tank will help you prevent a lot of skirmishes and bullying. Because smaller fish species are often bullied by bigger members of the tank even if they are known for being peaceful. Even if you are introducing the fish from the same family. Try to select the ones that have the same size and age. It will also be helpful to you in the long term as the fish inside your community tank will grow together. So, make sure that you introduce them to a tank or introduce fish in their tank that has the same size.

The second rule for selecting a possible compatible tank mate or companion is that you select fish that are known for being peaceful. You should never introduce a predator species or a species of aggressive nature in the tank of peaceful Plecostomus fish. Because if you introduce such a fish in their tank or introduce them in a tank full of predators or aggressors, it can lead to disputes and fights in your tank. To avoid this kind of issue, you should only select peaceful species from different available groups of possible tank mates such as guppies, and mollies.

The third rule for selecting a possible compatible tank mate is to make sure that the tank mate you have selected can live in the same conditions. For example, the Plecostomus fish is a freshwater tropical species that needs neutral pH and normal temperature conditions. So, you should only introduce fish that can live in freshwater conditions. If you do not check these living conditions before introducing them to the tank, it can lead to several issues including the death of the fish as they can only live in specific conditions. So, make sure that you introduce tank mates that can live in similar conditions as the Plecostomus.

Species Overview

This fish species is known by many names, including Plecostomus, Sucker Mouth Catfish, and Common Plecos. It is a fish known for its beautiful blackish spots that appear all over its greenish-brown body. They are beautiful and have amazing nature. You will notice that they live peacefully in your aquarium. Mostly, you will find them sticking to the walls of the tank, sucking water inside. This fish intakes a lot of water inside, and filters algae from the water. Algae is one of the main sources of food for this fish species. Apart from that, they also eat leftover food that accumulates at the bottom of the tank. So, if you introduce them into your aquarium, you will be able to benefit from their nature as they will be helping you clean your aquariums and maintain the hygiene.

The Plecostomus fish requires minimum care, and that is why it can be kept in the aquariums of experts and new fishkeepers alike. It is found in many regions, including some West African and South American countries. In some areas, this fish is also used as a food source, but that is a rare occurrence. Most aquarium keepers like this fish because it lives in the bottom of the tank and helps you keep it clean. It is a freshwater species but can survive in partially brackish water environments as well. This tolerance of partially brackish water helps them survive a wide range of living conditions. Its name is confusing as there is a lot of fish that are known by the name Plecos. For that reason, you should check the complete scientific name and identification marks on this fish before buying it for your aquarium.

This fish has many unique features. For example, it is one of the only few species that can live without water or outside the water. It is found in those regions where water habitats can become dry, so this fish has specific mechanisms that allow it to breathe through its skin. Also, it can store oxygen inside its body so that it won’t die because of the lack of oxygen when its habitat dries up. It can also move on the land using its strong fins and slippery body to reach a new habitat. This fish is also being introduced in many regions of the United States as it can survive in those areas.


The Plecostomus fish is known for its appearance. It has brown, gray, and sand colors, spread throughout the body. This fish also has blackish-brown spots. The size of these spots increases as the fish ages and increases in size. It is also known for being dimorphic, which means male Plecostomus and female Plecostomus are different. This difference helps you easily identify them, which increases the chances of success in breeding them. Male Plecostomus are large, wide, and longer than female Plecostomus. The average size of a female Plecostomus is about 20 inches, while the average size of a male Plecostomus is about 24 inches.

But inside an aquarium, they might not reach this size limit. As you know that the aquariums are congested and smaller as compared to their natural habitats. So, they do not have enough space to roam, explore, and free swim. That is why their size remains smaller. In most cases, if the aquarium tank is about 30 gallons, the maximum size of your fish will be 15 inches. But you can help your fish grow larger by selecting an appropriately large tank. A larger tank will have more space, which means your fish will be able to swim and explore it and grow larger.

There are a lot of varieties of the Plecostomus and the specific appearance of each one is slightly different from the others. So, it depends on the variety that you are selecting. You should ask your local aquarium shop owner which one would be better for you based on your experience in fishkeeping. Common Pleco, Snowball Pleco, Zebra Pleco, and Vampire Pleco are some of the most common varieties of Plecostomus that are found in aquariums throughout the world. They all have the same shape, and sizes, and the only major difference you will notice is in their coloration, and spots or stripes that are found on their bodies. For example, Common Pleco has black spots that are spread all over its body, while the Zebra Pleco has Blackish stripes that are spread over its body.


The Plecostomus fish are found in many regions, including South America, and West Africa. In South America, it is found in Brazil, Trinidad, and Suriname. The exact origin depends on the variety of species that you are selecting. Some may have a different origin as compared to these. It is easy to breed them in an aquarium, so most of the Plecostomus fish that you will find in markets come from captivity, which makes it easy for you to acclimate them in your tank.

Natural Habitat

The Plecostomus fish lives in freshwater habitats, but it can also survive in brackish conditions and outside the water for about 30 hours. It has specific body structures that allow this fish to store oxygen in the stomach. So, if its pool of water becomes dry, this fish can move on the land and breath outside the water. It helps them reach new water pools. This type of evolution is helpful to them as it allows them to live in some of the harshest climates such as in Africa.

Plecostomus Lifespan

It is a fish that can live for more than a decade in your aquarium if you provide them with good care. The average lifespan of Plecostomus is about 10 to 15 years. But it can live longer with excellent care. If you are a new fish keeper, there is a chance that this fish will die within five to seven years. But for the expert fishkeepers, can keep it alive for more than fifteen years. Its lifespan can be extended with care, and tank size. If the tank is larger, the average lifespan of these fish will increase as they will have a bigger space to explore. If you want to extend the lifespan of this fish, you will also have to feed it a balanced diet that contains all of the elements that it needs to live and thrive.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

If you want your Plecostomus to live longer and thrive in your tank, you will have to create a perfect habitat and tank conditions. If the habitat and tank conditions are similar to their natural habitat, your fish will live longer and stay healthier. But if these conditions are not met, your fish would not live as long as it should and its health will also be impacted. To prevent this, you need to learn about the living conditions that this fish needs and create them inside a tank. Below is a complete guide to creating a perfect habitat and living conditions for the Plecostomus fish.

Tank Size

The first step in making a perfect tank habitat is the selection of a tank. You cannot select a tank randomly, there are a few factors to be considered when selecting a tank. These factors include the number of fish, the size of fish, and fish/gallon ratios. Also, if you are making a community tank, you will have to calculate the fish per gallon ratio of all of the fish, add them, and then get an average ratio. These numbers are very important in the selection of an appropriately sized tank. You do not want a tank that is too big to manage or a tank that is too small to contain the fish. For that reason, you take all of these numbers and calculate the perfect size.

You will better understand this with an example, consider that you want to keep two Plecostomus and 2 other fish in your tank. First, you will need the average fish per gallon ratio of Plecos, which is about 15 gallons per fish and similar for other fish as well. So, you have four fish with 15 gallons per fish ratio on average. You will have to multiply the 15 by the number of fish which is four and it will give you 60 as an answer. This means you need a 60 gallons size tank for these four fish. It is a perfect and appropriate size. If you choose a smaller tank for these four fish, you will have to worry as your fish will fight because of congestion and overcrowding in the tank.

Also, if you selected a large tank, i.e. a 100 gallons tank, you will have to work extra because a large tank needs more care. From the example above, you can calculate the size of the tank that you need according to your requirements. After you are done with the selection of tanks, you will have to work on creating a tank habitat. When selecting a tank, make sure to select a long, and wide tank instead of a tall tank. This will help you provide more space for your Plecostomus that live in the bottom of the tank.

Tank Setup

When making a tank setup for the Plecostomus, you will have to start from the bottom layer of the tank because this fish is a bottom feeder and spends most of its time in the bottom layer of the tank. So, you will have to make sure that the bottom layer is very comfortable for this fish. Start by putting a two to three inches deep layer of the substrate. Make sure that this substrate is soft and easy to clean. After that, start putting sand, round stones, and some pebbles inside the tank’s bottom layer. It will help you create a natural habitat similar to the one where it lives.

Once you are done with that, you can start planting aquatic plants in your aquarium. Aquatic plants that can live in freshwater habitats are perfect for this species. It needs these plants to lay eggs, hide, and make it look more natural. After that, you can add decorations such as caves for the fish to play in. There are a variety of decorations available for the aquariums of Plecostomus that you can select for your tank. After this, you can start working on putting filters, heaters, and lights inside your tank.

Make sure to use a strong filter that can produce a strong flow inside the tank as this fish needs it. Also, a strong filter will help you quickly recycle the whole water inside your aquarium, making it cleaner and more hygienic, and it will also provide more oxygen to your fish. Use your filter on high settings to maintain a strong flow. After that, you can put a heater or temperature monitoring and controlling device. It is one of the most important devices that you need to put in every aquarium as it will help you monitor the temperature and control it within the specific recommended range. Aquarium lights will help you make your tank look more alive, and beautiful.

Water Conditions/Parameters

Here are the living conditions or water parameters that you will have to constantly maintain in the tank of Plecostomus fish.

  • Temperature = 72–86°F (22–30°C)
  • Hardness = 20–35 dGH
  • the pH of water = 6.5–7.5 or Neutral.

It is very important to maintain these parameters within the given ranges. If you fail to maintain these parameters, it can lead to health issues and even the death of your fish. For example, the pH of the water is very important as it helps your fish maintain its internal chemistry. So, any changes in pH would lead to changes in the internal chemistry of your fish that can lead to diseases and death. From this example, it is clear that these parameters are very important to maintain throughout the year.

Water Source

You can use water from any source, just make sure that the water you are using is clean and has been filtered. If it has not been filtered, you should not use it no matter what source it came from. Filtered water helps you reduce the risk of infections and diseases inside the tank, meanwhile, unfiltered water increases the risks of infectious diseases.

Behavior and Temperament

The Plecostomus fish is known for its peaceful behavior and temperament. It lives at the bottom of the tank, and would not engage with the fish that live in the middle layer of the tank. Also, it does not like to fight, even to defend its territory. For that reason, it is important to keep this fish a peaceful species. If you keep it with aggressive fish species, it can lead to fights and territorial skirmishes in your tank.

As you know that it is a peaceful species of fish, which means you can keep it within a community tank. It feeds on the leftover food that accumulates in the bottom of the tank. Apart from that, it also eats algae that it filters from the water. You may find this fish sticking to stones, wood, or walls of your tank. It is a known feeding habit of the Plecostomus fish. They stick to a surface and then intake a large amount of water that is filtered inside the body of the fish for algae and other food items.

Breeding Plecostomus

The Plecostomus fish is easy to breed. Here is a guide for breeding them inside the tank.

  • It is better to separate them during their breeding season. Put a male and a female in the same tank and allow them to spawn.
  • After a while, you will notice that males have started to court females. It will take a few hours. If they do not start courting, you should induce the rain conditions in your tank by lowering the temperature and using a water spray.
  • They will spawn, and females will produce the eggs that are fertilized by the male. This mostly happens during the night, so you may have to turn off the lights in your aquarium.
  • Eggs can take 6 to 7 days to hatch.

Eggs and Fry Care

Female Plecostomus scatter their eggs in the caves to protect them. Sometimes, they also leave the eggs on rock solid surfaces. After these eggs hatch, small fry would come out. At first, the fry will eat their eggs sacs. After that, you can start feeding them liquid food that is available for them.

Diet of Plecostomus

It has an omnivorous diet. The Plecostomus fish eats almost everything that it can find in its native habitat, including worms, algae, and green plant leaves. This helps you in feeding them inside your aquarium. You can feed them live worms, larvae, pellets, flakes, and frozen meat. Make sure that the food you are providing to your fish is healthy and the diet is balanced. Do not overfeed them.

Diseases of Plecostomus

Here is a list of the possible diseases of Plecostomus fish.

  • Ich: It is a parasitic disease that causes white spots formation on the body of the fish. It is a deadly disease that can kill your whole aquarium. For that reason, you should quarantine the infected fish, and clean the whole tank. Also, treat your fish with specific medications.
  • Dropsy: It is also a deadly disease of the fish that can cause bloating, and discoloration of the fish. This disease also requires quarantine and cleaning of the tank. You may have to treat the fish with medicines.
  • Fin Rot: This is one of the most common fish diseases. It is caused by infections in the skin and fins of the fish. If your fish is suffering from this disease, you should treat it and keep it away from other fish. Also, clean the whole tank and maintain the parameters within the recommended ranges.

What is the Ideal Size For The Tank?

The ideal size for the tank of Plecostomus depends on the number of fish that you want to keep. If you want to keep two fish in your tank, then a 30 gallons tank is ideal. But if you want to keep more fish in your tank, you may have to select a larger tank.

Is Plecostomus Saltwater or Freshwater Species?

The Plecostomus fish is a freshwater fish species that can survive in brackish conditions and also without the water for a limited time.

Conclusion – Is Plecostomus Suitable For Your Aquarium?

If you are looking for a peaceful, beautiful, and easy species of fish, then yes, it is a suitable choice for your aquarium. This fish has many unique features that make it a perfect choice. For example, it has a beautiful body and colors. Also, it can live in different conditions, making it easier for you to care for it inside the tank. This fish can also help you clean your tank as it is a bottom feeder that feeds on the leftover food and algae. So, if you have this fish in your tank, you will not have to worry about keeping your tank clean. Based on these arguments, it can be said that it is a perfect choice for any aquarium.


Question: What do Plecostomus fish eat?

Answer: Plecostomus fish is an omnivorous species, which means it eats anything that it can find including worms, algae, plant leaves, and shrimps. It makes it easy for you to feed them in the tank as they can eat everything that you put in their tank.

Question: What is the average lifespan of the Plecostomus fish?

Answer: The average lifespan of Plecostomus is 15 years or more in the wild, but inside the tank, their lifespan depends on the type of care that you are providing. If you are offering them excellent care, they can live for up to 15 years, but with minimum care, they can only live for up to 7 years.

Question: What size of tank do you need for Plecostomus fish?

Answer: You need a tank of 30 gallons capacity for the Plecostomus, make sure that the tank you have selected is wide, and long instead of tall.

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