What You Need to Know about Sucker Mouthed Catfish (Plecos)
The First thing you need to know about Plecos is that they Poo.... and Plecos poo a lot. Not just a lot, but massive ropey strands everywhere on the bottom a lot! (Especially the larger fish.) In all seriousness, they really do produce a huge amount of waste and add a considerable amount of bio-load to any tank. This is a very important consideration when keeping large plecos with the messier, "chew-and-spew" cichlids (Oscars, et al.)!
Eating Pleco? Not all Plecos are the Same
are many common misconceptions about the fish often called “Plecos”
(any fish from the family Loricariidae). One of the most common
misconceptions is that they are all basically the same fish, but with
a different “paint job”. This couldn’t be farther from the
truth. Coming exclusively from South America, the family
Loricariidae, is a highly diverse group of catfish with many
specialized species. A good example of this diversity is the
differences between the "Zebra Pleco," (Hypancistrus
and the "Royal Pleco," (Panaque
Zebra Plecos require a meaty, high protein diet where as Royal Plecos
eat wood almost exclusively. (Yes, you read that correctly...they eat
wood.) A Royal Pleco fed meaty foods would either starve or bloat
from the high protein. Zebra Plecos would quickly starve if only fed
wood and greens.
Commonly Available Species:
is the pleco most often seen in your local fish store (LFS). These
fish get large (~12 inches). They can be aggressive as adults and
produce a lot of waste. Common plecos need a large, well-filtered
tank with 75 gallons being the minimum recommended tank size. These
fish are omnivorous, but like a lot of greens in their diet. Common
plecos are not generally recommended for the rift lake aquarium.
Mbuna and other Malawi cichlids tend to pick out the eyes of these
fish. Most Tanganyikan set ups have PH’s that are too high for this
pleco to be comfortable. Common plecos are often kept with larger
South and Central American cichlids; however, check the chart below
for more specific compatibility information.
of Available Plecos
Rubber-nose, Rubber-lip Pleco
medium sized (~6-8 inch) Loricariiads come from swift moving rivers
and streams. They require cool, highly oxygenated water. They are
omnivores and like a fair amount of protein in their diets. While not
an ideal candidate, they can be acclimated to Rift Lake water
chemistry if given a lot of water flow. However, beware, as Mbuna
and other territorial cichlids may pick on them. This is a great
candidate for medium (or larger) West African Ravine type aquariums.
A "tank-buster" of a pleco as these fish can
easily reach 18 inches and are only suited for the largest of home
aquariums. As their common name suggests, they have an impressively
large dorsal fin and make for an attractive addition to any large
aquarium. They are omnivores but like a good quantity of greens in
their diet. Not recommended for rift lake set ups. They can be mixed
with South and Central American cichlids similarly to the "Common”
plecos in the genus, Otocinclus, are some of the smallest sucker
mouthed catfish available. These little plecos reach a maximum size
of approximately 2 inches depending on the species. Oto's do best in
groups. They are primarily vegetarians and do great work on algae.
While they are excellent additions to most planted tanks, due to
their diminutive stature, they should only be mixed with the most
peaceful of cichlids.
common "Bristle Nose" Pleco is a medium sized (~6 inches),
omnivorous species. Many attractive line bred variants (long-finned,
albino etc) are regularly available. The males of this pleco have
large spines coming off of their noses giving them an intimidating
appearance. While this fish normally comes from acidic to neutral pH
waters, it has been found to be tolerant of high pH and is often
mixed with smaller Tanganyikan cichlids. It is not recommended to
house these smaller plecos in with large, aggressive South and
Central American Cichlids.
includes the wood eating Royal Pleco and Clown Pleco as well as a
number of other described and undescribed xylophagous species. These
fish require wood in their diets. This makes keeping them in rift
lake conditions difficult as they are best suited to soft water tanks
with plenty of bog and drift wood.
Care should be taken as some of
the fish in this genus get quite large. Another word of caution is
that these fish have teeth capable of eating wood! That means they
can also scratch acrylic tanks, eat the silicone seams out of your
aquarium and even munch through your heater’s power cord.
Royal Pleco flexing his Spines!
is one of the most hyped and expensive plecos on the market. These
carnivores stay relatively small and peaceful. Considering the cost
of this fish, I would not risk housing it with anything but the most
peaceful of tank-mates.
omnivorous species is one of the more popular "fancy"
plecos. It likes warmer temperatures and care should be taken as
these plecos can get to over a foot in length.
Photo courtesy of Frazzlerock
specific information on Plecos and Catfish in general, be sure to
check out http://www.planetcatfish.com