Introduction to Plecostomus

The pleco is a silurid ray finned fish which is also known as common pleco, janitor fish, spotted pleco, sucker fish, suckermouth catfish, sucking catfish, common algae sucker etc. It is native to tropical northeastern South America. At present it has been widely introduced to several countries around the world. It is often cultured in ponds in Singapore and Hong Kong, where they are very popular for the aquarium trade. It inhabits ponds, streams and rivers and it tends to prefer slow moving water with sunken driftwood and plants that provide shelter during day.

Plecostomus’s Overview

The pleco has elongated body with underslung suckermouth. Upper parts of head and body are covered by bony plates and lower surface of head and abdomen are naked. It has tall, sailfin type dorsal, moon shaped caudal fin, large head and small eyes. Dorsal fin contains 1 spine and 7 soft rays while the anal fin bears 1 spine and 3-5 soft rays. The mouth has suction-cup like lips that adhere to smooth surfaces to suck algae. Body is light brown in color which heavily covers with dark patterned stripes and spots that make it look like a very dark fish. The adipose fin has a spine and pectoral fins have thick, toothed spines that are used in male-male competition and locomotion. It is omnivorous fish and in wild, it feeds on algae, aquatic plants and small crustaceans. They are fast growing fish and have an average lifespan of 10 – 15 years in captivity. In the wild they can live more than 15 years.

Scientific Name: Hypostomus plecostomus

Common Name: Suckerfish, Suckermouth Catfish, Pleco, common pleco, Plecostomus

Origin: South America

Adult Size: 60.96 cm

Behavior: Peaceful

Tank Level: Bottom

Minimum Tank Size:  55 gallons

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Egg Layer

Care level: Easy to moderate

Water pH: 6.0-7.5

Water Hardness: 5° to 19° dH

Water Temperature: 66.0 to 79.0° F

Water Movement: Moderate

Lighting:  Moderate – normal lighting

Lifespan:  10-15 years

Background of Common Pleco

Pleco or Plecostomus (Hypostomus plecostomus) was described by Linnaeus in 1758. The genus (Hypostomus) is derived from two Greek words such as ‘hypo’ means under and ‘stoma’ means mouth. The species (plecostomus) is also derived from two Greek words such as ‘pleco’ means sucker and ‘stomus’ means mouth. It belongs to the family Loricaridae under order Siluriformes of class Actinopterygii. It has several synonyms: Acipenser plecostomus Linnaeus, 1758; Hypostomus guacari Lacepède, 1803; Hypostomus ventromaculatus Boseman, 1968; Loricaria flava Shaw, 1804; Plecostomus bicirrosus Gronow in Gray, 1854; Plecostomus plecostomus (Linnaeus, 1758) etc.

Feeding Pleco

Pleco is omnivorous and nocturnal fish. In wild condition it feeds on algae, aquatic plants and small crustaceans. In captive condition, it accepts algae wafers, green foods, sinking pellets and live foods such as worms, small crustaceans and insect larvae. It also greedily accepts variety of fruits and vegetables such as blanched zucchini, blanched spinach, lettuce, medallions, shelled peas, cucumber and any soft melons. It should never be fed any acidic fruits or vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, etc.

Housing suckermouth catfish

Plecos are popular aquarium fish due to their friendly nature toward other fish. It should be kept in aquariums of at least 75 gallons with lots of swimming space.  Some driftwood or other decor should be provided to give them caves to hide in during the daylight hours.  The tank water temperature should be kept in the 66 to 79° F range and rapid changes in water temperature should be avoided. It needs soft water with pH of 6.0-7.5 range and hardness of 5° to 19° dH. The common pleco produces quite a lot of waste and 30-50% of the water should be changed each week to make them healthy. The tank should have a high-powered filter that provides oxygenated water with a strong current which replicates the pleco’s natural river environment. It is important to cover the aquarium when keeping common pleco because they are capable jumpers. Plecostomus are omnivorous bottom-feeders and it can be safely housed with fish much smaller than themselves. It generally does well with cichlids, angelfish, barbs, bettas, other catfish species, gouramis, guppies, hatchets, loaches, mollies and platies. Plecos should never be housed with other plecos because they do not tolerate their own kind.

Breeding Plecostomus

The common pleco does not breed in captive condition. In the wild, the Plecostomus breeds in deep burrows excavated in riverbanks or ponds. The plecos are cavity builders and a mature female lays about 300 eggs at a time in the nests and the male guard the eggs and fry. The eggs generally hatch in few days and the fry can be fed with infusoria for the first few days and then it accepts most commercially available fry foods and baby brine shrimp. They also accept Spirulina powder.

Sexing pleco

Plecoscostomus fish is difficult to sex. Large adult males possess thickened pectoral fins that turn reddish pink. Mature or gravid adult females appear thicker when it is viewed from above.

Common Pleco for sale and where to buy

The Common Pleco is typically purchased as a juvenile when it is about 8 cm in length. In the aquarium, this dark-colored, bottom-feeding, nocturnal catfish is often purchased for its ability to clean algae from fish tanks. It is readily available from pet stores and online and it is moderately priced. You can buy your pleco online from home, look below online vendor and ask them details about your common pleco that I would recommend from.