Common Pleco

General Common Pleco information:

  • Scientific name: Plecostomus factoids
  • Common name: Sucker Mouth Pleco, Common Pleco
  • Max. size: 18+ inches (45.7+ cm)
  • pH range: 6.0 – 8.0
  • dH range: 5 – 19
  • Temperature range: 73-80.5F / 23-27C

Pleco Range & Natural Habitat

They are originally from South America and as you may have guess, it never gets cold there. You may need to have a heater in your aquarium to keep the water in temperatures they like 23-27C (73-80.5F). If you are keeping them outside then they will probably only be able to withstand the warm summer months.

Common Pleco Armor

Plecos wear a heavy armor, which protects them from all but the fiercest aggressors. The following description of how aggressors can attack a Pleca may not be suitable for everyone, so feel free to skip to the next section.

African Cichlids eat the eyeballs of Plecos and Piranhas eventually learn that if they flip a Pleco over they can eat their soft underbelly. A big Oscar can grab a Pleco and ferociously whip it back and forth until it’s armor breaks and it “snaps”. These are extreme cases and in general the Plecos are very well protected by their armor.

Getting a Pleco Out of Your Aquarium

The smaller Plecos can be removed with a net, but the big ones are crafty and they will crawl out of your net. The best way to nab the big ones is by hand. When you do grab them by hand watch out for their fins, especially the sail fin and their pectoral fins. The can cut you pretty well with their pectoral fins.

Sucker Mouth

Plecos use their sucker mouth to eat vegetation and algae (saves you a lot of work). Their lips are raspy and they can use them to rip holes into drift wood. Or they can gently remove the top layer of an Amazon Swords plant’s green leaves. And they will almost definitely polish the glass walls of your aquarium. Most people like the polishing action of Plecos and that is why they keep them.

Common Plecos Can Grow Large

Some species of Pleco can grow to be up to 18 inches long in a large aquarium. Once they are that big they can become very destructive. At that size they can and may strip the scales of Koi or large Oscars at night. And considering the fact that they are heavily armored they are almost unstoppable at that size. The smaller Plecos generally stay harmless although slow moving fish like Goldfish and Angelfish sometimes get pestered by Plecos.

Common Plecos Are Nocturnal

They usually just lay around during the day and become active only at night. Since you don’t want to get up in the middle of the night to feed them it is good that they learn to eat during the day after a few weeks. Some of the more enterprising Plecos will sail upside down along the surface during feeding time to suck in a large amount of flake food and pellets.

Introducing A New Common Pleco

When you first get a Pleco he probably will not have learned to eat during the day. Which means that the other fish will have eaten all the food before the Pleco even wakes up in the evening. For this reason you may want to provide your new Pleco with some extra flakes late in the evenings until it learns to eat during the day. Luckily, if your aquarium is established there will be algae around for the Pleco to dine on so they are not at risk of starving.

If your aquarium is new, however, you will have to take extra care to make sure your Pleco gets enough to eat. In a new aquarium nothing grows on the walls, so there is no algae to tie the Pleco over until the next feeding time and it might starve.

Common Pleco Feeding

Plecos are not picky eaters, but like I said earlier, you have to make sure that you give them some food in the late evening because the other fish will eat all the food before the Pleco becomes active at night.

They are big fans of algae wafers (which are specially made for Plecos) and they absolutely love vacation blocks. You will not believe how fast they will devour them. If your aquarium is new make sure that your Pleco is getting its share of food because there is no algae to support it.

Common Pleco Sexing

It is difficult to tell the sexes apart. When they are young both male and female Plecos are identical. Mature males however have tiny bristles and when they are breeding their “sticker fins” (on their sides) look orange in color.

Other Types of Plecos

There are many different types of Plecos, but most people get Plecos because it is inexpensive (bred in Florida) and it gets the job done. Other options include:

  • Bristlenose and Bushynose Plecos
  • Clown and White-Spot Plecos
  • Yellow and Albinus Plecos
  • Butterfly and other Hi-Fin Plecos
  • Farlowellas and Whiptails
  • Otocinclus

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