Proper care of Plecostomus Catfish - Introduction
This page is a guide on keeping Plecostomus fish including diet, tank setup and FAQ with answers. There's a forum under the article so no matter whether you'd like to share experiences or ask a question - you're welcome!
Loricariidae is the largest of the catfish family containing 700 species with several new species being discovered all the time. These species originate in fresh water locations of Costa Rica, Panama and tropical areas of South America.
They are classed as armoured catfish due to the bony plates situated around the body and head and they have this wonderful sucker mouth for grazing on algae.
Plecostomus now seems to be used with a variety of catfish that actually belong to a different gender. It is normally shortened down to “plec” and added to the end of many catfish’s names. The name “pleco” originated from one of the first armoured catfish to be introduced into the aquarium hobby, this was known simply as Plecostomus plecostomus. This fish is now referred to as Hypostomus plecostomus or commonly known as the sucker mouth catfish. This is where it can get a bit confusing as Hypostomus plecostomus can also refer to a number of species, in the aquarium trade they are often referred to as “common plecs” a rather derogatory name for a fish that is a very useful member of any aquarium.
One of the main features of this fish is the modified mouth and lips. With the strange mouth as it is, the plecostomus can eat, breathe and still maintain a hold on the substrate all at the same time. Even stranger is the fact that Loricariidae catfish have also developed their digestive tract so that not only will it digest the food, but it also acts as an organ for respiration. They too have rasping teeth for grinding away at algae leaving aquarium glass nice and clean, this has also earned them the nickname “janitor fish”. Many fish keepers will buy plecostomus without actually realizing the size that they can grow to, they are often sold in the pet stores as juveniles, no more than 4 inches in length; as adults they can reach up to 24 inches so always be prepared to house them in a large aquarium. Plecostomus are mostly nocturnal, they are a bit sluggish under lights, they have also developed an iris in the eye that will filter most of the light away from the eye, as the lights are dimmed, the iris will open fully and the plecostomus will become fully active.
These fish are well known for being territorial so do not keep more than one in your aquarium, the aggression will be more pronounced as the fish ages, a group of juveniles may tolerate each other but this will change.
Tank set up:-
As mentioned earlier, these fish grow large, if you are keeping a young fish in a smaller tank you must upgrade to a larger tank as the fish grows in size. Tight fitting lids are essential; these fish can jump if they want to, better safe than sorry!
This dates back to their natural habitat when they were forced to jump from one are of drying out water to a deeper section in order to survive, if they are not happy in the aquarium they will try to leave. Never fill the aquarium completely, the plecostomus will rise to the surface to take in air, always allow space for them to do this.
If you decide to add plants, bear in mind that plecostomus will eat some of them; java ferns seem to do well with these fish as the taste is not too appealing and it is a fairly sturdy plant. If using other plants ensure that they are well weighted down, plecostomus will go rooting through the substrate. If plenty of vegetables are included in the diet your plants will have a much stronger chance of not being eaten. Hiding places are essential; plecostomus like to hide away in the daytime, caves , plant pots laid on their sides are ideal or even some terracotta piping will be useful. Bogwood or drift wood must always be added; as with many catfish they need to chew on it as part of their digestion. A strong water flow will be appreciated by plecostomus; they originate from fast flowing rivers. They can tolerate temperatures starting from 20 deg C right up to 28 deg C but whatever temperatures you are keeping the fish at make sure that it is constant as variations can stress the fish. Quite a wide pH tolerance as well; anywhere between 6.0 and 7.5 is perfectly acceptable. These are a fish that produces a lot of waste; good filtration is a must backed up by weekly water changes of anything up to 50%.
The plecostomus is a born algae eater but that alone will not sustain it. Supplement its diet with high protein meaty foods, bloodworm, shrimps or small pieces of fish are ideal. Algae wafers should also be given if there is an insufficient algal growth in the tank. Spirulina flakes can also be given but these will not always reach the plecostomus before the other tank mates devour them.
Sexing and breeding:-
Plecostomus are not easy fish to sex. The only way of doing it is by having several in a group; the larger ones tend to be males but this method only works if the entire group is the same age. Males tend to have larger barbells than the females but there really is no other way of knowing.
Plecostomus is hard to breed; in the wild they will breed on the rivers banks in caves. Re-creating that in the aquarium is a bit tricky, the only way of doing it really is to add extra hiding places and hope for the best. The best success with the breeding is by using ponds rather than aquariums.
A lot of keepers tend to add plecostomus to their tanks and forget about their special needs, like any other fish they too need looking after properly.
Additional questions and answers
Visitors of Aqua-Fish.Net keep asking and we keep answering, that's how aqua-fish.net/answers was created. However, due to merging answers with articles in order to serve all related information from one place, we list the following questions&answers below. You're welcome to post own questions as long as they're unique and not yet answered on this page.
- Why does my plecostomus jump out of the aquarium?Answer: In their natural habitat plecostomus will leap out of the water to jump into a deeper water bed in the dry season. This is their lifeline and they are capable of breathing oxygen from the air so if you find your fish on the floor always replace it in the tank as it will probably still be alive. Open topped aquariums are not to be used with this fish.
- What do plecostomus fry look like?Answer: The easiest way to describe them is that they look like an egg with a small tail sticking out. It is not often that you will see the new born fry as the male parent will keep them in the breeding site for a few days.
- What does a baby Plecostomus look like?Answer: It looks just like the adult only much smaller and less colorful!
- When can I add a plecostomus fish to my tank?Answer: As with any species of fish, if the tank is fully cycled then you can add your plecostomus at any stage in the stocking program.
Provided by Mihail of Romania.