Plecostomus Care and Info

The Loricariid Catfish, also known as Plecostomus or Pleco, can make a great addition to your home aquarium.

Plecos are one of the most diverse group of fish in the aquarium fish trade. However, I must emphasize the importance of conducting proper research before you make the decision to purchase any new fish.

Please check below to learn more about Plecos and how to properly care for them.

Water Quality and Filtration

Most “over the counter” filtration systems lack enough filter media to support the inhabitants of the aquarium. The effectiveness of any filtration system depends on the size, surface area, of the mechanical/biological filter media. The three main filter media types are chemical, mechanical, and biological. Chemical filtration methods are not for the first-time fish keeper. Chemical filter media is more complex and expensive to maintain over time. Mechanical and biological filter medias tend to be preferred by the experienced hobbyist. Depending on your setup you may find value in using all three types at once. However, you do not need a large, complex, or expensive filtration system to maintain a healthy aquarium.

Despite all the advancements that have been made in filtration technology over the past few years, simple foam sheets are still one of the best mechanical filtration options on the market. Foam sheets are a great money saving media that comes in several different colors, shapes, and styles to fit your application. Polyurethane foam sheets have more specific surface area per volume than most other filter media. For more information pertaining to foam filters visit: Swiss Tropicals.

Mechanical filter media is the fundamental part to any filtration system. It removes the physical and soluble waste that is produced in the aquarium. Most importantly, depending on the filter, it provides housing for the growth of beneficial bacteria (a naturally occurring organism that develops in all bodies of water- fresh, salt, or brackish). When properly established, mechanical and biological filtration methods go hand and hand with one another. Do not get confused between biological filtration and biological filter media. Biological filter media is a porous material that can be added to your filtration system that allows water to pass through it and biological filtration is the natural reaction (oxidation) that takes place within the nitrogen cycle.


The Lifestyles of a Plecostomus

There are several variables that you must consider when choosing the right pleco for your aquarium. The “common” pleco can reach lengths of more than 15 inches in the home aquarium. On the other hand, there are several types of plecos that only reach lengths of 3-4 inches when they are fully mature. The leopard frog pleco, scientific name Peckoltia Compta, is a good example of a pleco that stays under 4.5 inches as an adult fish. Due to the nature and size of plecos, they are not suitable for small fish bowl type aquariums. The minimum tank size for even the smallest of species should be no smaller than 20-29 gallons.

It is important that you provide your pleco with plenty of hiding places. Adult male plecos can be rather territorial towards other male plecos and plecos are naturally shy fish. Driftwood, ceramic or PVC tunnels, and rockpiles are all good items to use when you are designing your aquarium. The key to housing plecos is to avoid stressful conditions. A loss in the plecos color is usually a telltale sign of stress. Overcrowding and poor water conditions can lead to disease and even worse, premature death. Water quality and filtration is the most fundamental part of keeping any fish.


Guidelines When Feeding Your Plecostomus

One common misconception is that all plecos are “garbage disposals,” scavengers that rid your tank of unwanted algae. To be completely honest, a large majority of plecos are omnivorous. They need a balanced diet that includes an adequate amount of protein. I find that all fish, regardless of the species or genus, do best when they are offered an assorted diet. Depending on the species, a well-balanced diet consists of: sinking pallets, driftwood, blood worms, brine shrimp, raw vegetables, shrimp or mussels, algae wafers, etc.

Since plecos are nocturnal it is not uncommon for them to wait until the lights go out before they feed. As a side note, some vegetables will float depending on their density. Since plecos are bottom dwellers, it is important that you sink any food that floats to the bottom of their tank. Plastic or stainless-steel veggie clips are common tools that can be used to weigh down vegetables. It is recommended that you do not use any other type of metal since it could possibly leach out toxic chemicals into the water.


Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle of an Aquarium

Nitrification is the aerobic oxidation of ammonia in the fresh water aquarium. Contrary to popular belief, new studies suggest that ammonia-oxidizing archaea are the dominate factor in nitrification.

In a recent ammonia oxidation study, ammonia-oxidation archaea (AOA) outnumbered ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) in all the freshwater aquaria that was tested. The study collected microorganisms from six aquarium biofilters over a four-month period. The AOA was collected from a canister type filter made up of three different filter medias (rough sponge, fine sponge, and ceramic rings). The abundance of AOA in the studies conducted was a surprise and challenged our understanding of nitrification. For years, AOB were believed to be the key microorganisms to catalyze the initial steps in the nitrogen cycle. While more studies need to be conducted, this is a significant breakthrough in the aquarium community.

Out of all the samples collected in the study, the greatest numbers of AOA were present in the rough and fine sponges regardless of the direction of water flow through each of the biofilters.

Ammonia is introduced into the aquarium from decaying fish waste, uneaten food, and direct excretion through the gills of a fish. Ammonia, if not adequality removed, can be deadly to your pleco. Ammonia poisoning is the number one killer of all tropical fish. AOA and AOB are critical microorganisms that promote aerobic oxidation of ammonia into nitrates via nitrites. This is where partial water changes come into play.

Rinsing your sponge filters with tap water, which has low levels of residual chlorine, will not cause any harm to AOA that are living within your filter.

Partial water changes prevent the buildup of high levels of nitrates. Plecos that are subject to high nitrate levels will become more susceptible to diseases and will have poor overall growth and color development. Live plants will consume some of the nitrates from the water column, but they are not a substitute for partial water changes. Partial water changes are essential at replacing diminished or depleted trace elements and essential minerals. Water changes can be as easy or as hard as you want to make them. For the new hobbyist, I recommend purchasing a siphon that is long enough to reach your waste water disposal area. Having to carry a bucket back and forth can be labor intensive.