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Common Pleco

Scientific Name: Hypostomus plecostomus
Family: Loricariidae, Subfamily Hypostominae

About the Common Pleco

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Catfish

Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.

Origin: The subject species occurs in coastal drainages of Suriname and Guyana. Other species occur throughout northern South America, Trinidad, southern Central America; introduced into SE Asia and souther USA. Common in slower portions of large rivers in its natural habitat, along the mud banks amid fallen branches and logs.

Compatibility/Temperament: Generally peaceful, though there are reports of mature fish attacking small fish. Males are territorially aggressive to other males. Some sources say that two may be put into the same tank if they are introduced at the same time. However the tank must be a 55gal. or more for this to be possible.


This is not a good community fish unless the tank is very large. It is often acquired when very small as an algae eater, but it eats little algae and even less as it matures. It grows large, contributing considerably to the bioload and in too small a space this is far more harm than good. They also need driftwood in their tanks, driftwood is something they feed on and adds to their dietary needs. Caves are also excellent as they like to hide from time to time. Having the tank light on does not hurt its eyes because the common Pleco has a protective eye lid it uses when in bright light called the Omega Iris which protects its eye from bright lights, its ok to have him in ordinary light though. It is a nocturnal feeder which means he prefers to be in the dark when feeding, but he also eats at all times with no problem. . Filtration must be sufficient to handle the waste.

This fish will dig throughout the substrate and attempt to bury itself under any objects. All rock work must be secure to prevent tumbling and cracking the aquarium glass.

Larger adult males will have reddish and thicker pectoral fins; viewed from above, females when gravid are thicker.

This species is one of several that are imported as the common pleco. It was originally described in 1758 by Carl Linneaus as Acipenser plecostamus. Isbrucker (1980) moved it into the present genus, Hypostamus; the name is derived from the Greek "hypo" [=under] and "stoma" [=mouth], referring to the inferior mouth [inferior means turned downwards]. The species epithet is also Greek, from "pleco" [=sucker] and "stomus" [=mouth].


Isbrucker, I.J.H. (1980), "Classification and catalogue of the mailed Loricariidae (Pisces, Siluriformes)," Verslagen en Technische Gegevens, Instituut voor Taxonomische Zooogie, Universiteit van Amsterdam No. 22, pp. 1-181.

Common Pleco Diet

When young it naturally feeds on algae, crustaceans, insects, small worms. As it matures it eats less and less algae. In the aquarium, it accepts most prepared sinking foods; algae/spirulina/kelp foods should be included. Frozen bloodworms, shrimp; live worms, insect larvae, brine shrimp. Vegetable matter such as zucchini, yam, driftwood, cucumber may be offered.


Attains anywhere from 12 to 20 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

4 feet or larger.

Ideal water parameters for Common Pleco

Soft to medium hard (< 28 dGH), slightly acidic to basic (pH 6 to 8), temperature 20-30C/68-86F.

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