6 Signs Your Pleco Is Dying (& A Guide On Saving Them)

Last Updated on 2023-07-21

If you want to know all the signs that your pleco is dying, then you’ve found the right article. In this article, not only will you find the signs, but you’ll also learn what causes them, and most importantly how to treat them as well!

Keep reading to find out what could be wrong with your pleco, what could be causing it, and how you could help it.

What Are The Signs Your Pleco Is Dying?

Having a dying Pleco in your aquarium can be avoided if you know what to look for. There could be several factors contributing to the poor health of your fish. A number of warning indicators are discussed below.

Fading colors, rotting fins, white spots, swelling, cloudy or bulging eyes, and lethargy are all common signs. They’re often caused by malnutrition, disease, genetic issues, poor water quality, and poor diet. The best way to save them is improving the water quality and the food you’re providing!

Fading Color

You may have a dying pleco if you notice it losing color or becoming completely white. There are a variety of factors that might contribute to this, including unhealthy water, stress, and an inadequate diet. Plecos, like other species of catfish, subsist mostly on algae.

See to it that your fish is getting fed by checking on him at regular intervals. There are more than a hundred different pleco species, so learning where to find the finest food for your particular pleco is something that requires some research.

Stress can also affect Plecos when they share their environment with other fish. Fish can also become stressed by things like rapid temperature shifts, erratic feeding schedules, and unclean water.

Rotting Fins

Underlying circumstances, like a bacterial infection, are the actual cause of fin rot, while poor water conditions are the actual source of bacterial infections. Damage to the fins of a pleco can swiftly spread to the rest of the fish if no action is taken. You risk losing your fish if you don’t fix this.

Black or brown fraying along the fin’s edges is a sign of fin rot in your fish. White spots (another sign of ich) or even major fin loss could be an indication of this disease. Due mostly to unsanitary water, fin rot is one of the most avoidable ailments. This can be avoided by keeping a close eye on the water levels and changing the water once a week.

White Spots on Body (ich)

If your fish is unwell, it could develop white patches. Without treatment, ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) can be fatal. This disease, possibly brought on by subpar water quality, is by far the most common among tropical fish like plecos.

Since ich is so deadly and contagious, it’s crucial that any fish infected with it be quarantined immediately and isolated from the rest of the tank. If you notice little white dots on your fish’s skin, similar to the size and shape of salt or sugar flakes, ich may be the problem.

Poor tank conditions can also lead to Ich, just like they can lead to fin rot. Maintaining a healthy environment for your pleco requires regular checks on the tank’s contents, temperature, and pH.

Close-up Pleco Catfish in aquarium tank.

Swelling of The Abdomen

There are a number of factors that might lead to abdominal swelling, such as constant stress, poor tank conditions, or even just being constipated. If your pleco suddenly develops a swollen stomach, it may be a sign that it is near death.

This may indicate that the pleco is suffering from an infection caused by its diet or by an injury it sustained.

As for the source of the enlargement, you can check the tank conditions and observe the fish’s activity. As stress is another possible cause, taking the bloated fish out of the tank with the others will give it a less stressful setting in which to recover.

You can help your fish’s swelling go down by feeding them de-shelled peas or another high-fiber diet. One solution is to give the fish an Epsom salt bath, which will reduce the swelling in its belly.

Cloudy Eyes

When a fish has cloudy eyes, it appears to have a white film or cast over its eye. A bacterial infection following an injury or high levels of ammonia in the tank are two possible triggers. Unlike ich and fin rot, cloudy eyes can’t be treated medically; the disease will clear up on its own once the underlying cause is addressed (water conditions, tank aggression, etc.).

Low water quality is the leading source of this problem. In order to tell if your pleco’s tank is too hot or too cold, you’ll need to check the water levels. If you want to save your pleco, you must first identify the cause of the problem and then take the fish somewhere safe until you can solve it.

Bulging Eye

Exophthalmos, often known as “pop eye,” occurs when the eyes of an animal protrude abnormally from the head. The condition causes fluid to accumulate in the eye socket, which pushes the eyeballs out of their normal position.

If an injury is to blame, one or both eyes may appear blurry or bleeding. If there is an infection, it will look like both of your eyes are bulging outward. Infections are typically brought on by microbial and parasitic organisms floating around in the tank.

When one of your fish develops popeye, the first thing you should do is see if the water level is to blame. If your fish is infected, you should quarantine it and ask your vet for advice on how to treat it.

Idleness/lying on Its Side

When ammonia and nitrate levels are too high, fish will either rest on their sides or stop swimming normally. The failure to fully cycle the tank before introducing new fish can lead to this problem.

Without the tank being cycled, the ammonia will not be converted into nitrates, which are needed by the plants. Since plecos create a lot of waste, a lack of beneficial bacteria can lead to dangerously high concentrations of ammonia in an aquarium very quickly.

Your fish should regain its mobility once you have checked the water to make sure there are no unsafe ammonia levels and fixed the problem with water changes.

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What Causes A Pleco To Die

There are several causes of a Pleco’s death. Inadequate water quality is a leading cause of death, as it can cause illness, stress, and, ultimately, death. Nonetheless, Plecos can also perish from things like malnutrition, aggression, and overcrowding.

Below are all the possible causes of your Pleco’s demise.


There are several potential causes of a Pleco’s demise, but one of the most common is disease. Both bacterial and fungal infections pose serious threats to fish populations. Unless the aquarium is properly isolated and treated, all of its occupants are at risk of dying from a contagious disease.

When problems arise with your fish, it’s important to seek the advice of a professional veterinarian, since the problem may require the administration of specialized medication or a change in diet to be resolved. Tanks can be brought up to standards and saved from disease with regular maintenance and water analysis.


It is a common misconception that the Plecos can get all the nourishment they require from algae tablets. However, this is not the case. Fresh and blanched veggies, shrimp, and shrimp pellets make up the bulk of a healthy diet for plecos. As a result, it would be impossible to keep the Pleco content on a mono dietary plan.

Like humans, they require a varied and well-balanced diet. In addition, they should be fed mostly at night, when they are most active. It’s important to make sure that your Pleco is getting its fair share of the food when kept with other fish. Having a pale Pleco is a warning sign.

Genetic Defect

Even though your Pleco was housed in a tank with plenty of food and excellent filtration, its premature death could have been caused by a genetic flaw. Fish can have a wide variety of abnormalities. One possible explanation is that the fish was already ill when you bought it from the pet store. There’s also a chance that the issue is genetic, and that you simply acquired a fish from a bad batch.

This is beyond your control. This is why it’s important to always purchase fish from reliable vendors, even if they charge a somewhat higher price.

Excessive Food

Many people believe there is no such thing as giving your Plecos or any other fish species too much fish food because they need so much of it to survive. Quite the opposite is true. The Pleco can suffer negative effects from both famine and overfeeding.

Overfeeding can cause illness and death in Plecostomus in a number of ways. A common cause is when the filter in your tank becomes overwhelmed by the unclean tank water. Due to a lack of oxygen, fish living in the polluted water eventually become sick and die. To prevent this, feed fish only what they can consume in a few minutes, and then remove any excess.

One way that an abundance of food might be bad is by making fish unhealthy. The fish’s inability to swim as freely due to obesity increases the risk of illness and early mortality. When it comes to food, moderation is key, and so is providing the healthiest options possible.

Unsafe Levels of Chemicals

The Pleco, like other fish, is highly sensitive to certain substances in the water. Particularly hazardous are the chemicals ammonia and nitrate. When it comes to the Pleco, even trace levels of these toxins can be fatal. Fish gills get irritated and compromised by these substances, making it difficult for the fish to breathe. Besides being extremely lethal on its own, these compounds also produce stress in the Pleco.

Rotting food is the primary source of ammonia and nitrate in the environment. Unless immediate measures are taken, the fish will perish from these poisons. So, it’s important to have a water testing kit on hand to ensure that none of these contaminants have made it into the tank. The presence of protein froth indicates that the water in your tank is quite unclean.

Drastic Change in Water Quality

Plecos are very sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, pH, and other water conditions. Any drastic change in these parameters can cause a pleco to die within hours or days. Although Plecos are known to be resilient, they are nonetheless susceptible to sickness, stress, and even death if their water parameters are constantly changing.

To keep them healthy, the water’s conditions must be nearly identical to those in their native environment, including pH, hardness, and temperature. The dimensions of the tank are also crucial, alongside the water’s chemistry and temperature. Fish can die from stress brought on by a too-small tank in addition to the physical danger it poses.

How Do You Save A Pleco From Dying

Do you have a pleco that’s not looking so great? Maybe it’s swimming less or hiding more. If your pleco is showing any of these signs, it may be sick. But don’t worry; there are things you can do to help! We’ll go over some tips for saving a dying pleco.

  1. You’ll want to make sure your pleco is getting the right nutrition. Feed it plenty of high-quality foods like algae wafers, blanched vegetables, and frozen or freeze-dried food. Avoid overfeeding, as this can lead to health problems.
  1. Check the water quality in your tank. Make sure the pH, temperature, and hardness are all within a healthy range for your fish. Also, make sure the tank is free of ammonia and nitrite. If you need to adjust any of these levels, do it slowly over time, so your pleco can acclimate.
  1. Keep an eye out for any signs of disease. If your pleco is displaying any unusual behavior, such as hiding more than usual or having a swollen belly, take it to the vet right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can help your pleco recover quickly.
  1. Offer plenty of places for your pleco to hide or rest. A cave, driftwood, or plants can all make a great hiding spot. Make sure the tank is big enough for your fish to swim around comfortably as well.
  1. Make sure your pleco is getting plenty of oxygen. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one air stone or power filter in the tank. This will help aerate the water and provide your fish with the oxygen it needs.
  1. Last but not least, make sure you’re doing regular water changes. Remove 25-50% of the tank’s water each week and replace it with clean, conditioned water. This will help keep the tank tidy and free of toxins that can harm your pleco.

With a little bit of care, you can help get your pleco back to its happy, healthy self! Remember, it’s always best to consult with an experienced aquarist or veterinarian if you’re ever unsure about how to care for your fish.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of A Pleco

A pleco can live for up to 10 to 15 years on average. Larger species of plecos tend to outlive their smaller counterparts. The lifespan of a pleco is extremely sensitive to factors like tank size, water parameters, stress, and nutrition. They might only make it to age 5 under the worst of circumstances. Plecos live for quite a while due to their slow growth and late age of maturity. Many species of pleco don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re at least one years old.

Plecos come in a wide variety of species, and the average lifespan of different species varies greatly. Below you’ll find a list of the four most common pleco species, along with information about how long each species typically lives.

Bristlenose Pleco

The most common catfish kept as a pet is the bristlenose pleco. They are promoted as the best option for getting rid of algae. And yet, they are likely to be only a few months old when you purchase them. How long do plecos typically live?

Bristlenose plecos, also known as Ancistrus plecos, have a lifespan of roughly 10–15 years. It’s possible they may live to be over 20 years old under ideal conditions. The age they reach is dependent on factors such as tank conditions, water parameters, and diet.

Common Pleco

Both the common pleco and the bristlenose pleco are highly sought for in the aquarium trade. Among aquarium fish, this one is among the most neglected. But when cared for properly, in captivity, common plecos can live for up to 15 years.

Clown Pleco

A small, friendly, and entertaining fish, the clown pleco is a favorite among aquarium owners. Since many people have smaller tanks, this makes them a viable option. Due to this, clown pleco tend to die a little sooner than they otherwise would.

Clown Plecos usually live between 10 and 12 years, but this can vary greatly according to factors including tank size, water parameters, and nutrition.

Zebra Pleco

Most people who research plecos eventually run into the zebra pleco. It’s one of the most conspicuous species, but it’s highly pricey and only for experienced fish keepers. Similarly like humans, these plecos can live to a ripe old age.

A zebra pleco can live for up to 15 years on average. Because of how slowly they develop, they tend to live for a very long time. The lifespan of zebra plecos is influenced by factors including tank size, water conditions, and nutrition.


Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about why their pleco is dying.

What Happens if A Pleco Gets Too Cold?

When exposed to cold water, plecos die. Being tropical species, they are comfortable in temperatures between 73and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Health problems, lethargy, floating to the surface, and possible death are all possible outcomes if temperature remains low for too long.

How Long Can Plecos Go without Being Fed?

Plecos can go up to two weeks without food; however, they should be fed every couple of days for optimal health. It is also important to provide a varied diet that includes both algae-based foods and high-quality sinking pellets.


As you can see, there are a whole bunch of signs that your pleco is dying, such as lethargy, fin or scale problems, fading color, and swelling. But if you provide them with proper care, ensuring that the water is clean, they’re being fed properly, and you’re treating any illnesses, oftentimes you can bring them back from the brink!

So take good care of your pleco and they’ll live for a long time! If you liked this article, make sure you check out the rest of the website. Otherwise, have a great day!

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