15 Types Of Plecos (Which Is Best For You)

Plecos are generally great for keeping aquarium tanks clean as they eat the algae that grow on the various surfaces, substrates, and plants in the tank. In this article, we will describe fifteen different kinds of plecos that can be kept as aquarium pets. We will go over what these fish look like, their habitat and diet preferences, as well as optimal water conditions to help them thrive. 

In addition, we will clue you into the size tank you’ll need for each species as well as how big they get and if you can house more than one pleco in the same tank. Dive into the colorful world of plecos!

A Quick List of the Different Pleco Types

  • Candy Striped Pleco
  • Clown Pleco
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Zebra Pleco
  • Rubber Lip Pleco
  • Leopard Frog Pleco
  • Vampire Pleco
  • Snowball Pleco
  • Gold Nugget Pleco
  • Peppermint Pleco
  • Butterfly Pleco
  • Sailfin Pleco
  • Royal Pleco
  • Sunshine Pleco
  • Blue Eyed Pleco

What Are the Different Types of Plecos?

Candy Striped Pleco

Candy-striped plecos are usually white to light yellow with black stripes all over their bodies. They love to stay on the bottom of the aquarium tank and thrive in environments with lots of rocks, driftwood, and aquarium plants. They tend to be territorial but are fine when sharing a tank with other fish that don’t linger on the bottom of the tank. 

While they do eat algae like most other pleco species, candy-striped plecos prefer foods rich in protein so it’s optimal to feed them a combination of live and frozen foods. They are very small so they do not require a large tank but tend to thrive in slightly warmer temperatures and neutral to slightly acidic waters. 

  • Care level: Easy to Medium
  • pH: 6.5
  • Hardness: 2 to 20
  • Temperature: 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Tank Size: 15 to 20 gallons

Clown Pleco

Clown plecos are black in color with yellow and orange stripes that make them a colorful addition to any aquarium. They can live for up to 10 years if well cared for. Adding driftwood to their aquarium tank makes for a great shelter and also provides a good source of food as they will eat accumulating algae in addition to the wood itself.

Algae is their main food source and clown plecos will keep the tank clean by munching on the algae growing on the tank sides, in the substrate, and on the aquarium plants. Providing additional algae wafers to ensure they are well fed is advisable. They aren’t very picky about their water parameters and will stay healthy as long as properly maintained. 

  • Care level: Medium
  • pH: 6.8 to 7.6
  • Hardness: 10
  • Temperature: 73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 3.5 inches
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose plecos are dark in color, usually brown, gray, black, or green with lighter colored spots. They have a wide head covered with multiple bristles – males usually have more than females. They are benthic fish and love to scrounge around on the bottom of the tank for food.

They will eat the naturally accumulating algae off the substrate in the aquarium tank, but their diet should also be supplemented with food pellets that sink, additional algae wafers, and live food that is packed with protein. Bristlenose plecos are a very tolerant fish to a range of water parameters and do not require a large tank size in order to thrive. 

  • Care level: Easy
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 20 to 25
  • Temperature: 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 3 to 5 inches
  • Tank Size: 25 gallons

Zebra Pleco

Zebra plecos are black and white striped like the mammal after which they are named. They have a large dorsal fin and four whiskers around their mouths. They tend to be shy and normally dwell in the shelter of aquarium plants or even cave-like hideouts. In addition to not being social, they are nocturnal fish that may not even appear at feeding time.

They eat both plants and animals including blanched vegetables, algae wafers, and live bloodworms, and brine shrimp. It’s best to allow food to settle near hiding spots as they may not feed if their food is left out in the open. They tend to do well in water with very little hardness, high temperatures, and a neutral pH.

  • Care level: Medium
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.0
  • Hardness: 2 to 6
  • Temperature: 79 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 3.5 inches
  • Tank Size: 30 gallons

Rubber Lip Pleco

Rubber lip plecos come in a variety of colors and patterns from light gray to black including stripes and spots and sport a distinctively comical pleco sucker mouth. They usually spend their time down on the substrate of the tank and are very low-maintenance fish. 

Rubber lip plecos main food source is the algae that grow on every surface in the aquarium tank so make sure there is plenty to sustain them. They don’t require difficult to manage water conditions – usually preferring moderately hard and basic water in the slightly warmer temperature range. 

  • Care level: Medium
  • pH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 10 to 15
  • Temperature: 71 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Tank Size: 30 gallons

Leopard Frog Pleco

Leopard frog plecos are known for their black and yellow stripes and large head and fins. They are mostly nocturnal and can be very aggressively territorial so ensuring proper spaces for hiding and keeping them separate if in the same tank is crucial.

They eat both plant and animal food including algae wafers, fish food, and live food. They are not very picky about their optimal water conditions as long as they are kept stable and do not fluctuate to excess. The biggest requirement is ensuring ample space. 

  • Care level: Easy to Medium
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 6 to 10
  • Temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Tank Size: 30 gallons

Vampire Pleco

Vampire plecos are usually very dark in color with small light dots. Their fins are very prominent but the rays are delicate and easily snagged in nets so it’s best to use caution when handling this species. Another notable feature about the vampire pleco is the ability of its eyes to dilate in response to changing light levels. 

They can be a bit territorial and can damage other fish if threatened. They mainly eat protein-rich foods such as live or frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp. They thrive in acidic, moderately hard waters that tend on the warmer side of temperatures. 

  • Care level: Easy to Medium
  • pH: 5.6 to 7.0
  • Hardness: 6 to 16
  • Temperature: 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 9 inches
  • Tank Size: 30 gallons

Snowball Pleco

Snowball plecos are usually darker colored with spaced-out white or yellow spots. Since they originate from the Rio Negro in Venezuela, they enjoy lots of places to hide, and a strong current so including cave structures, driftwood, and lots of aquarium plants is a must.

They eat lots of plant material including algae wafers, vegetable flakes, and fresh vegetables such as zucchini, peas, spinach, and cucumber. They thrive in water conditions similar to their native river which tends to be slightly acidic and on the warmer range of temperatures. 

  • Care level: Easy 
  • pH: 5.8 to 7.6
  • Hardness: 6 to 10
  • Temperature: 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Tank Size: 40 to 50 gallons

Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold nugget plecos are black in color with bright yellow spots. They are mostly nocturnal but tend to dwell at the bottom of the aquarium tank during the day. They can be territorial and do better by themselves so keeping them solitary is usually the best bet. 

Gold nugget plecos enjoy both plant and animal food although algae make up the main part of their diet. Supplementing with snacks full of protein is a good way to keep a balanced diet for this species. Since the gold nugget pleco originates from Brazil, they need tropical-type water conditions including fairly warm temperatures and a neutral pH. 

  • Care level: Medium
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 2 to 15
  • Temperature: 71 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 7 to 10 inches
  • Tank Size: 50 gallons

Peppermint Pleco

Peppermint plecos are dark gray or black with tiny white spots. They are used to fast-moving currents of the Rio Xingu in Brazil in which they hold on to the rocks on the benthos so having a good substrate for them to latch on to is a must as well as places for them to hide. 

Peppermint plecos mostly eat plant-based food including algae wafers and the biofilm that accumulates on aquarium plants and substrate, but they will also eat small crustaceans and insect larvae so adding a protein snack to their diet helps keep it well balanced. 

  • Care level: Medium
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 4+
  • Temperature: 66 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Tank Size: 50 gallons

Butterfly Pleco

Butterfly plecos are normally black or dark brown with random yellow splotches and their coloring can change according to the light levels in the aquarium tank. They need some good hiding places to exercise their camouflage skills during the day, but then become active at night. 

These plecos are voracious eaters, constantly cleaning the algae accumulating on the various substances of the aquarium tank. They will also eat live food, algae wafers, vegetables, and even their driftwood shelters. Since they eat a lot, they produce an abundance of waste so it’s necessary to have a good filtration system to prevent the fish from getting sick. 

  • Care level: Easy
  • pH: 5.6 to 7.0
  • Hardness: 2 to 18
  • Temperature: 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Tank Size: 80 gallons

Sailfin Pleco

Sailfin plecos feature dark leopard-like spots and a notable dorsal fin that extends up prominently like a sail and folds back to almost reach the tail. Since these plecos are nocturnal, adding shelters is a must for their aquarium tanks and they enjoy driftwood and cave structures.

This species of pleco needs a well-balanced diet and eats a lot so two feedings a day are usually necessary. Sailfin plecos will eat a variety of foods including algae wafers, vegetables, sinking food pellets, and live food. Since sailfin plecos are on the larger end of the spectrum, they do require a bigger tank, but their temperature tolerance has a fairly wide range and their pH preference is neutral. 

  • Care level: Easy to Medium
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 6 to 10
  • Temperature: 73 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 13 to 19 inches
  • Tank Size: 100 gallons

Royal Pleco

Royal plecos have dark stripes on a light gray body with a dorsal fin that can range in color from gold, dark brown, or black. Their most distinctive features are their large red eyes and their general body size reaches over a foot long. They are generally shy and may show aggression if another fish encroaches on their territory.

Like most plecos, they enjoy eating algae wafers and sinking food pellets, but be sure to give them plenty to eat to maintain their generous size. Royal plecos are easy to manage, requiring neutral pH, fairly warm temperatures, and soft to moderately hard water. The most challenging part of their management is ensuring a big enough tank.

  • Care level: Easy 
  • pH: 6.6 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 5 to 10
  • Temperature: 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 17 inches
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons

Sunshine Pleco

Sunshine plecos are dark brown or gray with large white spots, with a belly and fins displaying a bright orange color. They also sport stubby bristle appendages on their heads. They love to hide and dwell best in a tank equipped with driftwood and aquarium plants for shelter. 

They eat lots of algae, especially off of the decorating driftwood and plants in the aquarium, but will also eat any stray insect, shrimp, or snail that wanders into their path at the bottom of the tank. They are very hardy plecos that can tolerate a wide range of pH, water hardness, and temperatures, but require a fairly large tank size given they can grow to be a foot long. 

  • Care level: Medium
  • pH: 6.0 to 7.2
  • Hardness: 0 to 30
  • Temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 12 inches
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons

Blue Eyed Pleco

Blue-eyed plecos are a dull gray color with outstandingly light blue eyes hence their namesake. They can be difficult fish to maintain however because they require a strong current to stay healthy and maintain appropriate intake levels of oxygen considering their large size. They also require hiding places such as driftwood in the tank.

They mostly graze on algae in the tank but will also eat the driftwood shelters and some vegetable material. They should not be fed foods that are high in protein as that could cause illness. While their water parameters preferences aren’t too difficult to maintain, the most challenging part about caring for these fish is adequate water flow and tank size. 

  • Care level: Medium to Hard
  • pH: 6.0 to 7.0
  • Hardness: 2 to 12
  • Temperature: 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: 24 inches
  • Tank Size: 180 gallons

FAQs

What Types of Pleco Stay Small?

Candy-striped, clown, Bristlenose, zebra, leopard frog, snowball, and butterfly plecos all tend towards the smaller size range of plecos measuring 3.5 to 6 inches long. These varieties do not need large tanks due to their size and also don’t have quite the appetites the larger ones do (except for the butterfly pleco). 

Can You Keep Two Plecos In The Same Tank?

Keeping multiple plecos in the same tank depends on a variety of factors but in general, can be more trouble than it’s worth. A few of the species mentioned above including royal, vampire, gold nugget, leopard frog, and candy-striped tend to be territorial and may show aggression towards other fish encroaching on their space. 

Plecos also need to have plenty of food available especially the algae that grow on the surfaces of the tank, substrate, and aquarium plants so competition with other plecos may result in sickly fish. If you keep in mind the space needed for each fish and avoid putting aggressive species together, you might be able to maintain more than one pleco in a tank.

Recap

There are fifteen common kinds of aquarium plecos ranging in size from 3.5 inches to 2 feet long and sporting a variety of appearances and unique features. Some are nocturnal and prefer to hide, while others are more social. There are strictly plant-eaters, strictly meat-eaters, and those that like a little bit of both. 

It is important to do your research on which type of pleco to get for your aquarium so that you understand their aggression level, diet and water quality preferences, and tank size.

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