The Pleco is a species of catfish that people commonly keep in aquariums. The species commonly known by this name is the Hypostomus Plecostomus, but when people refer to a “Pleco,” they typically mean the popular aquarium fish Pterygoplichthys pardalis. For this reason, we will focus on this popular species. Read on to learn about the Pleco.

Description of the Pleco

This fish does not look like other catfish species. It has an elongated, flattened body and a modified mouth. Their scales have dark coloration with a black pattern.

At their largest, this species weighs up to about 0.5 lbs., and measures up to about 19 in. long. However, most adults measure about 12 in. long or so.

Interesting Facts About the Pleco

You can commonly find this fish in home aquariums. Learn what makes these catfish so interesting, below.

  • Loricariidae Catfish – When you think of a catfish, you probably think of an animal similar to the blue catfish or channel catfish with whiskers and a large mouth. However, the largest family of catfish, the Loricariidae, doesn’t even look like your “typical” catfish.
  • Armor Plated – These fish have thick bony plates instead of scales. This contrasts with “typical” catfish, who have no scales at all and soft skin.
  • Sucker Mouth – All members of the Loricariidae family also have sucker-shaped mouths. They use the sucker to hold onto surfaces and feed at the same time.
  • “Algae Eaters” – Though people sell them as “algae eaters,” this species is actually omnivorous. They eat carrion and a variety of detritus or edible food items. For this reason, you should provide food for them in addition to whatever algae you might have in your tank.

Habitat of the Pleco

These fish inhabit a variety of different habitats. They live in swiftly-flowing currents, using their sucker mouths to hold onto rocks and similar surfaces. Some of the different ecosystems that they occupy include rivers, streams, creeks, estuaries, and more.

Like most catfish species, these creatures can breathe air when their habitat has low oxygen levels. This means that they can survive in relatively inhospitable regions.

Distribution of the Pleco

You can find this species in the Amazon River Basin in South America. It lives primarily in Brazil and Peru. People have also introduced the species outside of its native range. Invasive populations exist in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

Diet of the Pleco

This species is omnivorous, which means that it eats both plant and animal matter. It uses its sucker mouth to scrape edible mouthfuls of algae off of rocks and submerged trees. Additionally, it feeds on carrion, or dead animals. In aquariums, people feed it commercially prepared fish foods.

Pleco and Human Interaction

Humans keep this species as pets extremely frequently. You can find them in home aquariums worldwide. Additionally, human activity does impact their native habitats. However, these hardy fish can survive in a range of different ecosystems. The IUCN currently has not assessed this species.


Though we keep them as pets, humans have not domesticated this fish species.

Does the Pleco Make a Good Pet

Yes, this fish makes a great pet. In aquariums, it gets along well with many other fish species. However, you should only purchase captive-bred individuals to prevent the spread of disease and depletion of wild populations.

Pleco Care

Because they reach relatively large sizes, you should house these fish in large aquariums. A foot-long adult needs about 75 gallons worth of space, while younger fish do not need quite so much room.

You should also provide a variety of hiding places for the fish, including logs, large rocks, caves, and more. These fish readily eat commercially produced fish foods.

Behavior of the Pleco

This species lives a primarily nocturnal life. However, in home aquariums they commonly become active around usual feeding times. While they do not school in large groups, they have tolerant dispositions. You can keep several in a large tank, as well as a variety of other fish species.

Reproduction of the Pleco

These fish breed via spawning, where the female releases her eggs and the male fertilizes them outside of her body. Pairs breed in caves or similar sheltered areas, and the male carries the eggs in his mouth to keep them safe. The number of eggs produced varies based on the size of the female.