What Do I Need for a Royal Pleco Fish Tank?

The bottom of the tank is the pleco's favorite location.
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If you have chosen a royal pleco for your first pet, you will enjoy watching this laid-back bottom swimmer clean your tank while growing to an impressive size. By choosing the appropriate tank set up, you will help to ensure your aquatic pet's health and long life.

Tank Requirements

Did you know that the royal pleco, or royal plecostomus, is a member of the catfish family? As many fish in this family, the royal pleco has the potential to grow quite large. Most royal plecos reach a length of 15 to 17 inches (38 to 43 cm) as adults. This type of fish also has the potential to live a long time, over 20 years in captivity, when provided with a spacious tank and proper care. If a royal pleco sounds like the type of fish you would enjoy, plan for your pet's growth and longevity by selecting a large tank. Typically, a tank for a fish of the pleco's size should be 50 to 100 gallons (200 to 375 l). Your royal pleco will do a good job of cleaning his environment by eating food and debris off the bottom and throughout his tank. However, a good filtration system will help reduce bacteria build up and keep your pet breathing freely. Finally, because plecos are known to be strong jumpers, keeping a lid on your pet's tank will keep him securely inside of his home and from ending up on your living room floor!

Tank Substrate and Decorations

Your royal pleco will spend most of his time on the bottom on the tank, sifting through the substrate, or substance that lines the tank floor, for food. Providing a layer of large stones on the bottom of the tank is recommended by pleco enthusiasts, because these fish are known to swallow small gravel or pebbles. Though plants will provide hiding places for your pleco, he may eat them or dig them up while rooting around for food. Placing pieces of bogwood or driftwood in your tank is important for your little friend, because royal plecos need wood for chewing, eating and to provide secure hiding places.

Water Considerations

This freshwater fish originates from areas of northern South America and throughout the Amazon, so the temperature of its water in captivity must be warm and constant. By using an aquarium thermometer to keep your royal pleco's water between 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 30 degrees Celsius) , you will allow him to thrive. Plecos do best in fairly soft water. The pH balance, or number that with indicates the acidity level of the water, should be kept at mid-range, around 6.5 to 7.5.

Tank Mates

Royal plecos are community fish, and typically do well with other passive tank mates. This doesn't mean that plecos will tolerate any type of aquatic dweller that is put in their tanks. Plecos do not like to share their space with other large plecos or other members of the catfish family. They also do not do well with very active swimmers that have tendencies to quickly devour any food placed in the water. Before you select friends for your royal pleco, make sure that he has adjusted to his knew environment and has developed a good appetite. Remember that the bogwood or driftwood that you choose for your tank should be in place so your pleco can easily hide from other dwellers in his tank when the new friends are introduced.


Though your royal pleco will snack on the bogwood, driftwood and other fish food you place in your tank, feeding him a diet of green vegetables will keep him healthy and increase the chance that he will live a long life. Small pieces of zucchini squash, kale, peas and cucumber will provide the nutrients your pleco needs. When selecting fish food from your local pet or aquarium store, choose algae-based varieties formulated for plecos.

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