The plecostomus is a freshwater fish found in South America. Territorial, the fish does best when there's only one plecostomus in the aquarium. The pleco gets along well with most other fish, though, so he's a great addition to your community tank.
The plecostomus belongs to the family Loricariidae, and the genus Hypostomus. There are close to 700 species of catfish in the family Loricariidae. The genus Hypostomus has more than 120 species, and about 50 of them are similar to the species plecostomus in appearance, size, habits and requirements. For this reason, pet stores sell several different species and call them all plecostomus. They are often called plecos, sucker-fish or suckermouth catfish.
The plecostomus is a mottled brown color with armor-like plates covering his upper body. He fastens his disc-shaped mouth securely on aquarium surfaces to eat the algae growth. The pleco's small eyes are situated high on his head, with omega irises that close to protect his eyes from bright lights. A plecostomus found in a pet store is usually 2 to 4 inches long, but he can reach 12 to 24 inches in length.
The pleco requires a large, lidded aquarium made of glass, not acrylic. By the time he's fully grown he'll need a 50 to 100 gallon tank. Your plecostomus can live for 10 to 15 years in captivity. He likes to hide in dense plant growth, caves and flowerpots. A good filtration system, fast moving currents for creating high oxygen levels and a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5 are crucial.
A plecostomus can't live on just tank algae. He also eats plants and a small amount of meaty food. Feed him algae wafers, shrimp pellets, plant-based foods and, occasionally, bloodworms to ensure a complete diet. He may enjoy bits of romaine lettuce and parboiled zucchini. Driftwood provides a needed source of fiber. Your pleco is nocturnal; feed him early in the morning and in the evening after your aquarium light goes out.
Your plecostomus will produce a lot of waste; you'll need to clean his tank weekly. He may try to jump out of his tank if the water becomes too dirty; he can injure himself by bumping against the lid. Use an aquarium vacuum tube to clean the bottom of the tank. Remove 30 percent to 50 percent of the water with the vacuum, and replace it with fresh water.
The wild plecostomus lives in a river mouth and spawns in a muddy burrow in the side of the riverbank. Commercial fisheries breed plecos in ponds for the pet industry. The female burrows in the muddy pond side, laying about 300 eggs; the male fertilizes and guards them until they hatch four to eight days later. Fry feed on mucus secreted by their parents for six days, then they are independent. The plecostumus doesn't reproduce in aquariums.
Karen Mihaylo has been a writer since 2009. She has been a professional dog groomer since 1982 and is certified in canine massage therapy. Mihaylo holds an associate degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College.