Pleco care & habitat

Written by d.m. gutierrez
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Pleco care & habitat
Plecos are bottom feeders that keep aquariums free of algae. (Image by, courtesy of Cliff)

Plecos (plecostomus) are tropical fish---scavengers that will eat almost anything but thrive on algae. They are especially useful in aquariums since they keep their habitat clean. The natural habitat of the pleco is the fresh waters of South American rivers, but they are a favourite fish for home aquariums.


The size of a pleco depends largely on how much space it has to grow in. Plecos are generally four to 18 inches long and can live up to two years in captivity if properly cared for. They get along with most other fish but can become aggressive as they age or become larger.

Natural Habitat

The pleco's beginnings were in the deltas of Amazon jungle rivers. This tropical fish lives primarily in fresh water, but some species can tolerate slightly salty or brackish aquatic habitats. Plecos are bottom feeders, eating mostly algae and live plants.

Aquarium Habitat

According to the Petco plecostomus care sheet, a pleco can live in relatively little water compared to many saltwater fish. Provide one gallon of water for every inch of your pleco, e.g., five gallons of water for a five-inch pleco. Keep the water filtrated and between 22.2 and 27.8 degrees Celsius. Adding driftwood will give your pleco places to hide and keep the water at the proper pH level.


Your pleco will attach itself to any hard surface with its specialised mouth parts and feed on algae growing in the aquarium. If the pleco is too efficient, you can drop sinking algae wafers into its tank to feed it. Occasional additions of fresh greens like cooked zucchini, spinach, green beans and peas can supplement and vary your pleco's diet. Feed your pleco at night.

Things You Need

To create a suitable habitat for your pleco, you will need a glass aquarium of suitable size (plecos will stretch acrylics), heater, thermometer, water conditioner, substrate (like rocks or sand), driftwood and an aquarium cover.

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