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Different Types Of Pleco: Types Of Plecos Explained In 2021

Plecostomus, also known as pleco is a popular type of suckerfish of nocturnal nature. The renowned algae-eaters that are originally from South America’s Amazon jungle are essential additions to freshwater aquariums. They are not only attractive and visually captivating but also effective bottom-feeders that clean algae off the aquarium’s glass.

So, what are the available types of plecos that an aquarist can keep?


13 Types of Plecos

The 13 different types of plecos include:

1. Zebra Pleco

  • Size: 3-4 inches
  • Appearance: Alternating black and night stripes
  • Tank size: 30 gallons
Zebra Pleco
Zebra Pleco

This kind of pleco is endemic to Brazil, especially along the Bug Bend of the Xingu River. While Zebra Pleco is a bottom-dwelling type of fish, it’s a stunner that’s a head-turner. Its eye-catching appearance is actually one of the reasons why it’s the most-sought after plecos in the fish community.

Just like its name suggests, Zebra Pleco has zebra-like patterns like black and white stripes that run across its body. Starting from the head, this attractive coloration is distinctly accompanied by an outstanding sucker mouth with four whiskers. Going down you will come across its prominent dorsal fin in addition to a beautiful tail.

The shy and nocturnal pleco can grow fully to reach 3-4 inches. Well, this makes it a relatively small fish compared to other plecos. However, you can still effectively maximize its size by giving it the ultimate care possible.

As an omnivore, zebra plecos usually feed on blanched vegetables and algae wafers. However, you have to be extremely vigilant about what you are feeding them. This is because even though it has a life expectancy of 10-15 years, its susceptible to premature death.

2. Bristlenose Pleco

  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Appearance: black, grey, brown, or olive base with yellow or white spots
  • Tank size: 25 gallons
Bristlenose Pleco
Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose is a small pleco fish species and that’s why its tank size is merely 25 gallons. The bottom-dwelling fish is quite peaceful with a moderate level of temperament. In terms of appearance, it mainly has a black, brown, or grey base with visible white or yellow spots. Its head is wider but much fatter and shorter compared to that of Common Pleco.

Its flattened body is covered with a well-laid outset of bony plates and when it reaches maturity, you will find that it has sprouted tentacles from its head. Note that these tentacles are usually more prominent and longer in males than females. The nocturnal fish mainly feeds on a vegetarian diet and spends most of its time grazing on algae.

Generally, its diet consists of 85% plant matter and the remaining 15% protein. Therefore, ideal to feed your fish algae pellets designed for bottom-dwelling plecos. Some of the food varieties that you should consider trying out include peas, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, and cabbage leaves.

This species needs lots of fiber every day and your fish’s health would instantly start to deteriorate if you don’t meet its dietary requirements.

3. Sailfin Pleco

  • Size: 13-19 inches
  • Appearance: lighter base color with condensed dots
  • Tank size: 100 gallons
Sailfin Pleco
Sailfin Pleco

If you perfectly take care of your Sailfin, then it can grow up to 19 inches long. This makes it one of the biggest pleco species. Sailfin pleco is a vibrant fish with a leopard-like appearance. Its beautiful body coloration is a result of the seamless blend of the lighter-base color with a series of brilliant dots.

It normally thrives in fish tanks, especially at the bottom while it tries to hide. Since it’s a nocturnal fish that’s inactive during the day, you need to ensure that you have multiple hideouts in your tank. Its body is elongated and features a large head with small high-set eyes. Furthermore, the upper part of this pleco’s body comes with a protective covering of bony plates.

If you are considering buying this pleco, then you should be ready to spend financially on upkeep. Sailfin has a healthy appetite and you need to feed it at least twice daily.

Besides that, you need to invest in an extensive food variety including live edibles, sinking foods, and plant-based snacks. Since this species doesn’t feature picky eaters, you will have an easier time providing for your fish.

4. Gold Nugget Pleco

  • Size: 7-10 inches
  • Appearance: black body with yellow spots
  • Tank size: 50 gallons
Gold Nugget Pleco
Gold Nugget Pleco

It’s an armored type of catfish that’s endemic to Brazil. Gold Nugget Pleco usually thrives in a freshwater ecosystem and that’s why you will find it primarily in Amazon’s system. The fairly popular pleco has a black base color that’s delicately covered with bright yellow spots. This makes it easily stand out, giving viewers an undeniably stunning sight to behold.

While it’s visually striking, it’s also a breeze to take care of it, making it ideal for beginners as well. The colorful fish has a suckermouth plus a head that normally angles down to the substrate. Its body is quite wide while its round eyes will quickly capture your gaze. One thing that you will also notice is that its body tends to get thinner as you move towards the caudal peduncle.

It’s quite easy to care for Gold Nugget since it isn’t a picky eater. You need to feet its algae most of the time, however, don’t forget that this fish needs a balanced diet hence you should think about your protein choices such as including bloodworms and tubifex in its diet.

5. Royal Pleco

  • Size: 17 inches
  • Appearance: a light grey body with dark grey stripes
  • Tank size: 125 gallons
Royal Pleco
Royal Pleco

This is an incredibly unique type of freshwater fish that normally draws quick attention. Growing up to 17-inches long. Royal Pleco is large and interesting to look at. The low-maintenance fish is popular with aquarists for obvious reasons. Its beautiful nature and easy-care requirements make them esthetically pleasing to add in tanks.

Its usually found throughout the Amazon Basin. But you have to do comprehensive research when making a selection since this species has multiple variations. The difference is usually triggered by the area that the fish comes from.

Physically, the light grey body with distinct dark-grey stripes makes it a beauty. Note that its dorsal fin is normally gold in color but it might be black or dark brown depending on the fish variant. Apart from its color, one of its most striking features is the head. Royal Pleco has a large head in addition to bright red eyes!

Diet-wise, this fish has a big appetite for wood and that’s why you should supply it with plenty of driftwood. Besides that, you can add some commercial algae wafers as well as sinking food pellets to your diet.

6. Leopard Frog Pleco

  • Size: 4 inches
  • Appearance: alternating black and yellow stripes
  • Tank size:30 gallons
Leopard Frog Pleco
Leopard Frog Pleco

If you are a beginner or intermediate aquarist, then you can perfectly breed this pleco species. This hardy and peaceful fish species are popular for its pretty physical appearance. Its display colors include yellow black and sometimes white stripes that normally cut across its body.
It’s shorter in size than most plecos and also lives between 8 to 10 years.

This makes its lifespan slightly shorter than that of most plecos. The beauty is quite undemanding hence its capable of surviving and adapting to different environmental conditions. Even though Leopard Pleco is quite beautiful, it bears lots of resemblance to other plecos. This includes physical appearance as well as behavioral characters.

Its physical profile includes having a large head as well as well-pronounced anal and pectoral fins. The largely nocturnal fish is mostly active at night, particularly when all lights have gone off. This means that it usually spends most part of the day in an inactive state.

It’s also worth noting that male Leopard Plecos are quite aggressive and they are known to get in constant fights with other male plecos. This is a carnivorous type of fish hence it mainly feeds on meat-based foods.

Research indicates that Leopard plecos feed mostly on frozen foods, especially bloodworms. However, you can still give them vegetables as a side dish from time to time.

7. Rubber Lip Pleco

  • Size: 5-7 inches
  • Appearance: multiple color variations
  • Tank size: 30 gallons
Rubber Lip Pleco
Rubber Lip Pleco

What many acquits don’t know about this fish is that it’s actually a freshwater fish. It’s endemic to South America, especially Venezuela and Columbia. It mainly loves to live in small rivers with freshwater but has also been occasionally found in larger rivers.

Due to its “classic” pleco appearance, a lot of people have actually been left confused regarding this species. Well, its body is naturally molded to fit the exact profile of a pleco. It comes with a large sucker mouth with a small snout that tends to slope upwards towards the top of its head.

It’s relatively low-maintenance and that’s why it’s common in aquariums. It has a beautiful body coloring featuring yellow and white bands that usually fade into a light orange color while going on their bodies.

The peaceful fish that can grow to a maximum of 4 inches usually loves heater tanks. Generally, a Clown Pleco feeds on big algae but you can also add in some driftwood for decor purposes.

8. Blue-Eyed Pleco

  • Size: 10-14 inches
  • Appearance: black or dark-grey color with turquoise-colored eyes
  • Tank size: 180 gallons
Blue-Eyed Pleco
Blue-Eyed Pleco

Blue-eyed pleco got its name from its turquoise-colored eyes. The herbivorous fish which is endemic to Columbia is normally considered to be the “holy grail” of plecos in aquariums. While it can be bred at an intermediate level, taking care of it isn’t easy and that’s why it’s mostly bred by experts.

It has difficult requirements when it comes to its habitat and as one of the rarest plecos, this species is quite expensive. Its diet includes feeding on algae occasionally and mainly on driftwood. As a breeder, you need to be careful since the Blue-eyed pleco usually needs hiding places during its inactive hours.

9. Butterfly Pleco

  • Size: 6 inches
  • Appearance: Splotchy appearance with black/dark-brown base color
  • Tank size: 80 gallons
Butterfly Pleco
Butterfly Pleco

It’s a small-sized fish variety that can grow fully and reach 6 inches. Its pattern, however, is quite striking and will catch your attention at first glimpse. Butterfly Pleco can camouflage itself, which makes it interesting to breed in aquariums. It tends to take the color of its surroundings and if you want to enjoy its vibrant nature, then you should put it close to a light-colored substrate.

Its diet is mainly algae but this needs to be supplemented with fish food and other vegetables. It normally thrives in a clean and aerated water supply. Note that this is one of the plecos that has an averagely short lifespan that lasts between 5 to 7 years.

10. Candy Striped Pleco

  • Size: 4 inches
  • Appearance: cream-colored stripes and patterns
  • Tank size: 15-20 gallons
Candy Striped Pleco
Candy Striped Pleco

This is a cave spawner that has always been bred in aquariums. Its color usually changes depending on the mood but it naturally has cream-colored stripes around its tail with irregular patterns on the head. The bottom-dweller pleco is endemic to the Amazon River basin and it normally needs lots of aquarium decorations in order to stay healthy.

Even though this pleco is an omnivore, it doesn’t like to feed on algae. Instead, it mainly prefers protein-based edibles including live and frozen food varieties. It gets slightly territorial but can still thrive in community tanks with other types of plecos, especially those that tend to stay on the upper and middle parts of the tank.

11. Sunshine Pleco

  • Size: 12 inches
  • Appearance: a brown or dark gray base with thick white dots
  • Tank size: 125 gallons
Sunshine Pleco
Sunshine Pleco

This is an extremely colorful catfish species that are also native to Brazil’s Rio Xingu region. Its physical appearance, intermediate level of breeding, and size respectfully command a high price for this specimen. The attractive scavenger has quickly become aquarists’ favorite. It fully holds on to its color as it grows and as a result, it maintains its vibrancy throughout its lifespan.

Its spotted body features a brownish or dark-gray color in addition to thick white dots. There is also an orange hue on the belly and fins and this is actually why it’s called the Sunshine Pleco. This is an omnivorous fish that has noticeable small but stubby appendages.

Sunshine pleco is an algae eater and as a result, you need to prepare plenty of driftwood for it in order to maintain its health. While it’s docile and shy, this pleco can also get territorial, that’s why it needs a relatively big tank size. And to breed it with other animals, ensure that you keep shrimps and small snails away from them.

12. Vampire Pleco

  • Size: 10 inches
  • Appearance: high contrast white and black markings with large dorsal fins
  • Tank size: 30 gallons
Vampire Pleco
Vampire Pleco

Vampire Pleco’s size and tank size indicates that its medium in size. Also known as the Tusken or Galaxy Pleco, this type of fish is only 1 of the 4 species that make up the Leporacanthicus genus. It thrives in river basins and is endemic to Venezuela and Brazil.

Its distinctive black and white spots naturally make it attractive. However, you can also find it with gray or brown spots. Its base color makes it mimic the sky at night. But there are still some specimens that will have a lighter base with black spots. Besides that, it also comes with large caudal and dorsal fins.

Maintaining this fish is quite challenging since it normally lives in wild areas with high levels of oxygen and rapid currents. As a result, you must place it in an aquarium that effectively meets its needs.

The carnivorous fish needs a meaty diet. Therefore, essential that you combine different types of animals and food types since it has a high risk of suffering from malnutrition in captivity. Note that you can also train the vampire pleco to eat dry food.

13. Common Pleco / Hypostamus Plecostomus

  • Size: 12-24 inches
  • Appearance: mostly brown in color with sand-colored patterns or spots
  • Tank size: 75 gallons
Hypostamus Plecostomus
Hypostamus Plecostomus

Common Pleco, just like its name suggests is quite common. Its easily distinguishable thanks to its heavy-armored plates that perch on the sides of its body in addition to a suckermouth. It’s a species that’s native to South America, however, you can still find it in a wide range of habitats.

Its physical characteristics make it one of the largest plecos on average, it can grow up to 24 inches long. Common pleco manages to thrive more than the other types of plecos due to its armor plates. They are uniquely lined in rows and due to their tough nature, it’s difficult for predators to break them down.

Generally, Plecostomus loves to eat algae. Due to its nocturnal habits, you should aim to supply it with at most two meals per week. Its breeding level is quite difficult even though it’s popular with breeders. But this doesn’t mean that aquarists haven’t managed to successfully rear this species of pleco.

Can I Put 2 Plecos in one tank?

The answer to this question is a big no! Full-grown plecos can be very territorial when it comes to their own kind. Disputes can erupt even when you try to ensure that the tank is big enough for two. There are instances when housing two plecostomus may work. One instance is during breeding and the other is when both fish are already familiar with each other.

Breeding is usually done by experts and the male and female are usually separated after successful breeding. Introducing two plecos early on means that they basically grow up with each other and have been brought in the same tank at the same time. This minimizes the risk of one claiming territory before the other. This means they are used to each others’ presence and do not mind it.

This type of fish usually gets along well with other species so there is no danger of it being hostile to other species.

What’s the Most Common Type of Pleco?

While you might think that Common Pleco (Hypostamus Plecostomus) is the most popular, it’s actually not. It’s relatively popular. The brilliant Bristlenose is actually the most common type of pleco. Its beginner-friendly has a small size and mainly feeds on a vegetarian diet. You can also easily find it in most pet stores at cost-effective prices.

Pleco is manageable to care for, and visually appealing
Pleco is manageable to care for, and visually appealing

The Bottom Line

The above reviews species feature among the most common types of plecos. They are readily available, manageable to care for, and visually appealing. You can keep any of these plecos based on your preferences and budget.

If you have any questions or comments regarding plecos, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are right here and you will get feedback as soon as possible.

About Grace Hocker

Hi, my name is Grace and I am a pet lover. Ever since 5 years old, I've owned some sort of pet from Bearded Dragons to Rabbits. I have dedicated my life to helping pets, and am here to help you get the best for your pet!