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Night-Time Cleanup: The Pelcos

Fish that fall into the pelcos name are all categorized in the loricariidae family. These fish include but are not limited to the suckermouth catfish, the bristlenose catfish, the sailfin catfish and the Amazon sailfin catfish. Regardless of what breed of pelco you own or plan to buy, the habitats run similarly across the board. These brown-mottled fish are often called ‘ armoured catfish’ due to the long rows of scutes on the upper part of the fish. These scales represent old-fashioned armour.


Sailfin Pleco
My very own Sailfin Pleco

The lifespan of pelcos in the wild is unknown; however, in captivity, common pelcos can live between 20 and 30 years.


This nocturnal fish is typically passive during the day. When the light of the aquarium goes out, the pelcos come to life and begin to eat. Pelcos eat live plants and vegetables. To include live plants in the aquarium and still make it look like it has life, try fast-growing java moss or java fern. Pelcos love to uproot live plants in the aquarium. To combat the pelcos’ nature, use heavy stones to hold the plants down. You may also want to try floating plants that the pelcos can pick at as they choose. By no means do you have to have live plants in the aquarium. As long as you provide places for your pelco to hide, you can feed it a diet of vegetables, including zucchini, sweet potato, squash and peas. You should also include driftwood in an aquarium that houses a pelco. The fish needs to chew on driftwood to stay happy and healthy.


Chocolate Zebra Pleco
Chocolate Zebra Pleco

When choosing fish food, consider the other fish in the tank with the pelco. If they are active fish, they may swim up and eat all flake food before the bottom-feeding pelco can reach it. Some pelcos will learn to swim to the top and others need dropping pellets like spirulina tablets.


When you buy a common pelco, you will typically be buying a fish between five and ten centimetres. Keep in mind, pelcos can grow to between 30 and 60 centimetres, or one to two feet. Before buying a pelco, make sure you will be able to house it when it is fully grown.


The pelco is a territorial fish. Typically if you have one of these catfish in an aquarium it will not tolerate a second pelco. An exception to the rule is bristlenose catfish. You will still have to add fish with care, but if you’re looking to house more than one catfish, you should consider the bristlenose breed. Also avoid fat or flat-bodied fish, such as goldfish, as the algae sucker pelco will also suck on these fish.


Gold Band Pleco
Gold Band Pleco
Pelcos appreciate powerful water currents and high oxygen levels in their tank. The temperature should be between 20° and 28° Celsius. Pelcos thrive best in soft water. Keep the pH levels of the water between 6.0 and 7.5.


Cleaning up after the pelco will take some time. Pelcos discard a lot of waste. Owners need to regularly vacuum the tank. For optimal pelco care, change 30% to 50% of the water weekly.


Pelcos will keep your take clean and spacious as long as they receive a healthy fresh veggie diet.

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