How to Breed Pleco Fish

Plecos or plecostomus fish are a unique looking, very useful addition to a community aquarium. Under the right conditions, they are also easy to breed.

Plecos are a great fish for any aquarium, not just because they have a unique, armored look, but also because they keep the tank sparkling clean. They're algae eaters, though the limited size of an aquarium means that they need supplemental food as well.

The general name pleco is popularly used to cover many species of armored catfish, though the name originated from one species called Hypostomus plecostomus. Before purchase, fish owners need to be aware that plecos can get very large, outgrowing most average sized aquariums. But for dedicated aquarists interested in breeding plecos, these fish can be a delightful experience.

Breeding Conditions

The first step to breeding plecos is to find a breeding pair, though the sexes are difficult to differentiate. Generally, the males are larger and have longer and more developed barbs around their mouth. The males may also be lighter in color, but this can depend upon the specific species.

The breeding pair must be in prime health, which means a balanced diet of plant-based foods like algae pellets and spirulina flakes, and supplemental protein like bloodworms and shrimp. The water should be at a neutral pH and the optimal temperature to induce spawning and hatch eggs is 26ºC or 75ºF. The most important factor for breeding plecos is to have some sort of enclosed hiding place or cave-offering a variety seems to encourage spawning behaviors. Plecos are shy creatures who are also nocturnal, so they will need hiding places and be most active at night.

Spawning Behavior

Once the male has found and laid claim to an appropriate cave and the female is ready to spawn, she will evict him from the enclosed space. This looks somewhat like an aggressive love dance, though neither attacks the other. The female then lays her eggs within the cave, and the male will brood over the eggs. He keeps the eggs well aerated with constant water flow to decrease the chances of fungal infection and protects the eggs from hungry interlopers and curious tankmates.

Baby Plecos

After the eggs are laid, it will take them about 5-6 days to hatch. The newly hatched fry will be absorbing their yolk sac for several days, so they don't need feeding at that time. After the yolk sac is full absorbed, the young will follow in their parents' footsteps and start cleaning up the algae in the aquarium. Algae pellets and driftwood are good beginner substrates, and when the fry get large enough, their diets should be supplemented with foods like bloodworms or white worms and flake foods. Be sure to feed only what they can consume to keep the tank clean. The young plecos take roughly 5 months to reach a size when they can be sold or given away, which is about 3cm.


Plecos are a useful and unique addition to any fish family. Breeding plecos takes patience and time, but the experience is both fun and educational. With the proper conditions and care, anyone can multiply their pleco population and enjoy these workaholics of the fish aquarium.