The Common Pleco – Should You Buy One?


Almost all fishkeepers have heard of the Pleco but they are also known for growing rather large. Steven Caller, Editor of Aquarist Magazine takes a look at whether the Pleco is suitable for your tank.

The Pleco, more technically known as the hypostomus plecostomus, is a member of the loricariidae family of catfish. These catfish are found in tropical waters in South and Central America and are commonly knowns as as suckermouth catfish or armoured catfish owing to their appearance and behavioural habits. Many Loricariids are given an L-number since they are awaiting taxonomic description.

The Pleco is one of the most popular aquarium catfish and is often purchased as an algae eater, justifiably since they are very effective tank cleaners. They eat leftover food, algae, plant and animal matter. Many Pleco owners like to feed them sinking catfish pellets and algae wafers. They occasionally feast on shrimp too as well as any soft vegetables you add to their tank. All in all the Common Pleco is a great tank cleaner and a hardy fish too.

Home is where the heart is for this fish which likes to find itself a hidey-hole to spend most of its time in. You may have noticed in aquarium shop tanks they are normally found suckered to the glass in the corner of the tank. They are very sensitive to danger and are quick to swash their tails around when they feel threatened. It is advisable to avoid netting Plecos if at all possible to avoid tangling their tail spines in the net. Generally speaking it is actually easier to grab them in your hand should it become necessary to remove them from their tank.

As far as water parameters are concerned, the Pleco is fairly tolerant providing the water is clean and within accepted tropical norms. A temperature of 25°C and a PH around 7 will be perfect.

Plecos are often sold at a young age, usually no more than 2 or 3 inches long. This often gives people the false impression that they are buying a relatively small fish however this couldn’t be further from the truth. Plecos can grow very quickly and reach an adult length of 24 inches. This is far bigger than most home aquariums can comfortably accommodate. In addition, most people insist on feeding their Plecos vegetable matter in addition to letting them snack on algae all day. The consequence of this is that the poor fellow needs to eat an enormous amount per day, creating a large volume of waste in the process. This can have an overall negative effect on the water quality in your aquarium, with potentially awful consequences for your other fish. Keeping them in a tank that’s too small may stunt their growth as well as causing undue stress.

So should you buy a pleco? The answer, despite its popularity would have to be no in most cases. They are unsuitable for planted aquariums as they uproot and destroy aquatic plants; they are unsuitable for aquaria less than 75 gallons in volume and are generally quite messy fish. In all probability there are thousands of Plecos around the world kept in tanks far too small for their requirements. However, if you have a large enough tank without eels or knifefish you may with to buy a Pleco. They are very interesting in their own right just a bit of a tank buster.

Several other fish are called pleco and some are smaller, these may be worth looking at as a suitable alternative. Fish such as the Zebra Pleco are less growth-spurt-happy and more attractively coloured.


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How to move a Tank

By Matt (aka kingborris)

I am writing this article based on moving the average tank of approximately 20 UK gallons running with an internal filter. I know many people have larger tanks, but as far as I can see the process is about the same, just scaled up a bit (a few more buckets required!)

The first stage in moving a tank is to plan and be prepared. Work out exactly what you have to move, how far (and how long) you have to transport it, and where it will go at the other end. If you can work out a tank location before you actually move, it saves a lot of messing around and time wasting at the destination. Things such as availability to water supplies and power points need to be considered. There is nothing worse than setting a tank up only to realise that you haven’t got anywhere to plug the filters in!

The next thing to consider is buckets for holding fish and water. Some people like to bag up fish for a move, but personally, I like to move them in as much water as possible. This allows more water to be taken to the new location and with a greater volume of water, the heat loss will be reduced. I would say the best tool for this is your standard black plastic dustbin (cleaned without detergents first). Another couple of buckets are also needed for gravel and plants.

About a week before, its worth doing a slightly more thorough than usual gravel clean. This will save on having lots of gunk floating around when you uproot everything. As usual, don’t clean all the gravel, but maybe 50-70%. It will also allow your filters to compensate for any loss of bacteria due to having the gravel cleaned.

First stage of the move is to siphon some water into a smaller (10-15ltr) bucket. Carefully remove all the plants (if you have any) and put them in this bucket. This is also a good time to remove unwanted snails where possible. Having no plants will make catching fish way less stressful for both you and the fish. Once all the plants are in, a bit more water (till the bucket is half full) can be added. I then recommend covering the bucket with a damp cloth or towel, as this will stop any leaves from drying out and help prevent spillages. Leave the tank for a little while to allow the filter to clear any disturbed gunk from the water.

When you ready to move, siphon some more water into the dustbin (or similar) until there is enough water to hold the fish in. Internal filters can be placed in here, along with a heater stat. If these are fully covered by the water, they can be plugged in and turned on, keeping the water moving through the filter. Now its time to catch the fish and place them in this bin too.

Once all the fish are caught, some more water can be siphoned off to fill the bin to about ¾ full. Be careful to watch for jumping fish at this stage. With all the fish in the bin, and with the filters still running, the bin is OK to be covered and left while the rest of the tank is dismantled. I use a bin bag (or any other sheet plastic) taped tightly over the top to cover it. This will stop fish jumping out, keep them in the dark (less stress) and stop spillages en route.

If more buckets are available, then more water can be taken along. Just fill them up and cover them as before. If the tank has a fine gravel or sand substrate, I siphon the gravel and more water into another bucket. If the gravel is too large to be siphoned, then the gravel can be removed with a scoop or similar. The gravel bucket can have more water added to keep any bacteria present wet, and with more of a chance of surviving.

The tank is now empty and can be cleaned (no detergents!) of any stubborn algae or dirt.

Now all that needs to be done is to unplug the filter and heater from the bin with the fish in (leave them in the bin) and the whole setup is now ready to move.

At the other end, simply plug the filter and heater back in, and fill the tank with gravel. Where any water was removed and thrown away, an equal amount of warmed dechlorinated fresh water can be added to the tank. I then like to mix (by adding the fresh to the bin and bin to the fresh) some of this new tank water and the old water in the bin to ease the transition and any temperature differences. After both the tank and bin water have been mixed, add much of the water from the bin to the tank. The fish can now be transferred over, and the filter and heater added and turned on. All the other plants and décor can then be added.

Other variations:

External filter: This will just have to be turned off at the last minute and reconnected ASAP at the other end.

UGF: The gravel will need to be kept wet to preserve the bacteria for the biofilter.

Air powered sponge filters: Can be kept running in the bin with a battery powered air pump.

Long distance move: A battery powered air pump and stone would be useful to have running in the bin with the fish.

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London Aquarium 10


In the entire building, there were only two Discus’s there. Just two, I was disappointed. I think you can just see one, in the top left area, behind the reeds. There were Neons in the tank as well.

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London Aquarium 9

Ahh, the Jungle massive, or whatever. You could walk right up to the tank, even dip your fingers in if you wanted to. Not that I did of course.

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London Aquarium 8

Now this was a popular tank. I was waiting to see the piranha lunchtime, unfortunately I never saw such a spectacle.

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London Aquarium 7


The Lionfish. Looks more like a cross between a Zebra/Fish/Spider than a Lion.

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London Aquarium 6

Coral reef. There were many marine tanks, with some great species.

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London Aquarium 5

Another biggie. This particular tank was labelled the “Fish Rescue”. This is because people have bought a Catfish or other specie of fish, and then has become too big, and then given to the London aquarium. Honest – people have tried to raise such a monster!!

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London Aquarium 4


In my first aquarium, I was impressed by the size of the Dwarf Gourami, they dwarveds my Guppies and Neons, literally……gulp!!

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London Aquarium 3

Wow, Speilberg eat your heart out. These are Coral reef sharks, as I remember, and have attacked man in the past (Info from “Discovery channel”). They go right up to the window, and then veer away. Pity the shark didn’t open his mouth, the teeth are quite impressive as well.

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