Clown Plecos are one of the most popular freshwater fish that are sought after around the world. They are small, bottom-dwelling fish species that are found in the tributaries of Columbia and the rocky water of Rio Meta.
They are suitable species for community tanks and are known as L104 or L162 with other English names such as Ringlet Pleco or Clown Panaque.
Clown plecos are low-maintenance fish that any dedicated aquarist will find easy to manage so far they can provide adequate care required by the species.
This article will provide you with all the necessary information to take proper care of the Clown Pleco if you plan on getting one or if you already do.
About Clown Pleco
- Species Summary
- Average size
- Clown Pleco Care
- Tank Size
- Water Parameters
- What To Put In Their Tanks
- Common Possible Diseases
- Food & Diet
- Behavior & Temperament
- Clown Pleco Tank Mates
Clown Pleco (planaque maccus) is naturally found in Venezuela and can also be found in the tributaries of Columbia. They are members of the Loricariidae family and are heavily distributed in the Apure and Caroni river basins.
They are bottom feeders and very peaceful, and for this reason, most aquarists opt for them. They are beautiful aquarium fish with a stunning dark body and a wavy or striped pattern with various colors ranging from white to bright orange.
Although they have beautiful coloration, their colors can change depending on various factors such as age, diet, and origin.
They are a relatively small and hardy species; hence they tend to adapt well to conditions similar to their natural habitat. Furthermore, the river basins where they are primarily distributed are full of woods, driftwoods, and vegetation along the shores of the rivers. Hence, clown plecos will adapt well to tanks with heavily planted vegetation and woods where they can eat and hide.
They can easily adapt to tanks with slightly muddy and dirty water and poor visibility. In addition, they are most aquarists’ must-haves, so you won’t have a problem adding them to your tank.
Like many pleco species, the clown pleco has a beautiful appearance which makes it stand out amongst species they share their tanks with. They have a black/dark brown with bright colored bands or stripes that distinguishes them from other species. Their bands or stripes usually come in colors of white to bright orange or yellow.
As mentioned earlier, their coloration patterns vary depending on genetic factors, diet, health status, and age. The species in the wild have a brighter color compared to those in captivity. Also, the younger ones have brighter colors than the adult fish.
The clown pleco has a thick, large head and body from their dorsal fin up. Then, from the beginning of their dorsal all the way to their caudal peduncle, they start to slim out.
The dorsal fin of the clown pleco is tall and very pronounced. Their pectoral fins are large and tend to rest behind them when they lay on a substrate or the top of driftwoods. For their surface area, the size of the caudal fin is the same as that of the pectoral fin. Sometimes, their caudal can be compressed or fully splayed out.
Clown plecos have a flat belly with round eyeballs and a flat-shaped suckermouth. They reach a length of about 3-4 inches when mature.
Clown Pleco Lifespan
One of the things aquarists love about clown plecos is their lifespan. Nothing beats knowing that your fish can live for a very long time if you can adequately care for it.
The lifespan of the clown pleco can range from 10-15 years, depending on how well you take care of it.
Like many other aquarium fish, factors contributing to a longer lifespan include diet, good living conditions, good water quality, and a stress-free environment.
Although clown plecos are hardy species, if the factors listed above are not considered, they are bound to live a shorter lifespan than they should. Hence, you have to make sure to provide them with a good diet, quality living conditions, and a stress-free environment to enable them to thrive better and live up to their lifespan.
Average Size of Clown Pleco
Clown plecos can grow in size averaging between 3-4 inches. Most species of Clown pleco grow in size to about 3.5 inches, which is most suitable for aquarists who want to keep more than one species in the same tank. However, some can reach 4 inches depending on their genetics and how well they are taken care of.
Clown Pleco Care
Clown Plecos are relatively low-maintenance fish that are easy to care for. Whether you are just starting as an aquarist or you have many years of experience, you won’t have a problem when it comes to the clown pleco, provided you can give it the utmost care required.
Clown Pleco Tank Size
Like other aquarium species, the first thing to consider is the tank size when it comes to taking care of your fish.
Although the clown pleco is a small fish, keeping them in a tank size of about 20 gallons is recommended. Because of their size, they do not require a large tank; however, if you can provide them with more than 20 gallons, it is also acceptable.
If you plan on keeping more than one clown pleco, you will need to provide them with an additional 10 gallons per clown pleco you add.
Even though clown plecos are hardy species and can do well in slightly muddy or dirty water, you should not leave your tank dirty and must ensure to maintain the water parameters of their tanks properly.
They thrive better in warm, soft, or hard water. You can use a water heater to either increase or reduce their water temperature to show seasonal variations.
Clown plecos produce a lot of waste, so water filtration is needed to filter their waste frequently. The filter you use must filter their waste chemically and mechanically without affecting the tank’s nitrogen circle. Hence, the canister filter or HOB filter is most recommended. You can also add air stones into their tanks for better oxygenation.
- Water pH: 6.5–7.8 pH
- Water Hardness:10 dGH
- Water Temperature: 72–86°F (23 – 28 °C)
What to Put in the Tank of Clown Plecos
For clown plecos to thrive well in their new environment, mimicking their natural habitat is most valuable, which means plenty of driftwoods.
These fish species are so addicted to driftwood that you can’t separate them. They use it as a hiding place, for feeding, and even as part of their diet.
Also, they love heavily planted tanks with a lot of rocks, caves, and woods. They feed on woods, so providing them with many varieties helps keep them healthy and balances their diet. The rocks and caves also act as an effective medium for growing edible algae and biofilm.
The substrate in their tanks should be fine, smooth, and soft so as not to cause injury to their abdomens or fins. Remember, clown plecos are bottom feeders; hence they will spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. Therefore, you should use fine gravel or aquatic soil for their tanks. If you intend to grow live plants, this is also suitable.
Some suitable plants for their tanks are hornwort, amazon swords, or Anubis. You can grow as many plants as possible; however, you must ensure they are not dominating plants.
Clown plecos, like most pleco species, are nocturnal and are most active at night. Hence you should ensure that too much light does not filtrate their tanks, especially at night. So avoid using lighting that is too bright.
As earlier stated, clown plecos require good filtration. Therefore, ensure to use filters in their tanks to keep their water clean and reduce waste. Also, the water flowing into their tanks should be moderate and not of high current. This helps to prevent the development of hypoxic areas that can pose harm.
Common Possible Disease in Clown Plecos
Diseases are a constant thing in most fish species. Some of the factors contributing to disease in freshwater species are poor living conditions, poor diet or feeding, stress, poor water quality, and many others.
Although clown plecos are very hardy fish species, this does not mean they are not susceptible to them. The way you care and handle your fish contributes significantly to how well they do.
Common diseases that affect other aquatic fish species also affect them, and this includes ich, bacterial, fungal, parasitic infections, and white spots.
However, if you maintain their water quality, provide them a balanced diet, change their water often, feed them at the right time, and ensure they are not stressed. Then, you can enjoy your clown pleco for a long time.
Luckily, clown plecos do not have any particular disease that plagues them, so keeping them healthy all lies in your hands.
If you notice that your fish is down with ich, you can treat it with antibiotics like penicillin or erythromycin. Before adding any new fish to their tank, make sure you quarantine them for at least two weeks. This way, you’ll notice any fish that is not doing fine and can treat it before adding it to the tank with other species. Make sure to quarantine any new plants you want to add as well and provide them with enough edible driftwood.
Clown Pleco Food and Diet
Like most catfish, clown plecos are omnivorous fish species, and their diet should comprise what they eat naturally in the wild plus other added supplements.
Their diet comprises a mixture of algae, wood, plants, and meat as a protein source. Algae and driftwood is an essential part of their diet; it comes as one of their primary food. However, they can’t survive off them alone, hence the need to supplement their diet with other food sources.
It is important to add to their tanks surfaces where algae can easily grow, such as woods, caves, rocks, driftwood, and plants.
As earlier stated, clown plecos are bottom feeders; hence, most of their diet should be sinking food. Some suitable sinking food for them are algae wafers and vegetables like peas, cucumbers, carrots, spinach, zucchini, and lettuce. To make the vegetables easy and soft for them to eat, you can boil them before feeding them to the fish.
You also need to include protein sources in their diet once or twice a week. Some protein sources to include are brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia eggs.
Ensure you do not overfeed your fish, monitor their feeding, and feed them every day in the darkest part of the tank during the day or after your lights are off at night. You can feed them 2 or 3 times per day. Overfeeding them can cause bloating, food wastage and give rise to diseases.
Behavior and Temperament of Clown Pleco
Clown plecos are generally calm and peaceful bottom-dwelling fish species who love to spend most of their time at the bottom of their tanks and rarely pay attention to other fish.
They can mostly be seen laying down on driftwood, either just resting down on it or feeding on it and the algae on it.
When there are two or more crown plecos in a tank, especially two males, they tend to be aggressive and territorial. Therefore, if you plan to keep more than one male crown pleco, it is better to have a large tank of about 40 gallons so that there will be enough space for both of them and there won’t be fights over territory.
Clown plecos are suitable species for community tanks and won’t cause any trouble for their tank mates as long as they have enough of their own space at the bottom of the tank with no disturbance.
Clown Pleco Tank Mates
If you plan to keep more than one fish species in the same tank with your clown plecos, ensure the other fish species are peaceful and middle to top-level dwelling species that won’t compete with the clown plecos for their bottom space. Also, mixing them with non-aggressive species is the best.
Because of their peaceful nature, Clown plecos tend to do well when mixed with other species in the same tank, so you do not have to worry about keeping them in community tanks. Their tank mates should not be bigger than they are or aggressive.
Here are some suitable tank mates to mix with clown plecos.
- Cory Catfish
- Dwarf Gourami
- Small Rasboras
- Ember Tetra
Do not keep your clown plecos with any of these species; they are not suitable tanks mates. These species are Common pleco, Oscars, Goldfish, Cichlids, Red-tailed sharks, or Rainbow sharks.
When it comes to breeding clown plecos, many aquarists have several different opinions. Some say it is pretty easy to breed them, while others claim it is extremely difficult to breed them without any previous knowledge.
Irrespective of these opinions, it is possible to breed your clown plecos if you follow the necessary steps and do it right.
Clown plecos breeding tanks should have the same water parameters as their regular tanks with plenty of driftwood, caves, or woods because they will serve as their breeding ground. To breed them, you will need to lower the temperature of their tanks to mimic the season in which they spawn in the wild, which is the rainy season. You will also need to increase their tank’s pH level. You can also sprinkle some water on the top of their tank to indicate rain.
The male fish usually fertilize the eggs after the females lay them. After this, the male species guard the spawning cave until the eggs hatch. Once eggs are hatched, separate the fry from the adult fish and start feeding them with a combination of algae, driftwood, and protein feeds. Feed the fry at least 3-4 times per day.
Hatching the eggs takes about one month, so you want to ensure the male guarding the egg has enough food to survive.
The breeding tank should have fine sand or gravel to make it easy for the fish to dig while spawning. To identify the male fish from the female ones, you will see a bristle on top of the head of the male fish, while for the female fish, it’s their round belly that distinguishes them.
Feed is also one of the factors that can aid the breeding process. Increase the rate at which you feed them during this period. Feed them with lots of protein-rich diets.
Whether you are a beginner or have several years of experience, you won’t find it difficult to keep and care for clown plecos.
They are easy, low-maintenance, and peaceful aquarium fish that will do well in any suitable aquarium you place them in.
Ensure you provide them with everything needed to make them survive, E.g., lots of algae, driftwood, rocks, caves, woods, and plants. You must also ensure to maintain their water parameters and feed as recommended.
To make them live up to their lifespan, ensure to provide them with good living conditions and mix them with peaceful, non-aggressive tank mates that won’t stress them.
Alexis O. Walker is a freelance writer and editor who is experienced in aquarium management and fish species. Her passion for aquariums arose after spending a whole day looking at beautiful and fascinating aquarium fish, sparking her interest to study about them and learn about proper management and care. She also writes about travel, entrepreneurship, parenting, and self-help.