Information, Armored Suckermouth catfishes - Pleco, Catfish, Freshwater fish, Species

Hypostomus Plecostomus: Complete Speices & Care Overview

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by Jason Matthews



Hypostomus plecostomus, commonly known as suckermouth catfish or Common Pleco, is a popular freshwater fish species. Originating from South America, this fish species is known for its unique mouth that helps suction itself to the aquarium and various objects in it. This fish is beginner-friendly and easy to care for.


Scientific Name: Hypostomus Plecostomus
Common Names: Suckermouth catfish, Common Pleco
Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
Adult Size: 6 to 9 inches


Origin South America
Care LevelEasy
Temperament Aggressive
Diet Omnivores
Tank LevelBottom-dwellers
Water pH6.5 – 8
Water Temperature72°F – 86°F (22°c – 30°c)
Water Hardness5 dGH – 25 dGH
Tank MatesTetras, Gouramis, Danios, Oscar fish 

Fun Fact Corner

  • Common Pleco can easily shut out light due to the presence of a special omega iris.
  • Male Common Plecos take care of the babies until they can fend for themselves.


Common Plecos (Hypostomus plecostomus) originate from the South American rivers. Typically, they are found in the Guianan coastal regions of Brazil and Venezuela, along with the Rio de la Plata river between Argentina and Uruguay.

This fish species belongs to tropical and highly-vegetative conditions. In the wild, they live in brackish water with fast-moving currents.


Common Plecos display two types of temperament. When they are small, they are shy and easygoing. Hence, they can get along with other tank mates. 

However, Common Plecos’ temperament changes as they grow into adults. This fish becomes more aggressive and territorial. Moreover, they prefer to stay alone, and can even attack any other fish, including their own species. 

Common Plecos tend to target fish with colorful bodies and large fins. Although they are bottom-feeders, they might even attack or feed on small fish that are mid-dwellers. 

Keep in mind that Common Plecos are nocturnal. So, they’re not active during the day, as they tend to hide and rest during this time. On the contrary, you’ll find them clinging to the tank and feeding on various objects like driftwood or algae during the night. 


Unlike most freshwater species, Common Plecos or Hypostomus plecostomus can live up to 10 to 15 years of age in the right conditions! 

However, poor water conditions and diet can easily lead to premature death in plecos. 

Size and Appearance

Hypostomus Plecostomus
Image: Foto.Toch, depositphotos

Typically, most Common Plecos reach the size of 6 inches (15 cm) in captivity! However, in the wild, they can even grow up to 9 inches (24 cm). 

Body Shape

Common Plecos have a peculiar body shape that resembles most other catfish species. They have flat bellies with expansive fins. Moreover, you will also find the distinctive “underturned mouth” as commonly seen in catfish. 

The head consists of two rounded, small, and beady eyes, whereas the mouth is present towards the bottom of the head. This position of the mouth allows them to suck on various objects.  

Body Color

Most Common Plecos have simple brown-colored bodies with black-colored markings on the top. These markings give them a net-like appearance. 

Note that there are certain Common Plecos having color variations. They might possess lighter body colors or sand-colored markings instead of black-colored ones.

If you look at a Common Pleco closely, you’ll notice several armor plates on their upper body. As it is a bottom-dweller, these armor plates provide them sufficient protection. The belly area doesn’t possess any armor plates.

Common plecos are known for their expansive fins. In fact, the dorsal fin consists of several tiny fins merged together. The caudal, pectoral, and pelvic fins have a similar appearance too.

Differences Between Male and Female Hypostomus plecostomus

Male and female Common Plecos are easy to differentiate. Some of the major differences between them are presented in the table below. 

CategoryMale Hypostomus plecostomusFemale Hypostomus plecostomus
Body SizeSmaller than femalesLarger 
Body WeightSkinnier and more elongated Plumper and more rounded
TemperamentMore aggressiveLess aggressive


It is almost impossible to breed two Common Plecos in an aquarium as they require a lot of space. 

You require at least a 100-gallon or 200-gallon tank to breed Common Plecos and several hiding places (like caves). 

Moreover, Common Plecos are bred in ponds and not tanks in captivity.

Nutrition and Diet

It is a common misconception that Common Plecos can survive on algae as they’re one of the best algae eaters. It is not true, as Common Plecos have a huge appetite (they’re scavengers!) and require a balanced diet. 

You must feed your pleco once daily with pleco-specific food (algae wafers or spirulina pellets). Apart from that, keeping enough driftwood in your aquarium is essential, as they feed on it and gain sufficient fiber. 

As Common Plecos are omnivores, you can feed them a combination of vegetables and live/frozen food too. The best food options for this fish species are given below. 

VegetablesCucumber, lettuce, zucchini, peas, broccoli
Live/Frozen FoodEarthworms, bloodworms, fly larvae, and shrimp

Tip: Provide your plecos with vegetables and frozen/live food at least once or twice in a week to keep up their vitamin and protein levels!

Tank Requirements

Common Plecos are typically bottom-dwellers and feed on pretty much everything present in the tank. This could lead to the production of more waste. So, you need to provide proper filtration and regularly maintain the tank. 

Tank Size

You require a 75-gallon to 80-gallon tank for a single Common Pleco. This fish species can easily become bigger as they grow older. 

Keep in mind that if you want to give your Common Pleco sufficient space and place to move around, a 150-gallon tank works the best. 

Water Requirements 

Common Plecos come from tropical or subtropical regions. They prefer warm, oxygenated, and slow-moving water conditions.

  • Water Temperature – A water temperature between 72°F (22°c) and 86°F (30°c) works best for Common Plecos. 
  • Water pH – Try to keep the pH between 6.5 and 8 as Plecos prefer neutral to alkaline conditions.
  • Water Hardness – There are no fixed requirements for water hardness, but it is best to keep it between 5 dGH and 25 dGH.
  • Water Flow – Common Plecos prefer slow-moving waters, so opt for mild currents.

Decoration and Plants 

You need to be quite specific when keeping decorations and plants for Common Plecos. 

  • Provide enough driftwood as Common Plecos feed on them for dietary requirements. 
  • Provide sufficient caves, rocks, and other places to hide. Common Plecos need caves to hide, sleep, and block out any lighting during the day.
  • Keep plants like Java fern, Amazon sword, anubias, vallisneria, and Java moss in the tank as Plecos originate from highly-vegetative regions.

Regarding the substrate, you can opt for either sand or gravel. It is better to go for fine sand as it is soft and won’t hurt your Pleco while they’re feeding. 


Common Plecos prefer subdued lighting. You should also keep the tank dark at night, as Common Plecos are nocturnal.

Best Tank Mates

Finding tank mates for Common Plecos can get a little tricky due to their aggressive nature. Typically, it is advisable to keep only one Common Pleco per tank

You can keep other fish species, mainly top-dwellers, with Common Pleco. 

Some fish species that you shouldn’t keep with Common Plecos include:

  • Goldfish
  • Discus 
  • Angelfish 
  • Any small fish that lives on the same tank level and can easily fit in Pleco’s mouth.


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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