Clown pleco sitting on black gravel

Clown Pleco Care: A Complete Guide On Types, Tanks, Diet, and More

The clown pleco is an increasingly popular fish species. Despite their somewhat tropical appearance, they’re freshwater fish with relatively straightforward maintenance and care requirements. They’re bottom feeders that clean the substrate in your tank, but they’re also active and provide entertainment.

These factors all combine to make them ideal for beginners and delightful additions to just about any aquarium, as long as you know how to care for them properly.

Below, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about Clown Plecos. We’ll review their tank requirements, diet, lifespan, and more so that you can safely include these beautiful fish in your aquarium.

Recommended Clown Pleco Care Items:


Appearance

Although appearance isn’t everything, it’s essential to know what Clown Plecos look like so you can identify them and decide if they’re right for your tank.

Clown Plecos are usually black with large, bright bands of orange or gold. The color stripes fan out in varying patterns along their body for a very striking appearance.

They are shaped like most other Pleco species and have large, thick heads and a body that slims down quite a bit before expanding into the fanned caudal fin.

They have large, banded dorsal fins and four pectoral fins that are also typically banded.


Lifespan

Clown Plecos have relatively long lifespans and will reach 10-12 years with adequate care. They aren’t the hardiest of fish, but with a good diet and water quality, you’ll enjoy many years with your Clown Pleco.


Clown Pleco Care

Caring for your Clown Pleco will be reasonably straightforward, but there are several things you should be prepared for before introducing these fish to your tank.

Habitat

First, you’ll want to set up your tank to mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible. These fish naturally live in vegetative streams and rivers in Venezuela, so your tank will require numerous places to hide.

Clown Plecos also need driftwood included in their setups. While the wood will provide some additional space to hide, these fish also get some of their required nutrients from it.

Lastly, add volume to the bottom of your tank with rocks and other decorations. Clown Plecos feed on algae and will be pleased with additional surfaces to grow algae for nourishment.

Tank

Clown Plecos don’t require vast spaces to swim, but we recommend at least a 20-gallon tank with an extra 10 gallons for each additional fish. This tank volume will give your fish plenty of room to swim and hide and will provide ample substrate for each to scavenge for algae.

If you’re planning on purchasing a tank to house your Clown Plecos, we recommend the Tetra Aquarium 20-Gallon Fish Tank Kit. It provides plenty of space for your Clown Pleco, and it includes nearly everything you need to set up your aquarium.

Our Pick
Tetra Aquarium 20 Gallon Fish Tank Kit, Includes LED Lighting and Decor

What We Like About This Tank

  • Provides ample living space
  • Includes a filter and heater
  • Includes decor to provide hiding places
Check Price on Amazon
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What We Like About This Tank

  • Provides ample living space
  • Includes a filter and heater
  • Includes decor to provide hiding places

What We Don’t Like

  • The heater isn’t adjustable
  • The filter is quite loud

Water Conditions

Clown Plecos don’t have too many requirements for water conditions. Being that they’re from South America, they thrive in warmer water temperatures. You should plan to keep your tank between 72 and 85 degrees (Fahrenheit).

They require a relatively neutral pH and will be most comfortable in water with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5.

Beyond these two conditions, you’ll just want to keep your water clean and well balanced. Bio balls can be helpful for this. Running water is best for these fish and will help keep water clear. You should clean excrement and uneaten food particles out of the substrate about once every 3 to 4 weeks. You should also clean the filter about once a month.

What to Put in Their Tank

As far as substrate goes, we strongly recommend gravel or river rocks, which are similar to what Clown Plecos would experience in the wild. Larger pieces of substrate will also provide additional surface area for beneficial algae growth.

Artificial plants or live plants are both usually suitable for Clown Plecos. Choose live plants that can stand up to some physical abuse, as Clown Plecos do enjoy nibbling on live vegetation.

As we mentioned before, Clown Plecos need places to hide. Add some plants and decorations to your tank to provide cover, and make sure to include driftwood to supply nutrients and mimic their natural habitat.

We recommend this Aquarium Driftwood from PIVBY to supplement your Clown Pleco’s diet and provide some cover and privacy when needed.

Our Pick
PIVBY Natural Aquarium Driftwood Assorted Branches Reptile Ornament for Fish Tank Decoration Pack of 3
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What We Like About This Decor

  • Adds to the aesthetic of your tank
  • Provides nooks and crannies for hiding
  • Adds nutrients to your Clown Pleco’s diet

What We Don’t Like

  • Relatively expensive
  • They may be too large for smaller tanks with other decorations

Potential Diseases

One of the significant benefits of caring for Clown Plecos is that they aren’t at risk for any diseases. Like most freshwater fish species, they are susceptible to common infections, like ichthyophthirius multifiliis (“ich”) and fin rot. However, these can generally be avoided by properly maintaining your tank water and keeping up with cleaning.


Clown Pleco Feeding

These fish snack on driftwood and rely on nutrients found in the wood to supplement their diets. They’ll also happily take bites out of living plants for nutrients and sustenance. Live plants are optional and can be substituted with artificial ones, but driftwood is a requirement in any tank that contains Clown Plecos.

Clown Plecos also need some type of protein added to their diet. Common fish foods like bloodworms and daphnia magna should be offered about two times each week. These shouldn’t be added daily, as the food will likely go uneaten and can break down to potentially harmful compounds.

The most considerable portion of the Clown Pleco’s diet, however, comes from algae.

Algae will naturally grow on surfaces in your aquarium, including plants, rocks, and your substrate. Clown Plecos require algae as part of a balanced diet, so make sure to use a large substrate and include plenty of decorations to promote algae growth.

To ensure your fish have ample algae, we recommend supplementing with these Tetra Algae Wafers. Your Clown Plecos will enjoy them immensely, and they’re designed to sink to the bottom of your tank, where your bottom feeders spend most of their time.

Tetra Algae Wafers - Nutritionally Balanced Vegetarian Fish Food

What We Like About This Food

  • Provides necessary nutrients for Clown Plecos
  • Very affordable
  • They sink to the bottom of the tank to appeal to bottom feeders


Check Price on Amazon
Aquarium Friend is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What We Like About This Food

  • Provides necessary nutrients for Clown Plecos
  • Very affordable
  • They sink to the bottom of the tank to appeal to bottom feeders

What We Don’t Like

  • They may be too large for tanks without multiple fish
  • They can make your water cloudy

Clown Pleco Breeding

Breeding Clown Plecos is relatively straightforward, but you’ll need to prepare a separate breeding tank for the highest success rate.

The breeding tank should include the same additions as your standard tank, including driftwood, artificial or live plants for coverage, and a substrate like gravel or river rock that will promote algae growth. This tank will also need a filter and a heater to maintain proper water conditions.

Most importantly, make sure there is a natural or artificial cave in the breeding tank, as Clown Plecos generally lay eggs and fertilize them in an enclosed area for safety. You can create the breeding cave using driftwood or rocks.

When you want your Clown Plecos to breed, place them in your breeding tank and lower the water temperature to between 72 and 75 degrees. This will mimic the water temperature in their natural habitat during their mating season.

Some aquarium owners have noted that a slightly higher pH level closer to 7.5 will help promote mating.

In these conditions, your female will lay eggs in the breeding cave. The male will fertilize them and then guard the cave until the eggs have hatched. Once you have baby Clown Plecos, put the parents back in your main tank, and begin regular feeding for the babies. Slowly return water conditions to normal.


Best Tank Mates for Clown Plecos

Most aquarium owners like to keep multiple fish species in each tank, but you’ll need to be careful only to include compatible species.

Luckily, Clown Plecos fare well in tanks with most other types of fish. You’ll have no trouble adding in most other common beginner species. Good tank mates include:

We recommend avoiding housing other bottom feeders with Clown Plecos. While they’re not known to be aggressive or territorial, the other species could show aggression toward your Clown Plecos. Multiple bottom feeders can also lead to a shortage of algae, which can be detrimental for Clown Plecos.

A general rule of thumb with Clown Plecos and most fish species is to avoid large size discrepancies. In a tank with varying sizes of fish, smaller species are likely to be eaten – maliciously or accidentally – by the larger fish. It’s best to match Clown Plecos with other fish that will grow to be about the same size.


Clown Pleco FAQs

How Big Do Clown Plecos Get?

Clown Plecos typically grow to be about 3.5 inches long. They can get a bit bigger but tend to max out around 4 inches.

Are Clown Plecos Good Algae Eaters?

Clown Plecos are bottom feeders, which means they will consume algae that grow on your substrate and any surfaces in your tank. They are generally considered good algae eaters because much of their diet is composed of algae.

One Clown Pleco in a 20-gallon tank can help regulate algae growth and reduce the frequency of manual algae removal.

Do Clown Plecos Need to Be in Groups?

Clown Plecos do well in a tank by themselves. They aren’t very active swimmers and don’t need too much space, but they’re relatively shy fish and enjoy time alone.

With that being said, they usually get along with other Clown Plecos. You may run into problems with multiple males in the same tank. However, as long as you provide enough space for each fish, they usually fare well in multiples.

Clown Plecos can also coexist well with other species. We recommend avoiding other bottom feeders in your tank, but they’re fine with other small species of fish that will occupy different portions of the tank.

Regardless of how many fish are in a tank with your Clown Pleco, they need plenty of space to hide to feel secure.

Are Clown Plecos aggressive?

Generally speaking, Clown Plecos have a very low level of aggression. Under normal circumstances and with adequate space and places to hide, they won’t show any aggression toward other fish.

One exception is when male Clown Plecos protect fertilized eggs. Eggs are typically laid in a breeding cave, and males will guard the cave and show aggression toward any fish that comes too close.

How Can You Tell if a Clown Pleco is Male or Female?

As with most fish species, it can be very challenging to determine the sex of your Clown Plecos.

Males will tend to be a bit larger than similarly aged females. Males also usually have more odontoes on their sides, which are cartilaginous spikes that look like short hairs.

The easiest way to tell the sex of a female Clown Pleco is to locate a bulge in the middle of their body when they’re carrying eggs.

Do Clown Plecos Need Driftwood?

A relatively unique feature of this freshwater fish is that it supplements its diet with driftwood. You’ll notice your Clown Pleco nibbling on driftwood regularly in between algae feedings.

Driftwood provides additional hiding places for your Clown Pleco. However, it’s also a requirement in any tank with these fish because they rely on the wood for nutrients. You must include some driftwood in any tank that houses a Clown Pleco.

We recommend this Natural Aquarium Driftwood from PIVBY because it will provide necessary sustenance for your Clown Pleco and add to the natural beauty of your tank.

How Often Should I Feed My Clown Pleco?

Clown Plecos get most of their dietary needs from algae growing on surfaces of your tank and the driftwood you include in their setup. However, they also need protein in their diets to remain in good health.

You should feed your Clown Pleco some bloodworms or daphnia magna about every 3 to 4 days, or two times each week. Just a few dried bloodworms or daphnia crustaceans each feeding should suffice. Be careful not to overfeed, as excess food can create dangerous spikes of nitrites and nitrates in your water.

Are Clown Plecos Hardy?

Clown Plecos are relatively hardy, and while they aren’t quite as resistant to fluctuations in water quality as danios or tetras, they can live up to 12 years with regular care.

Clown Plecos are excellent fish for beginner aquarium enthusiasts because they don’t require maintenance beyond typical water changes and regular tank cleaning.

Why Does My Clown Pleco Hide?

Clown Plecos take cover and hide in their natural habitat, so it’s very common for them to do the same thing in your aquarium. They will often find solace in caves, under driftwood, or hidden in vegetation. You may see them come out to snack on algae or driftwood, but expect them to remain hidden most of the time.

Is the Clown Pleco Right For Your Aquarium?

Now that you’ve learned just about all there is to know when it comes to caring for Clown Plecos, you should be able to decide for yourself if they’re a good fit for your aquarium.

Clown Plecos get along with most other similarly-sized species, but they need plenty of room to swim and places to hide. They’re relatively easy to care for, making them an excellent match for beginners.

If you can accommodate their need for driftwood and privacy, they can make beautiful additions to your tank and will help remove excess algae growth.

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