Clown Pleco: Care, Tank Mates, Size, Tank Size & Food

Common Name(s)Clown Pleco
Scientific NamePanaque maccus
Temperature73-82°F (23-28°C)
Size3.5-4 inches (8.75-10 cm)
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous diet
Lifespan10-12 years
Water pH6.8-7.6
Tank MatesTetras, rasboras, minnows, and other non-aggressive fish
BreedingCave spawners
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Ich.
Clown Pleco
Clown Pleco (Panaque maccus)

Clown Pleco Care

Clown Plecos (Panaque Maccus) are a great type of Pleco for both novice and expert fishkeepers alike. Provided they are kept in the right conditions, these fish are relatively easy to take care of. They also get along quite well with other tank mates. Furthermore, they are fun to watch as they snack on driftwood at the bottom of the tank.

They aren’t difficult to keep, but it is important to understand their basic needs and care requirements. Proper understanding of their needs will help ensure that you can keep your fish happy and healthy.


Clown Plecos should be kept in water temperatures between 73°F-82°F.

Water pH

The ideal pH for Clown Pleco is 6.8-7.6. Regarding water hardness, Clown Plecos are robust fish that can tolerate both soft and hard water, with the optimum levels being at 10dGH.


Clown Plecos are typically sold when they are juveniles at around 2 inches in size. The size of mature Clown Plecos ranges from 3.5 – 4 inches (8.75 – 10cm).

Tank Size

Clown Pleco are not large in size, but they can be territorial. Therefore, adequate tank space is required for these fish. The minimum tank size for Clown Plecos are 20 gallons. For each additional fish, an additional 10 gallon is required. Without enough tank space, Clown Plecos will not grow to reach their full size.

Clown Pleco Growth Rate

Clown Plecos usually grow to their full adult size within their first 5 years as long as they are kept in good conditions.

Meet the Clown Pleco (L104) | Species Profile

Food & Diet

A diet for Clown Plecos should mimic what they would eat in the wild as scavenging omnivores. It is important to provide a balanced diet and avoiding overfeeding.

A staple for a Clown Plecos’ diet is algae. If your fish tank does not have a lot of natural algae growth, sinking algae wafers can be used to supplement them. In addition to algae wafers, spirulina pellets are great as well.

While algae is an important part of their diet, algae alone cannot provide all essential nutrients for them. Therefore, supplementing their diet with vegetables such as lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, and peas is also beneficial. Adding these vegetables will also help prevent them from eating the live plants in the aquarium.

Finally, you should feed them protein based food a couple times a week. Feeding bloodworm and daphnia is a great way of adding protein to their diet. However, protein rich food should not be fed daily unless they are breeding.

In contrast, plant based foods should be fed daily and consistently.

Are Clown Pleco Good Algae Eaters?

Clown Plecos are definitely good algae eaters since algae forms a large part of their daily diet. They will constantly graze the aquarium wall, substrate, driftwood, and various surfaces in search of algae. In fact, if there is not enough natural algae growth in the tank, their diet should be supplemented with algae wafers. Algae is a staple food for Clown Plecos.

How often should I feed my Clown Pleco?

Plant based food should be fed to Clown Plecos on a daily basis. In fact, having natural algae growth in the aquarium would allow the fish to graze on it throughout the day, which would be even better.

Protein based food should be fed to Clown Plecos 1-2 times a week. While they are omnivores, the majority of their diet is heavily plant based.

The best feeding time is around dusk, or when you have just turned off the aquarium lights.


In captivity, Clown Plecos can live up to 10-12 years. However, their environment can impacts their lifespan significantly. Poor water quality and improper diet can shorten their lifespan by many years.

Tank Mates

Clown Plecos can be good tank mates for a variety of fish. They are calm, non-aggressive fish, making them a great candidate for community tanks. In general, fish with calm temperaments and are similar in size will make good tank mates for Clown Plecos.

Potential tank mates for Clown Pleco include tetras, rasboras, minnows, and non-aggressive cichlids. Many bottom dwellers like loaches makes great tank mates as well.

In addition to the temperament and compatibility of the fish, make sure that they are able to live in similar environments as well. Water parameters such as temperatures and pH should be considered. Making sure that there is enough space for all of the fish is another important thing to consider.

In general, fish that are significantly different in size should be avoided as tank mates. Even if neither of the fish are aggressive, the larger fish may end up eating the smaller fish. If you do decide to place fish with a significant size difference in the same tank, do so with caution.

Clown Pleco and Betta Fish

Clown Pleco and Betta fish are compatible as tank mates. They are both similar in size, so there is little chance that they will eat each other.

In terms of their behavior, Clown Plecos swim near the bottom of the tank. In contrast, Betta fish spend most of the time near the top or middle of the tank. This allows the fish to coexist with minimal friction. Even during feeding, Clown Pleco will simply eat the Betta’s uneaten food. Otherwise, it will be grazing on the algae in the tank.

Betta fish are notorious for their aggressive behavior towards other male Bettas. However, this aggression can extend towards colorful fish of other species, especially when they can be mistaken as another Betta fish. Luckily, Clown Plecos do not display similar colors as Betta fish. Therefore, there is minimal risk of Betta fish identifying Clown Pleco as a competition and becoming aggressive towards it.

Clown Pleco and Shrimp

In general, Clown Plecos and shrimp are compatible as tank mates. Clown Plecos aren’t aggressive fish, and usually they will not harass or actively pursue the shrimp.

However, Clown Plecos may eat the shrimp if there is not enough food. In addition, a significant size difference between the Clown Pleco and shrimp can increase the risk of predation. Dwarf shrimp that are significantly smaller in size may be at risk of being eaten. Keep in mind that both Clown fish and shrimp spend most of their time near the bottom of the tank.

Clown Pleco and Mollies

Clown Plecos and Mollies are compatible as tank mates. They are both similar in size, have peaceful temperaments, and enjoy similar dietary needs. Both fish feed on algae, vegetables, and some protein based foods.

If the tank becomes overcrowded, Mollies may get territorial. Otherwise, there should be no issues keeping both fish in the same tank.

Clown Pleco and Guppies

Keeping Clown Plecos and Guppies together in the same tank should be fine. As long as the tank is large enough, they will not bother each other.

While there should be no issues in terms of their temperament, make sure the Clown Plecos are getting enough to eat. If you allow it to happen, the Guppies may eat all of the food. A good strategy is to feed floating food and sinking pellets at the same time. This will allow the Clown Plecos to eat the sinking pellets while the Guppies are distracted by the floating food.

Clown Pleco and Mystery Snails

Clown Plecos and Mystery Snails should be a good combination. Since they are both non-aggressive specimens, there should be no issues with their temperament.

While there should be no issues with aggression, making sure that the water parameter is suitable for both specimens may be a challenge. More specifically, finding the right level of water pH that will work for both specimen could be difficult. However, as long as these water parameters can be managed, there should be no issues.

Clown Pleco and Bristlenose Pleco

Clown Plecos and Bristlenose Plecos can be placed in the same tank, as long as there is enough space. While they can be compatible as tank mates, a lack of space can lead to aggression. Keep in mind that both fish inhabit the lower half of the tank, and they can be territorial.

Clown Pleco and Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish are good tank mates for Clown Plecos. They can coexist peacefully with very little issues.

However, keep in mind that both fish inhabit the lower half of the tank. Therefore, there should be enough space in the tank.

Another thing to consider is food. Sinking pellet food is often fed to both fish. This may create a competitive environment during feeding time. Make sure all fish gets enough food to eat.

Are Clown Pleco Aggressive?

Clown Plecos are not aggressive fish. In fact, they are peaceful fish that can even be shy.

However, male Clown Plecos can become territorial and show signs of aggression if there is not enough space. If there is adequate space in the aquarium, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Clown Plecos may eat smaller invertebrates and fry in the tank. However, they aren’t natural predators. Well-fed Clown Plecos will usually not pursue other tank mates actively.

Clown Pleco Tank Setup

Clown Plecos are mostly nocturnal and prefer to be active at night. Therefore, provide sheltered hiding areas such as caves. This will allow them to hide from the daylight if they wish to. In order to reduce the amount of light, floating plants can be added to an aquarium as well. Aquarium plants that are rooted can be beneficial as well, especially if they have large leaves that create shade.

As for the aquarium substrate, material that will not injure the Clown Pleco should be used. This includes material such as aquatic soil, fine gravel, and sand. Clown Pleco spend a lot of time near or on the substrate, and they often dig the substrate as well. Material that can injure then fins or abdomen of the fish should be avoided.

As for the aquarium filtration system, a system that can reliably remove waste and toxins from the water is necessary. Clown Plecos produces a lot of waste for their size. In addition, moderate water flow is necessary to ensure the bottom of the tank is aerated as well. Aquarium canister filters and HOB power filters can often provide adequate water flow and filtration.

Finally, regarding roughage in the tank, having some driftwood is important. The Clown Plecos will chew on the driftwood regularly.

Do Clown Plecos Need Driftwood?

Driftwood is an important part of a Clown Pleco’s diet. It provides them with the roughage it needs to digest their food. In their natural habitat, the river is full of decaying wood. Along with algae, they are constantly grazing on driftwood as well. In an aquarium environment, driftwood should be added to the setup as well.

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