Green Dragon Pleco (Ancistrus sp.): Ultimate Care Guide

Green Dragon Plecos feature dark olive to green-brown coloration. Mature males develop long “bristles” on their faces, similar to other Bristlenose Pleco varieties. Hardy and easy to breed, this Pleco is a great choice for beginners or hobbyists looking for un-fussy Plecos.

Often sold under different names like Shortfin Green Dragon and Green Dragon Bristlenose, there is some confusion online about what constitutes an actual Green Dragon Pleco. Often, supposed pictures online are actually of a lighter green fish known as Green Phantom Pleco (L200). There is also a Longfin Green Dragon Pleco which has extremely long flowing fins. Both the Shortfin Green Dragon and Longfin Green Dragon are the products of line-breeding. As these varieties don’t appear in nature they haven’t been assigned L-numbers. Because of the naming confusion it’s important to know the difference between the two Plecos before trying to buy either.

green dragon pleco
green dragon pleco

Green Dragon Pleco Care

Green Dragon Plecos are easy to care for and easy to breed. Like all Plecos they need clean water with rocks and caves for resting and hiding. Green Dragons are mostly peaceful and don’t need strong tank currents to feel at home. These simple needs mean they can live alongside many other freshwater fish species.

Are Green Dragon Pleco easy to care for?

Green Dragon Pleco are hardy and easy to care for, making them a great choice for beginning hobbyists.


Green Dragon Plecos can tolerate a wide range of temperatures between 70° and 80° F. However, they may be most comfortable near 78° F.

Water pH

Green Dragon Pleco need mostly neutral water similar to other Bristlenose Plecos with a pH value between 6.5 and 7.5.

Green Dragon Pleco Size

Green Dragon Plecos will usually grow to a length of 4 to 5 inches in captivity.

What is the Max Size of Green Dragon Pleco?

Green Dragon Plecos can reach a maximum length of 5 inches.

What is the Growth Rate of Green Dragon Pleco?

Green Dragon Pleco grow quickly after hatching; reaching 2 inches after a few months. Growth slows as they mature; expect this fish to take 2 to 3 years to reach maximum length.

Food & Diet

Green Dragon Pleco should be fed vegetable-based diets with the occasional treat of frozen meaty foods and sinking algae wafers.

What do Green Dragon Pleco eat?

Green Dragon Plecos eat blanched vegetables like cucumber and green beans, along with algae. This species appreciates the occasional treat of frozen meaty foods but shouldn’t have too much protein in their diet.

Do Green Dragon Pleco eat algae?

Green Dragon Plecos eat algae in their environment, including tank surfaces. They can also be offered sinking algae wafers, but this shouldn’t be the main part of their diet.


Like many Bristlenose Plecos, Green Dragon Pleco can live 10 to 15 years with proper care. With excellent care they may live even longer!

Tank Size

Green Dragon Plecos need a tank size between 20 to 30 gallons depending on how many individuals you’re planning on including. This is a bottom-dwelling species so tanks should be longer and wider than deep. Low tanks give this fish more tank floor space to explore, and greater opportunity to claim territory which is important when working with multiple individuals.

Tank Setup

Green Dragon Plecos are picky about water quality, but little else. They will accept a variety of substrates as long as they don’t contain rocks with sharp edges. Filtration will need extra attention as these fish can be messy eaters capable of creating large amounts of waste.

What is an ideal tank setup for Green Dragon Pleco?

Green Dragon Plecos should have excellent filtration, sandy or rocky substrates, and caves or rock arrangements which create cover and hiding spaces. This is a messy species and it’s best to choose canister filters which can cope with extra fish waste and also create some water current inside the tank. While this Pleco doesn’t need strong tank currents to simulate fast moving streams, some water movement can help keep waste and debris suspended for easy removal by filtration. Choose a filter which can turn over at least 5 times the volume of your tank within an hour. Check water chemistry often to ensure that you are using enough filtration to keep nitrate levels low; preferably at 0 ppm.

Do Green Dragon Pleco need a cave?

Green Dragon Plecos need caves and hiding spaces, both as resting places and a way to claim territory. If you are keeping multiple individuals in one tank be sure to provide extra caves to give them a wide selection in different aquarium areas.

Do Green Dragon Pleco need driftwood?

Green Dragon Plecos don’t each much wood, but mainly eat the algae and microorganisms which can grow on driftwood and cholla wood in mature aquariums. Adding wood also creates more hiding spots and helps to define territory which is important if you’re keeping multiple Plecos.

Green Dragon Pleco Breeding

Green Dragon Plecos are easy to breed and don’t need much beyond a supply of quality food. It’s best to include two females for every male in your breeding tank along with multiple caves.

How do Green Dragon Pleco breed?

Green Dragon Plecos are cave spawners. After eggs have been laid and fertilized the male chases the female from the cave and cares for eggs and fry until they become free-swimming.

Green Dragon Pleco eggs

Green Dragon Pleco eggs are small orange spheres that hatch after 5 to 10 days. These eggs are tended by the males and don’t need the protection of added anti-fungal treatment in tank water.

Green Dragon Pleco fry

Green Dragon Pleco fry become free-swimming about 7 days after hatching. Some breeders will remove fry from the breeding cave before they have completely consumed their yolk sacs; placing them in a separate breeder box inside the main aquarium. Once a few fry have consumed their yolk sacs they can be fed blanched cucumber and green beans. It can sometimes take fry a few days to recognize a new food source, but once they begin eating regularly they are on their way to becoming adults! When they grow large enough to avoid being sucked into a regular aquarium filter they can be removed from the breeding box.

Green Dragon Pleco Male vs Female

Mature Green Dragon Pleco males will often have pronounced “bristles” on their faces. This facial feature is reduced or not present in female Green Dragon Plecos.

Green Dragon Pleco Disease

Green Dragon Plecos are hardy but can contract most common freshwater fish diseases such as Ich and Velvet. Ich is visible as small, white spots along body, fins, and gills. Ich is a serious condition that is usually treated with medication and/or elevated water temperature. Velvet is observed as a dusty, brownish-gold color. Velvet is a serious condition which must be identified and treated quickly with appropriate medication.

The best way to keep your Green Dragon Plecos disease-free is through preventive care: keep water quality high and quarantine new tank additions for 4 to 6 weeks before adding to your main aquarium. Keeping a separate quarantine tank is an important part of checking new fish for disease before they have a chance in infect your primary display aquarium.

Green Dragon Pleco Tank Mates

Green Dragon Plecos are peaceful and can coexist with many other freshwater fish species. Plecos occasionally have problems with other Plecos, particularly males. If you’re planning on keeping more than one Pleco in your aquarium they’ll need to be watched closely for signs of bullying or violence.

Examples of Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates

Green Dragon Plecos are peaceful and have uncomplicated water needs making them a great pairing with many freshwater fish types. Bettas, Tetras, shrimp, guppies, non-African Cichlids, and African Dwarf Frogs are all great tank mate choices. These species don’t usually have problems with Green Dragons. Goldfish prefer cooler water temperatures than Green Dragon Plecos so may not be the best tank mate choice. Angelfish have a slime coating that some Plecos will try to remove during the evening hours. It hasn’t been reported that Green Dragons have this behavior but they should be watched closely when pairing with Angelfish.

Some fish species may be competition for food and might eat food before Green Dragon Plecos get their chance. Some of these species can include: Corydoras, snails, Otocinclus, and Kuhil Loachs. These species aren’t guaranteed to have problems with Green Dragons but if they are included be sure to provide enough food that all tank inhabitants are properly fed.

Are Green Dragon Pleco Aggressive?

Green Dragon Plecos are mostly peaceful, but males can display aggression to other males.

Are Green Dragon Pleco Territorial?

Male Green Dragon Plecos can be territorial. If you try keeping more than one male per tank be sure to include extra caves and driftwood so each individual can claim separate territory.

Where can I find Green Dragon Pleco for sale?

Green Dragon Pleco are somewhat rare and online suppliers are your best choice. Naming confusions are common so make sure you are buying the correct fish.

Green Dragon Pleco Price

Green Dragon Plecos are easy to breed, making them cheap to buy. Expect pay between $15 USD and $20 USD per individual.

What is a Longfin Green Dragon Pleco?

Longfin Green Dragon Pleco are a Pleco variety with distinct green coloration and very long flowing fins. This is a different variety than standard Green Dragon Plecos, but the likeness in names combined with rarity of both types can lead to confusion. Understand the differences between both types before trying to buy either.

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