Best Pleco Cave: The Ultimate Pleco Cave Guide

Pleco Cave

What is a Pleco Cave?

A pleco cave is a cavity designed to allow your pleco(s) somewhere to hide, and most importantly, breed and lay their eggs safely away from other fish. Smaller fish will often use them as well, as a safe place to hide from larger, more aggressive fish.

Best Pleco Cave

There are many different options for pleco caves available on the market, ranging in size, style, material, and price. Below are some of the best options, broken down by both size and type of cave.

Best Overall Pleco Cave

Plecoceramics Medium Pleco Cave

The medium-sized Ceramic Pleco Breeding Cave from Plecoceramics is highly rated on Amazon, featuring a 4.6/5 star rating. It is a popular choice for medium-sized plecos, for several reasons. These caves are made from clay and then fired at high temperatures, ensuring they are 100% safe for aquarium use. They are designed to look as natural as possible, making them look right at home in any aquarium setup.

Another great feature of these caves is their smooth interior, ensuring there is nowhere for fish to get injured while inside them. The medium size is just over 5” in length, and just under 2” across, making it the ideal choice for most mid-sized pleco species.

Pleco Cave by Size

For most aquarists shopping for a pleco cave, size will be the most important aspect, especially if you are attempting to breed your plecos. The size of the pleco cave will depend on the size of the tank it is going into, as well as the size of the pleco(s) it is for.

Too small of a cave, and they won’t be able to fit inside safely. Too large and it not only won’t provide proper protection, but it also won’t work properly when it comes time to spawn. (More on this below in “Pleco Caves For Breeding and Spawning”)

Large Pleco Cave

DOHO Aquarium Large Ceramic Pleco Cave

A large pleco cave is best when you have a larger breed of pleco, such as a Rubber Lip, Butterfly, or Galaxy pleco. These species require bigger caves to accommodate their larger size. The DOHO Large Ceramic Pleco Spawning Shelter is a popular choice, with its natural looks and non-toxic construction. At 7.7” in length and 2.4” across, it is the perfect cave for any medium to large pleco species.

These caves are perfectly shaped to give your pleco somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep during the daytime and look great inside most tanks.

Medium Pleco Cave

Plecoceramics Medium Pleco Cave

The Plecoceramics Medium Pleco Cave (as mentioned above) is a great choice for any medium-sized pleco species to use as shelter and a breeding spot. Aquarium-safe and made to look natural, at just over 5” in length it will look great in any naturally-decorated aquarium. This smaller size can also be used for other fish, such as cichlids and betta fish, and even some larger shrimp.

Small Pleco Cave

Plecoceramics Small Pleco Cave

As with their medium-sized cave, the Plecoceramics Small Pleco Cave is another highly-rated pleco cave available on Amazon. It currently has a 4.7/5 star rating, and many great reviews as well, making it a great choice for any small pleco species such as Clown or Zebra plecos.

With an overall length of just under 5”, these pleco caves can be placed in even the smallest aquariums, providing safety and a place to breed for all small plecos, as well as other small species of fish. Their natural look matches most tanks’ aesthetics, while the smooth interior ensures your fish can’t hurt themselves inside it.

Pleco Cave Types

If you are looking to upgrade your old tank or set up a new one, selecting the correct type of pleco cave is essential for making your tank look its best, while also creating an environment where your pleco(s) can be healthy and happy.

Here are the different types of pleco caves:

  • Ceramic caves
  • Slate caves
  • Terracotta caves
  • Natural caves
  • Handmade caves

Ceramic Caves

Ceramic caves are a popular choice for pleco caves for several reasons. First, they can be created in any shape or size, making the possibilities almost endless. Second, they are aquarium safe and won’t contaminate the water in your tank. Third, most are designed to look natural, so they won’t stand out like a sore thumb if you are trying to recreate a specific underwater environment.

Pleco Cave

A popular choice for a ceramic pleco cave is the Saim Aquarium Ceramic Rock Cave. It is available in 5 different sizes, from 4.4” to 9.2” long, so finding the perfect size for your particular species of pleco is easy. While it doesn’t look as natural as some other caves available for purchase, it can easily be buried in the substrate, covered in rock, or hidden mostly from view using plants.

If you aren’t going for a natural look and want as many caves as possible in a small area, the DOHO White Ceramic Hiding Shelter is likely your best option. Due to its layered design, it features 6 individual caves, as well as 6 smaller, open-sided hiding spots.

Slate Caves

A lot of aquarists prefer to create their own slate caves using loose pieces of slate purchased from a fish store. While there are some benefits to this method, there can also be a few drawbacks. By creating your cave(s) using slate, your imagination is the limit, so anything that comes to mind can be created. Building it yourself also allows you to make them as large or as small as you’d like.

However, if they aren’t properly secured using aquarium-safe glue, or stacked in a way that they can’t move, there is always the possibility of them moving. Falling rocks could potentially injure or kill a fish.

If they aren’t secured together, they can also be quite a hassle to disassemble and reassemble whenever you need to reorganize or fully clean your tank.

Pre-made slate caves can be a bit tricky to find online for purchase, as most people who want a slate cave for their aquarium most likely want it for its ability to customize.

Terracotta Pleco Caves

Similar to ceramic caves, terracotta caves can be made in many different shapes and sizes to suit your tank. Terracotta is aquarium-friendly (as long as it isn’t glazed or painted), and can add a bit of color to your tank as well. For this reason, many aquarists simply use small flower pots in their aquariums.

If you are looking for something a little more natural looking than a flower pot, the Cobalt Aquatics Round Pleco Cave is a popular choice. It both looks great in an aquarium and makes a great breeding place for smaller pleco species. At 7” in length, it can fit in most tanks without creating space issues.

Natural Pleco Caves

Natural pleco caves are a great choice if you are setting up a tank that mimics nature as closely as possible. There are two types, manufactured and nature-made.

Manufactured pleco caves are usually made from ceramic or clay but are created in a way that makes them look natural. Some will look like hollowed-out logs, while others may look like rocks. A great example of the former is the Plecoceramics Pleco Cave Kit. It features four separate caves made from clay but manufactured to look like logs. Plecoceramics Cichlid Stone Decoration is a great example of a cave designed to look like a natural rock.

Nature-made caves are caves created from natural items, such as driftwood or coconut shells. Not all pieces of driftwood will have natural hollows in them, so it can take a bit of creativity to create proper caves with them. As they are natural, each individual piece will be completely different, so some will work better than others (or not at all).

Handmade Pleco Caves

There is a multitude of different options when it comes to creating your own pleco caves. PVC tubes, rocks, and even 3D printers can all be used to create amazing caves for your plecos to hide and breed in.

PVC tubing is a popular choice for aquarists who want to create their own caves for three simple reasons; it’s easy to work with, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it works well. PVC pipe can be purchased in many different diameters and cut to any length to make it suitable for fish of nearly any size. It can also be stacked and glued to create multiple caves together. As a bonus, it is completely smooth inside (as long as you clean any cut edges) so your fish can’t scratch themselves while inside it.

Rocks are another great option for building caves, as they can be customized to any shape or size you can dream of. They can be glued together on top of a small container, or done free-form to create natural shapes and curves.

One of the newest ways to create a pleco cave is a 3D printer. Recently someone has come up with a design to place caves under the substrate of your tank.

Do Plecos Need Caves?

There are several reasons that caves are an important addition to any tank with one or more pleco(s) in it.

Pleco Caves for Breeding and Spawning

Caves are an essential part of the mating cycle for plecos, and without suitable caves, their mating process isn’t possible. When they are ready to breed, the male will find a suitably sized cave, and then lure the female inside and trap her until she releases her eggs on the wall of the cave, which he then fertilizes.

But the importance of the cave doesn’t end there. Once the eggs are laid, the male will stay in the cave with them, cleaning and fanning water on them for 7-10 days until they hatch. He will then use the cave to keep them safe for the next 10-12 days until they are old enough to leave the cave for the first time.

Without a properly-sized cave (more on this below), the entire mating process isn’t possible.

Pleco Caves for Hiding

Caves are also important for plecos as a hiding spot. As most species are nocturnal, they will generally use them to sleep in, so they aren’t disturbed throughout the day. They also give them a place to hide if they feel threatened by other fish, or if they get spooked by movement outside their tank.

Other Benefits of Caves for Plecos

If you have wild-caught plecos in your tank, they can be quite stressed when first introduced to a tank. Having a cave they can hide in alone will help them with the de-stressing process.

How Big Should a Pleco Cave Be?

The ideal pleco cave should be slightly larger than the parent fish. It needs to be deep enough that both the male and female can fit in at the same time but with a small enough diameter or entrance that the male can block her inside.

When it comes to caves for safety, anything a pleco can get inside and away from the threat of danger will suffice. Multiple caves and crevices can be provided around the tank so safety is always close by. Some species of plecos, such as Sunshine plecos, will squeeze into a crevice and expand their fins when threatened. This stops them from being pulled out of the crevice by a predator.

What Makes a Good Pleco Cave?

A good pleco cave has to meet a few criteria. It must be the correct size (see above), especially if breeding is your plan. It also needs to be made from a material that is aquarium-safe, and not sharp on the edges to avoid injuries to your fish. Lastly, it needs to be in a place where a pleco can easily and quickly access it but hidden away enough that they’ll be left alone while they sleep throughout the day.

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