Pleco Diet & Feeding Guide: What do Plecos Eat?

Leopard Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps)

What Do Plecos Eat?

In their natural environment, most Plecos are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders. This means that they will eat whatever food they can get. Eating this way helps them get all the nutrition they need, and also gives them a highly varied diet. In their wild environment, Plecos spend most of their time at the bottom of the water column scavenging on algae and detritus. In captivity, you can expect your Plecos to not be picky about eating either as they will readily accept whatever foods that you wish to feed them.

The main thing to consider when choosing foods for your pleco is deciding on what the correct nutrition is for your species of Pleco. Unfortunately, it is easy to feed your Pleco an improper diet. If your Pleco is not receiving adequate nutrients, you will be able to see them visibly decline. They will become lethargic and even lose weight. If you notice your Plecos seem to be acting differently than usual, or you are new to a certain species of Pleco, you will want to take a close look at their diet to ensure that they are getting what they need.

Even though Plecos are omnivorous, different species have different dietary needs. Most common species of pleco such as Bristlenose Plecos prefer plant matter, and algae for food. They can be found spending most of their time eating algae or other plant matter. There are some species like Clown Plecos that need wood in their diet. Some species of Plecos like Galaxy Plecos don’t eat algae or wood, but are instead carnivorous and prefer meat only in their diet.

Which Plecos Are Omnivores?

Most species of Pleco are considered omnivorous simply because they will eat both plants and meats in their diet. In fact, Plecos are opportunistic feeders and they will eat what they can get. In the wild, Plecos spend the majority of their time on the bottom of the water column where they happily munch on whatever they can get. There are quite a few on the list of common species of Plecos that enjoy a truly omnivorous diet, and their diet in captivity should reflect that as much as possible. Gold Nugget Pleco, Snowball Pleco, and Green Phantom Plecos are omnivorous species of Plecos that enjoy both plant matter and meat in their diet.

Omnivorous species of Pleco are perhaps the easiest to feed as there are many different types of food on the market specifically for them.

Which Plecos Are Herbivores?

Most species of Plecos are considered omnivorous as they will eat whatever they can get, but there are a few species of Pleco that do not prefer meat in their diet at all. Bristlenose Plecos, Rubber Lip Plecos, Royal Plecos, and Butterfly Plecos are all examples of herbivorous Plecos that do best when fed a diet of algae and plant matter. There are lots of choices in feeding herbivorous species of Pleco. You can give them algae wafers, sinking pellets, and even vegetables. Plecos love many different types of vegetables in their diet as a treat in addition to algae.

What Vegetables Do Plecos Eat?

One of the great things about the Pleco species is their acceptance of most types of foods that you introduce to them. They will pretty much accept whatever foods you give them, and vegetables make for a great treat. Herbivorous and omnivorous Plecos enjoy romaine lettuce, celery leaves, spinach, zucchini, peas, and other green vegetables.

How to Feed Pleco Zucchini

Zucchini is a great vegetable to feed your Plecos. Not only is it full of nutrients and vitamins that your Plecos need, but it is fairly easy to prepare it for them. Some owners of Plecos say that you can just feed it to your fish raw, but they do best when you blanch the zucchini for up to 3 minutes until it is soft. To blanch your zucchini you simply need to bring water to a boil and place your zucchini in. Once your zucchini is cooled down enough you can chop it up into little pieces or leave it in large chunks to feed to your fish. Zucchini is a great choice for many other plant loving species as well.

How to Feed Pleco Cucumber

Preparing cucumbers for your Plecos is much the same as preparing zucchini. You can give your Plecos fresh cucumber, but it is much more enticing and easy for them to eat if you feed it to them after you have blanched it in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Once you have blanched the cucumber in boiling water and it has cooled down, you can slice or dice it into smaller pieces for your fish. Make sure that you remove any uneaten portions of cucumber after 24 hours so that it does not affect your water quality.

How to Feed Pleco Lettuce

Another great vegetable to add to your list of treats for your Plecos is lettuce. Lettuce is fairly inexpensive, and lots of species of fish love to eat it as a treat. It is important to wash your lettuce thoroughly and either blanch it or cook it in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. This will remove any harmful bacteria that might be hiding on the leaves.

What Other Vegetables Do Plecos Eat?

In addition to zucchini, cucumber, and lettuce, Plecos enjoy many different types of vegetables. They can eat the leaves of celery, sweet potato, yams, peas, and even spinach. When prepared properly, these veggies are greatly beneficial to your Pleco’s diet.

Do Plecos Eat Algae?

Even though Plecos are known for their algae eating capabilities, not all Pleco species enjoy eating algae. In fact, there are some carnivorous species of Pleco that will not eat algae at all, as well as a small few species that only like to eat wood. It is important to know what species of Pleco that you have before you try introducing different foods into their diet.

Algae can be added to your aquarium via sinking wafer foods, or just over time. If you are looking for a Pleco to help clean the algae in your tank, then you will want to purchase Bristlenose Plecos. They have great appetites for algae, and will be a great help to an aquarium that needs some algae control.

Even though there are specific species that are extremely helpful with algae control, you should not purchase Plecos with the idea in mind that they will control all of the algae in your aquarium. If there is too much algae and debris, it can throw off your water parameters and potentially harm your fish. It is still important to establish a regular cleaning schedule and monitor your water parameters regularly.

You can help control algae growth in your aquarium by feeding your fish the correct amount of food at meal times as well. It is a great idea to observe your fish during meal times to see how much food they are eating, and if they are competing for food too heavily. Your Plecos and other species of fish should only be fed enough food that they can completely consume in 2 to 3 minutes. Any leftover food should be cleaned up so that it does not sit around rotting and dirtying up the water in your tank. This rule does not apply to certain foods that come in a block or stick form that release over time. These time-released foods are designed specifically to break up slowly for your fish to feed on over a few days rather than a few minutes.

Which Plecos Are Carnivores?

Most species of Plecos are known for being algae eaters, and opportunistic, omnivorous feeders,  but there are still many common species of Pleco that are specifically carnivorous. Some species like Vampire Plecos, Typhoon Plecos, and Zebra Plecos all require a diet that is high in protein to thrive. They should be fed a high quality, varied diet of different types of protein to ensure that they are getting the proper nutrients in their diet.

Unfortunately, when feeding carnivorous species of Pleco, it is easy to mess up their diet. You can tell if your Pleco isn’t meeting its dietary needs as it will act lethargic, and even lose weight. Make sure that you are feeding your carnivorous Plecos a high quality, varied diet with the occasional treat of plant matter, and monitor them for a while until you notice their behavior change. It is important to remember that fish who are not receiving adequate care will begin to stress, and stress in fish can quickly turn into ailments that can become fatal.

What Do Carnivorous Plecos Eat?

Carnivorous Plecos need to be fed a high quality, varied, protein rich diet. They can be given frozen, flaked, or live foods. There are some pelleted foods that are specifically for carnivorous fish but they can also be fed live or frozen shrimp or bloodworms.

They will happily accept most meaty foods into their diet without difficulty. Even though these species are mostly meat eating, they still benefit from the occasional veggie treat to round out their diet. Even though they have a preference at meal time, most Plecos are opportunistic and they will eat whatever they can get to survive. This includes carnivorous Plecos. 

Which Plecos Eat Wood?

Adding wood into your tank for your Plecos to chew on is a great idea. Simply adding driftwood into your tank will even provide some additional surface area for your Plecos to scavenge for algae. However, there are some Plecos that need it in their diet. Royal Plecos, for example, are a wood eating species. Species of wood eating Plecos have what is called a ‘long gut’ system. This allows them to break down important nutrients from the wood such as cellulose.

How Do You Feed Wood Eating Plecos?

Since some species of Pleco require wood in their tank as part of their diet, it is important to know how to feed it to them. There are food supplements on the market that you can purchase and prepare for your wood eating plecos. , but some owners choose to give them driftwood. If you are looking to place wood in your tank for your plecos to graze upon, make sure that it is cleaned driftwood that has been quarantined for a time before adding it into your aquarium. It is important to know that you can not just choose any decorative piece of wood to add to your tank. You will want to find a piece that is safe for your fish. You will also want to make sure that the piece of wood you have chosen is not treated wood as the chemicals can leach into your water and harm your fish.

How Much Food Do Plecos Need?

The amount of food that your Plecos need is largely dependent on the species and the size of the Pleco. A great rule to follow when feeding your fish is to only give them enough food that they can completely consume in roughly 2 to 3 minutes. There are some types of Pleco foods that come in blocks or sticks that will release food over time for your fish too. This makes it easier to feed them as it requires you to only do so every few days.

How Long Can Plecos Go Without Being Fed?

It is said that your healthy Plecos can go 3 days to a week in between feedings. This is mostly due to their scavenging abilities. However, it is not recommended to feed your Plecos in this way as they might miss out on vital nutrition. This is especially true for juvenile Plecos as their maximum growth potential is muchly dependent on how well they are cared for as they are growing.  If you want your Plecos to reach their maximum growth potential, you will need to make sure that they are getting the correct diet.

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