Pleco Lifespan: How Long Do Plecos Live?

Pleco Lifespan
Common Pleco

What is the Lifespan of Plecos by Species?

Any listing of Pleco lifespan by species will be general. Fish lifespan will vary depending on quality of care along with other causes. This table of Pleco lifespans is mostly representative of fish which have competent to excellent care. Lower water quality and diets lacking enough nutrition can lower your fish’s lifespan and can lead to early death.

Pleco SpeciesLifespan in Years
Bristlenose Pleco10 – 15 Years
Clown Pleco10 – 12 Years
Zebra Pleco10 – 20 Years
Rubber Lip Pleco10 – 12 Years
Gold Nugget Pleco5 Years
Common Pleco10 – 15 Years
Blue Phantom Pleco12 – 12 Years
Royal Pleco10 Years
Snowball Pleco8 – 10 Years
Green Phantom Pleco12 Years
Sailfin Pleco15 – 20 Years
Vampire Pleco10 – 15 Years
Typhoon Pleco12 Years
Leopard Frog Pleco8 – 10 Years
Butterfly Pleco5 – 8 Years
Rhino Pleco10 Years
Sunshine Pleco10 – 15 Years
Blue Eyed Pleco15 to 20 Years
Adonis Pleco5 – 8 Years
Leopard Pleco15 – 20 Years
L397 Pleco10 – 12 Years
King Tiger Pleco10 – 15 Years
Orange Seam Pleco5 – 8 Years
Super Red Pleco5 – 12 Years
L236 Pleco12 – 15 Years
Pitbull Pleco10 – 15 Years
Starlight Bristlenose Pleco (L183)10 – 14 Years
Candy Striped Pleco8 – 10 Years
Watermelon Pleco10 – 15 Years
Medusa Pleco5 – 8 Years
Peppermint Pleco10 Years
Sultan Pleco5 – 8 Years
L129 Pleco10 – 15 Years
L239 Pleco8 Years
Queen Arabesque Pleco10 Years
Mango Pleco10 – 15 Years
Black Dragon Pleco10 – 15 Years
Leopard Cactus Pleco12 Years
Flash Pleco8 – 12 Years

What is the Longest Living Pleco Species?

The longest living Pleco species are: Zebra, Sailfin, Blue Eyed, and Leopard Plecos. Many species can live for much longer in nature than in captivity. Often, healthy natural Pleco environments and diets can be difficult to reproduce even by skilled hobbyists. Food in the wild is often more nutritious than prepared foods provided to most Plecos. This is a particular problem for Plecos which are said to be algae eaters. Algae in nature is often really periphyton, which includes algae along with bacteria, microbes, and insect larva. Prepared sinking algae wafers won’t be as nutritious as wild algae. Many algae eating Plecos need a small amount of meaty foods in their diet to supplement tank and wafer algae.

How Long Do Plecos Live on Average?

Most Plecos can live between 15 and 20 years in captivity with excellent care. In the wild some species have been known to live over 25 years, but this healthy natural environment is difficult to match in most hobbyist aquariums. Want a Pleco to stay healthy for many years? You’ll need the right tank setup and nutritional support. Without clean water and quality food your Pleco can suffer from ill health and may not live as long as possible.

Providing clean water is one of the most important aspects of quality Pleco care. Most, but not all, Pleco species live in clear, fast moving streams in nature. They can be sensitive to slow water flow and high nitrate levels in tank water. Adding to this problem is food sources: many Plecos are carnivores and need a diet of mostly meaty, high-protein foods. These food sources can spoil tank water if uneaten for long periods. Food spoilage can be reduced by only feeding Plecos in the evening just before lights out. Most of these fish are nocturnal and only feed during the evening. Foods added during the morning or daytime may not be eaten for hours until after lights out.

Canister filters are a popular choice for Pleco hobbyists. These filters are more expensive but do a better job of keeping tank water clean in most cases. In addition to higher flow rates, canister filters can contain more filter material which translates to lower filter maintenance and better water quality. An added benefit to canister filters is strong flow outputs: because these high-flow filters are often driven by powerheads, their output can be strong enough to satisfy fish which are accustomed to fast moving water in nature.

Am important requirement when choosing a tank filter is ensuring it can keep water nitrates low. The common rule of thumb when selecting a filter is choosing one which can turn over the entire volume of tank water 4 to 5 times in an hour. For instance, a 20 gallon aquarium should have a filter which runs at 80 to 100 GPH (gallons per hour). While this is a good staring place for choosing the best filter it may not be enough for some large or carnivorous Plecos. Nocturnal feeding combined with high protein foods can result in the need for more powerful filtration than you might expect. The best way to ensure that you’re using enough filter capacity is testing nitrate levels. These levels should be low, preferably 0ppm.

If you’re using a powerful canister filter you may have enough water current in your tank to keep your Plecos happy. However, some of these fish species are accustomed to very strong water flow in nature. If you have a larger tank, relying on canister filter output may not be enough. Some hobbyists will include extra powerheads to introduce stronger currents inside their aquariums. Not only can this extra flow make Plecos more comfortable it can help to keep debris suspended where it can be easily removed by filtration.

Are you planning an unusually large aquarium? Even extra powerheads might not create enough water currents. Large Pleco aquariums may sometimes benefit from the addition of wavemakers. Wavemakers are popular in marine aquariums and resemble small electric fans. These devices are capable of creating powerful water currents in tanks and are mostly suitable for very large Pleco aquariums. While Plecos that are accustomed to fast-moving streams may enjoy the powerful flow of a wavemaker it’s important to consider the comfort of other tank mates, so exercise caution when making this tank addition.

Quality food is another critical key to long Pleco lifespans. Depending on species, Pelcos may eat algae, vegetables, or high-protein foods. Often, these fish may need some supplementation with other food sources. For instance, carnivorous Plecos will often need the occasional veggie snack, and algae eaters will need some high-protein food in their diet. Food sources in nature are usually more nutritionally diverse than those available to aquarium hobbyists. A good example is algae: in nature this is usually periphyton which is a mix of algae, bacteria, and insect larva. Algae eating Plecos in a home aquarium may not be getting enough nutrition from only tank algae and sinking algae wafers. Even when these fish are said to be algae eaters they will often need some high-protein meaty foods to stay healthy.

Some Pleco species eat mainly vegetables and are the easiest to feed. These fish can be offered blanched and cooled slices of vegetables such as cucumber or zucchini. If you begin feeding vegetables make sure they sink to the tank bottom. Some hobbyists will add weights to ensure vegetable pieces stay on the aquarium substrate where their Plecos can feed easily. But even here it’s a good idea to make sure they have a balanced diet with the occasional addition of algae and high-protein foods.

Advanced Pleco hobbyists will often feed their Plecos gel foods, either commercial or DIY. Gel foods are purees of food blends held together with a gelatin binder. These foods are often mixed and placed in ice cube trays to cool and set up. Once Plecos are accustomed to eating gel foods they can be a great way to provide a balanced diet and support a long lifespan.

DIY Gel foods let you create custom blends which can help your Plecos have a healthy and complete diet. Carnivorous Plecos can have their foods mixed with small amounts of algae or vegetables. Algae eating fish will often need some high-protein food content and these can be easily added to gel food blends. Creating the perfect gel food for your Pleco can be complicated and Pleco hobbyists on the Internet often share their favorite DIY gel food blends.

How Long Can Plecos Live Out of Water?

Plecos can live for up to 30 hours out of water. In their natural environment they sometimes need to move across dry land from one shallow body of water to another. Because of their armor covering Pleco bodies don’t loose water as quickly as many other fish species. The protective covering gives them the ability to move across dry land for short periods when necessary. Plecos aren’t amphibious and don’t have lungs like other species such as the Lungfish. However, they can survive and move outside of water when environmental changes make it necessary. Moving out of water can be stressful and your Plecos should stay in water all the time if possible. This tolerance for being on dry land means a Pleco which escapes its tank can be replaced with less chance of harm.

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