Pleco Size Chart: Small Plecos, Large Plecos, & More

golden nugget pleco catfish Plecostomus L018
Golden Nugget Pleco, L018

What is the Average Pleco Size

Adult Plecos can range in size from 2½ to 36 inches depending on species. Most hobbyists will keep Plecos that grow between 3 to 5 inches. Bigger fish are less commonly kept as they need large aquariums with excellent filtration. These setups can be expensive and limit the popularity of large Pleco species.

Plecos Size Chart

Plecos size charts are estimates only. Quality of care and feeding can make a big difference in how large a particular fish will grow. To ensure the maximum growth and health of your Plecos be sure you’re able to meet their dietary and care needs. The following chart lists approximate maximum adult lengths of Pleco species commonly kept by hobbyists.

Pleco SpeciesSize (inches)
Bristlenose Pleco4 – 5 Inches
Clown Pleco3½ Inches
Zebra Pleco3-4 Inches
Rubber Lip Pleco5-7 Inches
Gold Nugget Pleco6-9 Inches
Common Pleco15 Inches
Blue Phantom Pleco7 Inches
Royal Pleco24 Inches
Snowball Pleco5.5 – 6.3 Inches
Green Phantom Pleco5 – 6 Inches
Sailfin Pleco13 – 19 Inches
Vampire Pleco10 Inches
Typhoon Pleco16 Inches
Leopard Frog Pleco3.5 – 4.2 Inches
Butterfly Pleco5 – 7 Inches
Rhino Pleco11 Inches
Sunshine Pleco12 Inches
Blue Eyed Pleco4 – 5 Inches
Adonis Pleco24 – 36 Inches
Leopard Pleco13 – 19 Inches
L397 Pleco5 Inches
King Tiger Pleco4 – 6 Inches
Orange Seam Pleco5 Inches
Super Red Pleco4 – 6 Inches
L236 Pleco4½ Inches
Pitbull Pleco2½ Inches
Starlight Bristlenose (L183) Pleco2.5 – 4.7 Inches
Candy Striped Pleco4 – 5½ Inches
Watermelon Pleco16 Inches
Medusa Pleco5 Inches
Peppermint Pleco7 Inches
Sultan Pleco6 Inches
L129 Pleco3 Inches
L239 Pleco3½ Inches
Queen Arabesque Pleco3½ Inches
Mango Pleco8 Inches
Black Dragon Pleco16 Inches
Leopard Cactus Pleco14 Inches
Flash Pleco5 Inches

Small Pleco Species

Some of the top small Pleco species include: Pitbull, Queen Arabesque, and Zebra. These fish are ideal for smaller tanks and hobbyists who aren’t willing or able to commit to keeping larger species. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Plecos small enough to live in five gallon nano aquariums. But, if you’re planning a 10 or 20 gallon tank here are some good species to consider:

Pitbull Pleco

With a maximum length of 2½ inches the Pitbull Pleco is a good choice for smaller tanks. They are good algae eaters and can help keep nuisance algae under control. Feeding is simple as they can consume blanched and cooled vegetables such as zucchini and cucumber, as well as sinking algae wafers. While they aren’t carnivores they do appreciate a small amount of meaty foods in their diet such as frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms. Pitbulls aren’t the most colorful or active Pleco species and have waned in popularity over the years as more colorful species have become available.

L129 Pleco

With an eye-catching pattern of black and yellow-orange stripes the L129 is a stunning addition for smaller aquariums. It has a maximum length of about 3 inches and can be territorial towards other Plecos. This territorial behavior means it should usually be the only Pleco in smaller aquariums. This species isn’t a good algae eater and prefers a high-protein diet with occasional veggie snacks. Because of its meaty diet it’s important for hobbyists to take extra precautions with water care as uneaten foods can rot and spoil tank water. In smaller tanks be prepared to make regular and large water changes.

Queen Arabesque Pleco

This species generally grows to about 3½ inches in most aquariums. Small size combined with its distinct pattern of black and white lines makes it a great fit for smaller tanks. This is a mostly carnivorous fish and needs a diet of sinking meaty foods like frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms. It does appreciate the occasional snack of sinking algae wafers or veggie snacks like cucumber or zucchini. For best health it’s important to not overdo veggie foods and ensure they are provided a regular high-protein diet. Water care is important with this Pleco which includes planning enough filtration to keep water clean and provide movement for higher oxygenation.

Clown Pleco

This species can live in 20 gallon tanks but won’t be comfortable in smaller environments as they can grow to between 3½ to 4 inches. Driftwood is an important part of a Clown Pleco’s diet and need to be provided with rockwork and caves for hiding and resting spaces. They are good algae eaters but most hobbyists will need to supplement their diet with sinking algae wafers. Vegetable and high-protein frozen foods should be provided about once a week to give them more complete nutrition.

Zebra Pleco

Stunning black and white stripe patterns combined with a maximum size of 3½ to 4 inches makes the Zebra Pleco a perfect fit for 20 gallon aquariums. Because of export restrictions in their native country of Brazil they are more difficult to find and have a higher price tag. They have special high-protein feeding needs and many hobbyists will choose gel foods created for carnivores. Gel foods can be commercial or DIY, and are food blends held with a gelatin binder. If you have deep pockets and are willing to take on their higher maintenance needs, Zebra Plecos are eye-catching additions to smaller tanks.

Large Pleco Species

For hobbyists with large tanks some good Pleco species to consider are Black Dragon, Adonis, and Watermelon. Many Plecos can live 10 to 15 years so be sure you’re prepared to care for these fish over many years. Large aquariums combined with special feeding and water care needs means these fish require lots of labor from the hobbyist. Looking to take on some truly large Plecos? Here are some good species to consider.

Black Dragon Pleco

This species can grow to 16 inches in length. They have black bodies covered in pointy spikes. When young, this fish is covered with small white spots that fade and disappear as they age. Black Dragon spikes are sharp and can injure when handling with bare hands. This species is mostly carnivorous but their diet should be supplemented with blanched and cooled vegetables and sinking algae wafers. Black Dragons can be territorial towards other Plecos and will defend their chosen caves from other fish that come too close.

Adonis Pleco

One of the largest Plecos available to hobbyists, the Adonis can grow to 36 inches. They require very large aquariums and dedicated care for best growth and health. While they can reach impressive lengths they are slow growers and can take years to reach their full adult size. Adonis Plecos have black bodies covered in heavy armor, spines, and white spots. This species is an omnivorous scavenger that needs a diet of mostly meaty high-protein foods. With their huge size and maximum lifespan of up to 16 years, this Pleco demands commitment from hobbyists who understand its particular needs.

Watermelon Pleco

This species have olive green bodies covered with light green splotches. Patterns vary between individuals with some being almost completely spotted while others are mostly striped. Watermelon Plecos consume driftwood, algae, and biofilm. In most cases tank algae and wood will need supplementation with prepared sinking foods including gel foods created for wood-eating Plecos. This is a peaceful fish but can be territorial to similar species and are best kept as the sole Pleco in their aquariums. Because this species eats algae and biofilm it’s a good idea to add them to mature aquariums where algae and microfauna have had a chance to grow.

Sailfin Pleco

While this fish needs a large tank to support its maximum size of 19 inches, easy care needs make it one of the simplest large Plecos that hobbyists can keep. Sailfins have impressive dorsal fins and brown-green mottling across their bodies. This isn’t the most colorful Pleco available to hobbyists but are easy to care for and have uncomplicated feeding needs. Sailfin Plecos are omnivores that will happily consume most foods including sinking algae wafers, and blanched vegetables like cucumber and zucchini. Their diet should be supplemented with the occasional meaty snack of frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms. This fish is an excellent algae eater but few aquariums will have enough to meet their dietary requirements; supplementation with prepared algae will almost always be necessary.

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