Pleco Tank Mates: What Fish Can Pleco Live With?

The pleco fish, also called the plecostomus, is a freshwater fish that has become very popular with aquarium hobbyists over the years.  These fish can be found in a range of aquatic habitats, including rivers, streams, and swamps. Plecos are native to South America and add a unique look to your aquarium.  Plecos are easily distinguished by their unusual features, which include a flattened body, armor-like plates covering their skin, and a sizable mouth on the underside of their heads.  While they are mainly black and brownish in color, pleco fish come in a variety of colors and designs. 

While some pleco species such as the Bristlenose Pleco, Clown Pleco, and Zebra Pleco are very popular in the aquarium hobby, there are actually over 150 different types of plecos. Each type has its own distinctive characteristics and features.

There are many fish that are compatible as tank mates for plecos, but do keep in mind that they may not be compatible with all types of plecos.

Some species of plecos are more aggressive than others. Even within the same species, they may have different characteristics and size.

Lastly, the environment that the fish are placed can impact the behavior of the fishes. A tank setup with plenty of space and the capacity to accommodate all inhabitants is recommended. Without the proper setup, it can cause stress to the fish, resulting in aggressive behavior.

zebra pleco
Zebra Plecos (L046, Hypancistrus zebra)

Pleco Tank Mates

This is a list of potential tank mates for plecos. Keep in mind that there are many types of plecos and not all types may be compatible with the tank mates mentioned below.


Silver Arowana (Osteoglossum Bicirrhosum)

Arowanas and Plecos can be tank mates. They can get along fine with larger Plecos such as Common Plecos. Common Plecos are so large that the Arowanas wouldn’t even think of trying to bother them. Plecos are also well-protected due to their spikes. Since Plecos spend most of their time at the bottom of the aquarium, it does not disturb your Arowana.

Arowanas are surface-dwelling predators that eat tiny aquatic animals including birds and reptiles as well as other fish, insects, and even other fish.  Even if they are in the air or on a branch, they are not safe.  Arowanas have keen vision and may leap up to six feet in the air to catch small prey.  Yet, due to their voracity, they will outgrow (and devour) the majority of the fish in their tank during the first year of their lives.  Large Pleco species would be too big, spiky, and outside of their hunting range to be interesting.


Bronze Corydoras (Corydoras aeneus)

Corydoras and plecos can live together as tank mates because they are both peaceful fish.

Corydoras, also known as Cory Catfish, are calm bottom-dwelling fish. Even though both corydoras and plecos would be inhabiting the bottom half of the tank, corydoras are not territorial fish. Therefore, they would be compatible.

Corydoras are generally hardy and able to tolerate a wide range of water conditions.

As schooling fish, they should be kept in a group of at least six. Keeping them in a group will allow them to feel safe and exhibit their social behaviors. If you are considering corydoras as tank mates, make sure there’s sufficient tank space for all fish, including the group.


Zebra Danio (Danio Rerio)

Plecos are a great choice as a tank mate for many species of danios.

For example, Zebra Danios can adapt well to various water parameters. Since they spend the majority of their time in the middle to top half of the tank, they will not be bothering plecos. This is true for many species other species of danios as well.


Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum Scalare)

Angelfish and plecos can be tank mates. In fact, bristlenose plecos are often kept with angelfish in a 55-gallon tanks. Just make sure to provide the proper care for each type of fish and things will go well.


Tetras are calm, active fish who get along well with plecos, making them an excellent pleco tank mate.  Tetras are also tiny and unobtrusive, so they won’t compete with plecos for food or space.  Choosing the proper species of tetra is important because certain species may be more aggressive than others.  Since they are less likely to become hostile or territorial, smaller species like neon tetras and ember tetras make suitable selections for community tanks.


Mystery Snail (Pomacea bridgesii)

Snails can be a wonderful addition to a pleco tank because they can help keep the tank tidy and algae-free.  Snails are additionally calm and often low-maintenance, so they will not fight with plecos for resources or put them under unnecessary stress.  Yet, it’s critical to pick the appropriate kind of snail because some may be more susceptible to predators than others.  Larger species, such as mystery and apple snails, are preferable for tanks with plecos since they are less likely to be eaten by the fish.

Algae Eaters

Siamese Algae Eater

Because they are docile and have a similar diet to plecos, algae eaters like Chinese algae eaters and Siamese algae eaters can make suitable tank mates for plecos.  Just be careful that your plecos are not too small as the algae eaters like to nip smaller fish.  Algae eaters can keep the aquarium clear and free of algae, which is advantageous for the plecos and other fish there as well.  Algae eaters are also often low-maintenance and tolerant of a variety of water conditions, making them an ideal option for different aquarium setups.


Guppy Fish, Poecilia Reticulata

Guppies and plecos can be tank mates. Guppies are very popular community tank fish and could be good tank mates for certain types of plecos. Smaller plecos such as bristlenose plecos will be able to get along fine with guppies. Guppies are peaceful fish that will add color and vibrancy to your community fish tank.


German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus Ramirezi)

Cichlids and plecos can be tank mates. Plecos are known for their peaceful nature and are compatible with many large fish species, including several types of cichlids such as German Ram Cichlid, Green Terror Cichlid, Blood Parrot Cichlid, Jack Dempsey Cichlid, Convict Cichlid, and Firemouth Cichlid.

When considering cichlids as tank mates, it is important to properly prepare and set up the conditions of your tank. Providing sufficient tank size and hiding places is important.


Oscar Fish, Astronotus ocellatus

In general, Oscars and plecos can be compatible as tank mates if they are of similar size. Since Oscars are aggressive fish, they may eat the pleco if it is significantly smaller and fits in their mouth.


Marbled hatchetfish

Hatchetfish and plecos can be tank mates. Hatchetfish are considered to be excellent tank mates for common plecos. These fish occupy completely different parts of the fish tank. Plecos will stay at the bottom of the tank while hatchetfish will stay near the upper portion of the aquarium. They also have opposite feeding habits, and that means that they won’t fight over food.


Red cherry shrimp

In general, shrimps and plecos can be tank mates. Shrimp, including popular species such as Cherry Shrimp, aren’t aggressive. Therefore, there’s no need to worry about them attacking plecos.

However, keep in mind that some plecos that are significantly larger may pose a threat to the smaller shrimp. Not all plecos are strictly herbivorous, so very tiny shrimp may be eaten by them. If the shrimp and pleco are of similar size, or the pleco is strictly herbivorous, there should be no issues.

Betta Fish

Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Betta fish and plecos can be good tank mates. Plecos are peaceful bottom-dwellers that will not stress out your betta fish. However, you should consider the pleco’s size as some species can get a lot bigger. Even a peaceful pleco can cause harm to bettas unintentionally if they are too large. As long as they are of similar size, betta fish and plecos would be compatible as tank mates.


Fancy Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Goldfish and plecos can be tank mates. Plecos are peaceful fish that generally won’t bother goldfish.

Both plecos (depending on the species) and goldfish have the potential to grow to a large size. Therefore, be sure provide a tank size that is large enough to accomodate for both of them.

They both produce a lot of waste as well. Therefore, a capable filtration system would be necessary.

Lastly, keep in mind that goldfish prefer a cooler temperature range than most tropical fish, including plecos. Finding a temperature range that will satisfy both fish would be neccesary in order to successfully keep both fish in the same tank.

Koi fish

Japanese Koi

Koi fish and plecos can be tank mates, since they are both relatively peaceful fish.

However, differences in their temperature requirement can present a challenge. It would be necessary find a temperature range that would satisfy both fish.

While koi fish and plecos can be tank mates, some find it difficult to maintain this narrow temperature range that satisfies both fish long term.


red ear slider turtle

Turtles and plecos can be tank mates. Both plecos and turtles have similar water requirements when it comes to temperature and pH level. While turtles are known to eat fish, plecos can be compatible tank mates if they are large enough. Plecos that are significantly smaller than the turtle should be avoided.

Tank Mates to Avoid for Plecos

Since plecos are generally peaceful fish, there aren’t too many tank mates that are considered absolutely incompatible. However, territorial bottom-dwellers may cause problems with plecos. For example, crayfish would fit this description.

Other incompatible tank mates would include fish that are significantly larger than plecos. Even many of the compatible tank mates may become incompatible if there was a significant difference in size. This would be especially true for fish that have aggressive tendencies.

Can Plecos be Kept Together?

There are a few factors to take into account when maintaining plecos in the same tank.  First of all, plecos are very territorial and have a history of attacking other plecos in the same tank.  This can cause the fish to fight, get hurt, or possibly perish.  As a result, keeping many plecos in the same tank is typically not advised, especially if they are of the same or closely related species.  Yet, if there is adequate room and places to hide for each fish, some plecos can live in harmony with other fish in a shared tank.  Also, it’s important to ensure that the water conditions are appropriate for the various types of fish and that there is adequate food available for all the fish.

If you do choose to keep many different types of plecos in the same tank, it is advised that you introduce them all at once and make sure they are of all kinds and sizes.  A bigger tank with many of hiding spots can also lessen the chance of aggressive and territorial behavior.  To guarantee that the fish are coexisting happily and comfortably, it is also essential to regularly monitor the fish’s behavior and health.

Are Plecos Aggressive?

Although they are typically calm and solitary fish, certain conditions might make them aggressive.  Territorial disputes are one thing that can make plecos aggressive, especially if there are several plecos in the same tank or if they are kept with other bottom-dwelling fish.

In these circumstances, plecos could exhibit aggressive behavior or even start attacking and harming other fish.  Stress is another element that plecos may experience that may lead to violence.  Plecos may grow anxious and behave angrily as a result of a small tank or bad water quality.  Despite the fact that plecos are mostly peaceful and helpful for freshwater aquariums, they can occasionally turn aggressive.  To avoid hostility, it’s critical to keep a constant eye on them and make sure their tank is well cared for.

If you are planning on getting some pleco tank mates, then it you will need to take a hard and honest look at your current setup and determine what needs to be done before adding more fish to your aquarium.

Are Plecos Territorial?

Overall, pleco fish are quite peaceful and do not usually bother any of the other tank mates, especially if those other fish are swimming in other parts of the tank.  As you might have guessed after reading this article, the key element to ensuring that your pleco are happy and stress free is having as much space as possible for them to swim around and forage through the substrate.  Assuming that you have enough space for the pleco, they should remain peaceful.  Like many fish though, if there is not enough room to move around, then stress levels can raise and the pleco might exhibit more territorial behavior.  This is why planning out your aquarium setup is so important at the beginning. 

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