Sailfin Pleco

Scientific NamePterygoplichthys gibbiceps, Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps
Common Name(s)Sailfin Pleco, Leopard Pleco, Gibby, L083, L165
OriginSouth America
Temperature Range73-86°F
Water ParametersKH 6-10, pH 6.5-7.4
Adult Size1’7”
DietOmnivorous bottom feeder

Sailfin Pleco Facts:

1. It has been known to suck the slime off of other fish.

2. Because it’s native to an area that experiences extremes in precipitation and will bury itself and go dormant in order to stay protected from dry seasons.

3. Though they’re known colloquially as suckerfish, plecos are actually catfish.

Sailfin Pleco

Species Overview:

The Sailfin Pleco is a popular type of pleco, often sharing its habitat with other community fish. They generally eat whatever the other fish don’t get, and are true omnivores, happy to chow down on anything from shrimp to a chunk of blanched cucumber.

Some people disagree on just how finicky these fish are, but generally they can coexist peacefully with any number of fish as long as there’s ample food. They are territorial though, so each community should have no more than one species of pleco at any given time. If they’re alone and still being aggressive towards other fish, it could be due to a lack of food, which can be solved by monitoring the tank at feeding time to be sure there’s enough to go around. Though they can subsist on algae and detritus, ideally, they should have their fair share of whatever food you’re using with their tank and their bellies should always appear rounded. They can eat just about anything including vegetables, flakes, pellets, wafers, and freeze-dried or live food.

Their habitats don’t take much setup since they’re a relatively relaxed fish. Sailfin Plecos can grow to be quite large, so starting out with at least 125 gallons is recommended. Their fins can be delicate, so be sure to check any decorations for sharp edges before adding them to your tank. They need a bit of cover, but are fairly immobile during the day and more active at night. They live up to their moniker and will stick to just about anything big enough to accommodate them for long period of time. They’ll also troll the bottom looking for scraps. The larger and older they get, the more active they become. Sailfin Plecos tend to make good tank mates for larger, aggressive fish and even aquatic turtles after a certain age.

A good Sailfin Pleco habitat should be well aerated and contain at least one decent sized piece of wood for the pleco to graze on. There isn’t a consensus on the benefit of the wood, only that it is beneficial and required for many pleco species. The Sailfin needs wood soft enough to regularly rasp at. Be sure to keep an eye on the wood as the pleco grows in case it needs to be replaced, since the pleco will be eating it.

The Sailfin Pleco is a beautiful fish with the added benefit of providing maintenance and stability for the tank. It’s hardy enough to live with aggressive species like cichlids, and low maintenance enough for beginners who want to try their hand at something a little more exotic.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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