Vampire Pleco (Leporacanthicus Galaxias): Ultimate Care Guide


A stunning and unusual species, the Vampire Pleco features a dark to black body with white or yellowish spots. Native to fast-moving freshwater rivers in Brazil, this Pleco prefers an environment with strong currents, plus plenty of rocks and driftwood for hiding places. This fish is mostly nocturnal so you won’t see much activity during the day. At night, Vampire Plecos come out of their hiding spots to feed and explore. Vampire Plecos have two large teeth in the front part of their sucker mouth. In addition, they have a scary name, but this fish is peaceful and makes a great community tank addition.

Vampire Pleco Care

Vampire Plecos are easy to maintain as long as you provide the right nutrition and a correct tank environment.  Let’s look at all the facts about caring for this unique species.

Temperature

Vampire Plecos prefer water temperature between 72° – 80° F.

Water pH

Vampire Plecos need neutral or slightly acidic water with a pH around 6.5 to 7.

Vampire Pleco Size

Vampire Plecos can grow to 9 or 10 inches in an aquarium. This fish is smaller than some other Plecos and will take 2 to 3 years to reach its adult size.

Food & Diet

A carnivore, Vampire Plecos need a diet consisting mostly of meaty, high-protein foods. They can eat vegetable matter and algae wafers but prefer meat. If a Vampire Pleco is eating aquarium plants this is a sign they are hungry and need more meaty foods. This nocturnal species usually comes out to feed only at night. Evening feeding is ideal as food added in the daytime may sit uneaten for hours. This can spoil your tank water and adversely affect your fish’s health.

Vampire Pleco (Leporacanthicus Galaxias)
Vampire Pleco (Leporacanthicus Galaxias)

What do Vampire Pleco eat?

Vampire Plecos should be provided a diet of meaty foods including frozen bloodworms, snails and shrimp. Frozen shrimp intended for human consumption is acceptable and a common choice of hobbyists. They can eat prepared dried foods like pellets or wafers but raw meaty foods are best. Supply them with a varied diet to ensure the best health and a long lifespan.

Deciding on the right amount to feed can be a challenge with Vampire Plecos. The common rule of feeding only what can be completely consumed within 3 to 4 minutes can be difficult to apply to this nocturnal feeder. You should make an effort to avoid overfeeding as unconsumed food can rot and spoil tank water.

Do Vampire Pleco eat algae?

Some Plecos can eat algae but Vampire Plecos are mainly carnivorous. They will eat algae wafers and sinking catfish foods but feed these in small amounts if at all. This species is not the right choice for keeping tank algae in check.

Vampire Pleco Lifespan

Vampire Pleco is a long-lived species which can reach an age of 15 years with excellent care.

Vampire Pleco Tank Size

One of the smaller Pleco varieties, Vampire Pleco can live in tanks of around 50 gallons though larger is better.

Tank Setup

Vampire Plecos prefer rapidly moving water so their tanks should be equipped with one or more power heads and cover such as rocks and driftwood. Consider adding wave makers to your Vampire’s tank. These devices are common in marine aquariums and can provide the strong current this species needs to feel comfortable. Another important reason to provide high water current is cleanliness: this species is a messy eater and it’s good to keep debris kicked up for easy removal by your filter. Position power heads and wave makers to cover as much tank space as possible. Make sure to avoid dead flow spaces around rocks and driftwood which can collect rotting food and waste.

Filtration is key for keeping Vampire Plecos healthy. Canister filtration systems can be a good match for this fish’s needs. If you are maintaining a 50 gallon aquarium a canister filter might seem excessive, but the high rate of water flow can provide the water movement this species likes. Whatever filtration method you use, keeping nitrates low is very important. Weekly water changes of 10% or more are ideal. Keep an eye on water quality and consider adding plants to further reduce nitrate levels.

Vampire Plecos hide during the day. Provide enough caves and cover in the form of rocks and driftwood. Substrate choices should be fine gravel or sand. Plan for enough water flow and full current coverage when preparing your aquascape. There shouldn’t be areas of dead flow under driftwood or rocks. Adjust power heads and wave makers so there isn’t any tank area which collects excessive debris.

Vampire Pleco Breeding

Vampire Pleco are easy to breed with the right preparation. Ensure that your tank has enough caves and other hiding spots for a breeding pair to feel comfortable and also increase water temperatures. This fish doesn’t always get along with other members of its own species in the same tank so you’ll need to watch even a breeding pair closely. With increased tank volume you can introduce more than one female but should never have more than one male at a time. Often the male will guard the fertilized eggs until they hatch about 5 to 7 days later. Some hobbyists choose to move eggs to a nursery container instead. Newly hatched fry will consume their egg sacks for the first few days but will eventually need fry food. The best choice is prepared fry food. This is where a separate nursery container can come in handy: fry food disperses in water and you’ll want to concentrate it around the fry. Attempting to feed fry in a full size aquarium will result in the overuse of food, fouling of tank water and underfed fry. Consider nursery containers that attach to the side of your breeding tank. This will let you keep water parameters stable while you feed and care for the tiny fry.

Vampire Pleco Male or Female

Sexing Vampire Plecos is simple: males are much wider at the head and have longer bodies. Making this determination is much easier in groups of 3 or more.

Vampire Pleco Disease

Vampire Pleco can succumb to most common freshwater fish diseases. Ich is the most prevalent. Ich is visible as small white spots along body, gills and tail. Leaving this untreated can kill your fish. Common treatment choices include medications and heat. Plecos are sensitive to copper-based medicines so make sure the Ich treatment you choose is suitable to this species. Raising water temperature to between 86° and 88° F for 10 days can interrupt the life cycle of the parasite which causes Ich. Maintaining a quarantine tank (QT) can be an asset when treating many types of infections. This separate aquarium will allow you to apply medications only to infected fish without broadcasting in your main display tank. A QT is also an asset for heat treatments as not all fish can tolerate increased temperatures.

A hardy species, Vampire Pleco isn’t particularly susceptible to disease. Most infections can be traced to poor water quality. Help keep your fish disease free by ensuring enough filtration and performing frequent water changes.

Vampire Pleco Tank Mates

Vampire Pleco is a peaceful species which can coexist with many different fish. Exceptions to this are other Vampire Plecos, many bottom-dwelling catfish varieties and snails. This fish keeps to lower tank areas. Great tank mates will include species that stay within the middle and upper regions of the water column.

The range of good tank mates for Vampire Plecos includes: Tetras, Angelfish, Platy, Guppies and certain types of Cichlids. Avoid bottom-dwelling species, other Plecos and snails.

Vampire Pleco and Betta

Vampire Pleco and Betta will generally stay out of each other’s way. Not only do they prefer different areas of the water column, Vampire Plecos are nocturnal and Bettas are most active during the day.

Vampire Pleco and Goldfish

Vampire Pleco and Goldfish make great tank mates. They eat different foods and will only rarely cross paths.

Vampire Pleco and Shrimp

Although Vampire Pleco are commonly fed chopped up shrimp they are mostly scavengers not hunters; they are usually good tank mates with live shrimp. Vampires will eat live snails so might be curious about shrimp, especially if they are underfed. Keep an eye on this pairing and make sure your Vampire Pleco has proper nutrition to avoid problems.

Where can I find Vampire Pleco for sale?

Vampire Plecos are harder to find than many other Pleco varieties. They are often available in local fish stores but Internet sources are a good choice.

Vampire Pleco Price

Vampire Plecos are more expensive that many other Pleco species. Expect to pay around $50 to $90 USD or more depending on size.

Vampire Pleco vs Snowball Pleco

The Snowball Pleco has a similar appearance to the Vampire Pleco. Snowballs are smaller but have dark bodies with yellow to white spots. This smaller size means they can exist in lower tank volumes than the larger Vampires. Snowball Pleco are omnivores and need a varied diet with both meaty and plant-based foods like algae wafers and sinking pellets. Snowball Plecos also don’t live as long as Vampire Plecos. Most won’t live longer than 9 years.

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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