Golden Nugget Pleco – Species Profile & Care Guide
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If you like the bristlenose pleco, you’ll love the golden nugget version.
The pleco has always been a favorite among aquarists for 3 primary reasons, which explain much of the popularity of the golden nugget species:
- Peaceful behavior and a shy attitude – Plecos spend most of their lives crawling around the tank’s substrate. They will rarely interact with other fish, and when they do, it’s always peacefully. They might swoosh their way to the water’s surface occasionally to grab some food but will immediately sink down to their comfort zone, at the bottom. This lifestyle minimizes the interactions with other fish species, making plecos ideal for community tanks.
- Scavenging-based diet – Plecos love to scavenge for food on the substrate, eating whatever sinks in from the surface. This makes them ideal for any aquatic environment since plecos will consume food residues and prevent them from decaying in the water. In other words, you can consider these catfish as great assets against ammonia boosts due to decaying residual food. That being said, you shouldn’t rely on plecos to do all the work. Combined with regular tank maintenance, a filter is also necessary to control ammonia and nitrites from poisoning the tank water.
- Controlling the algae population – Algae will develop in any poorly maintained tank, and, while they play a defining role in their ecosystem, they can be harmful beyond a certain point. Plecos rank as some of the most effective algae eaters in the aquarium world, as they spend most of their livers on the substrate, eating any algae growing on the rocks and other tank decorations.
If these points weren’t enough, you now get the golden nugget pleco that also adds being handsome to the mix.
So, let’s discuss the golden nugget pleco and figure out what makes it so popular, aside from the aspects we’ve already mentioned.
What is a Golden Nugget Pleco?
The golden nugget pleco is a relatively recently discovered species belonging to the Loricariidae family and coming from Brazil.
All fish that are part of the Loricariidae family display 3 distinct features, among others:
- A Suckermouth – This species’ mouth has evolved to allow the fish to attach to hard surfaces via oral suction. The upper and lower lip have changed shape and size over the years, allowing the mouth to act as a sucker. This allows the pleco to stick to the substrate even in stronger water currents, scrape algae, and breathe at the same time. It’s an amazing evolutionary feature that’s proof of pleco’s unparalleled biological adaptability.
- The Omega Iris – The Omega iris changes its shape based on how much environmental light reaches the fish. This organ allows plecos to adjust the amount of light they can receive and see better as a result. It’s also been suggested that the Omega iris helps with camouflage since its unusual shape breaks down the eyes’ outline.
- Bone Plates – All fish in the Loricariidae family have bony plates covering their bodies and acting as protection against various predators.
The golden nugget pleco is different from the bristlenose version, primarily thanks to its coloring. The typical golden nugget pleco displays a black body with yellow dots covering its entire body surface from head to tail.
The dorsal and tail fins have a yellow band on the top and back respectively.
There are currently 3 types of golden nugget plecos available, mainly the L-018, L-081, and L-177. They differ by the size of the dots and nothing else.
Where do Golden Nugget Plecos Come From?
Golden nugget plecos originate from Brazil, and they belong to the so-called benthic animals.
These are creatures that have adapted to live in the lowest areas of a body of water, sticking to the floor or substrate.
Some of these creatures will occasionally leave their living area, while others never do, including many species of snails.
The fact that golden nugget plecos only live in one region of the world makes them even more popular.
Thankfully, their popularity has led to them becoming more available on the market thanks to aquarists breeding them in captivity.
How Long do Golden Nugget Plecos Live?
Generally speaking, your golden nugget pleco will live up to 5 years in captivity. This is the optimistic lifespan, based on optimal living conditions, adequate diet, and a peaceful and healthy lifestyle.
Some pleco keepers have even reported lifespans of 6-7 years in some cases, although that’s rare.
Wild plecos will live slightly more than that, which we often see in the fish world. It’s worth noting that golden nugget plecos are rather sensitive to improper water conditions, which can diminish their lifespan considerably.
They require stable temperatures and water parameters, in the long run, to remain healthy and prevent various health issues.
A natural-looking environment will also help in this sense, but more on that later.
How Big do Golden Nugget Plecos Get?
Expect the golden nugget to reach sizes between 6 to 10 inches. This makes the fish quite impressive by aquarium standards and unfit for small and medium tanks.
It can work as an aquarium fish, so long as you take into account its need for space.
An adult golden nugget pleco shouldn’t be housed in any environment smaller than 50 gallons. There have been reports of people keeping golden nugget plecos in smaller tanks, around 30 gallons, but that’s unlikely to last.
This species requires more space than that to feel comfortable in its environment.
Otherwise, it will soon become stressed and you may not notice the signs until the problem is already advanced. As we know, fish stress is a common health issue, linked to weaker immune systems and a higher predisposition to bacteria, parasites, and various health disorders.
How to Care for Golden Nugget Pleco?
The essentials are similar to whatever any other fish in the same family prefers. There are some exceptions, however, since the golden nugget pleco isn’t exactly like other pleco species.
So, let’s go more in-depth here.
I would suggest going straight for a 50-gallon tank for one pleco. This is the ideal tank size for a 10-inch golden nugget, and since you can’t control the fish’s size, you have no way of knowing how much it will grow.
So, it’s better to be prepared for a full 10-inch golden nugget that requires a lot of space.
Technically, golden nugget plecos can survive in smaller environments as well but won’t live their best lives. That entails having a lot of space at its disposal, and 50 gallons seems to hit the right spot.
The need for space may sound weird for a bottom-dweller that won’t move too far from the substrate, but plecos are actually active fish.
They will roam around the substrate in search of food, dig around occasionally, and inspect their habitat every day. They will notice if the space is too small, and they will soon grow uncomfortable in their environment. And that’s the last thing to want from your golden nugget.
The good news is that golden nugget plecos are easy to please in this sense. Their ideal water conditions include:
- A 73 to 79 °F temperature.
- A pH level of 6.5-7.5.
- Water hardness around 5 to 15 dGH.
Nothing out of the ordinary or exceptionally difficult to achieve.
The bad news is that this species of plecos hate water parameter fluctuations. Golden nuggets are notoriously sensitive to their water quality and will quickly display signs of discomfort if water values are suboptimal.
As you can see, they do allow for some wiggling room, but not much, and they hate fluctuations.
Hence, I recommend monitoring water parameters 24/7 and performing water tests every day, at least at first. If the water values remain stable for the first week, you can spread the tests around every other day or several days.
The goal is to keep an eye on ammonia, nitrites, temperature, pH, and any other metric that may affect your plecos.
Plus, set a strict water change schedule and stick to it. Water changes are important, generally speaking, since they oxygenate the water, remove excess floating particles and dead matter residues, and clean the environment.
They are even more important for golden nugget plecos, given their extra sensitivity to their water parameters.
Diet and Feeding
This is where plecos shine because they are quite low maintenance when it comes to food. They will eat anything so long as it packs enough nutritional value.
For starters, golden nugget plecos are some of the most proficient algae eaters around. Their mouths are designed to latch onto hard surfaces and allow the plecos to scrape algae deposits from wherever they can find them.
However, you shouldn’t rely on their algae-eating behavior to provide them with the nutrients they need since that’s not enough.
They also need protein and other minerals and vitamins that they can’t get from algae. I recommend complementing their diets with sinking pellets to cater to their bottom-feeding behavior and some occasional protein-rich sources like bloodworms or tubifex worms.
These are enough to keep the plecos happy and active for years to come.
Regarding feeding frequency, that depends on a variety of factors. You probably don’t need to feed your pleco more than once per day, considering the fish will also consume algae deposits and other things in its environment.
That’s even truer when keeping the golden nugget in a community tank, as the fish will feed on food residues that other fish will miss.
It also depends on how large your pleco is. As a full-grown adult, it will most likely require feeding 2 times per day, in the morning and the evening.
As a keynote, assess your pleco’s appetite and adjust to its feeding requirements since not all situations are identical to one another.
Fortunately, the golden nugget pleco doesn’t show any predispositions to any specific disease. They are rather resilient fish that show strong immune systems and no real weakness. With that out of the way, golden nugget plecos are not immune to all disorders.
Regular conditions like ich, mouth fungus, or various parasitic infections can still affect them.
However, it’s important to know that these fish-specific conditions are more related to poor tank parameters and conditions than anything else.
In other words, you can improve your plecos’ life and shield them from various diseases simply by providing them with optimal living conditions.
Peaceful, shy, calm, and easy-going. These attributes describe most plecos species and represent the golden nugget as well.
This catfish likes to keep it to itself and roam around the substrate, avoiding most interactions with other fish. They would make for ideal community tank fish were it not for their large sizes, requiring a lot of space.
However, you can definitely make it work if you decide to invest in a 60-100-gallon tank to accommodate multiple fish species.
The golden nugget pleco will fit right in, provided you pair it with similarly-friendly and easy-going fish species.
Just remember the pleco’s hypersensitivity to changing water parameters and dirty water.
Pair them with fish species that can adapt to the pleco’s water requirements and not the other way around.
The idea here is to pair them with fish species that have different swimming areas. Guppies, for instance, are mid-to-top swimmers, and the same goes for the zebra danios.
As a result, they will never cross paths with plecos, which wouldn’t matter either since they will most likely be peaceful interactions. But, for a measure of prevention, try to keep them separate.
Top dwellers will naturally avoid the lower areas of the tank, and the pleco avoids the water surface just as much.
As a plus, never pair golden nugget plecos with other catfish, plecos, or bottom dwellers. The bristlenose pleco, for instance, does quite well in small groups of 5-6 individuals. The same can’t be said about the golden nugget, which can become quite territorial under specific circumstances.
One of these circumstances is when the fish is forced to share its living space with another bottom-dweller. The situation tends to worsen when considering 2 golden nugget males stuck in the same habitat.
How to Breed Golden Nugget Pleco?
There important aspect to discuss here is that golden nugget plecos are very difficult to breed in captivity. It’s obviously possible, since, otherwise, you won’t be able to buy them, to begin with.
The golden nugget plecos you’re getting have been bred in captivity. The issue is that breeding these fish in captivity comes with a lot of unknowns, and it’s rarely fruitful.
The main reason for that is the fish’s need for pristine water conditions. Even the smallest fluctuations in the water parameters will inhibit the plecos and influence their mating behavior for the worse.
They require a separate breeding tank, which is also an issue since moving the pleco will already stress the fish out. They require peace and as little human interaction as possible.
So, I would advise against attempting to breed them. The process isn’t quite clear, and it involves a lot of variables that increase the risk of failure considerably.
Just to have a picture of what you’re dealing with, the entire breeding procedure may last up to 12 days. That’s enough time for a lot of headaches and struggles that may end up in nothing.
How Much do Golden Nugget Plecos Cost?
The fish can be quite expensive, but its price will usually vary significantly based on a variety of factors.
The most noticeable ones are size and the category it belongs to out of the 3 we’ve already mentioned (L-018, L-081, and L-177).
On average, you can find plecos at prices ranging between $30 to $70 per piece. Most of them will fall into this price range. That being said, you can find a $50 3-inch pleco on one website and a $35 9-inch pleco on another.
So, it all comes down to doing your research beforehand and knowing exactly what you’re looking for.
Golden nugget plecos are a relatively fresh fish species in the aquarium world, and they are catching on fast. They are gorgeous bottom-dwellers that can thrive both in solo and community tanks.
The key is to provide them with stable and optimal living conditions, adequate diets, and a natural-looking habitat, and they will thrive.