Pleco Fish Tank Size – With 15 Different Examples

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Whether kept alone or in community tanks, Plecos are among the best choices for a freshwater aquarium. These peaceful, bottom-dwelling fish are widely appreciated thanks to their big appetite for algae.

They’ll keep your aquarium clean and your plants healthy. Plecos also come in a variety of sizes, colors, and patterns.

Whether you like earthy tones, white stripes, or polka dots, there are plenty of beautiful Plecos to choose from for your clean-up crew.

Want to stock your tank with Plecos but don’t know if you have enough space?

This article will help you choose the perfect Plecos for your setup! Keep reading to learn more about the ideal Pleco tank size.

Tank Size for Different Pleco Breeds

Plecos are medium to large-sized fish, so they need at least a medium-sized aquarium.

Some of the most commonly-kept Plecos will live happily in a 20–30-gallon tank. Other Pleco species require very large aquariums, close to 200 gallons.

There are many types of Plecos out there. Thus, there’s a huge variety in body size and space requirements.

Not sure which Pleco is best for stocking your tank? Here’s a handy table of the most popular Plecos with their ideal tank size.

Whether you have a small-medium tank or a huge 100-gallon aquarium, you’ll find multiple options here:

Pleco Type Fish Size Ideal Tank Size
Bristlenose Pleco 4-6 inches 30 gallons
Gold Nugget Pleco 7-9.5 inches 50 gallons
Zebra Pleco 3.5-4 inches 30 gallons
Clown Pleco 3.5-4 inches 20 gallons
Common Pleco 12-24 inches 100 gallons
Royal Pleco Up to 17 inches 125 gallons
Rubber Lip Pleco Up to 7 inches 30 gallons
Sailfin Pleco 13-19 inches 100 gallons
Snowball Pleco 5.5-6.3 inches 40 gallons
Vampire Pleco Up to 10 inches 50 gallons
Butterfly Pleco 5.5-6 inches 80 gallons
Sunshine Pleco Up to 12 inches 125 gallons
Peppermint Pleco Up to 7 inches 50 gallons
Leopard Frog Pleco 3.5-4 inches 30 gallons
Blue-Eyed Pleco Up to 2 feet 180 gallons

Keep in mind this is the ideal tank size for one Pleco. The aquarium should be larger if you plan to keep multiple fish.

Also, these are the minimal aquarium sizes that allow Plecos to reach their full growth potential.

In many instances, Plecos are happy with slightly less room as long as they have space to swim and forage comfortably.

Will Plecos Stop Growing if the Tank is Too Small?

There’s a common misconception that Plecos only grow up to the size of their tank. This is mostly a myth, but there are some morsels of truth.

Small Plecos kept in small tanks will typically stop growing once they reach the lower end of their adult size.

But naturally, large Plecos won’t grow to the size of the tank! These fish aren’t meant to stay 3-5 inches long. Large Plecos will eventually outgrow a small aquarium, even if the restricted space slows down their development.

So, upgrading to a larger aquarium as your Plecos grow is important.

Keeping large Plecos in undersized aquariums can be dangerous. Two things happen when large fish don’t get enough room to reach their full growth potential. First, the growth rate of the fish slows down considerably.

This is why people believe that fish stop growing in small aquariums. Secondly, the fish starts developing physical deformities due to stunted growth.

In the worst cases, reduced body size can lead to organ problems and premature death.

Unfortunately, we simply can’t keep an 80-gallon-aquarium fish in a 20-gallon space. It will stunt its growth, so the fish won’t reach its full growth potential.

However, the Pleco will still grow and suffer serious health problems due to unsuitable conditions.

How Many Gallons Per Pleco Fish?

How many gallons should you allow for each Pleco in the tank? It depends on the fish’s body size.

The general rule states that you should provide 1 gallon per 1 inch of fish. However, this rule doesn’t work well for Plecos.

Plecos don’t do well in small aquariums. Even a pleco under 4 inches long still needs 20-30 gallons of space!

The measurements I’ve included for each Pleco species come down to approximately 5-7.5 gallons per 1 inch of fish. For one single Pleco fish, I recommend using the table above.

For each Pleco beyond that, I recommend an additional 35% of the initial space. So, if you need 30 gallons for the first Bristlenose Pleco, provide an extra 10 gallons for each additional Pleco.

Can Pleco Fish Live in a 10-Gallon Tank?

No, a 10-gallon tank is too small to keep any Pleco fish. As I’ve already mentioned, even the smallest Plecos need at least 20-30 gallons. Without enough space, Plecos won’t reach their full size and might even develop health problems.

Beyond that, there are two other reasons why a 10-gallon tank is not good, even for tiny Plecos.

First of all, Plecos are bottom-feeders. They need a wide aquarium floor to explore and forage for food. A small aquarium won’t provide that.

Secondly, Plecos are very messy. It’s ironic, I know. Plecos are bottom-feeders, so they eliminate leftover foods from other fish. But they also produce a lot of waste.

Pleco foods like bottom-feeder tablets and algae wafers also make a mess in the aquarium.

You need a higher water volume to dilute all the excess waste. A Pleco nano tank would be susceptible to ammonia buildup and poor water quality.

What is the Minimum Tank Size for Pleco?

The minimum tank size for a Pleco depends on the species you have. Generally, the most popular Plecos do well in a tank of at least 30 gallons.

This is an ideal aquarium size for smaller specimens such as Britslenose Plecos, Clown Plecos, Rubber Lip Plecos, Leopard Frog Plecos, and Zebra Plecos.

Whether you need a 30-gallon or 80-gallon aquarium, a wider tank is always best as it provides more floor space for the fish. A 30-gallon aquarium is also enough to keep most species of juvenile Plecos.

Once larger Plecos reach about 3-5 inches in length, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger tank. For most other Pleco species, a 50–80-gallon aquarium is the bare minimum.

Can You Keep a Pleco in a Fish Bowl?

Fish bowls can make elegant decorative pieces and are very popular for nano tanks. But is a fish bowl a good choice for housing a Pleco?

Absolutely not! The average fish bowl has a capacity of just 0.5-3.0 gallons!

The same problems that apply to 10-gallon tanks also apply to fish bowls, only that they’re three times worse!

Even if we were to use the 1-gallon per 1-fish-inch rule, a fish bowl can’t provide enough space. Not even for the smallest 3.5-inch Pleco.

Also, fish bowls are spherical, which is not ideal for Plecos. Plecos need lots of floor space to explore and forage. The best aquarium for a Pleco would be wide and rectangular.

Finally, fish bowls are very difficult to manage. The small size makes it nearly impossible to fit the aquarium with all the necessary equipment, including a filter, a heater, and an air stone. And I didn’t even mention the plants!

You’d need these things to maintain stable water quality and parameters.

To make matters worse, the very low water volume ensures you’ll get rapid shifts in water pH, temperature, and ammonia, all of which can stress your fish.

Conclusion

Plecos are medium-to-large bottom dwellers with unique space requirements. While other freshwater fish require 1 gallon per inch of body size, Plecos need a lot more.

Even 3.5-inch Plecos need at least 20-30 gallons to thrive.

If you don’t have a lot of room in your tank, stick to small fish like Bristlenose Plecos, Rubber Lip Plecos, and Clown Plecos.

If you have 50 spare gallons, you can keep rarer species like the Vampire Pleco, Peppermint Pleco, or Gold Nugget Pleco.

Whatever you do, always ensure your fish have enough space! Aquariums that are too small will lead to stunted growth and health issues, especially in naturally large fish.

Remember, large Plecos will overgrow smaller aquariums. When that happens, you must be ready to upgrade to a larger tank size.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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