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How to Care for Your Suckerfish

Hypostomus plecostomus is the scientific name for the suckerfish, a freshwater fish often referred to as pleco or plec. Adding a suckerfish to your large freshwater aquarium can be beneficial: He will help keep the tank clear of algae and keep water quality high by cleaning up floating bits of food. The suckerfish is fascinating to watch, but he does have some special needs.

Suckerfish Habitat

The little suckerfish you buy at the pet shop might be only 3 inches long, but he can grow as large as 24 inches. A suckerfish requires a large aquarium, otherwise his growth can be stunted and he can become aggressive to the other fish. Don’t introduce a suckerfish to a tank smaller than 20 gallons, and be prepared to move him to a larger space as he grows. As a full-grown adult, your suckerfish may need a 50-gallon tank. Keep the water in your aquarium between 73 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Suckerfish Food

A freshwater aquarium won’t produce enough algae to keep a grown suckerfish from starving. Your suckerfish is an omnivore who will scrounge around the tank for food left behind by other fish and may nibble on the live plants. Give him supplemental algae wafers or shrimp pellets. Provide fresh lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, sweet potato, breadfruit and melon. To keep your suckerfish's fresh food from floating, attach it to a rock with a rubber band. Give your suckerfish supplemental food every evening. Remove leftovers each morning to keep the water from getting murky. As long as you find a little left in the morning, you can be assured that your suckerfish is getting enough to eat. Cut back if a lot remains each morning.

Suckerfish Friends

Generally calm and nonaggressive, a suckerfish is typically a good citizen of the aquarium, as long as he’s the only one of his kind. He’ll get along well with most other tropical freshwater fish. However, if he outgrows the tank and feels overcrowded, he may become aggressive. Let a suckerfish be the only burrowing fish in the tank; if he has to compete with others for his burrowing spot, he can become aggressive and fight fish such as knife fish, rope fish or eels.

Suckerfish Behavior

Suckerfish are nocturnal. They dislike bright lights, so if you want to see your fish move around during the day, dim the aquarium lights a bit. Your suckerfish might eat the plants in your aquarium or dig them up when he makes trenches for hiding. To combat this behavior, provide him a rock or little cave structure. Suckerfish are good jumpers, so make sure to put a lid on your aquarium. Suckerfish waste will accumulate at the bottom of the tank; it needs to be vacuumed out regularly, otherwise the tank water will become murky.