Feeding Nature
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What Do Plecos Eat?

Plecos are not one of the cuddliest animals on earth.  They look quite dangerous with their spotted hides and angled heads. 

These fish are tropical and belong to the armored catfish family.  

 These fish are not very valuable as a food source to feed other fish nor as food for humans although they are occasionally eaten.  

 They are terrific additions to your fish tank because their armored look offers a very interesting look.  They are also helpful to keep your aquarium nice and clean.

 Plecos are also fairly easy to care for since they can survive in low oxygen conditions and they live off a variety of food types.

 What Do Plecos Eat?

Plecos have a sucker-like mouth.  This sucker-mouth allows them to cling to surfaces and they can use their strange mouths to rasp foods off the base of your tank or rocks.  The fish are omnivores which means they can consume both plant and flesh matter.  They have a very diverse diet and love to munch on the following foods;

 Aquatic plants

Plecos love to consume small aquatic plants found in rivers and ponds.  They spend large portions of their lives scavenging for water plants and other growths such as algae.  Plecos will consume fresh or decayed aquatic plants.

 Algae and sinking algae wafers

Home aquariums do not provide enough algae to keep plecos in good health.  The filter systems of tanks are designed to constantly remove algae leaving very little for these fishies to feed on. 

 You should offer these fish some algae wafers once a day to keep them full.  These wafers are found in pet stores and they do sink to the bottom where plecos can easily find them.

 Driftwood

In nature, plecos will consume driftwood as part of their diet.  Offering your plecos driftwood pieces can be a good way to supplement them. 

It is best to weight your driftwood pieces down so these pieces will be close to where plecos spend most of their time. 

Driftwood pieces can also create a cozy environment for them to live in.

 Raw fruits and vegetables

Plecos will munch on a huge variety of plant matter.  You can offer your pleco fruits or veggies twice a week.  These foods offer lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  The best way to offer raw fruits and veggies is by weighting the foods down using an aquarium clip.

 Your fish can consume almost any type of raw fruits and veggies including tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, beans, kiwi fruits, peas, and many others. It is best to avoid offering foods that get soggy quickly.

 Meat sources

Plecos are omnivores and as such are happy to consume meat.  They require the protein to stay healthy.  

If you are out fishing in shallow waters and use meat or earthworms, you are very likely to catch pleco fish.  You are especially likely to catch these fish if you are fishing in areas where there is little to no flow in the stream.

 Plecos are happy to consume a variety of meat treats such as earthworms, bloodworms, shrimp, pelleted meats, and more.  It is important to cut your meats into tiny pieces before offering these to your fish.

 Fish foods

Plecos will also munch on fish foods that sink to the bottom of your aquarium.  They are happy to munch on any type of fish foods that you add to feed other fish species that might also be living in your tank.  

 If your pleco is extremely hungry, they may choose to munch fish food from the top of the tank but in most cases, they will simply wait for food pieces to sink to the bottom before they consume these foods.  

 Pleco Diet Variations

Pleco fish can have quite a lot of diet variations since they have such a flexible diet.  They will munch on all sorts of odd items they find at the bottom of your tank.  This can include anything from old pieces of meat, wood, algae, and even fish droppings. 

 How to Feed Plecos?

Plecos have a slightly different feeding routine from the other freshwater fish that may be in your aquarium.  These fish prefer to eat at night time.  As such, it is better to offer foods at night just before you go to bed where other fish in your tank might prefer to eat in the morning.

 Plecos can feed off the top of the tank but they mostly cling to the sides or are found at the bottom of your aquarium.  To feed your fish, you should weigh down all foods so your plecos can find these food sources with ease.

 Plecos can be offered one sinking algae wafer per fish every night.  If plecos immediately sink to the bottom for feeding once you dunk foods, they might be overly hungry and it is best to offer more food.  

 You can also offer small pieces of meat foods twice per week and pieces of fruit and veggies twice per week.  It is best not to offer veggies and meat on the same day to ensure that your plecos consume both food types so they can get sufficient protein and fiber every week.   

 Plecos that are kept for breeding should be offered live or frozen food to get them into breeding condition.

 How Much Do Plecos Eat?

The amount of food plecos consume depends on their size or age.   As these fish grow, they might need more food to stay healthy.  

 The best way to ensure that your pleco has enough to eat is by offering at least one sinking algae wafer per fish per night.  If your pleco seems particularly hungry the next night, you can add two or offer more treats. 

 Offer small pieces of meat or veggies and check your tank the next morning so you can remove leftover foods from the tank.  If there are leftover foods you will know to reduce the amount of fish and veggies you offer to your plecos.  

 What do Baby Plecos Eat?

Baby plecos hatch within 4 – 10 days.  These tiny fries will cling to the walls of their breeding cave until they absorb their egg sacs.  After this, they will start to swim freely on their own.  

 Baby plecos need to be fed on infusoria or powdered spirulina.  After a few days of growing, they can be offered baby brine shrimp and they will also consume available algae.  

 What Do Wild Plecos Eat?

Wild plecos tend to hide in the shallows under rocks and driftwood.  They feed on all sorts of matters they find in their region.  This can include algae, aquatic plant matter, fungi, meat, small insects, larvae, worms, and a great many other food sources that sink to the bottom.  They are happy to consume both fresh and decayed matter.  

 What Vegetables Can Plecos Eat?

Plecos enjoy eating a great variety of vegetables. Vegetables are an important source of fiber to your pleco and it is good to offer these foods in addition to algae.  You can offer vegetables twice per week but these foods need to be removed from your aquarium the next morning if you see that there are lots of leftovers.

  It is best to offer your plecos raw veggies and to sink these veggies to the bottom of the aquarium or it will be unlikely for the plecos to find the food.  

 You can offer your plecos veggies like broccoli, shelled peas, lima beans, kale, celery, cabbage, zucchini, and others.  

 It is best to cut your veggies into small pieces so your fish can easily munch on and consume these foods.  

 Should you cook vegetables for plecos?

It is important not to cook vegetables before offering these foods to your fish.  Cooking veggies removes many of the nutrients found in these foods.  Cooked veggies are also softer and soggier and can easily break into tiny pieces when you add it to the tank.  This can result in a tank that requires more frequent cleaning which can be disruptive and stressful to all of the fish in your tank.

 How Much Should I Feed My Pleco?

Some plecos will eat more than others and your pleco will consume more food as it grows.  Adult plecos need at least one sinking algae wafer per night.  You can also offer your plecos fruits or veggies twice per week and meat sources two times per week.  

 It is best to start by offering small pieces.  If you notice that your plecos are scattering for food when it is feeding time then you should increase the amount of food you offer your fish since they are still quite hungry.  

 You can also tell if a pleco is getting enough food by its body weight.  Underfed pleco can be very skinny and bony and won’t have much energy. 

 Are Plecos Aggressive?

People tend to think that these fish are aggressive because of their spiky fins and armored design. 

But they are not very aggressive at all. 

If they are threatened by a human they will flee and try to hide under rocks or behind objects.   They are not very likely to attack a human.  

 With that said, plecos do have sharp fins.  If they are caught, these fins can easily sting you.  The sting of plecos can be very painful and results in a burning-stinging sensation that can last a very long time.  You need to be careful to avoid getting stung if you are handling your plecos or if you are busy cleaning the aquarium.  

 Plecos can be territorial and males can show aggression towards each other.  These fish are usually only aggressive towards other plecos. 

They tend to welcome other fish and won’t react aggressively towards other fish in your aquarium.  

 Plecos don’t catch or eat other fish.  They will consume the flesh of dead fish but won’t catch or kill any other fish in your tank.  Territorial males can fight so be careful not to add too many male plecos to your tank.

 These fish also don’t consume fry of their own specie.  Males are responsible for caring for the eggs and fry until they are strong enough to swim on their own and are not likely to attack and consume eggs or fry.

 Can humans eat plecos?

Humans can consume pleco fish but typically prefer not to do so because pleco fish do have a lot of sharp fins and fine bones found all over their bodies.  You need to be very careful not to swallow a fishbone when consuming plecos.

 They are also not good for use to feed other fish or as fish bait because they offer very little flesh and they are hard to cut into small pieces due to their many bones.  

 In most cases, plecos are simply bred as pet fish for aquariums.  They are however quite popular in aquariums because they help keep tanks clean and as such reduce the number of times you need to clean your tank. 

 Can plecos bite?

Plecos do have teeth. These teeth are quite strong because they are designed to scrape food pieces and plants off the surface of rocks. 

The teeth of some plecos are so rough, you cannot keep them in acrylic tanks because they will scratch up the surface of your tank.  

 Plecos are however very unlikely to bite.  They will bite other plecos if they feel territorial and want to protect their eggs or fry but other than that, they won’t bite you or any other fish in your tank.

 The biggest danger they offer is a sting from their sharp fins which can burn but isn’t lethal at all. 

They are fairly safe fish to have in your tank or to handle when you are out fishing.  

 Conclusion

Plecos are beautiful fish and can help keep algae out of your aquarium.  These fish species are fairly easy to care for and are worth investing in if you want to add an interesting design to your aquarium or if you prefer pet fish with a fascinating and dangerous look.