Will a Pleco Keep My Aquarium Clean?

pleco cleaning tank

Algae is a problem that all aquarists have to deal with at some point. Keeping an aquarium looking clean and free of algae is most often an ongoing battle. If you’ve experienced a dirty tank before or have one now, you may be searching for fish that clean the tank.

In freshwater aquariums, Plecos – which is short for plecostomus and used to refer to fish within the family Loricariida – are one of the most common fish purchased to aid in tank cleanups.

Plecos are notorious for keeping your aquarium clean by eating algae, as well as food that has been left behind by other fish.

pleco cleaning tank

Plenty of Space for Plecos

Unless you have an aquarium larger than 75 gallons and only one pleco, this species of fish will end up feasting mainly on the meat-based foods that you feed the other fish in the tank.

This is because there is rarely enough algae growth in an aquarium to sustain a pleco’s appetite, which can seem insatiable. Further, a high-protein diet based primarily on meaty foods can be unhealthy for animals who have a digestive system intended to process mostly plant matter.

Provide a Balanced Diet

If you want your plecos to thrive, you need to provide them with a diet that consists primarily of plants. There are many different types of plants that are good for your plecos, so you have plenty to choose from to create a balanced diet – which is a vital part of keeping them healthy. They can eat all kinds of algae and even other fish. Some of the foods they can consume are:

  • Plant foods like algae, lettuce, spinach, lettuce
  • Algae-based foods like spirulina and blue-green algae
  • High-protein foods like meat, fish, and eggs
  • Low-protein foods like vegetables and fruits
  • High-carbohydrate foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes
  • Low-carbohydrate foods like rice and beans

Avoid Waste Build-Up

Because plecos eat so much, they also produce a great deal of waste. So you should make sure to install a high-quality filtration system in your tank. This system needs to create a good bit of flow in the tank water because the pleco comes from naturally turbulent waters.

Another very important part of the tank is the filter media. This media should be able to remove impurities from the water in the tank, allowing your pleco to live a long and healthy life.

Also, remember that just because you have algae-eating fish in your tank, it doesn’t mean that you do not need to clean your fish tank. You should still do regular water changes, bi-monthly gravel vacuuming, and a normal cleaning cycle.

Oftentimes, having a fish like a pleco can even mask symptoms of high nutrients when forgetting to maintain the aquarium. Performing regular water testing can help prevent serious problems from going undetected.


In conclusion, a pleco will keep your aquarium looking clean and algae-free. However, it is important to care for your plecos just like any other fish in your aquarium.

Considering things such as tank size, filtration, diet, and even tankmates can make sure your pleco lives a long and happy life – keeping your aquarium algae-free at the same time.


Hypostomus plecostomus – Wikipedia

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