It is said that the humble clown pleco, with its low maintenance and ability to thrive in freshwater tanks has become one of many freshwater species adored by aquarium enthusiasts. Renowned as the armored catfish in the wild, this is a tiny creature capable of keeping your tank free of algae. Yes, you heard that right.

Clown pleco is an essential part of any aquarium, especially where water change is not so frequent. It was first discovered in 1957 by German Biologists and has been a part of commercial trade from the late 90s.

Found in parts of Venezuela and Columbia, this fish is tough to breed and requires a lot of work. However, if you are only here to know how to maintain them, you have made the right choice. Growing up to a size of 3 to 4 inches, a clown pleco will soon be the most easy-to-maintain fish you’d have in the water tank.

Below is everything you need to know about this species. From basic characteristics & specialties to the ideal settling conditions, we will take you on the full detailing ride. Stay with us and continue reading.

All About the Species

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Panaque Maccus
Other Common Names Clown Pleco, Clown Panaque, Clown Plecostomus, Sucker Fish, Clown Sucker, Ringlet Fish
Family Loricariidae
Origin Venezuela & Columbia
Lifespan 8 to 12 Years (approx.)
Size 3 – 4 inches
Type Freshwater Fish


Commonly known as ‘Algae Eaters,’ Clown Plecostomus is one of the few species that adapt to vivid surroundings. It means your slight deviations in water parameters would hardly impose any adverse effect on them. Being in the trade from the late 90s, these settle well with other fish in the tank, just not with those who try to eat it. 

Since clown fish is freshwater creature, these are prone to common freshwater diseases only. Sprucing up the bottom of your tank and enjoying your time with plants and pebbles, these also come in a variety. Since clownfish size only reaches up to 3 to 4 inches, you need to make sure you aren’t picking a gigantic creature by its side. 

However, relatively small and peaceful fishes do well with it. All you see is a rosy sight where all the mates in the tanks are having a gala time. As for the cost, clown pleco’s sale price lands between $5 to $13, which looks super affordable considering the maintenance & the fact that they keep the algae under control. Below is how they look, and they thrive in your water tank. 


Though you might hear people telling you it is just a fish black in color, it is not. The band vibrancy is what makes it attractive. By bands, we mean the pattern that flows through their whole black-based body. These can be white or yellow in color. Complemented with dim-colorful lighting, they can suddenly become mesmerizing creatures. 

Further, their thick bodies with a wide head contain a large dorsal fin accompanied by splayed-out pectoral fins. Their belongingness to the armored cat family is witnessed by the body back they have. While you might see clown plecostomus looking all dolled up in freshwaters in Venezuela, this won’t be the case with your fish tank. 

Since large water bodies in the wild give them proper space to swim and a wild diet to feed on, these pleco’s colors change a bit in their juvenile age. However, you could also see these shifting colors between dark brown to black at a young age. Further, giving them proper nutrition would determine the beauty of clown pleco’s stripes.



Everybody is not looking to have a giant aquarium. Some are also small pots enthusiasts, and this creature right here is the ideal choice for them. Their size also puts them in the category of dwarf plecos.

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Their long juvenile stage revolves around 2.5 odd inches, and a fully-grown clown pleco reaches the 4-inch mark. That’s the maximum you are going to see. Though the clown pleco’s size makes them comfortable for a small pot, it also makes them prone to preying by a giant in the tank.

Life Expectancy:

The life expectancy of this robust-bodied creature lands in between 10 to 12 years. This is when you take care of the habitat or environment they live in. Having such a tenure, this fish allows you to develop a connection with it.

Much like any other fish, clown plecos have their ideal conditions to settle in. Yes, this is a kind of fish that will adapt its surroundings quickly, but you need not keep the water conditions below the bare minimum. Any significant steep deviation can lead to subtraction from any clown pleco’s lifespan. Therefore, one must take care of it irrespective of how sturdy the body is.


Summing up the characteristics of this creature, we can rather say it is an investment and not an expense, especially with the algae-eating nature it possesses. You do not have to worry over tank looking greenish-faded or your fish getting prone to any diseases. For an amount of $8 odd, this is an exciting creature to have.

Being a bottom dweller, you’d most likely see it separately. Roaming from plants to toys makes your water tank look like an enjoyable ride. Thus, easy maintenance, affordability, unique appearance, and beauty enhancement are all a part of its exciting features. Clearly, you now need to know about the water parameters suitable for it, but first, let’s understand how to identify if it is a male or a female clown pleco.

Gender Identification

Like many fishes in the wild, it is hard to tell whether the clown pleco you are looking at is a male or a female. Though, some points of distinction have been brought forward by the specialists.

Starting with the size, the female is usually larger than the male. Sticking to it, the former has a more enormous, more-round belly than the latter. Also, the male belly contains a brighter color while that of the female is dull; and so do the stripes.

From the Experts: When looking at both the ends of this fish, the male is found with more whiskers or bristles around the nose. And the female has a dark anal area.

Clown Pleco Care

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Easy to Moderate
Social Temperament Peaceful (Male versus Male can be Aggressive)
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Tough to Breed

Diet and Feeding:

When pouring in the food in your water tank, you need to first study and observe what your fish likes the most. As for this species, it is well-versed with special Plecostomus food that gets traded in the market. The menu is, of course, a diverse one since it is an omnivore creature. 

Algae, decayed vegetables like cucumbers, wood pieces, pellets, and shrimps are some of the options in the idealistic food list. Further, you need to be cautious of the feeding manner you adopt. Since plecos are found constantly feeding on one thing or the other, you need to make sure there is no possibility of over-eating.

Temperament & Social Behavior:

Being a peaceful freshwater fish, you won’t see your clown pleco hitting or creating any nuisance in the tank. For what is worth, the only time you’d see an attack being made is by the other big creature swimming across the tank.

However, it is not advised to keep two males together as any uninvited visit to the territory of one can get troublesome. Even if you create significant space, you cannot control the two males fighting over one specific driftwood.

Other than this, you can be sure of no fighting or war-like case in the aquarium.


Experts say you need to have luck on your side if you wish to breed this species in a home water tank since there are hardly any signs noted for clown fish’s breeding. That being said, you do need to get a few things done in the right manner to get a pair to mate. Starting with the tank, you must develop a structure similar that existed before the pair came together. 

To begin with, make sure there are lots and lots of hiding spaces, soft driftwood, and shelters for the couple to roam and indirectly get comfortable with one another. Subsequently, adjustments to the plecos’ water temperature and pH can give them the vibe of the changing season. It is known to trigger breeding. 

Once the comfort develops, the female will lay eggs. Fertilized by the male, the fry is ready to explore the world in a series of weeks. Make sure you get in small portions of a protein-rich diet in there. 

Common Diseases:

Being freshwater fish, clown plecos are prone to diseases of the same kind. Starting with standard terms like fin rot and fungus. These are most common to happen if your water quality is below the idealistic mark. Further, spots are witnessed on its body if there is an issue going on the inside.

Pro Tip: To prevent any disease from growing inside (digestive problems), we advise keeping abundant driftwood for plecos to provide enough fiber in the diet.

To ensure there isn’t anything troubling your mate, you need to regularly monitor the body’s appearance. Any signs of dizziness or spots are a clear indication of downgraded health. At that point, first, rectify water parameters and then put it on medication if needed.

Tank Recommendations

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 25 Gallons
Water Temperature 24˚C to 27˚C
Water Hardness 3-10 dGH
pH Level 6.9 – 7.5

Ideal Tank Size:

Much discussion about the size of this fish has been done. Hence, you should be getting an idea if the tank you already have is ideal or not. For the numbers, if you have a 25-gallon tank, you are on the safe side. 25-gallon tank size is more than enough for one clown pleco to roam and dwell. Further, if you are thinking about adding more such species, you need to increase the size too. 10 gallons per clown pleco is generally recommended.

Tank Setup, Décor, and Plants:

When it comes to pleasing this species, you need to have multiple hiding spots in the tank. This being said, you can have plants in, coupled with big spacy toys, and of course, driftwood at the bottom is an absolute cherry on top.

Since these are bottom feeders, make sure you are not placing any sharp objects inside. Be it pebbles or toys. You need not keep anything worth the risk at all. As far as the tank setup for plecos is considered, these love a moderate flow in which they can easily swim for hours.

Pro Tip: This species adapts to dim lights better and enjoys its time in a darker environment. Hence, we strongly advise against bright colored LED tubes. Instead, please bring in the dim multicolor reflector that makes its stripes go vibrant.

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Water Parameters:

Yes, we have been talking about how sturdy or robust this creature is, yet a few things need to be in order. Starting with the pH, it should always be between 6.8 to 7.5. Further, you can keep the water on a slightly warm side. Talking about nitrates, you must keep it below 20.

If you are thinking of having an additional female, enhance the water level or the tank size to 30-35 gallons. If it is a male, add 10 more gallons to the mentioned number. For all aquarists have observed, this particular creature excretes much more than what its size perceives. Hence, a regular water change is advised.

A 2-3 gallon water change is prescribed weekly for water cleansing. If possible, try to adopt chemical waste eliminators that are safe for the fish.

Compatible Tankmates:

If you think that your clown pleco can live with a betta, you are thinking it all wrong. Since this species is mellow, you need to keep it with peaceful creatures. The small size of clown plecos makes them fall prey to the larger fishes in the tank. Hence, the size of the tankmates is crucial to the life of this tiny creature. 

As for the names, minnows, rasboras, ember tetras, acaras, angelfish, cory catfish, and danios are some of the idealistic tankmates for them.

The unsuitable tankmate list contains all the aggressive names such as Oscars, rainbow sharks, betta fish, cichlids (jaguar, flowerhorn, red devil, etc.) and, not to forget, other plecos bigger in size. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can clown plecos harm other small fishes?

Though clown plecos keep it to their business, they do not hurt or disturb any other small fish in the tank. Make sure you have compatible mates in the stream. Further, the only time you’d see them hurting another fish is when another clown pleco barges in their territory. 

What do clown plecos eat?

A clown pleco’s diet can contain a wide variety of food. For starters, driftwood is a must to have in there. Coupled with algae wafers, decaying vegetables, and special pleco food, it becomes a whole bumpy treat for them. Occasional goodies like feeding cucumbers to clown pleco are appreciated. 

What are thesigns ofastressed pleco?

The first significant sign indicating your pleco is stressed is the change in eating pattern. If at all your pleco’s food-hunting behavior changes to leaving the veggies alone, it is an alarming situation. A couple of more signs could be odd or strange swimming movement and frequent visits to the brim to take a gulp of air in.   

Are mega clown plecos apart of clown plecos?

The mega clown or the clown tiger pleco resembles clown plecos in terms of black body and patterns on top, yet, it is still not related to the latter. Unlike clown plecos, the L340 mega clown pleco only grows to a maximum size of 3 inches.

Can clown plecos get 5 inches in size?

Though special fish breeders have found clown pleco’s full size to grow up to 5-inches in Venezuela, raising them to this size in home tanks is extremely rare. It is only possible if the natural habitat is offered to the fish, which can only be delivered in streams of Columbia and Venezuela. 

Will clown pleco eat other fish?

No, your other small fish in the tank are entirely safe. Clown plecos feed only on plants, and small food portions are fed to them. Other than that, you’d find them on driftwood and algae edges. 

Final Remarks

Clown Pleco Fish is an excellent addition to any aquarium. With its peaceful nature and affordable prices, this won’t be posing any challenge to either the maintenance or saving money for supplies. Whether a veteran aquarist or just starting out, this fish will be easy on both your schedule as well as the wallet.

We hope this article provides helpful tips about caring for these fascinating creatures in captivity so that they can live long, happy lives together with us here at home!

Similar Species of Suckermouth Catfish:

Rubber Lipped Pleco Care Guide

King Tiger Pleco Care Guide

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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