5 Plecs for your averaged size community tank

So you’ve got your new tank all setup and ready and you’ve  got a little shoal of normal fish and now you’ve decided you want a bottom feeder / pleco.  Before you rush out to your nearest local fish shop and buy the first bottom feeder / tank buster you come across read through our recommendations of plecs that are safe and easy to keep in any tank below 300 litre and won’t eventually turn into a 2 foot long headache for you.

Bulldog Pleco, L402, Rubbernose Pleco

This species of pleco grows to a rather manageable 5 inch or there about so is suitable for most tanks.  It is peaceful and gets along well with other bottom feeders/catfish.

It is an Omnivore and ill eat algae and small live or frozen food. Some individuals can be weaned onto pellet food although this usually takes some effort and trial and error on the part of the aquarist.  It will quite happily eat cucumber and other veg after it has been acclimatised.

Common Bristlenose

A relatively undemanding pleco gets along great with other plecos both of its own species and others.  Completely harmless to other passive community fish and again remains pretty small at about 5 inches in length. They are gentle and unassuming fish, and can be kept in community tanks with the most timid of inhabitants. Even tiny fry will be left unharmed once free-swimming.

It is thought that elements in bogwood, particularly lignin, may form an essential part of Bristlenose diet. Certainly they have the immensely long guts common to vegetarians, and although they fall avidly on the occasional meal of live food or prawns, the bulk of their diet must be composed of vegetable matter. If a high protein diet is fed constantly, then they will become prone to stomach disorders. Vegetable roughage keeps the gut in working order, and bogwood is a valuable addition to this.

There are many variety of bristlenose with the albino, lemon and long fin being the most common.  They are all very similar and all brilliant for a smaller community tank.

Big White Spot Pleco, L142, LDA033, Snowball Pleco

This is a little bit more fussy becoming quite territorial over other catfish and bottom feeders however will be fine with more common community fish and non bottom feeders.  If keeping in a small tank ensure this is the only bottom feeder in the tank and you’ll have no problems.  Its lovely markings and colouration make it an interesting addition to any tank and will have people staring at him for hours.

An omnivorous grazer of biofilm. Shows a fondness for sweet potato and algae wafers. Feed a varied diet to keep this fish healthy, including a large proportion of vegetable matter.

Snowballs/L142’s will grow slightly larger and should only be kept in the upper end of the community tanks growing to a size of upto 10 inches in length!

Imperial Pleco, L046, L098, Zebra Pleco

If you’re feeling a little cash rich then you can’t go far wrong with zebs.  They remain small, are lovely and friendly both with their own type and others and with strong patterning and markings always provide a stunning focal point for your tank.  The only real downsizes to zebs are their price and the environment they like.  They are fairly undemanding in terms of water conditions and are suitable for a wide range of water ph and hardness. Choose tankmates wisely as Zebras do not compete well for food with particularly fast or aggressive tankmates.

H. zebra is more of a carnivore than an algae eater. This is backed up by a small and lightly toothed mouth that indicates it is a poor algae eater. Provide mainly meaty foods such as bloodworm and even brineshrimp.

Zebras remain very small at the 3 – 4 inch size and so suit smaller tanks perfectly.

L264, Sultan Pleco

The sultan plecs are one of my favourite (after L14’s!) plecos.  They are suitable to most water ph’s and hardness readings however are very sensitive to nitrites and nitrates.  They can be a challenge to keep in smaller tanks purely because keeping water parameters stable in smaller tanks can be difficult.  A very rewarding fish for an experience keeper or an intermediate keeper looking to test the waters on something more complex.

Growing to a size of roughly 6 inches they are suitable for the mid to larger end of the community tank.  Will play fine with other small bottom feeders such as corys or most of the plecos listed here however may through a tantrum if kept in a small tank with larger bottom feeders.

Not a fussy eater. Primarily herbivorous, but appreciates some meat in its diet. Will eat sinking pellets and vegetables such as cucumber, and relishes meaty foods such as krill. According to some reports, in nature it feeds on insect larvae. Fry require more protein in the form of baby brine shrimp etc.


All 5 of the above fish are ideal for your community tanks all being roughly the same water requirements as your common community fish and all are mostly undemanding in their general requirements and feeding.  There’s a few oddities on some of the more desirable plecos such as the sultan and the zebras but nothing that you cannot resolve with careful planning, feeding and water management all signs of good fish husbandry anyway.

Hopefully this article has made you think a little about the fish you are buying.  Instead of running straight to your LFS and buying that lovely little 1″ common pleco that will turn into a 2 foot monster you cannot home in your little 30 litre tank hopefully you will now think a little and pre-plan your purchases so you and your fish can get the most out of its new home and you can get the enjoyment of an interesting and less common fish.

More information on all the fish listed above can be found on www.planetcatfish.com

Please feel free to suggest any other plecs you feel may be suited to the smaller community tank in the comments below.

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