Clown Pleco: Care, Size, Diet, Tank setup and Tankmates

If you are looking for the perfect tank cleaner fish for the aquarium, you need Clown Pleco. Plecos come in different shapes and sizes, but due to their smaller size, Clown plecos are a trendy choice for smaller aquariums as well as large ones.

Clown Plecos are really easy to take care of that any devoted aquarist can do as long as they understand the fish’s requirements. This makes them a low maintenance fish, which is something that many people appreciate. They’re also nice-looking fish that can liven up your tank’s bottom. Even if you don’t care much about beauty when it comes to fish, you might still have fun seeing them lying around your tank.

Even though Clown Pecos are really easy to take care of, but if you do not know their requirements. Your fish will suffer from many problems. Hence, today this guide is all about Clown Plecos and will consist of everything you need to regarding them.

Origin and History

The Clown Pleco has a scientific name of Panaqolus maccus, is a more recent addition to the Loricariidae family of armored catfish. These fishes are native to tropical Venezuela, and Columbia and first came to known around 1993. You can find Clown Pleco’s communities in Venezuela’s heavily forested regions along the Caron and Apure river basins. But their calm disposition and beautiful markings quickly made them a favorite for aquarists all over the world.

Habitat in the Wild

Since the winter weather is dry and cold before the start of the warmer rainy season, wild clowns generally encounter and embrace a broad range of seasonal changes in their water parameters. As the tropical regions of Venezuela and Columbia are filled with driftwoods.

Owing to the combination of trees and plants along the fast-moving water’s shore, these river basins are densely filled with driftwood and other pieces of wood. They are very adapted at finding places to hide and feed among the woody bottom. The spring breeding season’s beginning is signaled by changes in temperature, pH, and water hardness.

Size of Clown Pleco

Clown plecos are around 3 and a half inches long on average. Their maximum size is about 4 inches, but this is extremely rare. A variety of factors can affect the size of a clown pleco (both controllable and not). Genetics and the quality of treatment you offer are the two most important factors.

Appearance and Looks

The clown pleco has a rather attractive look. These fish have a variety of distinct patterns that make them stand out in a tank from everyone else. This fish has a black base with brighter colored bands that extend across its entire body in various patterns. These bright areas usually are whiteish-yellow or orange in color. The vibrancy and patterns of their coloration are influenced by a variety of genetic factors as well as the health of the fish. Clown plecos in the wild also have brighter colors than those kept in captivity.

They have a broad head that angles into a smooth, narrow body with a laterally facing suckermouth, long pectoral and abdominal fins, and a tall, upright rayed dorsal fin, as well as a laterally facing suckermouth. They have a pleco shape, as their name suggests.

In terms of surface area, a clown pleco’s caudal fin is around the same size as its dorsal fin. Often, it’ll be splayed entirely out, and other times it’ll be compressed. Their dorsal fin is very tall and pronounced, and it fans out quite a bit. Their pectoral fins are also very large, and when they’re lying on the substrate or on top of some driftwood, they’ll often rest behind them.

How to differentiate between male and female Clown Pleco

For beginners, it becomes challenging to distinguish between male and female Clown Plecos outside of the breeding season. But once your fish is around a year old, you should be able to tell which is male and which is female.

Female Clown plecos are normally bigger, and when viewed from above, they appear plump and round as they prepare to lay eggs. On the other side, Male Clown Plecos comes with very small spines, which are called odontodes around their gill covers, and caudal fins of males are leaner with a shorter body.


When properly cared for, a clown pleco will live for ten to twelve years. This is very impressive for a freshwater species. One of our favorite aspects of owning this fish is that you’ll have plenty of time to form a bond with it.

If you don’t provide your clown pleco with the proper living conditions, you will dramatically reduce their lifespan, just like any other fish. In captivity, poor water quality and a poor diet can drastically reduce their lifespan.

Behavior and Temperament

While you can encourage your algae eaters to come out in the darker areas of your aquarium during the day with food, clown Plecos are mainly nocturnal and active at night. They have a mellow and peaceful nature in general. They are content to spend their time at the bottom of the tank doing their own thing, and they hardly take an interest in other fish of the aquarium.

In case you have plenty of suitable hides, you cannot see them as much as you’d like because they prefer to hide under the driftwood. They are often seen resting or eating algae on top of driftwood.

However, Clown Plecos can become a bit aggressive. This usually happens when there is more than one male Pleco in the same tank. Two or more male plecos are capable of displaying aggressive behavior against one another over territory. If you give them sufficient space, this is less likely to happen, but it’s not a guarantee. There could be a rumble if two males like the same piece of driftwood.

As they will just lay around driftwood or at the bottom of the tank, this pleco species might not be the best choice if you want an aggressive centerpiece fish for your aquarium.

Feeding and Diet

Like many other varieties of plecos, Clown plecos are often used in aquariums to eat algae on the glass and rocks. Since clown plecos like to consume the outer layer of rotting driftwood, you’ll need to replace it with aquarium-safe cholla wood at some stage. The ideal diet for them will include many of the foods they consume in the wild and supplements for what isn’t available. When it comes to diet, the aim is to strike a balance and stop overfeeding them.

Algae can be a significant part of their diet. They won’t be able to survive solely on algae, but it will provide them with a lot of nutritional value. By using driftwood, rocks, and plants in their habitat, you can make it easier for algae to grow. Anything that can be put on a substrate where algae can thrive is advantageous.

Allowing them to eat wood will speed up the digestion process. In contrast to the larger fishes, which are so interesting, infant fishes consume more algae. Not to mention the value of feeding them algae-based food rather than forcing them to rely solely on natural algae.

They also like to feed on different types of vegetables like cucumbers, peas, zucchini, and lettuce; you can furthermore try to feed them algae wafers. You should also include some protein to ensure the proper health of your clown pleco. You can include daphnia and bloodworm as a snack 2-3 times a week.

It would be best if you fed them twice a day, once can be at night and once a day. Make sure not to overfeed them by feeding them more than two times. Meanwhile, please provide them with wood to snack on during the day, which will suffice for the rest of their stay. They’ll eat everything they can get their hands on in your aquarium.

Foods that Clown Plecos Love 

  • Blanched Veggies
  • Sinking algae wafers
  • Pellets
  • Driftwoods
  • Frozen and live bloodworms
  • Daphnia eggs
  • Brine Shrimp

Common Diseases for Clown Pleco

Clown plecos are very hardy, and as a result, they are not that prone to diseases that much. However, they can suffer from a few of the common fish diseases. Any of the conditions can be avoided if you keep your fish tank clean and feed them properly. Clown Plecos have been discovered to be very robust.

The most common disease that they can suffer with is ich, which is a parasitic disease. If you see any red spots or swollen eyes or abdomen, it’s a sign that your fish has caught a bacterial infection. It’s important to handle it right away before it spreads to other fish. Do not worry because you can cure all types of bacterial infections using antibiotics.

Another issue that you must avoid is stressing them because stressing them about territorial issues when you introduce new fish can lead to injury and make them hostile. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you have a large tank and your Clown Pleco has enough space to move around.

Fortunately, if the water quality in their habitat is protected, all of these can be avoided. Your clown pleco’s chances of becoming ill are greatly increased when the water quality is poor. They’ll probably be great if you give them daily water changes, track their parameters, and feed them a well-balanced diet.


Although taking care of Clown Plecos is easy, but breeding for them is not that easy. But, compared to other breeds of plecos, Clown Plecos are known to be the best breeder in captivity. If you wish to breed them inside the aquarium, you will need to set up a perfect environment inside your tank.

They breed at the start of the rainy season, as soon as the dry season finishes, in their natural habitat. To encourage captive breeding, you must recreate natural breeding conditions in your private aquarium for any fish in this case.

In the days leading up to the breeding period, it’s also a good idea to lower the water temperature a little and then warm it up again. Warmer temperature acts as a catalyst for them to breed. The water must be kept strong and alkaline at the start of the breeding process, then softer and neutral as the process progresses.

When the fish are in the mood for some love, they seek out and spawn inside caves, choosing wood caves over rock caves. Clown Plecos’ breeding tank must have a lot of hiding places for spawning to make their ecosystem more fun and interesting.

When the fish are ready to breed, they seek out and spawn inside caves, choosing wood caves over rock caves. The caves should have a small opening that is just large enough for the fish to pass through, and they should be larger than the fish’s length.

They will need more food during the breeding process. Hence, you should increase protein-rich food in their diet, and this is another effective way to encourage breeding. Bloodworms and other tried-and-true choices would suffice.

It can take up to months for the Clown Pleco eggs to hatch. Following the laying of the eggs, the male Clown Pleco assumes responsibility for protecting the eggs before they hatch. As soon as the spawning process is over, the male Clown Plecos, along with the eggs, can be removed from the breeding tank.

When the babies come out, you need to feed them with a combination of algae, protein, baby brine shrimp meat until they grow up.

Care guide for Clown Pleco

Care guide for Clown Pleco

Clown Plecos are quite hardy and don’t require a lot of care to stay happy. These fish can be successfully kept by aquarists of all levels of experience. They will just peacefully lay around at the bottom of the tank without disturbing or caring about any other fish living with it.

You need to set up the perfect living environment inside their tank, and you will be good to go. Down below, I will discuss everything that you need to know how to set up their habitat inside the tank.

Tank Size

Since these are tiny fish who don’t do a lot of swimming about, you won’t need a huge tank to keep them content. You will need a minimum of 20-gallon tank for keeping a single Clown Pleco. If you wish to keep more than one, you need to keep adding 10 gallons with each Pleco added.

A larger tank will assist you in keeping them from being clogged, thus reducing the possibility of stress.

Optimal Water Conditions

It is very important to control the perfect water condition for your Clown Pleco. They prefer water that is between 73- and 83-degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer a pH range of 6.8 to 7.6, and they can survive in both hard and soft water. The preferred hardness should be around 10 dGH.

Usually, freshwater fishes do not need alkaline conditions, but Clown Pleco is a bit different. Unlike other freshwater fishes, Clown Plecos require the tank water to be slightly alkaline since it originates from Amazonian waters, which are naturally alkaline.


Clown Plecos are bottom dwellers, and they like to dig caves for spawning and hiding. Hence, a soft substrate that won’t damage their fins or abdomens is ideal. Many fishkeepers use an empty aquarium with no substrate for breeding, But if you wish to keep them combined with other fishes. Then you can use sand, aquatic soil, and fine gravel. Moreover, this will also be beneficial if you want to grow live plants inside your tank.


Clown Pleco are voracious eaters who generate a large amount of waste for their size. They need a strong filtration system with swappable media that eliminates waste and contaminants from the water both mechanically and chemically because they primarily ingest fibrous material. Clown Plecos prefer a constant flow of water around the bottom of their tank, which helps to prevent harmful hypoxic areas from forming.


Clown Plecos are nocturnal species, and they only stay active at night. Hence, they stay hidden during the daytime. For this reason, you need to set up the lighting properly if you wish to see them during the day. They don’t like bright light; it is recommended to use dim lighting inside their tank.

It would be best if you also considered including a lot of floating plants in your aquarium to help dim the harsh aquarium lights: anything that makes your aquarium mimic the dark rivers they live in in the wild.

Plants and Décor

Whenever you want to create a habitat for Clown Plecos inside your aquarium, you should try to make it as close as to their natural habit. So, make sure to add a lot of driftwood.  Driftwood and clown plecos are a match made in heaven. These fish enjoy hiding in, exploring, and even eating driftwood. You can try to combine different driftwoods, sticks, branches, and bogwoods.

Since they like to eat plants but aren’t normally aggressive, it’s best to have a combination of quick and slow-growing plants in your tank. Adding rocks promotes the growth of edible algae and biofilm, which is beneficial to your Clown plecos. Many common plants, such as hornwort, are suitable for these fish. You should be fine as long as they don’t take over the tank.

They Love driftwood, and it’s a key component of their diet. As a consequence, don’t think of driftwood as an optional move. They’ve worked out how to get a decent amount of nutrients from it as a food source. Since they consume a lot of wood, supplying them with a variety of foods helps to balance their diet.

Hiding places

If there aren’t enough hiding places for clown plecos, they won’t be able to come out and explore. As weird as it might seem, if you give your fish more places to hide when it feels threatened, you can actually see it more! You can buy special ceramic pleco caves to use as hides, which also serve as natural breeding and spawning areas.


Maintenance is really important with Clown Pleco tank; they make a lot of waste which needs to be cleaned properly. It’s important to adjust the water in your tank on a regular basis to avoid toxic build-up. Weekly water changes might be necessary for smaller aquariums, and making a large-volume change is a great way to promote spawning.

Summary of setting up Tank condition for Clown Pleco

  • Heater to keep the temperature a bit warm
  • Aquatic soil, fine gravel, or sand as substrate
  • Floating plants to keep the lighting a bit dark and shady
  • Live plants for proper vegetation
  • Filtration system with changeable media
  • Driftwood décor, along with other woods
  • 20 Gallon tank size
  • pH Level of 6.8-7.6
  • The temperature of 73-83 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water Hardness of 10 dGH


Tank Mates

Since clown plecos are bottom dwellers, they thrive in a typical peaceful group tank because they occupy spaces where other fish do not. They are fantastic community members. Most of the time, they coexist peacefully with other fish. It’s still important, though, to make sure each clown pleco will have sufficient hides and space to itself.

They can become aggressive towards other small plecos, so unless you have plenty of room or intend to breed, it’s best to keep only one of these fish in your aquarium. On the off chance that you need to have mutiple clown pleco in your tank, you’ll need at least an additional 10 gallons of space because they can get territorial with their own species.

Clown plecos have a large number of tank mates who are compatible with them. Another reason these fish are so easy to keep in the aquarium is because of this compatibility with other fishes.

The best tank mates for them include:

  • Ember Tetra
  • Gourami
  • Small Rasboras
  • Minnows
  • Pygmy Corydoras
  • German Blue Rams.

On rare occasions, they do get aggressive, and they lock horns with other fishes in the tank to defend their territories. When it comes to clown pleco tank mates, the most important thing to note is avoiding aggressiveness and large size gaps. They should not be stored with large fish since they are more likely to be eaten.


Clown Plecos are great tank cleaner fish for small and medium tanks. They like to live and feed on algae. This is one of the easiest fish to keep inside your tank. Hence, they are a popular choice for both beginners and expert aquarists. It is a low maintenance fish that doesn’t have many requirements to live happily.

They will be alright as long as you set up the correct tank habitat, do follow the prescribed water conditions, and keep them with other non-aggressive fish.

Despite its ease of treatment, keeping a clown pleco is a satisfying experience. In any tank, their beauty and distinct action make them stand out. One thing you will love about Clown Pleco is the hardiness of this fish which makes it less prone to diseases.

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