The Clown Pleco – Everything You Need To Know.


The Clown Pleco is one of the most sought after fish among the Plecos. Let us begin with its origin.

Actinopterygii is the name for Ray-Finned Fish. These are sub-categorized into Catfish and other fish. A sub-category of these Catfish are the Suckermouths. It is under these Suckermouths that we find the Plecos.


In this blog we will be dealing with a specific variety of the Pleco called the “Clown Pleco”.

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What is a Clown Pleco


The Clown Pleco is a freshwater fish which is very popular among aquarium hobbyists. The scientific name is Panaqolus Maccus and it was first described in 1957 by German biologists as L104.  The ‘L’ indicates that it belongs to the Loricariidae and the 104 is the number pinpointing to the Clown Pleco.

Clown Plecos are found in black water streams of South America, specifically Columbia and Venezuela. They live near rocky outcrops or other structures for shelter during nighttime hours when predators may come around looking for prey.

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Another common name for this species is “painted” because its body has an attractive pattern with colors ranging from blue-black to dark brown on a lighter background coloration.

Clown Plecos have an elongated body that tapers at the tail end, blunt nose, two protruding barbels near their mouth which help them feel for food on plants or substrate and whiskers over their eyes to sense movement in the water column.


How Big Do Male and Female Plecos Get?

The Clown Pleco can grow as large as 4.72 to 5 inches in their natural habitat. However, in captivity they do not reach this size. The male Plecos are larger than the female plecos. A male Clown Pleco can reach up to 4 inches and a female pleco can reach up to 3 inches.


How Can You Tell If A Clown Pleco Is Male Or Female?


Males will have a much more pronounced nose while female’s fins are a vibrant variety of colors. The most reliable way for identifying the sex of an adult Clown Pleco is by looking at its pelvic area.

It’s possible that both genders will have some yellow coloring where their genitals would be located. But the male has a darker black or brown anal opening.

The color of the belly will also be different. A female will have less contrast in coloration and it’ll appear more uniform than what you would see with males. The female belly is slightly larger than the male and more so during breeding.

The males have stripes that are usually much darker, bigger, and bolder to make them irresistible for mating purposes!

However, the easiest way is the dorsal fin. The female dorsal fin has three spines whereas the male has only two.

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What Do Clown Plecos Do?


Are Clown Pleco Good Algae Eaters?

Clown Plecos are very good algae eaters. In fact, it is one of their primary food. This is one of the reasons for their being popular. It eats all sorts of algae including bubble algae, brown diatoms, and green hair algae.

They tend to eat softer, more delicate leaves such as java fern and willow segi instead of harder ones like hibiscus or anacharis so keep this in mind when stocking your plants.

Do Clown Plecos Clean Glass?

Clown Plecos indeed clean the glass of the tank. However, for that to happen, the environment of the tank needs to be such that the Clown Pleco feels safe in the tank.

If the Clown Pleco is surrounded by too many predatory fish, or the light is too bright, it will only prefer hiding itself rather than feeling free to pick on the glass. Clown Plecos are a nocturnal species and are more active at night.

Will Clown Plecos Eat Dead Fish?

Plecos in general are omnivores, which means they can eat both plants and animals. Dead fish are not exactly on the top of the list for a Clown Pleco but if they do find dead fish, it’s a yes to scavenging on it. More so, the breeding period encourages them to do so, including looking for protein foods like eggs, larvae etc.


What is the Nature of the Clown Pleco?

The Clown Pleco is a nocturnal fish that prefers to remain in hiding. Although they are not exactly aggressive in behaviour, they can be pretty defensive, especially with reference to their territory within the aquarium.

 Are Clown Plecos Aggressive?

Once established, clowns are not aggressive fish.  This makes them a safe option for community tanks. However, Clowns can get aggressive if they are kept in small tanks with limited space or they have to fight for their hiding space.

Why Does My Clown Pleco Hide?

Clown Plecos are nocturnal in nature and do not like bright spaces. They prefer darker and secluded places where they can hide. Which is why, Clown Plecos are not exactly seen a lot. However, if the Clown Plecos are comfortable in the tank, you may see them moving around.

You can also try providing covered spaces like a cave, broken pots or leafy cover which will encourage to settle there and they can be seen from outside.  


Will A Clown Pleco Eat Snails?

Clown Plecos do not attack live snails. If it is a dead snail, the Pleco will not mind scavenging on it. However, a bristlenose pleco has been caught sucking a live snail out of its shell.

Will A Clown Pleco Eat Shrimps?

As far as shrimps are concerned, they will have to be protected with lots of hiding places. Otherwise, the Clown Plecos are very much capable of devouring your shrimps.

There are authentic reports on shrimps being devoured as well as surviving when the tank is large and more so when it is a heavily planted tank where the shrimps can hide easily.

Do Clown Plecos Eat Tetras?

My Clown Plecos have done well in a community tank with tetras. Not all tetras are prey to the Clown Pleco. However, neon tetras and really small tetras may definitely be at risk. There are people who have actually found their Clown Plecos eating the neon tetras.   

Will A Betta Kill A Clown Pleco? / Can Clown Plecos Live With Bettas?

A Betta will not kill a Clown Pleco. Many Betta owners have confirmed that Clown Plecos are good tankmates for Bettas. In fact, Bettas are not bothered by the presence of the Clown Plecos who are busy cleaning the tank.  


Can Two Clown Plecos Live Together?

It’s a yes and a no! If your tank is big and there are good hiding spots, then two Clown Plecos can live together. If one is a male and another a female, its even better.

If they are two males, then make sure the have separate dwelling places. If your tank is small, they will fight for their space as they can be very territorial. More so, if they are both males.


What Temperature Do Clown Plecos Need?

A Clown Pleco needs a tank temperature of 73 to 82 Degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the season the temperature will have to be slightly varies. If it is too hot the temperature needs to be brought down to 71 Degrees and if its too cold, the temperature needs to be accordingly adjusted.

Ideally, ensure you maintain a temperature which is conducive for all the fish in the tank, but ensure that the temperature does not go below 73 or above 82 Degrees.

Clown Plecos can survive in reasonable warm water as long as the tank does not have fish that require a colder temperature.


What Do You Feed Clown Plecos?

Clown Plecos eat algae and small invertebrates in the wild but will also enjoy most commercially available fish food pellets, flakes or other prepared foods. They are omnivores so they need both plant-based and animal-based diets to thrive in captivity.

As their name implies, these fish like to nibble on algae from driftwood or rocks in the tank as well as sinking pellets made for carnivorous fish-eating such as bloodworms, daphnia, shrimp eggs (nauplii), tubifex worms etc.

They may also ingest some insects along with the algae and organic matter that make up a large part of their diet. Clown Plecos can have problems if there isn’t enough variety in their food sources, which often results when hobbyists feed them exclusively commercial aquarium foods rather than fresh vegetables like zucchini or squash as well as quality pellets.

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How Often Should You Feed A Clown Pleco?

Clown Plecos love algae and clean the tanks. They also like driftwood. However, that is not sufficient. My plecos have grown by eating the fish food that I use for the rest of the fish.

You can also use bottom feeder pellets thrice a week. Most importantly, feed them before the lights turn off. This is because clown plecos can see in the dark and will eat while other fish have settled down.

How Do I Know If My Clown Pleco Is Eating Enough?

If your Clown Pleco is feeding on the driftwood more than normal, for longer times, or attacking small fish, it isn’t getting enough food. If you see lot of Pleco poop near the driftwood, your Pleco does not need further feeding.

This however is not easy. The best way is to watch the Clown Pleco when you feed the fish. If it is aggressive, you sure know it needs more food.

Also, if the belly of the pleco is inward you will know it needs better feeding. Remember, over feeding the Clown Pleco can increase the nitrate level in your tank.


How Do I Keep My Clown Plecos Happy?

Clown Plecos are freshwater fish from South America found in slow-moving waters like swamps and marshes. The ideal habitat for them is an aquarium with lots of plants and some open swimming space. The water needs to be warm. 

They are very sensitive to dissolved oxygen and pH levels so you will want the tank set up for plenty of aeration.

They also prefer moving waters rather than still which is why most experts recommend a power head or filter in addition to an under-gravel filtration system.

With these two features, Clown Plecos should do well.

Add plenty of hiding places like driftwood, clay pots, and large pieces of bogwood which allow them to feel secure as well provide safe crevices for breeding females.

The water needs to be alkaline. Plants and driftwood are a must.

Pro Tip : You can even try a dry coconut shell with a cave opening which really looks good in the tank.

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What Fishes Are Compatible With Clown Plecos?

Clown Plecos are usually compatible with almost all types of fishes. However, monster fishes prey on the Clown Plecos.


Do Clown Plecos Need Driftwood?

Yes, the Clown Pleco’s need driftwood. Their gut is adapted to absorption of wood particles and it supplies a lot of nutrients to them. Driftwood and algae form the basic diet of the Clown Pleco. So yes, it is a must.


Can A Clown Pleco Live In Brackish Water? (Salt Water)

A Clown Pleco is used to flowing water. Excessive salt content is not the right habitat for a Clown Pleco.

They are known to come from neutral waters which is soft water and salt content can affect the longevity of the clown pleco.

Although, a low salt water tank is not a strict no for the clown plecos, I would avoid it.


Why Does My Clown Pleco Have White Spots?

One potential health concern is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which causes “white spot disease,” a parasitic infection that can spread quickly in an aquarium setting. It’s usually treated with salt baths and appropriate medication.

Since Clown Plecos are not extremely sensitive, they can respond to treatment pretty well and recover quickly. Look for white or red spots and sometimes a swollen belly. Earlier the treatment will be very beneficial.


Do Clown Plecos Change Color?

Clown Plecos do change color based on a variety of factors including breeding. It is very normal for them to do so as they grow as well as during changed circumstances. The color should not worry you if the Pleco is eating and active.  


What is the Minimum Size Of The Tank For A Clown Pleco?

The minimum size of the tank for a Clown Pleco is 20 Gallons. This is because clown plecos are territorial and protective about their spaces. In a community tank, the Clown Pleco will need to find a spot which feels both safe and has lesser movement of fish. The space in a tank affects their behavior and smaller tanks may cause the pleco to become defensive and display aggression. This would have implications on the entire tank and other fish.

Can a Clown Pleco Live In A 5 Gallon Tank?

Clown Plecos are not great swimmers. However their origin is from fresh moving waters. They need space since they are also bottom feeders and they like moving around as they feed. A 5 Gallon Tank would therefore be very restrictive and have implications on their growth as well.

How Many Clown Plecos Can Be Put In A 10 Gallon Tank?

A 10 Gallon Tank can only hold a young pleco. As it grows, it will have to be transferred to a 20 Gallon tank. From here, for every extra Clown Pleco you will have to add about 10 Gallons. Its actually the opposite of “More the Merrier”. A Ten Gallon tank is not the recommended tank size for adult plecos both for reasons of the health of the clown pleco and its behavior.

How Many Clown Plecos Can A 20 Gallon Tank Hold?

A 20 Gallon tank is suitable only for a single clown pleco. Although they do not desire extravagant spaces, they do tend to establish a space or home for themselves. If its a female, this more important since conducive atmosphere is necessary for a female to indulge in breeding. So, clearly, the space in a tank for a clown pleco is not simply about its freedom to move around, but an essential requirement.

How Many Clown Plecos Can a 55 Gallon Tank hold?

A 55 Gallon tank can be a comfortable home to three adult clown plecos and 4 at the most. In such a case, it is important that you proved covered places in different places in the tank which are away from each other so that they don’t fight with each other. Clown Plecos can keep your tank really clean and make the tank a better place for the entire community.

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Know about Manzanita Drift Wood By Clicking Here.

Wrapping Up

The clown pleco is an excellent choice for a community. Long life and simple maintenance makes it a good choice. This apart a flexible temperature range from 73 to 82 Degrees makes it amenable to many varieties of fish. With a few plants and some driftwood, you can watch both your Clown Pleco and the rest of the fish grow really well. Let us look at the following chart for a quick recap before closure.

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Related Questions

How Long Does A Clown Pleco Live?

In terms of lifespan, males live around 16 years on average while females only make it to 13. Hence, these fish are a good addition to your tank and worth the buy.

There are reports of Clown Plecos having lived up to 15 or more as well. It will all depend on how you maintain you pleco.

A Clown Pleco will grow to its full size by the time it is a year old. Depending on the environment, it can grow faster.

What is the PH Requirement For A Clown Pleco?

The Clown Pleco requires a PH between 6.5 to 7.7

What Is The Nitrate Requirement For A Clown Pleco?

The Clown Pleco requires a nitrate level of less than 20.

About The Author

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WINI is a dynamic and accomplished lawyer. She is a devoted and focused animal lover who is concerned about the safety and well-being of animals. She was a member of the Managing Committee on the CUPA board of directors. She has been breeding Weimeraners, Irish Setters, and Dalmations for almost 20 years. She also has 25 years of experience in aquatic care and has been breeding varieties of fish. Miko, her shih tzu, and Jasmine and Eva, her two cocker spaniels, now share her loving household.

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