Can Pleco Live In Cold Water Aquariums – What is the Answer?

Coldwater fish, there are many species. These fish do not necessarily require a heater in the aquarium, but rather an aquarium fan. They prefer temperatures of 70 degrees or less.

Fancy goldfish, rainbow fish, and guppies are just a few. What about the Pleco? Can it survive in a cold water environment? Does it prefer cold water over warm water for their home? These questions will be answered for you today. 

Can Pleco Live In Cold Water Aquariums? Plecos are tropical fish that prefer warmer water temperatures. Therefore, a Pleco can not live in your cold water tank. They prefer 74 to 80 degrees. There is 1 type of Pleco that may be ok in a cold water environment and that is the Bristlenose Pleco. But you will definitely want to do more research. 

Pleco are also known as a “sucker” fish. I am going to give you all the information that you need on the Pleco. I will tell you some background, life span, size, and much more.

They are a very interesting species of fish. It is related to the armored catfish, which has 92 genera and 680 species. That is an enormous family. I will discuss, briefly, about 3 of the other species of Pleco. They are smaller than the Common Pleco, and more preferred by those that choose to have an aquarium in their home. 

Plecos General Information

A Pleco is known as a suckermouth catfish or a common Pleco. The scientific name is Hypostomus Plecostomus. These are tropical fish that are part of the armored catfish family.

The suckermouth catfish has no food value. These fish are native to South America. Since there are so many different species of this type of fish, everyone gets confused on some of the information.

These particular fish are excellent for keeping your fish tanks free of algae. It also feeds on aquatic plants and small crustaceans. 

The Pleco is sold when they are small and young, but beware, they can reach up to 20 inches long and on rare occasions, they will grow to be 2 feet long. So, going by the rule of 10 gallons per 2 inches of fish, you would have to have a VERY large aquarium in order to have a Pleco. Unless you were to choose a different species of Pleco, that is smaller and more suitable for the common aquarist. 

ColoringThe coloring of the Pleco all depends on its environment and other surroundings. Some Plecos are dark, dusty brown, and others will have various sized black spots.
These fish have large horney plates that cover their entire body, excluding their bellies. The Pleco is also referred to as the suckerfish because of its suction-cup-like mouth.
Natural HabitatPlecos prefer brackish and freshwater that offers fast-flowing streams and rivers. They also like pebbles like substrate. So, if you are going to keep one in an aquarium, make sure your substrate resembles pebbles.
Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Argentina are very popular places to find Pleco. The species is invasive in Texas.
Food/Eating HabitsThe Pleco, as stated above will feed on algae, invertebrates, small fish, and plants. This aids in keeping your aquarium clean and healthy.
At the Smithsonian National Zoo, they feed the Plecos a gel diet that includes fresh produce.
Sleep Habits and Life SpanThe average lifespan for the suckerfish is 10-15 years. These fish are nocturnal, which means they will spend the daytime “resting” in a dark crevice of the aquarium. Fish do not actually sleep, they “rest” to regain their energy.

How To Care For Your Pleco

As we stated earlier, these fish get to be almost 2 feet long and they live for 10-15 years. So unless you are ready for the BIG fish and to care for it for its full lifespan, it is not recommended that you purchase one.

They are very difficult to rehome unless you hand over the whole aquarium. It is also hard to rehome because of how big they are when fully grown. Most people do not want a 200+ gallon tank in their home. This is a very large commitment, so do not make this purchase lightly. 

You can, however, purchase smaller Plecos. Rubberlip, Clown Plecos, and Bristlenose Plecos are also beautiful catfish. Better yet, they stay between 4 and 6 inches in length.

So they are much better suited for an aquarium, than the common Pleco that we have been discussing. These 3 Plecos will cost you a little bit more, but the lower food bill and their smaller size will make up for it in the long run. 

All Plecos prefer heated aquariums, which answers our question; can Plecos live in cold water tanks? Our answer is no, they can not live in cold water aquariums.

They are tropical fish and need temperatures between 74 degrees and 80 degrees. You will need to keep the pH between 6.5 and 7.8. They love to have a log, driftwood, or something that they can hide in or behind during the day, to rest.

If you are going to have a common Pleco, you will eventually need a 180 gallon to a 500 gallon aquarium. This is not feasible for most people and that is why we have recommended the 3 smaller types of Plecos.

A 20-25 gallon aquarium is perfect for this size. But you also need to take into account how much other fish you have in the tank and their size, in order to purchase the correct size aquarium.

Plecos FoodPlecos Inhabitants
Earlier stated; they eat algae, plants, small fish, and crustaceans. But, they still need quality fish food.
Plecos need a well-balanced diet to keep them healthy, just like a cat, dog, or human.

You will have to do some research on your specific species of Pleco because their food preferences differ slightly. Most suckerfish will, however, eat frozen bloodworms and Repashy food gel. It is recommended to feed them after you have turned off your aquarium lights.

This allows them to feed while the other fish in your tank are calmed down and less active. 

What fish make good roommates for your Pleco? As long as the other fish are not big enough to eat the Pleco, they are comfortable with most other species of fish.

The suckerfish is actually a very calm fish and keep to themselves. You can usually have more than 1 Pleco in your tank, as long as they are both females.
More than 1 male in the tank can cause issues because they are very territorial fish.

Make sure to research this as well, just to make sure, for your specific Pleco species.

Bristlenose Pleco

A lot of aquarists will choose this type of Pleco because they are smaller and a lot easier to care for than the common Pleco. This species is calm and peaceful.

They are mainly herbivores, reach about 5 inches in size, and can live 5+ years. They enjoy plenty of hiding places or caves and can be kept in a 25-gallon tank, comfortably.

The Bristlenose is shorter, flatter, fatter, and has a wider head than the common Pleco. As adults they will have branches that look like tentacles, coming out of their head. This type of Pleco can be olive, grey, black, or brown with yellow or white spots.

All Plecos can blend in with their environment and can stay motionless for hours at a time. So if you can not find your Pleco, or do not see them, don’t worry. They are more than likely hiding in their dark crevice, resting, and motionless. It could be extremely hard to see them.

As far as your tank set-up, here are the basic requirements:

  • 60-80 degrees
  • Well aerated
  • Medium water flow
  • 20-25 water hardness (KH)
  • 6.5 to 7.5 pH

Rubber Lip Pleco

The Rubber Lip is found in Columbia and Venezuela.

Rubberlip Plecos are hardy and can handle a decent range of water conditions. This is because there are a lot of water changes during the rainy season; depth, temperatures, and other parameters. Out in nature they eat mostly algae and because they are “bottom feeders” they spend a lot of time hovering on the substrate. Knowing this will help you set up your fish tank properly.

These are colored anywhere from grey to pale gold color. Gender, age, and natural genetic factors are partly how color is decided. Unlike the other Plecos, which have spots, these species have dark-colored lines. They do, however, have small spots on their face. 

The following is recommended for your tank for the Rubber Lip Pleco:

  • 25-30 gallon tank
  • 72 degrees to 80 degrees
  • pH levels of 6.5 to 8.0
  • 8-12 KH for water hardness
  • Lots of plants
  • Plenty of places to hide

Clown Pleco

Clown Plecos are fun to watch, swimming around and they get along well with many other species of fish.

Their natural habitat is full of driftwood, so you want to make sure you incorporate that into your tank, if you are going to choose the Clown Pleco for your aquarium. As with all other Plecos, they love places to hide so that they can rest. If you take care of your Clown Pleco, they can live as long as 10-12 years.

But would be a lot easier to rehome than the common Pleco because they are much smaller. Proper water conditions, nutrients, little to no stress, and a perfect environment will make your Clown Pleco very happy and keep them healthy. 

This species of Pleco are black in color and have bright colored bands that stretch around their bodies in unique shapes and patterns. Making the appearance of your tank even more appealing. 

The Clown Pleco normally does not get any bigger than 3 ½ inches long. 20 gallons is the minimum size that is recommended for your Clown Pleco. If you want to keep 2 Clown Plecos in the same tank then go up to a 30-gallon tank, minimum. Also, remember that you can have 2 females in the same tank but NOT 2 males. 

The ideal water conditions for the Clown Pleco:

  • 73 degrees to 82 degrees
  • pH level of 6.8 to 7.6 
  • Water hardness 10 dGH
  • Lots of driftwood
  • Rocks
  • Plants

The driftwood gives them a place to hide, explore, and munch on. Yes, driftwood as a snack. It is actually an important part of their diet. They also enjoy algae wafers, lettuce, cucumbers, peas, and zucchini. 2-3 times a week you want to feed them bloodworms or daphnia. Clown Plecos need their protein.


There you have it, my loyal aquarists, a lot about the Pleco. Our main question (and answer); can Plecos live in cold water aquariums? Our answer to this is a no, they can not. Plecos are tropical fish and require warmer water temperatures.

Though you could do more research on the Bristlenose Pleco, as their water temperature doesn’t have to be quite as high. They prefer 60-80 degrees and cold water fish prefer 70 and under. They may be alright in cold water, but please check first. 

We also discussed the common Pleco, which can get up to 2 feet long and needs a 180 gallon to 500-gallon tank. I also offered up 3 other solutions if you want a suckerfish, but do not want a HUGE tank in your home.

Bristlenose, Rubberlip, and Clown Plecos are perfect for 20-30 gallon tanks. They range from 3-6 inches when full grown and they are extremely easy to care for and get along with most other fish. 

Many people choose to have a Pleco (or suckerfish) in their tank because it helps to keep the aquarium clean and healthy, by eating the algae that grows in your tank. But, remember, they also need good fish food to even out their diet and to receive the needed nutrients to stay healthy and happy.

Bloodworms, gel food, produce algae wafers, and other food. Protein only 2 or 3 times a week. Make sure to research your specific species of Pleco for the correct foods that they need for a healthy diet. 

Good Luck in Your Aquarium Adventures!


I'm passionate about fish pets and love sharing everything I learn about them.

Recent Posts