Clown Pleco: Care, Size, Diet, Lifespan, And More

Found in aquariums everywhere in the world, clown plecos are popular freshwater fish in high demand. This is because the fish are easy to care for by all aquarists. They are low-maintenance creatures that any level of aquarist can easily take care of, provided they observe the proper conditions necessary for their needs.

Clown Plecos are fun and gentle creatures that get along well with many other species. Their neat appearance and generally low maintenance make them a joy to watch. They are one of the best bottom-feeder fish that anyone will be lucky to have.

This guide will look at everything clown pleco related, from their appearance to their basic needs. We will cover all you need to know about their maintenance and how to care for them properly. Let’s get started.

Species Overview

Clown plecos, scientifically known as panaque maccus, are a species of fish found mainly in Venezuela, with some found in Colombia. They are found in the Apure and Caroni River basins in the country. The fish love this environment because of the driftwood and other wood pieces in the region which are from a combination of vegetation and trees along the shore of the basins.

Because of this environment, the clown plecos love finding hiding places and food in the woody bottom. The woody areas are their preferred habitat hence you might want to replicate them in case you get the fish. The woody habitat will make the fish feel more at home and help them assimilate to the new environment quickly.

The fish thrive in slightly dirty and low visibility waters because they are used to a lot of decaying vegetation found in their natural habitat. This situation gives them hardiness noticeable in most aquarium catfish species. The clown plecos are the most popular pleco type in the aquarium scene, which is why they are found in many aquariums worldwide.


The clown pleco typically has a lifespan of between 10-12 years, with proper care. This gives you and your fish a lot of time to bond- one of the best parts of owning the fish. The right living conditions are necessary for their long life, whereby, you need to give them a proper diet, ensure they have good water quality, and live in a stress-free environment.


The fish are quite beautiful, with distinct patterns that make them stand out in your tank. They come in different colors, and the color, vibrancy, and pattern variation can be different depending on several genetic factors coupled with their health. Wild clownfish tend to have brighter colors than those kept in captivity.

The primary underlying color for the clown pleco is black with bright colored patterns that stretch in different patterns all over it’s body. The bright colored bands are normally orange or whitish-yellow, although the colors can vary according to the type of pleco.

Their bodies are like that of the standard pleco, like the bristlenose pleco. They have a small body with a large dorsal fin. The fish have a large and thick body and head starting from the front of the dorsal fin going all the way up. They start slimming out a little, starting from the beginning of the dorsal fin, going all the way to the caudal peduncle.

The dorsal fin is tall and pronounced, and it fans out a bit towards the end. The pectoral fins are large and often rest behind them when they are on top of driftwood or lying on the substrate. Their caudal fin is almost the same size as the dorsal fin when it comes to the surface area. They can either fully splay the fin out or compress it a bit.


The clown pleco is a relatively small fish, measuring around three and a half (3 ½) inches long. Some of the larger fish range about 4 inches, although that is uncommon.

Two factors mainly influence the size of the clown pleco; their genetics and the care you give them. Genetically bigger fish will be bigger than the smaller ones. Nevertheless, with great care, you can also have bigger and healthier-looking fish compared to those getting poor care.

Clown Pleco Care

One of the main things that make the clown pleco a highly preferred fish is their low maintenance. Their care is pretty straightforward, as they require only the basic amount of care. This means even a relatively new aquarist can successfully own and keep a clown pleco without any problems.

Food and Diet

The proper clown pleco diet consists of anything that they eat in the wild. You can also supplement it with something more convenient; no matter what you give them, make sure they get a balanced diet with the proper nutrition. You should also avoid overfeeding them as this could lead to a host of many other health problems.

The main food you need to include in their diet is algae as it has a lot of nutritional value, which can benefit them. However, the fish will not be able to live off algae alone, hence you will need to include other supplements to boost their nutrition. You can help with the algae growth by including plants, rocks, and driftwood in their habitat.

Another food you can use for the clown pleco diet is sinking plant-based food. Examples of this are algae wafers and vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, peas, and zucchini. These plants give them the necessary vitamins and nutrients they need and will supplement the algae.

The last piece of important food you need to include in a clown pleco diet is meat. The meat provides the fish with a source of protein that helps with their overall growth and health. You can get protein from Daphnia and bloodworm. These should act as an occasional snack, which is around two to three times a week and not every day.

Recommended Tank Size

Clown plecos are small fish and do not require much space, so the recommended tank size is a minimum of 20 gallons. This tank is a perfect size because it gives you room to add in-tank accessories and gives the fish enough room to swim around. The clown plecos do not swim around a lot, so a tank of this size is enough to make them comfortable.

However, if you want to keep more than just a few clown plecos, you will have to increase the size. You don’t want the fish to be crowded, as this could create a stressful environment, leaving the fish to fight for the available resources. Add an extra 10 gallons for every new fish you want to add to create a more habitable environment.

Proper Water Parameters

Because of the environment, the clown pleco comes from, they have had to adapt, which has made them pretty hardy fish. Despite this, however, you should still do your best to keep to the recommended water parameters. Consistent water levels are easy to maintain with proper practice, and they will help your fish stay happy and healthy. The recommended water parameters for a clown pleco tank are:

  • Water temperature: 73-82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.8-7.6
  • Water hardness: 10 dGH

What to Put in a Clown Pleco Tank

Mimicking the fish’s natural environment is the best way to make the fish feel more at home. For you to recreate this habitat, you will need to use as much driftwood as you can get; just make sure it does not overcrowd the tank. The clown plecos will love hiding, exploring, and sometimes snacking on it.

Driftwood is not only a good place to keep the fish entertained, but it is also an essential part of the fish’s diet. It is a vital source of some necessary nutrients, and their bodies are adapted to getting those nutrients, so do not compromise on the driftwood.

Apart from that, you might also want to include some plants and rocks. These mimic their natural environment as well and provide a great hiding place for the fish. They are also an excellent area for growing algae which the fish use as a source of food. You can use plants such as hornwort in the tank.

No matter what you put in, make sure you leave enough room for the fish to swim and play around.

Common Potential Health Problems

Due to their hardy nature, clown plecos don’t have a specific disease that affects their species, which is a huge bonus, especially for beginner aquarists. Despite that, they can still get affected by other common aquatic diseases. These diseases include ich and some other parasites and infections.

You can, however, easily protect your fish from such diseases by maintaining a clean environment. You also need to make sure the water quality and parameters in the tank are the correct ones. A poor diet and water quality will increase the chances of your fish falling ill.

Do regular water changes, feed your fish the proper balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients, regularly inspect and monitor the tank’s water parameters, and your fish will be just fine.

Behavior and Temperament

Clown plecos are naturally mellow and peaceful fish. They like living at the bottom of the tank and will not disturb any other fish. They don’t like to move around much and are pretty happy being left alone. You can see them relaxing around their driftwood, either eating the algae found there, resting or slowly swimming around the bottom.

They like snacking a lot, so don’t be surprised when you see them eating the driftwood at any time. Although the clown plecos are mellow fish, you might have instances when they get aggressive. This is mostly when there is more than one male clown pleco in a tank. The two male fish might be aggressive towards each other to mark their territory.

You can reduce the chances of this aggression by having an even bigger tank with enough space. You can also add more than one piece of driftwood to prevent them from fighting over the same one. Alternatively, you could put only one male in every tank to avoid rumbles.

Best Tank Mates

Because of their friendly nature, clown plecos have numerous compatible tank mates. You, therefore, don’t have to worry about tank mate pairings and strict guidelines when looking for mates. The only important rule you need to follow is to avoid significant size differences and aggressiveness. Larger fish can eat the clown pleco, and more aggressive fish can start fights with the more mellow plecos.

Some of the best tank mates for the clown pleco include:

  • Dwarf gourami
  • Ember tetra
  • Minnows
  • Cory catfish
  • Small types of rasboras.

You can add numerous other small fish that will pair beautifully with your clown pleco. Just remember, they should not be aggressive or much larger than them.


There is a bit of a debate among aquarists when it comes to clown pleco breeding. Some say they are easy to breed, while others believe that they are hard to breed and difficult even to attempt. The truth is, it is possible to breed the fish, but it requires a little more effort than other fish.

You want to set up a separate breeding tank that follows the same rules as their regular tank. This includes having a lot of driftwood and other places to hide, which provides them with places to spawn. You can put a wooden cave in the tank to encourage them to spawn.

Aquarists also recommend lowering the water temperatures slightly, mimicking the rainy season when they usually spawn in the wild. You will also need to raise the pH levels a little for extra measures. Another trick you can use is increasing the protein-rich food you give them. Bloodworms and other protein foods will suffice.

Once the female lays the eggs, the male guards the area until they hatch. After hatching, you can now separate the parents from the newborn clown plecos and start feeding the newborns with a mixture of driftwood, algae, and proteins.


Clown plecos are easy fish to have, and any aquarist can keep them, whether they are new or experienced. They are low-maintenance, peaceful fish that do not require much when it comes to caring for them.

As long as you follow the correct setup, mimic their natural habitat, regularly check the water parameters, ensure good water qualities, and avoid aggressive mates, your clown pleco will be just fine.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *