Royal Pleco Care, Size, Food, Tank Mates & More!

Royal Plecos are extraordinary freshwater fish that will create a captivating aesthetic for any aquarium.

Aquarists belove these majestic and eye-catching fish due to their low-maintenance lifestyle. Though, it is important to have a good grasp of their care needs before taking one home. Royal Plecos can be sensitive to sub-par tank conditions and must be kept in an environment that meets their requirements.

So, if you want to take on the responsibility of caring for a Royal Pleco, this guide is all you need. By the end, you will be well-versed in all the basics of Royal Pleco care and ready to own one of your own!

Species Summary

The Royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus) is not new to the aquarium trade, and it’s highly sought-after and has much to offer. Its beauty is only one of its many appealing traits – it also has some unique biological quirks that make it a fascinating addition to your tank.

These fish come from multiple countries in South America and can be found in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins.

There are several subspecies in the Royal Pleco family, and although they look similar and require the same care, you can spot minor physical differences between regional varieties.

No matter which type of Royal Pleco you get, taking care of them can be an immensely rewarding experience. Their docile nature and interesting behavior make them excellent companions in larger community aquariums.

Average Royal Pleco Size


You may be surprised to learn how big these majestic fish can get! The average size for a fully grown Royal Pleco is 16-17 inches long, but they can reach up to 24 inches in the right conditions.

This is why it’s important to consider their growth rate when setting up their habitat and feeding habits. Royal Plecos requires a spacious, well-maintained aquarium with plenty of hiding spots and clean water to ensure healthy growth.

They also need a varied diet, including algae and protein-rich foods like sinking pellets and fresh vegetables.

Providing them with the right environment and food can help your Royal Pleco reach its full potential and enjoy its impressive size for years.


Proper care and living conditions can cause Royal Plecos to reach an average lifespan of 10 years, although many of these fish have been known to live much longer than that. They often outlive other fish in the tank, requiring a long-term investment in their well-being.

There is no guarantee regarding life expectancy, as Royal Plecos, like any other species, are affected by the level of care they receive.

However, be aware that these fish can be sensitive to environmental changes, so the best way to ensure they live a long life is to stay on top of tank maintenance and follow the established care guidelines.


Royal Plecos are quite impressive with their bold and intimidating appearance. Not only are they large, but they have some unique features as well. They have the familiar Pleco profile with a large head, downturned sucker mouth, and large fins.

However, Royal Plecos are a bit bigger and bulkier than other species, and much of this mass is on the head, making them look taller and more robust.

Their mouth is huge and equipped with sharp spoon-shaped teeth perfect for scraping off algae and peeling away wood. Plus, their eyes are a striking red, adding a vibrant contrast to their muted body colors.

Royal Plecos can come in different color variations, but gray and black are the most common in the fish trade. The base color is usually light gray, sometimes with brownish tones and the bold stripes of black or dark brown run along the entire length of the body.

Occasionally, you might come across black Royal Plecos or those with spots instead of stripes, but these are not as common.

Like other Plecos and catfish species, they don’t have scales but rather tough armor-like skin plates. These cover the entire body, although the belly is softer.

Royal Pleco Care

When caring for your royal pleco, remember a few key things.

  1. First, you’ll want to ensure a tank big enough for your fish to thrive.
  2. Additionally, it’s important to maintain proper water parameters to keep your pleco healthy.
  3. Lastly, make sure to set up your tank properly and keep an eye out for potential diseases that could affect your fish.

Tank Size

To give your majestic underwater creature the space it needs to thrive, you’ll need a tank that can accommodate its impressive size and provide a comfortable environment to swim and explore.

Choosing the right fit is important for tank size based on Royal Pleco’s growth rate and adult size. This species can grow up to 24 inches long, so a minimum of 125 gallons is recommended for a single adult.

However, if you plan on keeping multiple Royal Plecos or other fish in the same tank, you must increase the size accordingly. Overcoming space constraints can be challenging, especially if you have limited room to spare.

If you’re on a tight budget, options are still available. To save money, you can opt for a used tank. Just make sure to properly clean and disinfect the tank before adding any fish to it.

Consider purchasing a tank with a smaller base and taller height. This will offer your Royal Pleco the same amount of swimming room while using less floor space.

Remember, larger tank benefits not only your fish’s physical health but also its mental well-being.

Water Parameters

Now that you know the ideal tank size for your royal pleco, it’s time to talk about water parameters. Maintaining the right water conditions is crucial for the health and well-being of your fish.

Royal plecos thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water with a pH range of 6.6 to 7.5. They also prefer soft to moderately hard water with a dH range of 2 to 15.

For optimal conditions, the water temperature should fall within the range of 72°F to 78°F. To achieve these water parameters, you need to regularly monitor the quality of your tank water and make any necessary adjustments.

Tank maintenance is also a crucial aspect of keeping your royal pleco healthy. You must perform regular water changes to remove accumulated waste and clean the water.

Filtration techniques are also important in maintaining the water quality in your tank. Choose a filter appropriate for your tank’s size and clean it regularly.

Keeping the water parameters in check and performing regular tank maintenance ensures your royal pleco thrives in its environment.

Setting Up Their Tank

When decorating your aquarium, pay special attention to the bottom. Royal Plecos are bottom-dwellers and rarely venture to the surface.

To provide a safe environment for them, it is recommended to cover the floor with a soft substrate such as sand or gravel. However, it is important to ensure that the pieces are too large for them to swallow.

Most importantly, you need to include driftwood. Royal Plecos are among the few species with symbiotic gut bacteria to digest wood, which they take advantage of. Incorporate large pieces of driftwood throughout the tank as a food source and promote algae growth.

As for plants, it’s totally up to you. Royal Plecos will do just fine with or without them, but if you decide to use them, make sure they’re real. These fish are known for chewing holes in leaves and can’t digest plastic or silk plants, leading to impaction.

Lighting levels aren’t too much of a concern, either. Royal Plecos are naturally nocturnal, and the rivers they come from in the wild are usually quite murky, so you don’t need to disrupt the water’s color. Low light levels will replicate this experience nicely.

Last but not least, strong filtration is key for a fish of this size! They produce a lot of waste, so you’ll need a filter that’s up to the challenge, like the Fluval FX4.

Ensure to include additional powerheads, as driftwood can create dead zones where waste can settle and affect water quality.

Potential Diseases

You’ll want to watch for common diseases that could affect your royal pleco. One of the most common diseases is Ich, which is caused by a parasite that attaches itself to the fish’s skin and fins.

Symptoms of Ich include white spots on the body and fins, and the fish may rub against objects in the tank.

To prevent Ich, maintain good water quality and avoid adding new fish to the tank without quarantining them first. You can use medication specifically designed to kill the parasite to treat Ich.

Another disease to watch out for is fin rot, caused by bacterial infection. Symptoms of fin rot include frayed, discolored fins and a loss of appetite.

To prevent fin rot, maintain good water quality, and avoid overcrowding the tank. If your fish develop fin rot, you can treat it with medication and improve water quality.

Always monitor your fish for any signs of illness and take appropriate action to prevent and treat diseases.

Food & Diet

Feeding your royal pleco a varied diet is essential for their health and well-being. These fish can be quite picky eaters, but providing them with a range of foods is essential to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Royal plecos are primarily herbivores, so it is important to provide them with plenty of plant-based foods such as algae wafers, spirulina flakes, and blanched vegetables like zucchini and cucumber. You can supplement their diet with protein-rich foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp.

It’s crucial to consider their feeding habits and nutritional requirements to keep your royal pleco healthy and content. Royal plecos are slow eaters and prefer to graze throughout the day rather than have one large meal.

Feeding them small amounts multiple times a day is recommended to mimic their natural feeding behavior.

Additionally, monitor their food intake, remove uneaten food to prevent overfeeding, and clean the tank water.

You can ensure they thrive in their aquatic home by providing your royal pleco with a varied diet and meeting their dietary needs,

Behavior & Temperament


Watching your aquatic friend swim gracefully in their tank, you’ll be amazed at your royal pleco’s unique behaviors and charming personality.

These fish are known for their peaceful social behavior, making them great tank mates for other fish. They also tend to hide, so providing them with plenty of hiding spots, such as caves and plants, is important.

Not only do these hiding spots provide a sense of security for your pleco, but they also aid in aggression management. A pleco may become aggressive towards other fish when feeling threatened or stressed, and providing them with ample hiding spaces can help alleviate this behavior.

Despite their peaceful nature, royal plecos can become territorial during the breeding season. Males may become aggressive towards other males in their territory, so monitoring their behavior during this time and separating any aggressive fish is important.

With proper care and attention, your royal pleco will thrive and become a beloved member of your aquatic family.

Tank Mates

These fish are naturally peaceful, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get along with every species. When selecting suitable companions for your pleco, you must consider compatibility and aggression levels.

Regarding tank mates, royal plecos are generally compatible with other peaceful fish that doesn’t nip at their fins or harass them. Some good choices include tetras, corydoras, and peaceful cichlids.

Avoid keeping them with aggressive or territorial species such as barbs, angelfish, or larger cichlids. Also, remember that royal plecos can get territorial around their hiding spots, so make sure your aquarium has plenty of hiding places for all your fish.

Choosing the right companions can create a peaceful and harmonious community aquarium where your royal pleco will thrive.


Raising Royal Plecos is a challenge. It’s not every day that an owner can pull off successful breeding, and it takes a professional to get the job done, and even then, many factors can’t be controlled in a regular aquarium.

Moreover, this species’ inclination to be aggressive to its kind can make things tricky.

You can try it if you get your hands on a pair that gets along. To successfully breed, it’s best to replicate the natural conditions during the rainy season, which include changes in water acidity, softness, and temperature.

Feed your fish a healthy diet that is easy to digest to get the process going. One of the most popular choices for breeders is Vinewood, as it is soft and easy to break down.

The female will lay eggs at the bottom of the tank when it’s all said and done. Usually, they’ll be nestled in a pile of debris. If breeding is your goal, you should reduce vacuuming the substrate.


Congratulations on deciding to keep a Royal Pleco as your new pet! You now know how to properly care for your fish, including feeding them a balanced diet, providing plenty of hiding spots, and keeping the water quality in check.

Remember to keep an eye on your fish’s growth rate and provide them with a spacious tank that can reach up to 24 inches long. Also, be mindful of their behavior and temperament, as they can be territorial toward other fish.

Your Royal Pleco can live a long and healthy life in your aquarium with proper care and attention. Enjoy watching them grow and thrive in their new home!