Plecos that Stay Small? The Smallest of Them?

Topic: I love pleco catfish but most of them grow too large. What types or species of plecos stay small? I like to have smaller aquariums like 30 gallons or less. I can’t keep the large plecos because of tank size so I want to keep small species of plecos. What are the most common species that can be kept in smaller aquariums?

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Posted by Patty B: The most common species kept that stays small is the bristlenose pleco. They are such awesome fish and full of character. You could also keep the clown pleco but they are even smaller. I feel like the bristlenose is the best one for you. I’ve been keeping them for years and they really are fun to keep. I even accidentally breeded them and that was fun raising the babies. Here is a picture for reference:

pleco catfish stay small

What is a small, non aggressive pleco that does a decent job at eating algae? I currently have a female bristlenose that I adore, however, she has recently become very aggressive towards my cory cats and kuhli loaches, so she will be getting rehomed. I have a 40 gal community tank.
Get a few otocinclus.
I wanted to get some, but I could never find any in stock. Then I heard they are pretty finicky fish to keep and I have a pretty high ph so don’t really want to chance it.
Otos are by far on of my favorite fish. They aren’t as finicky as people make them out to be. 

Most are wild caught, so by the time they reach your tank, they’ve been through a lot. If you can keep them the first 2 weeks, your usually in the clear. 

I’ve found a good algae supply is a great start, and after they go through that, which they will (so I leave lights on longer to encourage algae), I keep raw zucchini attached to the side of the tank. For some reason, mine (and others I’ve talked to) don’t like to eat veggies off the bottom, but will be glad to if off the ground. I take out the seeds out, and put it in a corner with more cover.

I would highly recommend them over a pleco, though I do love mine. I have a bn pleco, and when younger, they do a great job, but less so as adults, where otos are all about that until the day the die.

If they are hard to find, ask if they can order them.

What is the netting (wall) at the back of your aquarium and how do you get plants to stay up on it, it is so cool!!!
You could start over with some baby Bristle Nose, I have several Bristle nose and some are more aggressive than others. Some very passive and don’t bother anyone else in my tanks. Seems to depend on the individual based on my experience. Might help if you have more than 1, perhaps 3, this way they’ll be more likely bother each other rather than the other species in the tank.
I use to have her sister in there with her but sister was aggressive from the start and I had to rehome her. I really don’t want to have to keep buying and rehoming because I get attached to them and it breaks my heart to have to rehome this one after having her for only 2 months. If I had another tank larger than a 10 gal I’d keep her without any other bottom dwellers, but I don’t have another tank big enough for her.
You could also get nerite snails for algae! Mine are eating machines!
I have a chocolate and a green phantom and they do great. But i also have a 75g
The best algea eater I have right now unfortunately is a common pleco, coming in second is calico long finned pleco, and 3rd mystery snails.
Well I’ve had 2 now that have turned out to be super aggressive; they are sisters so maybe that has something to do with it. 1st one was aggressive from the start and would latch onto my loaches so she was rehomed straight away. Now this one is chasing after my corys and loaches. I’ll even drop her food at one end of the tank and theirs at the other and she will flare  charge, ram and chase them all over the tank 😕.
I already have a ton of bladder, ramshorn and mts and the only thing that has put a dent in the algae is my bn. If I didn’t already have so many snails, I’d get a few nerite and possibly a mystery, but at this point I don’t want any more snails, plus I have some assassins so wouldn’t want any good snails to get eaten lol
i’d control your light period in that case.. conditions that favor plants don’t favor algae.   your plants will even appreciate it.
I don’t turn lights on until around 6 pm and they are only on for 3 hrs. The room is pretty well lit during the day from natural light though.
And I’d say it probably is due to the natural light, but I moved my tank from a very bright location about a month ago and it gets nowhere near the amount it use to get. My ludwigia and wisteria have taken a hit due to the lack of light they now receive compared to what they use to get.
But the algae isn’t a big issue anymore since moving the tank and getting the bn so I’m thinking as long as I can find another pleco that’ll munch on the occasional algae, I’ll be fine
Pleco will uproot your plants, and shambles your decor.
The only issues I have with plants being uprooted are my dwarf sag, but I had issues with them getting uprooted prior to getting my pleco so I can live with that.
I have four full grown bristlenose in my 125 fully planted tank and have never had them uproot any plants.  Also 2 in my 55.  Same thing.
I’m hesitant to get another bristlenose as the last 2 I’ve had have ended up being aggressive towards my other bottom dwellers.
They were both females. The 1st one was aggressive from the start and would latch onto my kuhlis, so she was rehomed within a week of getting her. And it’s now been about a month and this one is getting aggressive and flaring, charging, ramming, chasing and latching onto my corys And kuhlis. I will even feed them on opposite ends of the tank and she still harasses everyone else.
Huh.  I have never seen mine be aggressive to any other fish except each other at times.  I don’t know what to tell you.  They are awesome fish and I love all of mine.
Maybe I just lucked out.  They are all fully grown with 3 huge angels,  many neon tetras,  a bunch of male guppies and an assortment of male and female kribs.
Sherry Repko, she doesn’t bother my betta or platy, only the bottom dwellers. I hate to get rid of her because I have become attached to her. She’s very active all day and fun to watch.
My fish were being killed like crazy when I got my bristlenose. The shop convinced me it was every other fish except for BN. They continued to die and I eventually rehomed it and replaced with two lovely featherfin catfish. Since then the tank is a much happier ace and no deaths . I guess every fish has a different personality! Even the placid ones.
My best algae eater isnt exactly small since they get long and skinny but he absolutely annihilated a tank zi had full of algae in 2 days by himself. Plus hes become a favorite of mine and my fiance. 

A farlowella catfish or twig catfish. We call ours twiggleberry.

They are extremely passive. He lives with kuhlis and a rainbow shark in my tank. The rainbow has his back, once other fish csme to pick on him and the rainbow chased em all off. You’d just have to make sure hes eating some algae or make  sure he gets some food from time to time.
This is interesting, I’m moving my common pleco to a larger tank and wanted to get a small pleco or some other kind of algae eater in the small tank he currently inhabits, as the shrimp and rabbit snails seem to enjoy his poop.  I didn’t know other plecos could be aggressive.  I’ll have to see just how big these catfish bet.
The twig catfish gets around 6″ long. About as skinny as a pencil little bigger when he eats good. I have a note 5 and hes just shorter than the length of my phone and I have had him 8 months or so.
I read up on em and saw they are very finicky with water conditions. But I had a tank crash on me and he still held up fine so I am not sure if hes just the ironman of farlowellas or what.

I hear clown plecos stay small but I personally have no experience with them. Not a pleco person.

  • Ive got a rubber lipped as well..
  • Mustard spot only get 5” max that would be a cool choice also
  • My RubberLipped is very picky eater….he/she doesn’t eat anything but certain algea.
  • We have bristlenose pleco in our 29 gallon and they just laid eggs – this is daddy dedicatedly fanning away.
  • Bristlenose. Females don’t have the bristles and neither do babies so don’t think you got the wrong one.
  • Peppermint catfish and bristlenose catfish. I’ve also heard clown plecos.
  • Bristlenose would be fine most likely, although I’ve seen some get pretty large. L129, Columbian Zebra would be cool also.
  • CLOWN PLECOS I have one in my 29 gallon tank for months and its only 1 1/2 inch it grows slow and has amazing color.
  • l260 queen arabesque max out super small like 4in
  • inspector pleco, I think these stay pretty small, mine hasn’t seemed to grow much at all. it doesn’t seem to clean much either
  • Yes. Do be prepared for cost. The really cool ones seem to have a higher price tag.
  • For the average aquarium enthusiast, there aren’t any small plecos. What size aquarium do you have?
  • They’re not recommend for that small of a tank. If you just need a Pleco and want to keep it happy a rubber lip or a bristle nose do well in a 30. So the 10 can be a grow out tank.
  • Im planning to later get a 50 gal. Im breeding guppies. When the population grows ill switch them to a bigger tank.
  • The butterfly loach that was suggested like a nice flow, like their other name suggest hill stream loach. And most plecos do well with fry.
  • Hong kong pleco is not a pleco its a loach (hillstream)
  • Bare in mind, otocinclus need to be kept in groups of 5+ as they’re schooling fish. Also are quite sensitive to water conditions.
  • Hillstream loaches are a cool water fish and as mentioned before needs a current to thrive. Kuhli loaches are good at cleaning up meaty foods. They are super cute to watch!
  • Also the hillstream loach is a cold water species that likes fast currents not a good mix in a guppy tank where during spawning the temps should be around 82° F

Posted by Andria H: I have a 30 gallon right now… in it I have a small pleco, a catfish, a large yellow snail, a ghost knifefish, a medium angelfish, 2 male fiddler crabs and there’s neon tetras. Here’s my problem.. I had 13 neon tetras and slowly they have been disappearing. I now have only 2. There has been no carcasses which leads me to believe someone ate them… but who!??

  • My ghost knife fish looks especially eating neon tetras. The make a great snack when they are on sale. Also, ghost knife fish grow to over a foot and that tank is way too small!
  • Yeah, I agree. Hate to be cliché, but you need to upgrade that tank size. Keep your 30 for tropical fish.
  • Yeah i understand completely… I have a 20 gallon I have set aside but the water needs to cycle first.
  • Angels will eat anything that they can fit in their mouths
  • Even that they can’t, they will bite their stomachs off. Had 5 neons show up with their stomachs missing after I added 2 angels.
  • The knife fish keeps to himself always and is either under the cove we have built it the bridge. He almost never is in the open. A plecos lifespan or how long they live for really depends on what you keep with them.
  • I know the crabs could be a culprit but they are such slow waters and I figured I would’ve caught them once.The knife fish is small and has a small mouth I struggle to think it’s him…And I know angels are typically very aggressive… but this one doesn’t even nip the others. We are often checking it out because we love looking at them.
  • Side question… I have frozen bloodworms and frozen brine shrimp. Which would you think is better or should I do a little of both.
  • Blood worms have very little nutritional value but fish love them. Brine shrimp is healthier but no reason you can’t give em both.
  • that’s great information! I thought blood works were more healthier but if the shrimp is than that’s awesome!
  • Considering that neons are literally food that angels eat in the wild, it’s their prey.. guess is on them. Hope upgrading that tank soon though..? The crabs will most likely end up at some point killing all those fish, so just be careful.
  • All your fish(except the pleco) a nd the crabs eat tetras. Start checking craigslist for 150+gallon tanks.
  • Is the knife fish the one that needs such a large aquarium? I know the angel will be outgrown within the next 6 months… so if I rehomed the knife fish would it be a happier tank
  • Dude the fiddler crabs lol. I have a female betta in with 3 large angelfish, an excrutiatingly large upside down catfish, raphael catfish, pictus catfish… they all leave her be and don’t even try to go after her.
    And as for the food question, you should change your fish diet up for then to get the best nutrition.. i feed my fish a meatier flake food and also mysis shrimp. Some fish also enjoy veggie base foods.