Plecos that Stay Small? For Smaller Tanks

Topic: I love pleco catfish but most of them grow too large. What types 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:

bristlenose small pleco

More Answers & Replies:

  • 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
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  • 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.
  • 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.