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FAQs on Giant Sailfin Plecos, Genera Glyptoperichthys, Liposarcus, Pterygoplichthys:

Related Articles: Loricariids, Otocinclus, From Pan-ack-ay to Pan-ack-zee, A Detailed Look at the Bizarre But Beautiful Panaque Catfishes by Neale Monks

FAQs on: Glyptoperichthys,Liposarcus, Pterygoplichthys, Sailfin Giants among the Loricariids 1, Large Plecos 2, FAQs on: Large Plecos Identification, Large Plecos Behavior, Large Plecos Compatibility, Large Plecos Stocking/Selection, Large Plecos Feeding, Large Plecos Health, Large Plecos Reproduction,

Related Catfish FAQs: Loricariids 1, Otocinclus,
Other Loricariid Genera: FAQs on: Ancistrus, Baryancistrus, Genera Farlowella, Loricaria, Sturisoma, Rhineloricaria: Twig Plecostomus, The Zebra Pleco, Hypancistrus zebra, Hypostomus, Peckoltia : Clown Plecostomus, Lasiancistrus, Panaque, Pseudacanthicus, Scobanancistrus, L-number catfish,
Loricariid Identification, Loricariid Behavior, Loricariid Compatibility, Loricariid Selection, Loricariid Systems, Loricariid Feeding, Loricariid Reproduction, Loricariid Disease, Catfish: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction, Algae Eaters,

Re: Upside-down and Lethargic Plec?    9/16/12
First, I apologize for my tone in my previous mail. I was (still am) very stressed about plec's condition, and replied hastily.
<? Re changing water not reducing nitrite and some nonsense re raising NH3/NH4OH?>
No good news, unfortunately. I've done several water changes -- NitrITE will go no lower than 0.5, which is still no good. Am using Prime to help,
but can't be good long-term.
<... have you searched, read on WWM re as directed?>
I've added aeration - now at 570gph.
<... circulation is not aeration>
Not sure if that is enough, but it is more than twice the previous, and has the water roiling. 800gph of the filtration is from two HOBs, and so the water from that should be adding some aeration as well.
I also moved all the other fish to another tank, which was the intended goal at some point, anyway. They seem to be doing well and seem healthy.
<Ah, good move>
No meds are in the water, so beyond feeding, there should be no oxygen loss there. Not sure what to do about feeding -- I know anything decaying will result in oxygen loss as well, and he's exhibiting no feeding behavior, that I can see.
Unfortunately, I've seen no improvement in behavior, and perhaps a lot of worsening. Today he's worrying me quite a bit -- he'll lay on the bottom (in any position) for about 30 minutes or so, then take off in big looping circles. When he encounters the top (22"), he would but into the lid for some time, and then seem to go crazy. It's literally like he's trying to bash his way out of the tank any way he can -- through the lid, the walls, the bottom... It's heart-wrenching, because he acts as if he's been spooked terribly and is frantic to get out.
<The nitrogenous issues... burning this fish>
From watching, it's clear that he has a great deal of strength when he wants to show it, so I'm not entirely certain that lethargy is quite the right indication of what's going on -- mainly he seems to "rest" in a given position for a while, and then have a sudden burst of energy, sometimes (but not always) directed at the top of the tank. He's not jumped out yet, but his urgency at doing so makes me wince.
I'm starting to wonder if there's some neurological damage? He does attempt to "right" himself, and can do so occasionally, but not always. He doesn't appear to do the typical "air gulp" routine anymore, either (where he would release stored air, run to the top, gulp it, and then settle to the bottom)
-- that stopped as soon as he started going on his backside, and hasn't resumed. Not sure if the current rushes to the top are in any way the same, since he's not releasing stored air prior to making the trip.
I'm at a loss as to what to do,
<I'm not... this fish needs to live in a larger world, sans metabolites... Simple>
if only to ease the poor thing's suffering. A larger tank is out in the future --
<Then trade it in to the local fish shop, other hobbyist>
there simply isn't the funds to get one at the moment, so the 37g must make do. If I had a friend with a larger tank, I'd happily give him up, but this is a small town, and none of my friends have fish.
<Try Craig's List>
Likewise, short of traveling a long distance, the local fish stores have made it clear that they don't accept fish, though the thought of simply showing up on their doorstep with him has occurred to me, hoping they'd be guilted into taking him. That said, the only place I can see that he would be put would be in the "plant" tank, and it's not terribly large either, and typically populated by Koi or goldfish.
I've read through what you sent -- but haven't seen anything that exactly matches what this fish is doing. He was fine and happy until just a few days ago, and then it was like a switch was flipped, and overnight turned into a very unhappy fish. No other fish exhibited any signs of distress (though they were all small, so I can understand that they wouldn't necessarily be affected like Plec).
When I bought him, he was about 3" long, if. I should have read up on him before buying, but it was an impulse buy -- never good, and lesson learned (quickly) as he graduated a 10 and 20g quickly into the current tank. Not sure if 3" to 14" in a year and a half is normal or not, but he's always seemed to thrive. I looked at going to a 55g but I've been trying to find a good tank that will give him plenty of space on all dimensions, and the only 55gs locally are 12"D. Plenty of depth, but will be no more comfortable on the bottom than the 37g. So I've been planning more for a 65 or 75g (and finances permitting, higher) that is at least 18"D. But like I said earlier, the finances simply don't permit it at the moment, and won't until later in the year.
Short of making continual water changes and trying to keep the poor thing from jumping out of the water, is there anything else I can do to either to help him or ease his suffering?
I've thought about (but haven't tried):
- Methylene Blue -- If I understand it correctly, it would help combat any potential nitrite poisoning and improve oxygen to the blood stream. But am hesitant with this, as increasing the aeration and thus the oxygenation hasn't appeared to help in any appreciable way.
- Adding a little more salt -- current levels are way below the 1tbsp/5g level, and though I know Plecs don't appreciate salt, but it's supposed to ease breathing somewhat. Again, given that Plecs don't like salt, I don't know that it would make enough difference to try, and I don't want to make it worse.
Any ideas? Or am I pretty much stuck, and just have to try and make him as comfy as I can?
<... see above>
Thanks for any ideas, and again, I do apologize. Your resource online is invaluable, and has helped many other fish in my care.
<Cheers, BobF>
Re: Upside-down and Lethargic Plec?    9/16/12

Ok, new info:
He /is/ /trying/ to do the air-gulp thing.
<Not unusual behavior.... Loricariids are facultative aerial respirators>
 He releases the air bubbles, and then this is where the problems start: it's like he can't get to the top on his own, so he thrashes around until he either thrashes to the top (and runs into the lid, walls, etc. on the way) or occasionally manages to ride a bubble wave up to the top. Then he will land back on the bottom in various positions, and stay there for some time until the next urge for an air-gulp hits. At least that's what it looks like?
His swimming is quite strange -- it's almost like he has no control over the front part -- only his tail his doing the work of swimming, and he can't stay straight that way. At least that's the way it appears -- sometimes he will bounce up and down on his tail trying to get up to the top...
If this is the case, perhaps I should lower the water level somewhat?
<I wouldn't... as prev. stated, this fish needs to be moved to a viable system>
 I know this would reduce water volume, but if he could get to the top easier, it might be less stressful? I don't know anymore -- am just grasping at straws.
Re: Upside-down and Lethargic Plec?    9/16/12

Assuming I can find a fish store or someone to trade him to, or a miracle happens and I can afford the tank upgrade, what can I do in the meantime to ease any suffering?
<Keep monitoring water quality, change a bit out daily>
 I'm not asking for a long-term fix, just something that will tide him over the day(s) that it would take to find something better for him. If adding some Methylene blue or salt would help him breathe easier until a fix can be had, then I'd like to know what else I can do, if anything.
As to the quality of the water, I'm not trying to talking "nonsense". Our tap water here tests out at 1ppm Ammonia,
<I would not drink this... I do hope you have an RO device for potable purposes... I would store new water (as gone over on WWM) for a week ahead of use>
.25 - .5 NitrIte, and up to 4 NitrAte. It's rotten here, which is why I don't drink it. Had I known it was that bad prior to starting off with fish, I'd have rethought.
Correct me if I'm wrong, /but/ if I'm constantly changing water, then would I not be constantly introducing those levels, and surely it does take at least some time for the biological filter to process them? That was the point I was making -- if our tap water has that much Ammonia & NitrIte in it, I'm doing him no good by replacing his existing water that has the same levels with new water that has the same levels. (Seriously, after every water change, our Seachem Ammonia monitors turn green for several hours.)
As to aeration, I didn't intend to equate circulation to aeration. If I sum what the air pumps I have running are rated for, it would be equal to a 570g tank. Given that manufacturers overstate their numbers, I would assume half that, give-or-take, but still, the pumps should be more than sufficient. The surface area of the water isn't, granted, but surely the tank is about as oxygenated as it can get - though not enough for Plec, apparently. [Side question: why, when they /can/ breathe air and obviously survive in environments with very low diffused oxygen, would this be insufficient?
<The build up of carbonic acid...>
 Shouldn't he just run to the top more often? Or is there some critical point at which they can't get enough from the water in order to fully execute their need to get to the top?]
Re: Upside-down and Lethargic Plec?    9/18/12

You'll be happy to know that I found a store that would take him, today.
<Ahh, very good!>
He's in a 90g there, and after some time he seemed to perk up a bit. Not "him" yet, but better. No idea if he'll make it long-term, but it's better than what I could provide. Just wanted to provide an update, and thanks for your assistance.
<Thank you for your diligence and this follow up. BobF>

Large Sailfin Pleco Questions... Sys., comp. ??? 10/12/11
Hello, I have read looked through this site many times, but this is the first question I have asked.?
<Is it?>
I have a large Sailfin Pleco that I was given two years ago.?
He spends his summers in my roughly six thousand gallon Koi pond outside on? the eastern shore of Maryland.? He is about two to two and a half feet long.?
The Koi are roughly two to three feet with an occasional exception.? I keep mostly saltwater tanks, but this Pleco normally spends his winters in a tank with South American cichlids that I have had for years.? This year they have started to die off, I guess from old age as water parameters seem good, and they are around seven or eight years old.? (Is this a good age?)?
<For many, yes>
My question is, my wife has been asking for a peaceful schooling tank, like tetras etc.?
<??What is with the question marks?>
I was wondering if I could still overwinter a Pleco this large with small community tropical fish. It would be a seventy five gallon tank with assorted schooling species. ? I want to know, because this will be the last freshwater tank in my home.? I have found that I much prefer outdoor fish or saltwater for the challenge.?
<Should be fine, as long as there is room for all, sufficient aeration, filtration>
I know Plecos can suck on mucus membranes
<Mmm, not all species, no>
and be predatory if not given enough food, he eats a wide variety of vegetables when he is indoors and is pretty much invisible outside.?
Thanks for the help
<Please do peruse our "large Pleco" files:
and the ones linked above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Large Sailfin Pleco Questions 10/12/11

Thanks for the reply.? I had looked though the Pleco section, but was not sure about so large a fish with smaller ones.? I am not sure about the question marks.? Must have been formatting issue.?
Thanks again
<I guess so? Sometimes large specimens, species of Loricariids will go after smaller ones. Cheers? BobF>

Common pleco's fins constantly down, and a strange black "fungus" on the nostrils? Env. 4/3/11
Dear crew,
I am hoping you can help me out. I have had this Pleco for about 2 years now and he is about 8 inches I think? We recently purchased a new 29 gallon tank and put water in it and the aqua safe and let it sit over night before putting any fish in it. We had a beta, an angelfish, and the Pleco at transfer the pleco's barb had been caught on the net we got it out and put him in. The next morning the beta was dead and the angelfish was acting strange swimming to the bottom of the tank and not able to swim up. I went to get some of the salt for the aquarium and a giant air stone but by the time I got back home the angelfish was also dead. The Pleco became lethargic and was laying behind a rock (not inside like normal) and doesn't seem to want to move. We prodded it a little and it moved slowly, we then realized that all of his fins are down, even when he swims his fins are still down. We are worried about him, we just placed more fish in the tank (5 tiger barbs, 2 Bala sharks, and 1 blue crayfish) We woke up this morning and realized that the Pleco now has what looks like fungus on its nostril and its black. He is still not moving much at all very occasionally he will swim up and around on the side of the tank sucking for algae? Please I hope you can help us out.
Thank you,
<Hello Brittany. The problem is that your aquarium is less than one-fourth the size it needs to be for this collection of fish. Do you have any idea how big Bala Sharks get? These are active, schooling fish that need something like 150-200 gallons, and even if your Plec was kept on its own, without any tankmates beyond a few barbs perhaps, you'd still need *at least* 55 gallons. The world you have created for your fish is far, FAR too small. If you want to keep the Plec, you'll need a bigger aquarium; if you want a Suckermouth catfish for a 29 gallon aquarium, then you need a small species like a Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus sp.). But those are your two options; there aren't any others. Your Plec is stressed (that's why its fin is down) and the discharge from the nostril could be anything, but likely bacterial and/or mucous thanks to some irritant in the water, perhaps ammonia or nitrite. He isn't swimming about much because he is deeply, deeply unhappy. What else? Well, crayfish don't belong in aquaria with fish, end of story. Tiger Barbs need to be kept in groups of at least six, and realistically ten, if you want them to behave themselves rather than chase, nip, and otherwise harass other fish. Salt has nothing to do with freshwater fishkeeping, and I'm wondering what you've been reading that led you to add salt instead of immediately recognise that your aquarium was far too small. Hope this clears things up for you. Cheers, Neale.>

env. burn... RMF

Re: Common pleco's fins constantly down, and a strange black "fungus" on the nostrils? 4/3/11
I appreciate the quick response
<Happy to help.>
my next comment would be that he is 6 inches,
<Still needs more than 29 gallons>
and was in a 10 gallon tank with the angel fish for almost a year and was fine,
<He survived life in 10 gallons. There's no possible way a 6-inch Plec would be "fine" in that small an aquarium.>
he acted normal and swam around more and also ate more. The signs that he is giving off didn't start to occur until after the tank change. I was not sure if this would change anything at all?
<Nope, nothing. His world is too small. Once fish grow too large for a given aquarium, or if a hobbyist adds too many fish for that aquarium, *without fail* things start going wrong until the population of fish dies back to what it can support. No different to any other aspect of ecology -- exceed the carry capacity, and starvation, sickness, stress or some other factor will cull numbers back down to where they should be. That's what you're seeing there, with one fish dead, another showing unusual symptoms and off its food. What happens next is up to you. Remove the fish or replace with an aquarium big enough to humanely stock these animals, and they should recover.>
Thanks again
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Common pleco's fins constantly down, and a strange black "fungus" on the nostrils? 4/3/11
Just a quick update, after you said the tank was too small we started looking into other tanks, we haven't found anything yet.
<Oh, I see. Well, depending on where you are there may be options available if you're on a budget. Many cities have fish clubs, often with online forums, and they're often great sources of local information. Pet stores sometimes have great deals on aquaria, either new but end-of-line models, or else used models used for display.>
However, last night we lost 4 out of 5 tiger barbs, and 1 out of 2 Bala sharks.
<As I explained, this is what'll happen. You see, diseases tend to affect just one species at a time, usually with quite specific symptoms. But environmental problems affect a range of species, and the symptoms will often be very vague, general "unhappiness" type things before the fish in question dies.>
The Crayfish is still alive and so is the Pleco. Then we came to realize the tears on the dead sharks fin, we looked at the Pleco who also has tears on his fins.
<Do bear in mind the Crayfish can, will tear at the fins of weakened fish.
As I've stressed, Crayfish are NOT suitable additions to most fish tanks.>
We came to understand where the nightmare began. Back when we first bought the tank I told you we let it sit to get ready for the fish. We put in a male beta and an angelfish. Soon after we put the beta in we realized that the tail fin had rips and tears. At first we did not think anything of it until now and we are thinking that the beta had fin rot when we put it in the tank and now it has spread like a plague to everything we have put into the tank.
<No, no, no. Finrot is NOT a disease in the sense of there being a germ that other fish catch. Finrot is caused by bacteria called Aeromonas and Pseudomonas, both of which naturally live in healthy fish tanks where they do no harm. It's only when fish are stressed do these bacteria cause problems, because the immune system of the fish can't keep these opportunistic bacteria at bay. It's rather like bacteria such as E. coli and Golden Staph in humans. Normally these bacteria cause no harm at all because our immune system can stop them damaging cells and tissues. But in certain situations both can cause very serious, even deadly, illness.
Finrot is basically gangrene, and what you're looking at is the difference between a wound on a human that clears up and a wound that goes septic. The bacteria that cause Finrot are in ALL aquaria ALL of the time. What varies is whether your fish are healthy (and therefore able to resist these bacteria without much effort) or unhealthy (and unable to stop the bacteria getting into their skin and blood vessels). Water quality is at the heart of this problem, though other factors, including social stress, excessively high/low temperatures, poor diet, etc. can all play a role.>
I have looked up what all techniques there are to cure fin rot and I have found a few things: putting more aquarium salt into the tank,
and a few different treatments such as Tetracycline,
<As a cure, yes, but without fixing the environment, won't be a long-term solution. As soon as you finish the treatment, the fish will get sick again, and may even die from something else.>
Maracyn, and Pimafix?
<I don't rate either of these except as preventatives, much the same as you'd use Iodine to clean a wound on a human but you wouldn't use it to fight a full-blown bacterial infection.>
All of these I have never used before, any insight on the treatments and which will work best?
Thanks again
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Advice on transporting my Pleco 8/21/10
Hello wet web media crew,
<Hello Hannah,>
I hope my email finds whoever answers it in good spirits.
<Does indeed.>
I've got a rather difficult task on my hands that I wish to consult about.
I have a 55 gallon tank with a 14 inch, 11 year old Pleco. I dearly love this fish, but after much thinking I thought it would be best to get him a new, larger home. My mom has a co-worker with an appropriately large, well maintained pond of Koi (I've been assured this is a safe place for a Pleco to live. True?),
<Assuming it's warm enough, sure, Plecs can be kept outdoors. Minimum water temperature for a Common Pleco (such as Pterygoplichthys pardalis) is about 22 C/72 C. Short term temperature drops to 18 C/64 F will be tolerated during the winter, but anything colder than that is lethal. A few pond keepers have been lucky and seen their catfish survive cooler conditions, but on the whole these are tropical fish, and there's ample evidence from Florida that established populations of Plecs die off during cold winters. Now, as for mixing them with Koi, it has been done. However, there have been many instances of Plecs "sucking" at the mucous of both Goldfish and Koi. These mostly occur in small ponds where the victims can't swim away easily, but even in a big pond there's an element of risk.
Sucking damage is obvious and severe, and obviously allows secondary infections to set in. Once the catfish is in the pond, it's extremely difficult to remove because it lives at the bottom, is well camouflaged,
and basically nocturnal. Taking a "wait and see" approach may therefore be impractical. So on balance, I wouldn't do this, but it's up to you to make your own opinion. I've asked Bob to chime in here, and perhaps he can say something more concrete.>
<<I do agree w/ what Neale has mentioned. RMF>>
and we're stuck on how to transfer him. My question is about how do safely transfer him and acclimate him to his new home. I've heard suggests of getting a 5 gallon bucket and trying to get him out of the tank via a large container. Is this a good method? Or is there a better method? Forgive me if this has been asked and answered before, I did a search and couldn't find what I was looking for, and as your site is my trusted source of caring for my fish I thought is best to ask.
Thank you very much,
<Hannah, really, moving a Pleco isn't going to be a big deal. They're air-breathing fish and generally very hardy. I'd start by using a large bucket, 5 gallons is good, or something like a large cool-box. Use enough
water to cover the fish, but there's no need to completely fill the thing unless the trip is going to take more than a couple of hours. Don't use an air-tight lid; instead, simply cover the top with a towel so that the
catfish is in the dark and can't jump out. Some lids can be clipped on loosely, and if you can do that, that's fine too. Either way, get the catfish to its new home. Once there, acclimate as you would when
introducing a new fish to your aquarium, using some variation of the "drip method" across an hour or so. Obviously, the pond's conditions have to be within the tolerances of the Pleco, in particular with regard to water temperature and pH. Cheers, Neale.

Pleco question, sys., growth/beh. 8/5/09
My Plecos (standard black BIG ones--LFS) only seem to live about 3-5 years.
<Should live much, much longer.>
I've read their life expectancy is over 10 years, and I don't want to do the wrong things.
<Ten years is barely middle aged for these catfish! Under good conditions they routinely live for more than 20 years, and exceptional specimens have been reported as living for around 30 years.>
Does something happen to them that they need something different at that age...
<As they grow, they demand more in terms of filtration, swimming space and oxygen availability, and all those factors can come together to cause problems for the less accommodating aquarist.>
I seem to remember reading that there are fish that develop the need for brackish water at maturity but can't seem to find anything to prove or disprove this theory...
<No, they don't need brackish water. While it is true that some Hypostomus species live in slightly brackish water in the wild, and feral Pterygoplichthys in Florida have colonised slightly brackish water canals and ponds successfully, none of the Loricariidae actually needs brackish water. Your "big black Plec" is presumably Pterygoplichthys pardalis or something similar; these fish naturally inhabits freshwater habitats in South America and do not need salty water.>
Currently I have one Pleco, small/young/6 months, in a 55 gallon with 4 Balas (I purchased a 100 gallon tank currently being cycled etc for when they out grown the 55 gallon....) 1 convict, 5 blackstriped minnows, and 4 rainbow darters. The Pleco lives in the castle during the daytime. I took a piece of pvc pipe and rock covered it for my last Pleco--he was about 12", and I want this guy to inherit it and live in it a long time....hence why I am asking you for help.
<One problem is the 55 gallon tank. It's simply too small for adult Pterygoplichthys. (Oh, by the way, this is pronounced "Terry Gopp Lick This".) Your 100 gallon system is much closer to the mark. Water turnover will have to be substantial, and I'd be aiming for something like 8 to 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So, for a 100 gallon system, you'd need filters (likely plural) that together offer a turnover off 8 x 100 = 800 gallons per hour, minimum. That's about equivalent to four Eheim 2017 canister filters (each rated at about 260 gallons per hour). Sounds a lot I know, but these catfish produce huge amounts of waste, and without massive filtration, water quality and oxygen availability will drop. Don't clutter the tank up too much since that will cause debris to accumulate in corners and under rocks, but instead use a few large rocks and flower pots that can be easily cleaned around, or removed for cleaning, if need be. Do also review things like diet and water temperature. For these catfish, the diet should contain both plant and animal foods. Zucchini, melon rinds, spinach, cooked peas, Sushi Nori and cucumber all fit the bill on the greens front; for meaty foods look at frozen lancefish and mussels as good sources of protein. Wood seems to consumed, perhaps as a source of fibre, so there should be at least a small piece of bogwood available for these fish to chew on. Keep the temperature at a low to middling level, around 22-25 C/72-77 F. When the water gets too hot, metabolism speeds up while oxygen concentration in the water drops.>
What am I doing wrong? Thank you.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco question 8/5/09

Ok then! That should solve the mystery/problem.
<Glad to hear it!>
I now know who will be migrating to the BIG tank!
<Very good.>
Thanks! As you say our critters are dependant on us. 5 big fish in a 100 gallon tank. Could I add some colorful tropicals with that mix (4 Balas and one Pleco).
<With big Plecs, good choices including Rainbowfish (lots of bright colours), Swordtails, Xenotoca eiseni, Congo Tetras and Bleeding Heart Tetras. Kept in groups, these fish would provide colour and activity.
Indeed, a school of 20 Rainbowfish, for example Melanotaenia boesemanni or Glossolepis incisus, would be hard to beat. If you opt for Rainbows, remember to get *equal* numbers of males and females, or you'll not get the full colours. Lots of people think just getting males is best; they're wrong!>
All I seem to acquire are grey fish, and it would be nice to have some color... I was thinking some swords or something that size etc
<Swords are good, and enjoy the fast-flowing, somewhat cool conditions Plecs enjoy.>
PS thanks for the very quick response!
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco question 8/5/09

Thanks Neale!!! You have been a huge help. Suggestions I wouldn't have thought of!
<Glad to have given you some ideas. Enjoy your Plec! Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco swollen gills, env. 6/10/09
<Hi there>
Thanks for having such an informative website! My Sailfin Pleco, now about 4 years old, is living alone in a 25 gallon tank with natural substrate and plants.
<Mmm, is this a Glyptopterichthys gibbiceps? Needs much more room... and what goes with it... better, more stable water quality...>
There is also a driftwood in there for him. Recently I noticed a small red sore around his gill area on one side while he was sucking the tank glass. Today (about a week later) the sore has spread on both sides on or around his gills. His temperament is the same as always; he swims around, sucks on the glass and eats fine, but I'm worried about these sores. I've never dealt with Pleco illnesses so I'm not sure how to diagnose this.
<You have... just not acknowledged the root cause... Poor environment>
I clean his water and filter regularly, the water is properly aerated with an air tube, and he eats algae pucks. The tank is rather clean so I'm not sure where he could have contracted the sore from.
<Cleanliness is not sterility... Do you do water quality tests?>
The only thing I can think of is that a month ago my absolutely gorgeous, healthy and very spunky fantail goldfish who shared the tank with him died very mysteriously.
<Mmm... not likely too mysteriously>
Literally. One night he was totally fine, feeding well, and the next morning he was just still behind his plant (his sleeping spot), not belly up, just hovering there, but clearly dead (broke my heart). There were
absolutely no visible signs of any illnesses. But could my Pleco have contracted something from him?
<Just shares the same too small world>
Problem is, I have no idea what killed my goldfish.
Thanks for your help in advance!
<Please read, at least on WWM, re the needs... system and water quality (and stability) wise re these species. The overall most likely "cause" here is environmental. Bob Fenner>

Sick Pleco 4/18/09
I have a 6 year old, 14 inch long "basic" Pleco.
<Pterygoplichthys sp.; a challenging fish in many ways because it needs a large tank. If yours isn't well, there's a very good (90%) chance the issue is environmental. Should be hardy in a 55+ gallon tank with a strong canister filter rated at 6+ times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Anything less than this, and your problems are very likely "fixable" by moving the fish to an appropriate aquarium.>
There are only 4 very small neon tetras in his tank and they do not show any signs of illness. Two days ago, I cleaned his tank and filters.
<How did you clean the filters? Did you replace any media? What's the water quality and water chemistry here?>
He was fine. When I woke up this morning, I thought he was dead. He was laying extremely still on the bottom of the tank, had a white film over both eyes and has white spots starting at the tip of his nose moving down his back to the beginning of his front fins.
<Sounds like an opportunistic bacterial infection, if we're talking about white patches and white films; these are usually environmental. So while there are cures (for example eSHa 2000 or Maracyn) these MUST be done in conjunction with fixing the environment. At minimum, do a pH test and a nitrite test, and then give me the results. It's dollars to doughnuts that something's amiss.>
He appeared not to be breathing and didn't move at all. I had to know if he was alive or not so I prodded him a little and he moved. It was very slow at first. He began to swim around the tank bumping into things.
<Again, common sign of systemic bacterial infection.>
But he was not moving in a way that made me think he was panicking. Through the day, he is swimming around as usual, not bumping into things in the tank, hanging out in his favorite places and sucking on the side of the tank as usual. It appears the white film on his eyes is not so thick. I can see the "round brown" middle of his eye slightly. Any ideas of what I should do or what it is since it just popped up overnight?
<Very likely a water quality, water chemistry, or possibly a toxicity issue (e.g., detergent, paint fumes or bug spray got into the tank). So: [a] test the water; [b] review conditions, and fix them if necessary; and [c] treat
for Finrot using something reliable (as opposed to salt or Melafix).>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Violet Gobies, and Loricariid sys. -08/27/08 Hi my name is Shawna and I have 2 violet gobies and 1 leopard Pleco that is roughly 4 to 5 inches long. I have the gobies in a 10 gallon brackish water tank. <Too small... the Violet Gobies (Gobioides spp.) are territorial and very large. You can expect them to reach 30-50 cm/12-20 inches under aquarium conditions and depending on the species involved. They will fight over hiding places. The Leopard Plec (Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps) gets to about 30-45 cm/12-18 inches. It is a freshwater fish and cannot be kept in brackish water. The Violet Gobies will need SG 1.005-1.010, and that is far too saline for these catfish.> Will my Pleco do good in the tank with them? <None of these fish will do well in a 10 gallon tank, and you need something 5 times the size just for the two Gobies, let alone the catfish. They can't be combined either. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i3/Dragon_Gobies/Dragon%20Gobies.htm > Thanks. <Cheers, Neale>

Common Pleco in a planted tank...... 6/30/08 Hey there, Quick question....can I put a common Pleco in a 150 planted tank? By common, I am referring to Pterygoplichthys pardalis. I am working on a 3D background, etc, and plan on having various plants growing along the back wall space-in-creation. The bottom/mid level will house various shapes of large driftwood protruding from the "river bank"....the very bottom will have various boulders, gravel, and large driftwood. I am worried about a Plec eating plants and disrupting their locale. That is the common complaint that I've found on chat boards and bio-pages. However, more than once I have read of the "exception". So I am confused and looking for a blunt opinion in plain English. I have one that's about 8 or 9 inches currently living in a bucket. (It would be funny if I stopped this email right there, eh?) He was in a 55......I parted that tank out. Had him in a 20 temporarily. I also parted out my 150 reef and moved that in a 55 high current reef......planned on getting a couple of large freshies to put in the 150.......after 12 hours of moving the 150 inhabitants I went on the back porch to have a beer. I heard a loud *!Crack!*....... the 20 gallon, sitting on the counter with the tiniest little nick in the corner glass finally gave way (had been running for over 2 years). I chugged my beer laughing. All fish were saved (Plec and some baby Cichlids that showed up one day in another tank).....and they all now live in a 5 gallon bucket. The cichlids are going to a different tank...... Well, my neighbor has a gnarly fresh water planted tank and he turned me on to the idea of that rather than a couple of big meanies. So....... Can this Plec go in the planted tank? (Could have started and ended this whole damn email with that one sentence!) Thanks in advance for the info. It's funny that sometimes the simplest answers to the simplest questions are the hardest to find. I've searched everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jon <Hello Jon. The short answer is that Pterygoplichthys spp. tend not to eat plants directly, being omnivores with a preference for algae and benthic invertebrates such as bloodworms. This contrasts with, for example, Panaque spp. that are almost entirely herbivorous and feed on plants and wood rather than algae. However, this distinction is somewhat academic, because large Plecs can and will uproot or otherwise damage all but the most sturdy plants. They swim like bricks, as you probably realise, and don't so much avoid plants and bulldoze through them. In the process they will uproot small plants and break the leaves off bigger plants. They also like to burrow, and this sand or gravel shifting can easily end up smothering plants. Finally, they have rasping teeth that can damage soft-leaved and waxy-leaved plants in the process of their grazing on algae. The best plants for tanks with Plecs are robust but flexible and fast-growing species, such as Giant Vallisneria. Java Fern can work well too, partly because it is tough, but also because it doesn't need to be planted in the substrate, so isn't uprooted or smothered easily. Anubias might work well, though when kept with Panaque it ends up being reduced to a Swiss Cheese Plant, so I'd not necessarily recommend it. I'd also mention the fact Panaque destroy painted polystyrene/resin backdrops that go inside the tank; Pterygoplichthys may be different (it has less robust teeth) but I wouldn't bank on it! Bottom line, large Loricariid catfish generally do best in rocky tanks with bogwood and Java Ferns where they can't do too much damage! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Common Pleco in a planted tank...... - 7/1/08 Thanks Neale, I was thinking along the same lines as your "bulldozer" idea, regarding the Pleco in a planted tank, the more that I thought about it today. I am thinking that with the setup that I will be having, smaller cleaners are definitely the way to go here. I have to set up another rocky tank anyways. He can stay in that bucket for a bit longer. Thanks for the info and thoughts on the subject! Jon <Hi Jon. For planted tanks, your best bets on the algae-eater front are invertebrates, in particular Nerite snails and algae-eating shrimps such as Neocaridina spp. If you want to supplement these with fish, then go with small Ancistrus spp./Crossocheilus spp. as grazers and perhaps Jordanella floridae for thread algae control. That said, invertebrates on their own do a much better job when used in sufficient numbers. For example, I'd reckon on at least 4 Nerite snails plus 10 Cherry Shrimps per 30-40 litres. Cheers, Neale>

Pleco... sys., moving 03/16/08 Greetings to the Crew, <And you Tom> I have a 180 gal FW tank. (72x24x24) I have mostly smaller fish, including a nice school (20) of Boesemanni rainbow fish. <Gorgeous here I'd bet> Here's my difficulty. I have two Plecos, which in the last 12 or so years have grown rather large. In fact, the largest of these is over 12 inches and beefy. How long could/should I leave this fish in my tank? <Mmm... kind of a hard question (which is good)... on the one hand... the tank is large enough to accommodate this animal... OTOH, it might be more "beautiful" and functional to have some smaller species, individuals...> I'd like to donate him to my LFS, which has an indoor "pond" where I think he'd be happy. <Oh, a good choice> My wife would like to keep him because we raised him from very small. He mostly doesn't mess with the other fish, although he does have an occasional "tantrum" where he chases all the other fish out of a small area. Then, he goes off under a rock to sulk. For my part, though I'd like to donate him, I dread the catching part. <Best to do with your gloved hand... pinning down while in the tank, maybe doing a good-sized water change... I move mine "back and forth" every few weeks twixt systems this way> Your thoughts would be appreciated. Tom <Mmm, perhaps explaining to your wife that the Pleco might be far happier in larger circumstances... Bob Fenner>

Pleco with weird spots 10/30/2007 Hello, <Hello.> I have, what I assume, is a common Pleco (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus). He looks like the picture that appears with this name. <Also check Pterygoplichthys pardalis; the two species are sold interchangeably as "Common Pleco" and are easily confused. There are other Pterygoplichthys that might be traded too. All very similar.> He is approximately 4 years old and 13 inches long. <Ah, still a young 'un! Maximum size of Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus is 50 cm. These are BIG fish.> I got him when he was less than 2 inches long and started in a 10 gallon tank to a 20 gallon tank and now in a 55 gallon tank. <Yes, they grow fast!> The tank has good filtration, 2 bubble curtains for aeration and is sparsely decorated so he has room to move around with ease but he can hide. Although, he likes to be out in the open and comes up to the front of the tank to see me. His only tank mates are a pair of zebra Danios. <Sounds fine. But you might want to add some more Danios.> I feed him: algae tabs, veggie tabs, cucumbers, occasionally water melon, he cleans up any left over fish flakes and he keeps the tank algae free.? <All good. But do also try carrot, sweet potato, Sushi Nori and courgette. Cucumber is 99% water, so not really good for anything much, though I agree that all Plecs seem to love it. Do also add some bogwood, which Plecs seem to use as a source of fibre. The odd prawn or mussel will also be welcomed, maybe once a week. Pterygoplichthys is an omnivore rather than a strict herbivore.> I was having a hard time keeping the tank water clean and water conditions stable. <No surprise. Welcome to the Big Catfish = Dirty Tank club. I was thinking of having some jackets made up.> He was producing a lot of waste. <You're effectively keeping a cow in an aquarium. So expect masses of faeces. On the plus side, there's hardly any ammonia in them, so the ammonia and nitrite will stay low. It's more a cosmetic problem, though obviously a clogged-up filter is a Bad Thing.> My filters were constantly dirty regardless of how often I rinsed them out or put a clean one in. <Normal. That's why you need something around 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover, and ideally 10 times. In other words, in a 55 gallon tank, you need filters with ~ 300 to 500 gallons per hour turnover.> It was suggested to me, to add "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement" to help break down my Plecos waste and any left over food. This has solved my water condition problems. <Can't think why. Neither product sounds magical, especially the latter, which is basically unnecessary in a healthy aquarium. The solid waste produced by your catfish is mostly cellulose. It will break down over time, but it is messy. Because it contains minimal nitrogen, its effect on water quality is virtually zero. Here's my strategy: arrange your gravel so one of the corners is shallower than in the rest of the tank. The filter current should push the faeces into this "crater" over time. Each day, you can siphon out the unsightly waste.> I noticed he had a round brownish looking spot on the side of his head towards the top. I actually thought he had gotten a burn from the heater. He likes to get close and suck on the heater at times. Today, I noticed he has several spots that are roundish in shape, brownish in color and have a light white fuzz like coating on top of the spots. I had to use a magnifying glass to see the white fuzz. I do not recall these spots before I added the "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement". <Hmm... the fuzz is fungus and needs to be treated immediately. The heater MUST have a "heater guard" around it. These are plastic tube-shaped grills. Some heaters come with them anyway. If yours doesn't, go buy a heater guard. Put it over the heater. That will prevent heater burns. What you are describing is quite common, and easily prevented.> His overall color is good, he is eating and moving around the tank as normal. Do you have a suggestion of what these spots are and what I should do? <The fungus is eating up dead skin caused by heater burns.> Thanks, Julie <Good luck, Neale>

Need help with filtration system, FW... Loricariid sys. 12/5/07 Hello, I am having problems keeping my tank "crystal clear" so to speak. I have a 55 gallon tank with a 13 inch common Pleco. I have had him for 4 1/2 years and moved him from a 10 to 20 to the 55 gallon tank.? I have the tank minimally decorated - giving him plenty of room to move around but allowing him hiding areas.? His current tank mates are only a pair of zebra Danios. I have two 60 gallon top fin filters on the tank and a bubble curtain on each end of the tank.? I have to wash the filters about every 4 days and put new filters on about every 2 weeks (maybe sooner).? I try to clean the excess Pleco waste from the tank daily but sometimes it is every other day (it isn't a pretty job). My Pleco seems happy - the tank is algae free - he swims around a lot - I feed him algae and veggie tabs. He loves cucumbers. My problem - immediately after doing a water change, his tank looks great, crystal clear water, no problems. I am not having problems keeping the water properties at the correct levels.? After 2 days or so, the water starts to get cloudy - no matter what I do, wash filters, new filters - it won't go back to the crystal clear clean look. The tap water where I live isn't of the best quality. The local pet store suggested bottled water. I have done that. That was fine in the smaller tank but it has become very expensive in the 55 gallon tank. Can you recommend a different filtration system that would help remove the small precipitants, more waste, etc that my current filtration system is able to handle? Thanks, Julie <Hello Julie. Your problem is a very common one when anyone keeps large Loricariid catfish -- they are gross polluters that produce large amounts of solid waste, mostly faeces, wood chippings, and fragments of the plants and vegetables they eat. While the mess they make is low in protein and causes no immediate problems in terms of nitrite or ammonia, it is unsightly, and when the filter becomes clogged, water flow is reduced and water quality problems can occur. The only real solutions are [a] aggressively performing water changes, perhaps on a daily basis, to siphon out solid waste; and [b] dramatically increasing mechanical filtration. Big Loricariid catfish like Plecs need something like 10 times the volume of the tank in terms of filter turnover. So if you have a 55 gallon tank, you want to install filters with 550 gallons per hour turnover. That's going to be something like two medium to large canister filters. The problem with "hang on the back" filters is they are designed for clean fish like guppies and tetras. They contain very little mechanical filter media (e.g., filter wool) and produce very little water current. Canister filters, ideally couple with a reverse flow undergravel filter, do a much, MUCH better job of keeping water moving across the tank and then passing that water through a thick wad of mechanical filter medium that will extract the solid waste. Once you have these canister filters installed, you can do weekly maintenance on the filters to rinse out the solid waste from the filter wool or sponges. Trust me: as someone who keeps a Panaque nigrolineatus in a planted tank with lots of bogwood, keeping the tank "clean" is an ongoing struggle. You may decide to forget about it all together, and simply return the Plec to the pet store and keep a smaller, less messy catfish such as one of the smaller Ancistrus. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Need help with filtration system 12/5/07
Hello, Thank you for your quick response. I did not realize the difference between the hanging and canister filter system. <It's something you learn the hard way! But if you visit people keeping big, messy fish they almost always use canister filters rather than anything else.> I enjoy my Pleco and do not want to get rid of him.? He has a unique personality. I had a couple of black mollies with him but the waste produced between the Pleco and mollies was excessive so I found a new home for the mollies. I had hoped that was going to help clear up the tank. This is the reason his only tankmates are the 2 zebra Danios. I am trying to get a handle on the water issue. <Good.> Can you recommend a couple of different canister filters for me to research and see which one might suit my situation best? I realize, this would only be your opinion and in the end, my choice to determine if it will work for me or not - I am not familiar with canister filters and do not have a clue as to where to start or what is a decent brand. <I'm hesitant to pick out any particular model, but I will say that I've used the Fluval, Eheim, and Sera brands with success. A lot of aquarists consider Eheim filters the best of them in terms of reliability, but they are more expensive. What you're after is something to complement the biological filtration provided by your hand-on-the-back filters. So let's say you should aim for something at 4-5 times the turnover of the tank. Something like the Eheim 2026 or Fluval 304 would be just the ticket. If you add the canister filter to an undergravel filter, to create something called a reverse-flow undergravel filter, you'll get even more bang for your buck. What happens here is the filter pushes water into the gravel via the uplift, and the water rises through the gravel, pushing the dirt into the water, where it can get quickly sucked up by the filter (even your hang-on-the-back filters). The downside is this will require taking the tank apart, and then installing a filter under the gravel, but it is at least a cheap and easy solution. If you need more details on this, let me know. But most books should have pictures of a reverse flow system.> I like my Pleco, JAWS, and want to give him a happy, healthy and clean home. If I get a canister filter and it cleans up the tank, do you think I can add a few more small fish, like the Danios?? <Absolutely! The issue with the solid waste isn't really water quality as such. Do a nitrite test and you'll see. The water is probably very good. The dirt is more a visual problem rather than anything else. A school of Danios would look fabulous in this tank, and Danios really come alive when they have extra-strong water currents to swim into. Add the bubbles from your air pumps, and then a few big rocks and bogwood stumps, and you'll have a nice little slice of a mountain stream!> Your website has great information. Thanks for the help. Julie <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Pregnant Zebra Danio 10/2/07 Hello, <Hi there> I have a 55 gallon tank with a 13 inch Plecostomus, <Yikes! Needs more room... or to be traded in for a smaller individual> 3 zebra Danios (2 females, 1 male). My problem is with one of the female Danios.? She appears to be very very pregnant.? She is huge.? Her skin appears to have cracks? running down the side and underneath her belly. She is eating and swimming.? She will not release any eggs. I am assuming that is what she should be doing. Do you have any advice on what I could do to help her out? It looks like she is going to explode. Thanks, Julie <Likely some sort of gut blockage... what do you feed and how? Please read here re possible Epsom Salt treatment: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saltusefaqs.htm Bob Fenner>
Re: Pregnant Zebra Danio... Lg. Pleco in small world 10/3/07
Hello, <Hi there> Thank you for your reply about my problem with my pregnant Danio. <Welcome> However, I was taken back by your response to me having a 13 inch Plecostomus in a 55 gallon tank. <Yes... the fish is as long as the width of this tank...> I don't have the tank over loaded with plants or decorations so he moves around easily. <Mmm... do you know which species of Loricariid this actually is? There are some that would/might be stunted here...> I see him swimming on his side, upside down, enjoying the bubble curtains - eating the algae all over the tank. He "appears" happy and able to move around freely. I have moved him from a 10 to 20 to 55 gallon tank as he has grown from 2 inches to 13 inches in the last 4 years. I am a novice at the Plecos and didn't have any idea of what I was getting into. Could you explain this to me in a little for detail please - this fish has become a part of my family - my husband thinks I love the fish more than him (haha)- as I sit and talk to the fish and just watch the fish's personality unfold daily. Thanks, Julie <Do take a look on fishbase.org re the family... some of the species listed... This fish really does need more room still. BobF>

Plecos, hold the salt please 5/30/07 Hello, <<Hello, Julie. Tom with you.>> I have a question about adding salt to my freshwater tank. I have a 55 gallon tank. Currently, it contains black mollies, gold balloon belly mollies, zebra Danios and one 12 inch Pleco. <<Hmmmokay. Mollies are typically categorized as brackish water fish, Julie. Your Pleco has little, if any, tolerance for salt. Not ideal but lets see what we can do.>> My problem - the black mollies have Ich and I am having trouble getting rid of it. I read that my tank needs salt and this will aid in getting rid of and keeping the Ich out of my tank. <<Salt is one of the safest ways to go, Julie, but not the only one. In this case, a treatment level of salt for Ick will do your Pleco no good whatsoever. We need to look for an alternate course of action.>> I also read that my Pleco will not do well with too much salt in the water. <<True.>> Is there a certain amount of salt that I could add to my tank that might help my mollies but not hurt my Pleco? <<In this case, Julie, there isnt. Plecos can tolerate no more than a dosage of one tablespoon of salt per five gallons of water and even that is iffy. Youd likely need to up this to around two-three tablespoons per five gallons to effectively do battle with this parasite. Not an option, Im afraid. You should consider Maracide here. Not quite as effective as other forms of treatment but scaleless fish seem to do quite well with this treatment. Quick Cure is a formulation of formalin and malachite green which is very effective, particularly when combined like this but, it does have safety drawbacks as its toxic to fish and plants if dosing isnt done properly or, if treated for a prolonged period. Treatments with this product can be very successful when half-dosed in 12-hour intervals, however. Id go with the Maracide here, though. If this were a more serious outbreak, Id direct you to go with the Quick Cure but Id rather that you feel comfortable with this rather than put you on the spot. Also, remember to increase the temperature of the tank to 82-86 degrees F. over a period of several hours to speed up the life cycle of the Ick.>> Thanks, Julie <<Youre welcome, Julie. Best of luck. Tom>>

Moving a Pleco 5/15/07 I came across your web site and found that it is full of great info for the new/inexperienced fish enthusiast. <Good> My question is "Is it possible to physically move cross country) with a Pleco?" <Yes> I started with a 10 gal tank, a few fish and this tiny 1 inch Pleco about 4 years ago. Since then, my Pleco (Jaws) has moved from 10 gal to 20 gal to his new home of 55 gal. He is now 12 inches long. <Neat> The 55 gallon tank is full of fish and Jaws - I am sure he will continue to grow with this new amount of space. <Likely so... a Pterygoplichthys sp.... See the Net... get much larger> My family is in the military and our time at our current location is coming to an end and we will have to move soon. I just can't imagine giving my Pleco away. He has his own personality and is like part of the family. The remaining fish in the tank, I can give to friends. Is it possible to move my Pleco or best to find him a new home - I have read he can live for many many years.... Thanks, Julie <Mmm, yes... Well either you can "live haul" your pet with you (bagged, oxygenated and boxed for thermal insulation) for a couple of days... or in an open container, with attention paid to switching out some water, starving the animal a few days before moving... Or consider leaving it behind to be shipped (perhaps by a friendly LFS) once you're resituated, and the system is up and going. Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/movelvstkfaqs.htm the same principles, techniques apply to freshwater. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Sailfin Pleco Hi WWM, I found the link that you sent very useful, thanks. I have found that I had a Sailfin Plec. Is this species able to tolerate a cooler environment with coldwater fish as mine seemed happy for the few weeks we had him but we lost him quite suddenly. He had been feeding well on algae in the tank & we were also feeding Hikari algae wafers. I am in the process of trying to assess the water quality & wonder if there are pointers I should be aware of, & if they are more susceptible to any particular disease. Many thanks again >>Hello Lisa, That is a very strong fish, I would not worry about it getting sick. I would keep the temperature above 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Good Luck, Oliver.

A Pair of Plecos Hi, I have a pair of Plecostomus which are both now between 7 - 8 inches long. They are in a 4ft (48in) by 1.5ft (18?in) tank. I think they are of the common variety, though I'm by no means sure. Is this tank big enough for them do you think? I am a little concerned as they make so much mess that even my 2 filters (Fluval 4 Plus, Fluval 3 Plus) struggle to keep up with it. They share the tank with 11 smaller fish (5 neon tetras, 4 Danio, 2 clown loaches). I am doing 20 - 25%water changes every 1 -2 weeks. Thanks! Rachael <Hi Rachael, Don here. I think that's a 75 gallon tank you have there. A nice size for this pair of plecs. But they can grow to over a foot, sometimes to 18 inches! At that point the 75 would be very cramped. But they grow slower as they mature, so you are fine for now. And they are big waste producers! I would do water changes more often. If you test your water adjust your schedule to keep nitrates under 20ppm. Always use a gravel vac to remove the poop that settles. No amount of filtration will get it all. Another good reason for more water changes>

Big Pleco in a New Tank Hello there. My name is Dayna and I have recently found your very helpful website. <Thank you> I was wondering if you could answer a few questions that I have? <Fire away> My husband and I recently (3 weeks ago to be exact) set up a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium. We only have a large 11" Pleco and no other fish. <That's a big Pleco to add to an uncycled tank> We are having a little problem with the ph. We bought Sodium Biphosphate recommended by our local fish store. It seems to work that day, but then the next couple of days the ph goes back to 7.6. <7.6 is not out of line unless you plan on keeping fish that require a more acidic level> Do you have to add this stuff daily? Is it toxic to the fish? Or could the ph problem be because the tank hasn't completely gone through it's "cycle"? <I would not add it at all unless the plan is for Discus or Rams. It is far, far better to get fish whose needs match, or can adapt to, your local water conditions. Once you change your pH you are committed to matching it with every water change. Should the need to do a very large water change arise, being off just a few tenths could cause pH shock. It's the swing in pH that kills, not an "incorrect", but steady, level> Also, the Pleco seems to defecate quite a lot. <Welcome to my world, normal for these large waste producers> I know that's what we all got to do, but could we be feeding him too much? We feed him one disc of the algae food. <No, that's not a lot at all for an 11" Pleco. Too little, if anything. Try giving him some fresh vegetables. A piece of zucchini, squash, carrot etc.. Also offer a small raw shrimp a few times a month. Attach to a rock and add at night. Remove leftovers in the AM. But wait until the tank is cycled to start target feeding him> The bottom of the tank and the plants have quite a bit of feces (looks very unattractive) even though we vacuum. But, when we vacuum it also takes a lot of the water out and I was wondering if it's okay to be taking out that much water that frequently? <Yes, in fact great! Small frequent water changes have many advantages in the long run. However it will slow down the establishment of your cycle. Keep them up so your Pleco does not have to go through a major ammonia or nitrite spike. Having the ability to easily do these frequent water changes is another reason not to mess with pH.> One more question. Do you recommend air stones and how many? The local fish store says that since we have the bio-wheel filtration <What size filter?> and under gravel filtration, with power heads, that we don't need any. <I would remove the UGF. They can have vast amounts of waste build up under them. If this decays in a "dead" spot (no O2) a deadly gas can be released into the water. They are also very hard to clean without tearing everything up and releasing the junk into the water. Your bio wheel, if it is the correct size, will provide far superior bio filtration than the UGF. The gravel vac will remove, not hide the waste. As to adding airstones, no problem either way. If you have the proper size filter they are not really needed, but can not hurt. I use two Emperor 400 filters on my 55 gallon Pleco tank and no airstones. My six Plecos do fine> Yet I have read that it's recommended to have 5 air stones for a 55 gallon. <That seems a bit excessive, but wouldn't cause a problem> Please help! We really want to get some pretty fish soon but are too scared to add any. <Good, do not add anything else yet. Check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Do not add any more fish until ammonia and nitrite spike and crash to zero, and nitrates are rising. Until then daily partial water changes are called for. After your cycle is established you can adjust your water changes to keep nitrates below 20ppm. Keep your stocking level light. As you are seeing, that Pleco alone adds a lot of waste to the water. Heavy filtration is called for, but NOT undergravel filtration. Don> Thanks! Dayna

Large Pleco and Plastic Liner Hi, My LFS has an orphan Pleco that is just huge, probably 18". I don't have room for him at home but I work at the University of Washington, and in the greenhouse they have a tank that I think might fit him. It is a round pond about 7' in diameter and 30" high, holding about 700 gallons. It contains a giant Brazilian lily and about 5 large Koi. The temp is kept between 21 and 24C, pH about 6.8. Water from the pond is pushed through a bead filter, then to a container full of water hyacinth that do a great job of removing nutrients-- but there is still a thick layer of algae all the way around the pound, hence the need for a big hungry Pleco. The greenhouse manager likes the idea but he is worried that the Pleco might gnaw through the liner, which I think is probably 15 or 20 mil plastic. I know Pleco like to rasp on driftwood but I think the teeth are well inside the mouth... do you think this would be a problem? <Not a problem. I would however provide a piece of sunken wood for this catfish to gnaw on, hide under. Bob Fenner> Brett

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