Clown Pleco: The Ultimate Guide

The clown pleco is a gentle-tempered freshwater fish that is popular in aquariums because it is easy to care for. This guide gives you all the information you need to know about these fish.

Clown Pleco – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Clown Pleco below.

Fish Info

Scientific NamePanaqolus maccus
Common NamesClown panaque, clown plecostomus, clown pleco, ringlet pleco
AppearanceBright yellow and black pattern. Large head and body up to the dorsal fin, after which the body starts getting thinner.
DifficultyThe Clown pleco is very low maintenance and easy to care for.
DistributionThe clown pleco is found in the Apuré and Caroní River basins in Venezuela. They like to live in dense root systems.
LifespanThe Clown Pleco has a lifespan of 10-12 years.
ShoalingClown pleco are not shoaling fish.
TemperamentThe temperament of clown plecos is very mellow and peaceful.
Keep in Groups ofUp to 4. It is recommended to keep only females as males can get aggressive with each other.
Tank MatesGouramis, Barbs, Cichlids, Tetras, Rasboras, Danios, Livebearers
DietClown plecos are omnivores that eat algae wafers, frozen foods, and bottom-dweller blanched vegetables. They are often kept as tank cleaners, as they will eat the grime that often builds up in a tank.
Length4 inches
Sexual Dimorphismmales have odontodes on their tails and gills, and females have a wider body
Breeding DifficultyBreeding clown pleco is difficult because they require lots of work to spawn and raise the fry.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeClown pleco is a freshwater fish.
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for clown pleco is 73°F-82°F.
Water pH6.5 to 7.5
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for clown pleco is 7-20 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for clown pleco is 20 gallons, plus 10 gallons for each additional clown pleco.


There are many freshwater fish options for you to choose from. But if you’re hoping for something a tad less common, then this information about clown pleco is just what you need!

Clown plecos were first described in 1993 and have grown in popularity ever since. These large freshwater catfish can reach lengths of 4 inches (and some even longer than that). This makes them stand out in any tank they live in, no matter how big they are.

About Clown Pleco

A lot of people really enjoy the clown pleco. This fish has been around for quite a while and continues to be sold in pet stores all over the world.

This species can also grow up to 4 inches long, which means it’s not a small fish by any means! Because they’re such easy-going fish that doesn’t require much attention, owning one can be very appealing for aquarists who don’t have a lot of time on their hands.

But what are some things you should know about this freshwater aquarium staple? In this guide, we go through everything you need to know about clown plecos.


One of the most prominent features of this fish is its coloration. Clown plecos have a base color that’s dark brown and black, with either bright yellow spots or lines all over. Each clown pleco has a unique pattern, which makes them a very special fish!

The head is also quite large compared to other types of plecos. They have a large, prominent snout which can be intimidating at first glance, but after getting used to them, they become rather cute!

One thing that sets them apart from many other freshwater species is their large dorsal fin. This one extends all the way back to where their caudal fin begins, and doesn’t start until about halfway through their body.

Their Length

The average clown pleco length is about 4 inches. However, it’s not uncommon for this species to get as long as 5 inches while in captivity (though that requires a very large tank).

In their natural habitat, these fish can reach lengths of 9 inches! This makes them one of the largest plecos available on the market today.


On average, a clown pleco will live 10-12 years.

While many other types of freshwater fish are known to live for 20-30 years in captivity, the clown pleco tends to stay closer to the lower end of this range.

When it comes to life expectancy, certain factors can affect their health and longevity (like genetics, diet quality, and overall care).

Sexual Dimorphism

The male clown pleco has odontodes on their tails and their gills, whereas the females don’t. The female’s body tends to be wider.

There’s not a lot of distinction between males and females when it comes to coloration or size.


Clown plecos are found in the Apuré and Caroní River basins in Venezuela. They like to live in dense root systems.

These fish can also be found throughout Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia. In some areas they prefer slow-moving waters, while others have been spotted living among rocks with cascades of water flowing down them.

Clown plecos like to stay in areas that have a lot of cover, so it’s recommended for aquarists to provide plenty of driftwood and plants. These will also help with water filtration.

Caring for Clown Pleco

There are two things required to focus on when caring for a clown pleco: water conditions and diet.

Clown plecos do great in standard tropical aquariums with decent temperatures (roughly 75 degrees). However, they prefer hard waters as well. The recommended pH range is between 6.5 and 7.5. If the pH starts getting out of this range, your fish may show some stress or illness symptoms (they’re particularly sensitive to high acidity).

As for their diet, these freshwater fish are pretty low-maintenance there too! They have strong appetites, so feeding them shouldn’t be an issue at all! You should feed them twice a day by sinking food into the tank using pellets or wafers.


The diet of clown pleco fish is pretty straightforward. In the wild, they will eat algae and other organic matter that accumulates in their natural habitat.

In captivity, you’ll need to be prepared to provide them with some form of food. This can come in the form of pellets or live foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms. We recommend a mix of both because it provides them with a balanced diet as well as enrichment (live food is fun!).

NOTE: Clown plecos are not picky when it comes to their food, so don’t worry too much about getting things right!

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

Clown plecos should be fed twice a day. You can feed them dry and frozen food, but it’s always good to supplement that with some live foods like bloodworms, daphnia, or brine shrimp.

When you are feeding your clown pleco, don’t just dump their food in the tank! The fish need time to find their meals since they spend most of their time hiding in caves and crevices throughout the day. Soaking small chunks of food will help give them access to what you provide.

It is best to feed your clown plecos in the evening as they are a nocturnal species, and will eat overnight.

Possible Diseases

Clown plecos aren’t as prone to diseases as other types of fish.

One main issue is Ich. The infection causes white spots on your fish’s body and affects their health significantly. It’s highly contagious, so you have to quarantine any infected fish until the disease passes. If left untreated for too long, it could be fatal for your clown pleco.

Tank Setup

The best way to set up a tank for your clown pleco is to recreate its natural habitat. This means you’ll want some driftwood and rocks on the bottom, as well as plenty of plants throughout the aquarium.

Clown plecos don’t dig like other plecostomus species, so it isn’t necessary to have a substrate that doesn’t get ruined by digging. A lot of aquarists are able to use fine sand without any issues.

You can use live plants or plastic ones, depending on your preference. There should be lots of hiding places for these fish, giving them access to dark areas where they feel safe will keep them happy.

Make sure to include driftwood in a tank with your clown pleco, as it is also part of their diet!

Aquarium Size

The minimum tank size for clown plecos is 20 gallons, plus 10 gallons for each additional clown pleco. These fish can be kept in smaller tanks as juveniles, but they will need more room to grow into their body type.

When building your aquarium, try to make sure it’s at least 30 inches long so that the fish have plenty of swimming space and don’t feel cramped.

A heavily-planted tank is also recommended, as clown plecos need some vegetation to hide in and keep them safe. They are bottom dwellers that don’t like the light.

Water Conditions

As a species, the clown pleco is very hardy and adaptable to various water conditions. They have been known to thrive in temperatures ranging from 73°F to 82°F with pH levels of 6.5 to 7.5. Of course, it’s always best to keep the tank water as close to their natural habitat as possible!

Good filtration is essential for these fish since they are bottom dwellers that like murky waters.

The tank should have a moderate water flow and an efficient filtration system to keep ammonia levels low.

The Clown pleco requires a substrate that can hold onto some of the aquarium’s natural detritus. They will not do well with fine-sand bottoms or those that are too smooth for them to find adequate places to hide.


PH is an important factor when it comes to fish and aquarium maintenance. A good pH level will ensure that your tank stays healthy for the fish inside, while a bad one can cause serious health issues.

The ideal range of pH levels in a freshwater clown pleco aquarium is 6.5 to 7.5 (on the lower end). Anything outside this range could be harmful.

To ensure that your water is within this range, you’ll need to perform tests. This will help you keep the aquarium healthy and ensure that your fish are living comfortably.


The ideal water temperature for a clown pleco is 73°F-82°F. Most of their natural habitats are in the Amazon basin, which is warm and tropical year-round.

NOTE: It’s very important to make sure that your tank doesn’t get too hot. While these fish can live in warmer environments, it will shorten their lifespan significantly.

Fish kept in warmer tanks are more prone to disease and lifespans tend to be shorter. This is why it’s so important to make sure your aquarium isn’t closer to the higher end of this temperature range.


Hardness is a measurement of the amount of carbonate in the water. So when you hear about “soft” or “hard” waters, this is what they are referring to.

For fish, hard and soft water has more influence over their health than any other aspect of their environment (well… except maybe pH). Most aquatic life forms come from low-carbonate environments, so they can be negatively affected by high levels. That means some species will have trouble thriving if conditions aren’t right.

The recommended hardness level for clown pleco is 7-20 dH.


Filtration is a very important part of any fish tank, and the Clown pleco is no different. Without proper filtration, your water will become cloudy and toxic over time. This can lead to serious health complications for your fish.

Fortunately, there are many good options out there when it comes to choosing a filter that’s right for this species. We recommend hang-on-back filters – These are great if you prefer simplicity or have limited space in your aquarium setup (we use them all the time). They don’t take up much room on top of the tank and they get the job done!

Aquarium Plants

Whether you choose to go with a natural planted aquarium or not is up to you. The Clown pleco can coexist with plants very well as long as they are not uprooted by their feeding habits (or the occasional accident).

While some aquarists prefer driftwood and rock caves instead of live plants, we always recommend going for the natural look. Not only does it make your tank more interesting, but it also has several health benefits for your fish (especially when done correctly).

There are plenty of different options to choose from that will work great for this species.

Behavior and Compatibility

Clown plecos are bottom-dwelling fish that prefer to lurk in dark areas. They spend most of their days sleeping but will start moving around at night when light levels drop.

Clown plecos don’t have much in the way of a social hierarchy, so you can expect them all to stick together and mind their own business. That is unless another similar species gets into their territory! Then things get interesting.

They like to dig and chew, so it’s a good idea to keep them with similarly active bottom dwellers. Certain types of catfish are good choices due to their similar behavior. Cichlids are not recommended, as they can be aggressive.

How Many to Keep Together

The recommended number of clown plecos to keep together is four.

If you want a larger group, it’s best to add more females than males. However, there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to keeping these fish in groups.

When planning your tank size and numbers, remember that they need ample hiding spots as well. Clown plecos can become stressed if they don’t have places where they can feel safe.


The Clown pleco is very mellow and peaceful. They usually just want to mind their business and do what plecos do best: scavenge!

These fish are known for being quite shy when they’re alone, but this will go away almost entirely when they have a group of other clown plecos. When paired with others, these fish become more outgoing and active.

They are bottom-dwellers and will spend their time at the substrate of your tank. This is normal behavior for plecos, and it can be quite beneficial to other fish in your aquarium.

Tank Mates

Clown plecos are not community fish. They prefer to be in groups of the same species. This is because they get stressed when kept alone and will start exhibiting aggressive behavior (this includes biting other fish or their tank mates).

This means you won’t find them hanging out with tetras, rasboras, gouramis, guppies, dwarf cichlids, or any other popular freshwater aquariums. It doesn’t mean you can’t keep them with these species at all though!


Breeding clown plecos is a very difficult process. Because of their natural breeding behavior, it’s recommended that you have additional fish in the tank who will not attack them when they are vulnerable.

Clown plecos spawn during daylight hours and can lay up to 50 eggs at once! The male will guard the female as she tends to her eggs for about 2 days before they hatch. After this, the parents move on from egg-related duties quite quickly.

At this point, remove any other fish out of concern for safety (they could mistake baby clown pleco fry for food). Leave only large or well-fed fish behind so potential predators do not enter the equation.

Are Clown Pleco Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

If you’re looking for a peaceful, low-maintenance fish that adds color and variety to your aquarium, the clown pleco is a good choice.

These freshwater catfish are fun to care for and rewarding in many ways. Their unique appearance will definitely make them stand out!


Clown plecos are very hardy fish that don’t need a lot of attention. Their low-maintenance nature makes them an excellent choice for aquarists who have less experience or want to spend less time fussing over the health and welfare of their aquarium inhabitants.

These freshwater fish can also help keep your tank clean as they roam around scavenging algae and other organic matter on the substrate. This is another reason why many owners like them: they do some work!


Despite the above benefits, owning Clown plecos has a few drawbacks. The first is that these fish can get big (as mentioned earlier), so you’ll need more room in your home if you want several together.

The other trade-off with this species is its questionable reputation as an algae eater. In their natural habitat, they munch on some of the algae growths found along river bottoms, but they don’t exhibit that behavior when kept in captivity.

You may notice them exploring the tank and nibbling on loose bits of algae here and there, but it will not be consistent like many other varieties.


Clown plecos are a fantastic freshwater species that we have no problem recommending. Their unique appearance and low-maintenance nature make them an easy choice!

If you have any questions about this fish or suggestions on improving this guide, let us know!

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