The Vampire Pleco: A Comprehensive Care Guide

The Vampire Pleco is a stunning freshwater fish that will add beauty and interest to your aquarium. This guide will give full details about caring for this species.

Vampire Pleco – Quick Facts

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

Fish Info

Scientific NameLeporacanthicus Galaxias
Common NamesVampire Pleco, Galaxy Pleco, Tusken Pleco
AppearanceDark color body with white or yellow spots
DifficultyVampire Plecos are easy to care for if you provide them with a healthy diet and maintain optimal tank conditions.
DistributionThe Vampire Pleco is found in Rio Tocantins in the Brazilian state of Pará.
LifespanThe lifespan of Vampire Pleco is around 10 years.
TemperamentVampire Plecos are not very aggressive and have a calm temperament towards other species of fish. Towards each other, however, they can become quite aggressive.
Keep in Groups of1
Tank MatesPlecostomus, catfish, loaches, corydoras, and other peaceful bottom-dwellers. Since Vampire Plecos generally occupy the lower part of an aquarium, it is a good idea to pair them with fish that like to hang out more towards the top and middle parts.
DietA Vampire Pleco’s diet consists of pellets, commercial foods, and a meaty diet of dried, live, and frozen foods.
Length10 inches
Sexual DimorphismMales have a larger head than females. The female’s dorsal fin tends to be smaller, and they have fewer odontodes.
Breeding DifficultyThe Vampire Pleco is difficult to breed in captivity.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water TemperatureThe preferred water temperature for Vampire Pleco is° 72-79°F or 22-26°C.
Water pHThe ideal water pH for a Vampire Pleco is slightly acidic to neutral, around 6.5 to 7.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for Vampire Pleco is 8 to 12 GH.
Tank sizeThe minimum and recommended tank sizes for Vampire Pleco are 50 gallons and 75 gallons, respectively.


Vampire Plecos, along with Buenos Aires Tetra, are two species of freshwater fish that can add some unique beauty to your tank.

While they aren’t the most popular aquarium fishes, there are still several aquarists out there who want to know what it takes to care for them.

This guide will help you do just that!

About Vampire Pleco

Vampire Plecos are freshwater fish that belong to the Loricariidae family. They’re from South America and can be found in rivers in Brazil and Paraguay.

These fish were named after the dark coloration on their bodies, similar to that of a bat or vampire. These markings help them blend into dark caves, where they spend most of their time hiding out during the day. Vampire Plecos have light patches all over as well, giving them an interesting look when compared with other bottom-dwelling catfish species.


If you’re planning on purchasing a Vampire Pleco, the first thing that will stick out is its color. The body of this fish is black with irregularly spaced white spots covering its entire body.

The size and shapes of these dots are unique to each fish. A close inspection can even reveal tiny imperfections that make each pattern truly one-of-a-kind! Other physical characteristics include large black eyes, a long pointed snout, and an expansive dorsal fin that stretches from the head all the way to the caudal peduncle.

Their Length

The average length of a Vampire Pleco is around 10 inches. However, they can grow to be 12 inches long in captivity.

These fish are considered large and will require a larger tank when compared to other freshwater fish species.

Some of the larger Vampire Plecos are found in public aquariums. These fish tend to be more aggressive.

As a result of their size, these fish need plenty of room to roam. So avoid small tanks by all means.


The average lifespan of Vampire Plecos is around 10 years. However, it’s not rare for these freshwater fish to live two decades in captivity!

Nobody is completely sure about what will occur with any fish species’ lifespan. However, the state of their health directly impacts how long they live. A poorly maintained tank can lead to poor overall health and shortened lifespans.

If you want your Vampire Pleco to live as long as possible, you must be vigilant about maintaining the tank conditions and providing a healthy diet.

Sexual Dimorphism

When compared to females, males have heads that are both longer and wider. Not only that, but they have a larger dorsal fin and more odontodes.

It is harder to distinguish between males and females when the fish are young, but these physical differences become clearer as they age.


The Vampire Pleco can be found in the Rio Tocantins, a tributary of the Amazon River. They spend their time hiding under logs and driftwood during daylight hours to avoid predators.

When it gets dark, they venture out for food. Plecos are bottom-feeders that eat algae off rocks and driftwood (among other things). When no natural food source is available at night, they may nibble on live plants or aquarium decorations until morning comes.

Caring for Vampire Pleco

Vampire Pleco care is relatively easy as long as you provide them with their ideal habitat. These fish are resilient and can cope with a large variety of water parameters and conditions (within reason).

That said, there are some important guidelines that need to be followed for them to live an enriched life.

  • Keep the tank temperature at 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit or 22-26 Celsius.
  • pH ranges from slightly acidic to neutral are best, around 6.5 – 7.0
  • Maintain a hardness level between 8 – 12 GH.


Vampire Plecos are mainly carnivores and like to eat meaty foods. This can come in the form of tablets or pellets, along with live food, such as bloodworms and larvae, which can either be fresh or frozen.

It is important to note that these fish may start to eat algae from the tank when they don’t have enough food available. Try to avoid this happening, as algae is not good for their health.

NOTE: Because these fish spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank where there is not much light penetration, it’s important to make sure this area of the tank remains algae-free.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

You should feed your Vampire Plecos once a day. They will eat more often when they’re young but not as adults.

The best way to determine the amount of food you should give them is by observing their behavior and size. If there are leftovers after 30 minutes, you gave them too much!

If you’re still unsure, give them a little more food. Vampire Plecos are slow feeders and will not eat everything at once.

Possible Diseases

Vampire Pleco fish are not immune to diseases that can affect freshwater aquarium fish. The most common ailments include ich and fungal infections.

Fish kept in poor living conditions have an increased risk of getting these illnesses, so you should monitor water quality regularly and perform weekly 25 percent water changes to keep ammonia levels low for your Vampire Plecos.

Tank Setup

The key thing to remember when discussing setting up a tank for Vampire Plecos is providing them with plenty of hiding places. A cave or hollow log are good options, but you can also use driftwood and rocks.

These fish generally remain at the bottom of the tank where they feel safe. This means that you need to make sure there’s enough room for them to hide (since their size makes this easier). They love having dark spots where no light reaches because it adds some extra security and comfort.

When these plecos were first introduced into the aquarium trade in 2003, many died within days due to stress from light exposure (they live in very dark waters in their native habitat). So be mindful about how much light gets down there! In addition, don’t put any filter intake tubes directly on top of their spot because this can suck up so much oxygen that your fish will get stressed out.

NOTE: You might want to consider getting an under-gravel filtration system if you have more than one Vampire Pleco since they produce waste too.

Aquarium Size

The minimum aquarium size for a Vampire Pleco is 50 gallons. This size is suitable for a Vampire Pleco in it’s childhood stage.

If possible, it’s better to go beyond the bare minimum and increase the tank size to 75 gallons or more. This will give your fish extra swimming space and an opportunity to create distinct territories.

Once your Vampire Pleco reaches it’s full size, a tank size of at least 100 gallons is ideal to give these fish enough space to swim around.

NOTE: We always recommend going with the largest tank you are able to. These fish need all the room they can get!

Water Conditions

Vampire Plecos need stable water conditions to thrive, so it’s important you pay close attention to the recommended ranges. Slight variations outside these parameters are acceptable as long as they don’t reach extremes.

This fish is a bit more sensitive than other bottom feeders in terms of tolerating changes underwater. This means cycling your tank and introducing new inhabitants into their environment should be done gradually over several weeks if possible.

Below are some essential water parameters that will help this fish live comfortably:


The ideal water pH for Vampire Pleco is slightly acidic to neutral, around 6.5 to 7.0. However, this range allows the fish to produce waste without creating an uncontrollable ammonia build-up in your aquarium, like clown plecos (which require a more alkaline pH).

Aiming for a pH of 6.5 should be ideal when it comes to maintaining the health of these catfish.

NOTE: While you shouldn’t have to worry about pH for the most part, it’s good to be aware of how that can affect your fish. Small changes in water quality and a shift from one pH level to another can bring drastic changes (which is why we recommend investing in a high-quality test kit).


The ideal water temperature for Vampire Pleco is 72-79°F or 22-26°C.

Remember, these are tropical fish that need warm water! If the aquarium and water aren’t heated to this range, you could be putting your fish in a very uncomfortable situation.

The temperature that these fish find the most comfortable is around 78°F.


The hardness of the water is a very important factor to consider when it comes to Vampire Pleco care. These fish come from bodies of water with a high level of calcium and magnesium, so you need to replicate that in their new home.

The goal should be about 8-12 GH for optimal health. You can also test these levels using a simple test kit before purchasing your fish.


Vampire Pleco fish don’t require a lot of heavy-duty filtration. However, they do need consistent and reliable water flow to stay healthy.

Standard canister filters or hang-on filter are sufficient for keeping these bottom dwellers happy. The most crucial thing you need to be careful about is the filter’s ability to cycle water efficiently while providing good aeration with its outlet tube.

A powerful filter should be able to cycle about 20 percent of the tank volume every hour. If you’re keeping a larger group, this number might need to increase slightly.

Aquarium Plants

Not all aquarium plants are safe for Vampire Pleco fish. This species is known sometimes to uproot and eat any plant they come across.

Vampire Plecos can also damage or tear off leaves with their teeth, which will cause the plant to die over time if left unchecked.

Stay away from delicate live plants like java ferns, anubias, and mosses when keeping this species in your tank (or any other Loricariidae). Instead, you should opt for durable plastic or silk varieties like hornwort.

Behavior and Compatibility

Vampire Plecos are nocturnal. They’ll spend the majority of the day secluded in caves and waiting for darkness to come before they start moving around.

As mentioned earlier, these aquarium fish are bottom-dwellers that prefer to stay near the substrate or hide among rocks or plants. Vampire Pleco fish can be quite shy when it comes to movement, so patience is a must if you want to observe their behavior during the day.

When night falls, Vampire Plecos become more active and explore their environment more freely. You may even see them swimming at the surface every once in a while!

How Many to Keep Together

As a general guide, you should not keep more than one Vampire Pleco per tank. This is because they are territorial and can become aggressive with others of the same species. However, this might be the case if you have other large bottom-dwellers in your aquarium as well.


Vampire Plecos are not aggressive toward other fish but can be territorial. For example, they might view another bottom-dwelling species as their territory and act out accordingly.

These fish prefer staying at the bottom of their tank, with an occasional visit up top for air. This could mean a greater probability of them clashing with surface dwellers.

Overall, the Vampire Pleco is pretty mellow. They’ll mind their own business and not pay attention to others unless they feel like there’s a conflict.

Tank Mates

Picking tank mates for the Vampire Pleco is fairly easy. These fish generally keep to themselves in your aquarium, but there is some consideration you should put into choosing your tank mates.

Generally speaking, you should avoid keeping bottom-dwelling fish with this Pleco because they could become involved with territorial disputes.

Instead, stick with peaceful community fish that can stay out of trouble. Vampire Plecos generally only fight when another fish is being aggressive toward them.


Breeding Vampire Plecos can be a bit tricky. These fish lay eggs in caves and crevices that are hidden from the light. It will disrupt their breeding cycle if you try to breed them in an aquarium with strong lighting.

Before attempting to breed these fish, you need to create a tank environment that mimics their natural habitat as much as possible. For example, put big rocks on the bottom of the tank, so they have hiding places for mating and spawning later on down the road. You’ll also need to raise the level of oxygen in the breeding area of the tank, which you can do by pointing an aquarium powerhead on a low setting at that area. Ideally this will be done in another tank that has been set up for breeding these fish.

After they have mated, the adult Vampire Plecos can be put back in the original tank, and this new tank can be used as to keep the fry in.

Are Vampire Pleco Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

Vampire Pleco fish are a great choice for freshwater aquariums. They’re relatively easy to care for and can be paired with a wide variety of tank mates.

If you want an aggressive or high-maintenance species, this isn’t it.

However, we still recommend doing your due diligence when considering these fish. While they might not have any major issues that need to be addressed, there could be something about them that doesn’t fit into your aquarium setup.

Despite that, if you have enough space in your tank and a desire to own one of these neat little creatures, then go right ahead!


Vampire Plecos are gorgeous creatures that can really add to the aesthetic of your tank. Their dark coloration and spots make them stand out no matter what other fish you have in your aquarium!

When it comes to keeping bottom-dwelling fish, we consider Vampire Pleco a must-have. It has an incredibly unique look and the size of these fish is very impressive.


The main downside of owning a Vampire Pleco is their potential to dig. While they’re not as notorious for digging as other fish in the Loricariidae family, this species does tend to burrow from time to time.

It’s critical that you offer them a lot of hiding spots and driftwood so that your fish doesn’t feel compelled to move substrate around! Not only can this behavior be destructive, but it can also lead to injury.


Vampire Plecos are great freshwater fish that can add a lot to your tank. Their unique appearance, peaceful temperament, and ease of care make them an ideal choice for aquarists of all experience levels.

We highly recommend this species if you’re seeking something different or want to stand out from the crowd by owning a darker-colored fish beautiful white spots. Simply put: they’re fun!

We hope this article taught you something to learn about Vampire Pleco and how to take care of them. If there’s any other information you feel we need to include in the guide, please leave a comment below.

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