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  1. This is an article about how to deal with a common pleco if you keep one with your goldfish out of misinformation or lack of knowledge before purchase. The common pleco is one of the most commonly sold varieties of plecostomus at most LFS. With that, many of us end up buying one of these fish that we think will conveniently keep our tank algae free. Eventually we are hit by the realization that the common pleco grows to be a fairly large fish, produces a large amount of waste, and clearly is not satisfied by the algae that may or may not naturally grow in our aquarium. I have been there, and done that, and the following post is based on my personal experience over the past five years as well as reading up a lot about this on various pleco forums: A. If you can, stay away from the common pleco before you buy one. There are other plecos that do well with goldfish, and I will get into that in a little bit. B. If you have a small common pleco and can still return him to the LFS, return him if you are ok with that decision. C. If you have a common pleco with your goldfish, and you also have at least a 55g tropical tank to move him into, do that but make sure to slowly transition the pleco to the new water parameters (temperature, pH etc). If none of the above applies to you, then keep reading for some helpful information: Common plecos are some of the largest fish available at most LFS. These fish can grow to a length of up to 24+ inches, although the average size seems to be at around 11-15 inches in an aquarium, unless your tank volume is in the three-digits. This is similar to any breed of goldfish, who all have the potential to grow to a body length of 8-12 inches if enough space and food is provided. The minimum tank size to keep these guys in is 55 gallons. Ensure to provide at least the same amount of water volume per pleco as you would do with goldfish (ideally a minimum of 150% of that amount), or be sure that you will do a lot of water changes on his tank. Common plecos are generally peaceful fish. They are for the most part nocturnal, and in order to be comfortable during the bright day time, they require hiding spaces such as larger pieces of drift wood (most recommended) or artificial caves, plants etc. A common pleco in a completely bare tank with just a couple plants will become stressed out over time and is more likely to display aggressive behavior. Due to their nocturnal nature, they enjoy not only hiding places, but also dark substrate to aid their camouflage coloring. There is a reason they have this dark and light camouflage pattern. My current tank has a few hand fulls of dark substrate along with two pieces of drift wood and a bunch of dark brown and black large river rocks either placed on the bottom of the tank, or with tall anubias tied to them, or several rocks siliconed into small, tall formations for additional cover. Their natural habitat are streams and rivers, and they enjoy stronger current. Overfiltration (10x tank volume per hour or more) is definitely recommended. Mine loves to swim downwards in the current of the bubble wand powered by a Whisper 300, in addition to 770gph HOB filtration in a 55g tank, along with an Aquaclear 20 Powerhead (127gph) placed as close to the bottom left back corner of the tank as possible. The common pleco's natural diet consists mostly of algae during their early time. Of course since they grow to be rather large, algae alone will not suffice. They begin to eat decaying plant material as well as decaying bodies, such as sick or dying fish. This is where one of the "myths" come from that a common pleco will attack your goldfish because the goldfish's slime coat is tasty. The truth is this: Yes, they will attack the goldfish because the goldfish's slime coat is quite nutritious. But this happens due to the fact that a large fish like the common pleco will have a tough time competing with goldfish, especially considered that the pleco is mostly nocturnal. Often, a pleco kept with goldfish will starve to a degree. As we know, goldfish are little pigs and they will immediately gobble up pretty much anything edible you drop into the tank. Plecos, being nocturnal, won't always come out to eat when food is served throughout the day, as it is mostly against their nature. Aside from that, even if they get past their shyness and try, the piggish goldfish are more than likely to have consumed most of the food that was provided. Even if you feed algae wafers for bottom feeders, chances are 9.5 out of 10 that your goldfish will have eaten most of that before the pleco even dares to approach the food. "Attacking" other fish happens due to the fact that as the common pleco grows older and significantly larger, the little bit of algae alone is not enough to sustain these fish. They do crave some protein too, and I like to toss a generous pinch of goldfish pellets into the tank every night just before I go to sleep. A lot of it will still be eaten by the goldfish, but in the dark the pleco is more likely to forage for stray pellets. Gel food such as homemade or Repashy Soilent or Super Green work great too, but you will have to feed a considerable amount because the goldfish will want to gobble up as much as possible. Again, a good amount of gel food fed a couple hours after the tank lights go off will significantly help the pleco in finding enough food. In addition to that it is highly beneficial to have some blanched vegetable available in the tank most of the time. This won't be gobbled up by a goldfish within minutes, but usually lasts for hours or even a couple of days, depending on how much vegetable there is vs fish and how much other things you feed. Peeled, (seeded), blanched zucchini, cucumber, spinach and kale, or other green vegetables are almost always available in my tank. That way the pleco can eat over night with being disturbed by the goldfish. Another reason for common plecos (or even small plecos) to "attack" your goldfish is disease or injury. In nature, plecos are somewhat of a cleaning crew. Reducing algae, eating decaying plant material, and consuming diseased or dead fish is all in their nature. Keeping an ill or injured (gold)fish with any kind of pleco poses a serious threat to the health and live of the affected fish. Should one of your (gold)fish be ill or injured, always make sure to QT them away from any other fish! We have even seen cases where even mellow (gold)fish would start eating on their still living but ill or injured buddy, causing (further) injury or even the death of the affected fish. Driftwood. Most varieties of plecos require submerged wood. They will graze on it and consume some of the fibers which are beneficial to their digestion. Aside from that, as mentioned above, a properly sized piece of driftwood will offer cover to an otherwise stressed and aggressive fish. Keep in mind that as your common pleco grows you will have to offer larger hiding places. Not too long ago, my own pleco started to be somewhat stressed out because the smaller piece of wood and the few pieces of anubias would not provide proper cover for him any longer, and he would freak out several times a day, dashing about, and darting to the surface. And if there wasn't a cover he might even have even accidentally jumped out of the tank. I then ordered another piece of wood as well as a bunch of tall anubias, added a medium sized clay pot laying sideways and made small "walls" out of up to 5-6 pieces of kid-fist sized dark river rocks. Since the addition of these things he has not freaked out at all, even with the lights on. So yeah. If you can, stay away from adding common plecos with your goldfish, until you have a very large (100+ gallons) tank availabe, and still make sure to keep the pleco as comfortable as possible. As for the smaller varieties of plecos (under 6-8 inches) that usually can live with goldfish without problems (if you provide enough food and keep sick goldfish away from the pleco), here is a quick list of the most commonly available plecostomus varieties: Bristlenose Pleco Rubbermouth Pleco aka Rubberlip Pleco aka Bulldog Pleco Clown Pleco Royal Pleco
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