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FAQs Giant Sailfin Plecos, Genera Glyptoperichthys, Liposarcus, Pterygoplichthys: Foods/Feeding/Nutrition

Related Articles: Loricariids, OtocinclusFrom 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 Systems, 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

Algae Wafer Content    10/25/12
Dear Crew,
I have been feeding my Ancistrus and Gibbiceps catfish a mixture of New Life Spectrum and Hikari algae wafers as well as several mixed vegetables.
<Good choices in my estimation>
I recently purchased a pack of 'Tetra Veggie Xtreme' and noticed at the end of the ingredients list something I was unsure of. It says 'Color: Blue No.
2 Lake, Yellow No 5 Lake, Yellow No 6 Lake. Ethoxyquinas as a preservative.'
My question is what are these colour ingredients and are these particular wafers safe for my catfish?
<Yes; they are fine. In fact these artificial colorants and preservative (a quinoline-based antioxidant ) are extensively used in human foods and spices>
I don't want to feed them any kind of dangerous hormone foods that supposedly bring out more colour but with negative
effects on their health so I thought it would be best to check in with you regarding this matter.
<These are not hormones>
Thank you very much for your time,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

11 year-old 22" Pleco is not eating x 3 days...can you help?     7/29/12
I have been reading many many conversations on your site and trying to diagnose my 12 year-old large Pleco, "Elwood".  I have a 55-gallon tank with bubble strips along the entire back length of tank and two double-filters (the type with replaceable filters containing charcoal).
<This tank is rather small for this fish, so one problem may be water quality. Older tanks have a tendency to slide into low pH, high nitrate territory; grab a test kit, and check the pH and the nitrate level. As always with a sick fish, check nitrite level as well, to see if the filter is working.>
I have one school of Danio fish and 3 very tiny white algae-eaters--as my Pleco stopped eating algae many years ago.
<As they do.>
Except for the fish themselves, my tank does not have any other fancy decor, so "Elwood", my Pleco, has plenty of room to move about.
<"Plenty" doesn't really mean much when we're talking about a 22-inch catfish in a 55-gallon tank.>
Other than Wal-Mart, we do not have any pet stores where I live, so I drive hours every two weeks for my fish foods.  Elwood normally eats Hikari dehydrated blood worms and Hikari Tubifex worm cubes (dehydrated).  He also eats frozen blood worms and has a fresh piece of zucchini always available to  him in the tank.  It is quite a feat for him to eat these foods, since he has to skim them from the top of the tank, but he has always been more than willing to do the work to eat them.  Maybe a month or so ago he seemed to be not as willing to go through so much effort to eat, so I began looking for food that would lay on the bottom.  Of the various types I tried, the one he settled on was Wardley shrimp pellets.  He continued to eat these primarily for the last month or so, eating the other foods only as a little treat.  I skim the tank daily of any of Elwood's excrement that the filter won't pick up, and clean and change the filters out each weekend.  I am currently using Jungle's Complete Water Care Kit tablets for adding water to the tank as needed and for changing out the water.  Due to Elwood's size I don't ever remove all of the water, but do sometimes remove half of it and replace it with conditioned fresh water. 
I don't profess to be a fish-expert, as I started out as a 'fish-sitter' ten years ago and ended up being an adoptive fish owner.  But I have developed quite an attachment to Elwood and am very concerned about his recent behavior:  He is not eating, and has not been for 3 days now!  He normally eats like clockwork;  We have a very regular feeding schedule.  He has never gone without eating before.
I read many of the other conversations on your site but could not find any that I felt sure enough fit my circumstance.  I do not have access to anyone whom is knowledgeable and am hoping you can help me decide on a course of action to save my beautiful Pleco.  I hate thinking that he is suffering and I just don't know what to do for him.  I did do a 30% water change earlier and thoroughly cleaned the gravel and the filters.  I would be happy to make a trip out of town for medicine for him if I could determine what he needs.
The only other details I see that I found in some of your website emails may be that 1) His tail seems a bit damaged but I see no other discoloration on it.  He likes to stand in the corner of the tank with his tail in the gravel most of the day, and he fidgets a lot to maneuver just right into his spot so that he wedges behind the heater and bubble strip cords.  I had assumed this was how he had beat up his tail...but maybe not.
<Possibly, but suspect Finrot too. Check the nitrite (with an "i") level to see if water quality is good. If nitrite isn't zero, then there's a problem with water quality -- overstocking, under-filtering, over-feeding. Review, and act accordingly.>
2) I noticed last week that he started rustling up the gravel a bit on the bottom during the night.  He had done it a few times in the past, but it seemed to be a bit more extensive this time.
<It's what they do.>
3) I think he is straining to breathe.  At first I thought he was sucking up food or algae in the water but I think he is just breathing heavy.
<Again, a classic symptom of a water quality issue (check nitrite re: filtration and nitrate re: water changes, overstocking).>
4) I think I can see a little white patch on his gill area.  He does not seem to have white spots on the rest of him and these are very non-descript: there is one small patch on his left gill 'flap' and two smaller ones on the right as best as I can see.
<Could be Finrot; see above.>
I would be most grateful for any help you can offer, as I don't want him to suffer.  Thank you ahead of time for any response you may give me.
Sincerely, Teresa (Elwood's mom)
<Plecs have hearty appetites and are super-easy to feed. Cooked/canned peas, cooked spinach, courgette (zucchini), cucumber and blanched lettuce are all ideal staple foods, alone with offerings of fish fillet and seafood every couple days. Hikari Algae Wafers are a convenient and nutritious food that can be used as often as required (maybe once or twice a week, if you're feeding all the other things mentioned). But they will go off their food if stressed. Yours is middle-aged, so may be a trifle more sensitive than it was when younger and smaller, but it certainly isn't old -- 20+ years is entirely normal for this species of catfish. There's almost certainly an environmental issue going on here given how big the fish is and how small the tank is. Upgrading the tank to 75 gallons will probably be the easiest and cheapest fix. They aren't physically much bigger (in US standard sizes, both are the same width, but the 75 gallon tank is deeper) but more water does mean better conditions for your livestock. Cheers, Neale.>
Re 11 year-old 22" Pleco still not eating     7/31/12

I am so very grateful to you, Neale, for answering my email question about my sick Pleco.  I was surprised to find my email on your webpage so quickly!
<Glad to help.>
After writing you last night I spent many more hours pouring over your website and trying to get a better look at Elwood's (my Pleco's name) tail and fins.  You mentioned fin rot and I was beginning to suspect the same thing.  After looking him over again I do see more than just fraying on his tail:  It looks like there is some grayish film or opaque looking flesh between the frays in one area.  And I do not remember the spaces between his fin spikes/bones being a gray color either; I remember them as being black.  Again, I apologize for my lack of aquatic knowledge, but I am trying to remedy this.
Our local store is out of the water test kits you suggested to me, so I will be traveling all afternoon to buy some in another town.  However, in hindsight there was a brief stage where my water was having difficulty (looking cloudy, more algae, etc.)  I was out of town and without my daily skimming of Elwood's waste and water freshening the water looked bad upon my return.  I had to do a thorough cleaning of all filters, etc. to remedy the situation, but it was bad for about a week.  This was immediately preceding Elwood's anorexia (not eating).
I am sad to hear that my tank is now overcrowded, as I was clear with the aquarium merchant I purchased them from as to my tanks and fishes measurements!
<I see. Well, this is the problem with many retailers: they're more focused on sales than ethics. Call it one of the pitfalls of the free market! If we as shoppers don't do our research first, and independently, we're likely to be mis-sold things we don't need.>
I cannot afford to buy a larger tank, so have arranged with a neighbor to adopt out my school of Danios to her.
<Not really the problem here. It's not so much how many fish you have, but which fish are too big for a 55-gallon tank. Your Plec has quite obviously outgrown its home. Removing fish like the Danios may marginally improve things, but still, the problem remains.>
The mini white algae-eaters are doing a wonderful job of cleaning all the tough little spots, so I would like to keep at least one of them if you think this will be appropriate for Elwood.
<You will see that I repeatedly recommend these Ancistrus catfish here on WWM; for 95% of the people who buy Plecs, they're buying the wrong fish, and they should be buying an Ancistrus catfish instead. Smaller, easier to keep, and much better at cleaning algae.>
I am also exploring giving Elwood to some folks who have a giant tank and a love for giant Plecos.  They seem like very knowledgeable aquarium owners--much more than myself--and are interested in adopting Elwood. 
Their tank is nearly twice the size of mine, and I would be willing to part with him if he would be 'happier' or more comfortable, I should say.
<All good.>
After reading your site and your response to my email I believe he does have fin rot, but now I am unsure of best way to proceed.  I will buy the water test kit today, but I think he needs medicine to beat the infection. 
I read that your first pick of meds would NOT be Melafix, but which one of the others would it be?
<Here in the UK I tend to recommend a product called eSHa 2000 because it's relatively non-toxic, inexpensive, effective, and works against Finrot and Fungus, so you don't need to identify precisely what's causing the problem -- it kills both! But if you live in the US, you have different choices. A combination of Maracyn and Maracyn 2 seems to be recommended (unfortunately on their own each of these drugs doesn't *always* work because they target different types of bacteria).>
Can you give me a specific name of a good one because I think I will have to order it online.  The only one I have found so far is the MelaFix.  I also read that I need to take the other fish out of the tank while I treat.
 Am I correct?  Can you suggest a treatment medicine and protocol for me to treat the fin rot, please?  Some of the other medicines I have found listed are Maracyn, Maracyn II, Waterlife - Myxazin;  Are these the correct antibiotics to use? Again, thanks so much for your earlier response and assistance.  Your website has been invaluable to me!
Sincerely, Teresa
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Florida Gar and Pleco, comp., nutr. of Loricariids   7/24/08 Hi all-- I love your site, and have spent many hours reading in the last few months since I discovered it. However, I've had an issue come up that I have not been able to find an answer to. I have a seven-inch Florida Gar in a 125 gallon tank, with six larger-sized silver dollars and a Pleco. I am not sure of what type he is, but he is definitely not the "common type". He is brown, with a short, wide, compact body, about seven or eight inches long. <Do bear in mind some of these fish will get extremely large; Gar will exceed 60 cm and potentially 90 cm in captivity if they are among the common species traded, such as Lepisosteus platyrhincus, the species usually sold as the "Florida Gar".> Lately, we have noticed him interacting with the gar in a way we had not previously observed. He appears to be sucking on the gar. I know from reading your site and others that this is a bad, bad thing. <Has been reported between these species, and yes, is damaging to the Gar. When the skin is abraded, the mucous is lost and it becomes much easier for secondary infections to get started.> We chase him away and offer algae disks, which he goes for (lately, he's seemed overly ravenous, often eating four times the amount of disks that he used to). <People tend to underfeed Loricariidae. Understand this: they are constant grazers and mud sifters in the wild, and don't understand the "two meals per day" notion many aquarists prefer. You need to give them vegetable foods such as courgette, sweet potato or carrot that they can nibble on through the day, plus bogwood for fibre.> My question is this: is the Pleco suffering from some type of nutritional imbalance that we can remedy? <Likely not an imbalance, but quite probably not enough fibre, so that the fish feels hungry because it isn't full. These catfish are adapted to feeding on a bulky rather than concentrated diet.> If he's just being rude, and that's definitely possible, we can take him to the LFS. However, due to their lack of adequate space for larger fishes, and the fact that hideously overprice any fish that aren't tetras or mollies, therefore forcing the fish to be there in less than ideal conditions for a long period of time, I fear for his life. This would be a last resort. Please help! Thanks. --Melinda <Seemingly no simple answers here, but very likely these fish will need to be separated. Perhaps try offering a better (more vegetable-rich) diet, but if that doesn't help, you will need to rehome one or other fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: My Florida Gar and his Pleco Friend, comp., fdg. -- to Neale 8/9/08 Hi Neale-- Melinda here again. <Hello!> You responded to my email a few weeks ago regarding our Pleco (have since found out he is a rhino Pleco) and our Florida gar. <Hmm... Pterygoplichthys scrophus, rather a nice catfish! Not common in the trade, and I think quite a handsome beast.> The Pleco was getting a little too friendly with Fluffy (the gar), and seemed to be trying to snack on him. <Can happen; not commonly, but does happen.> You suggested feeding a variety of fiber-rich veggies, but predicted we'd eventually need to separate the two. Well, Dino (the Pleco) had no intentions of eating any of my tasty veggie offerings. In any case, we have separated them. <Let's see if this helps. If not, then back to the drawing board. I suppose you could try offering her some meaty food. My Panaque is ostensibly a vegetarian, but she enjoys raw mussels in the half shell, partially shelled shrimp and other such delicacies. You may be able to tempt your cat to eat these things instead of her tankmates...> Thank you for your advice. --Melinda <Good luck! Neale.>

Pleco... chatting... Referral please, PLEASE!  2/17/08 Hi Neale, I went into the fish shop today and saw a 30cm Pleco and just had to get it - now it's in my 10 gallon (just for today quarantine) as when I was going to put it in the 200 I saw a few white spots on it. Do you think it will be ok for today in the 10 gallon, I only put it in there because I wanted to watch it to see if it showed any signs of distress and if those white spot grow, or if it's just because when the lady was putting it in the bag it got tangled in her net and she pulled it out of the net rather then cut it out. She was also handling it roughly, so I put it in the 10 gallon just to make sure it doesn't any infections. Will be moving it out of there tomorrow morning. Do you think it will be ok in there for tonight. Also, it's HUGE so how many wafers do I feed it? Thanks, Neervana <I'd put a fish this size into a bigger tank than 10 gallons, even for quarantining. If that means putting it with the Pictus and the Bala Sharks, then so be it, but have Whitespot medication to hand and treat at the first sign of disease. If you put it in the small, immature tank you may end up poisoning the fish (ammonia, nitrite) and having to deal with Finrot/Fungus. Don't see any advantage to that. As for food, the golden rule with all Plecs is to focus on the vegetables rather than pellets. I'd stick in sliced carrot, sweet potato, potato, courgette, or cucumber as often as required. Soft vegetables usually go overnight, but carrots often take a few nights. Save the algae wafers for 1-2 nights per week, and provide 3-4 of them. Once every couple of weeks add a nice little bit of seafood: maybe a prawn, shelled mussel, or piece of white fish. Common Plecs are omnivores, and the more varied the diet, the better. The main thing is that they always have some vegetables to eat at night. A bit of bogwood is also useful as a source of fibre. Cheers, Neale.> Re: Pleco 2/17/08 Hi Neale, I did as you said and put the Plec in with the Bala sharks and the pictus. Good thing I did it early because after him being in the tank for so many hours he has defecated everywhere and I couldn't even see the water clearly, it was really messy! <Yikes!> So now he is in the 200 gallon tank, he looks fine - He is still a dark black colour which is a good sign, right? I read on one of your FAQs that their colour changes from darker to paler when they are stressed and don't like the water quality. <Perhaps; does rather depend on the species though.> I think that it wasn't Whitespot, but just some prickly things on his back, the armour maybe? Because it looks like a stripy pattern of dots all over his body, in lines. Anyway, the pictus loves him and will lie down beside him, and when he moves, the pictus moves as well!!! It looks like they are schooling together! He keeps on chasing the sharks really frantically, and the pictus is behind him as well. <Sounds like they're happy.> I'm getting a bit worried as the sharks keep jumping out of the water and I can hear them hitting the hood of the tank and then thumping back down again. I hope he settles in, the sharks look really scared. <Getting more Bala Shark specimens might help. Also try adding floating plastic plants. There are some excellent ones out at the moment for about £12 that are 3 feet long. The leaves float along the top. Fish are less likely to jump out of tanks with plants at the top.> I was reading about Discus fish online, and I was wondering how many I could put in that 640 litre tank I ordered? <A school of at least half a dozen specimens would work well in there.> Also, would not mind buying a pair of the blue Discus. I would like to buy them as I have never had them in an aquarium before. Would they be able to live with Silver Dollars? <Discus are best kept alone, or failing that, with very peaceful tankmates. Cardinal tetras work well, and as far as catfish go, *the* Corydoras for the Discus tank is the warm water-tolerant species Corydoras sterbai. But I'd get a bit more experienced under your belt with your new catfish first. Also consider carefully whether you have the right water chemistry, and also if the nitrate level is sufficiently low (20 mg/l or less) out of the tap. Discus are sensitive to high-nitrate, high-hardness water. Cheers, Neale.>

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>

How much to feed a Plecostomus  7/29/07 Hello, <Hail and well met.> I have read/written to your site and found it very informative and helpful before.? My question - I have a 12.5 inch Plecostomus. I bought him when he was one inch long and I had a 10 gallon tank. <Almost certainly not a Hypostomus plecostomus but something like Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus or Pterygoplichthys pardalis, the two "common plecs" of the trade right now. Easily get to around 45 cm long, potentially significantly more, up to 70 cm being the record.> Since then, he has moved from the 10 gal to a 20 gal and now a 55 gallon tank. <Very good. A 55 gallon tank is about right for one of these fish: they grow very fast.> He is about 4 years old. <Four down, another twenty to go. These catfish live a long time if properly cared for. Most *aren't* properly cared for, though.> I think I have him with an appropriate amount of fish (calculating by fish inch per gallon of water) in the 55 gallon tank. <Inch-per-gallon estimates are rubbish. If I lined up 200 inch-long guppies that would be about the length of a Great White Shark. Do you think a tank big enough for 200 guppies would house a Great White Shark? Me neither. What matters is a bunch of factors as well as length: things like the mass ("weight") of the fish, its activity level, its territoriality, etc. As it happens, your catfish is fine in a 55 gallon tank.> He has quite the personality and moves all around the tank. <Yep, they're nice fish.> I enjoy watching him. <That's the basic idea of the hobby! Otherwise it's just work...> At 12.5 inches in length, he appears very large to me. <Then you should see how big they get in the wild! Your specimen is about half the size of the largest specimens. In an aquarium, it'll get a little larger, but 18"/45 cm is about the tops for a tank-reared specimen.> My tank is algae free. <I bet.> How do I know he is getting a sufficient amount of food? <A healthy Plec should have a gently convex stomach and the eyes should be bulging out of the skull. A starving Plec will have a concave stomach and sunken eyes.> I feed him algae wafers and give him cucumbers once or twice a week. <That's pretty good. But try different green foods. Lettuce, melon rind, spinach are all good. Something with some protein, like tinned peas, are also worth adding. Once or twice a week put a whole prawn or mussel in the tank; they'll latch onto these and scrape them away to nothing by morning. They also love rooting about for small invertebrates like bloodworms and krill, but faster-moving fish will generally eat these before the plecs get a chance.> Is there any basic "rule" to follow on the amount of food to supplement him with due to his size? <Not really, no. You have to go by instinct. Pterygoplichthys are omnivores, so you want to vary the diet as much as possible. There should always be some greens in the tank and also some bogwood (they seem to use wood as a source of fibre) but portions of meaty foods should be used once or twice a week, no more. The algae wafers are a good staple, but relatively expensive. Greens and seafood make a cheaper and just as good staple for these fish.> Thanks, Julie <Hope this helps, Neale>

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