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FAQs 1 Giant Sailfin Plecos, Genera Glyptoperichthys, Liposarcus, Pterygoplichthys

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: Large Plecos 2, FAQs on: Large Plecos Identification, Large Plecos Behavior, Large Plecos Compatibility, Large Plecos Stocking/Selection, Large Plecos Systems, 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

Plecostomus bump by dorsal fin  9/23/09
Hi there!
<Hello Louanne,>
One of my 2 plecostomus fish has a red bump (like a pimple) just in front of it's dorsal fin. Could this be a tumor?
<Almost certainly not.>
Both fish are friendly and let me hand feed them and pet them.
<Hmm... Plecs are not famed for being friendly towards one another, so keep an open mind here. Territorial males will attack other Plecs under some circumstances. Look for mysterious scrapes on the body and fins.>
This one is not the dominant one but it was the first to hand feed. For 2 days it didn't come out during the day for food. It hid and wouldn't come out when there was any light. Today it is back to eating and isn't so shy but the bump seems to have gotten a fraction bigger. The bump is the size of a large pimple and is very well defined (pert).
<Most likely a reaction to something in the environment, perhaps triggered by physical damage. Review living conditions, especially ammonia and nitrite levels. Make sure the pH is stable and ideally somewhere around 7 to 7.5. Make sure the fish aren't being bothered by each other or other types of fish, and check they can't burn themselves (a very common problem here).>
A few weeks ago we had a major shut down with the pumps and lost 10 fish.
I had to transfer all the fish to a holding tub and I dropped the plecostomus on the floor when transferring it back. It was okay but visibly shaken.
<Could easily have damaged the skin in the process.>
The 2 Plecos consoled each other and were very close for weeks after. I have a 55 gallon tank.
<To be honest, too small for two adult Plecs, assuming we're talking about Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus or similar. They are gross polluters, and even in a 55 gallon tank you're going to have a lot of solid waste as well as ammonia in the water. A big tank dilutes this, and this is as important as the high-turnover filter. On that score, the filter needs to be upwards of 8 times the volume of the tank, i.e., a turnover rate of not less than 440 gallons per hour for a 55 gallon system. Actually, I'd want more than that, given how small this aquarium is.>
I moved most of the knick-knacks out then so the big fish could move around. Now there is only a large PVC pipe to hide in. It could have bumped itself on that but never has in the past. Also, we have a perpetual problem keeping the tank clean and 4 days ago we did a 25% water change.
<A clue here: the tank's too small. In a 100 gallon aquarium with massive filtration, you'd find 25% water changes once a week adequate.>
Could stress have triggered this bump?
<Well, a combination of being dropped, being exposed to nitrite/ammonia some weeks ago, and being maintained in an aquarium that's fundamentally too small, could all be playing a role here.>
For instance - maybe it was afraid of being transferred again?
<Not, animals don't have "fear" as such, since their memories and thought processes don't work in the way ours do. If exposed to a stimulus and then a shock again and again, yes, animals will often learn to avoid that stimulus, and show signs of stress when exposed to that stimulus, even without the shock. But a one-off event isn't going to traumatise them. If you think about it, animals spend their entire likes making narrow escapes from danger, be they predators or changes in the environment. If they became "scared" they'd never leave their burrows, and end up starving to death and not interacting with other members of their species. So animals can't afford to be fearful. Instead they tend to be more nervous than scared; they do stuff, but they always try to keep an eye open for danger, and have an escape plan handy.>
They are very sensitive and emotional.
<Loricariid catfish are nocturnal by nature, and while they will learn to swim about in the daytime if they get fed, they're always nervous, and their instinct is to hide away if something alarms them.>
I know it sound funny but it's true.
<Preaching to the choir here. Some of my fish do exhibit distinct personalities. But we always have to be careful about anthropomorphising; that is, putting human behaviour interpretations on what animals do for
completely different reasons.>
Since I started hand feeding the dominant Pleco gets mad if I miss a day or a feeding. It won't let me pet it and will brush my hand away with it's fin.
<How sweet!>
Thanks and kindest regards. Louanne Wilson
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re Plecostomus bump by dorsal fin 09/26/09

Hello WetWeb Crew,
First, I'd like to thank you and commend your fabulous web site. Thank you for the great advice. I was wondering why my tank was getting cloudy and filthy so fast.
<Glad to help.>
One more question, it seems like the specific gravity of my water is a bit off--things seem to be suspended in the water sometimes.
<Uh... no... specific gravity is a measure of density, and related in fishkeeping circles primarily to how salty water happens to be. Unless you're adding salt to the water -- and you shouldn't be -- this isn't an issue.>
I have well water and use the tap water for the tank without any additives.
We live next to the river and the water tests real good for drinking.
<The issue is likely lack of mechanical filtration. A tank with Plecs needs to have very robust filtration. We're talking turnover rates around 8-10 times the volume of the tank. That is performed best by external canister
filters, but other systems might be used at a pinch. Regardless of the filtration method used, the system will need a strong pump and lots of mechanical media. That's the media that collects silt. If there isn't enough mechanical media, the water stays silty, i.e., murky. Note, mechanical media isn't the same thing as biological media: you can have
silty water with 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, just as you can have silt-free (i.e., clear) water with dangerously high levels of ammonia and nitrite. In general though, a big, strong filter will ensure both clear and clean water.>
Again, thanks for the advice. I hate to get rid of my fish but it might be the best option. I also figured out that one is a male and the dominant one is a female.
<Sexing is difficult, and indeed, two males are more likely to fight than any other combination. In general, mature males tend to develop longer odontodes ("bristles") on the cheeks and the pectoral fins. But this isn't an easy characteristic to judge unless you've looked at a bunch of mature fish of that species, so know which ones are bristly and which ones less so, since even the females have *some* bristles.>
When I bought them I thought that they would stay small like the catfish.
<What, like Corydoras? No, Plecs certainly don't do this. Average size in captivity is 12-18 inches in length, usually within 2-3 years. Big fish. Of course, not the biggest catfish: there are catfish that get far, far larger. Among the biggest freshwater fish in the world, in fact. Google "Pangasianodon" and prepared to be impressed. If you want a small Plec, look for things like Ancistrus (Bristlenose cats) and Peckoltia (Clown Plecs).>
I was too eager to fill my tank with fish and didn't do proper research.
<Ah, I see...>
I will try to send a video of my pleco's hand feeding. I have found that most any animal will do odd things for food--good food.
<Sounds cute!>
Best regards, Louanne
<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.>

Pleco... damaged?   2/5/09 Hi I couldn't find an answer to my question on your website or through Google. If I missed it I apologise. I have a 15" Pleco that seems to be in good health except that it appears to have one scale missing from it's side, showing what looks like the bone (white skin ?) underneath. There are no marks, sores, scrapes, red or cloudy areas, it just looks like one small scale has been removed. I have put a fin-rot medication in the tank as about 8 months ago it lost about 1 inch of one fin spike to what I presumed was fin rot - this never grew back but it stopped rotting and has been good since, but the medication seems to have had no reaction either way, good or bad. Could this just be where the Pleco has rubbed against something in the tank or should I be more suspicious ? Thank you for being there and apologies for the long winded question Regards Chris <Hello Chris. Catfish don't have scales, and what look like armoured plates on Plecs are in fact thick pieces of skin. They do get damaged sometimes, most commonly either through heater burns or through Plec-to-Plec violence. Heaters can be very dangerous with catfish generally, because if a catfish nestles under a heater that is cool at the time, and the heater switches on, the catfish might not realise until it's been burned. (Presumably, their plates of skin aren't sensitive to heat, so they can't tell they're being burned until the heat has travelled deeper into the body.) Aggression between Plecs is common and yet often ignored by retailers and hobbyists. If adult Plecs are kept in the same tank, e.g., at a pet store, it is not uncommon for the dominant Plec to scrape the skin away from the weaker ones. Some Plec species are worse than others, with Acanthicus, Panaque, and Pterygoplichthys spp. particularly nasty towards rivals. In extreme cases, deaths can result. Now, Finrot or some similar bacterial infection is a possibility, so treating against them is wise. Do also check water quality: Plecs are big, messy fish that put a lot of stress on their environment. It's hard to keep an adult the size of yours in a tank less than 250 litres (55 Imperial gallons), even allowing for a robust filtration system and copious water changes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco, injury, heater? 2/5/09
Thank you so much for the comprehensive answer. I am going to keep an eye on the Pleco for any repeat sores. There is only one Pleco in the tank, (tank is 48" x 24" x 18") so it may be water (which is changed (20%-25% weekly) and well filtered, or the heater. Thank you again for your excellent help. Regards Chris <Happy to help. Do look for a heater guard (a simple plastic mesh that encases the heater) or else use an external heater like the Hydro ETH units or the Eheim Thermo--filters. Tank is a bit small, so be aggressive water changes, and check the nitrite level periodically. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco hlth. strange bubble   12/31/08 My father has asked me to research a problem he has with his Sailfin leopard Pleco. He is about a year old and is about 8+ inches long. My father does not test his water and when I checked it last, the ammonia levels were through the roof , the Neons had mouth fungus and he had a white spot problem which has meant the death of most of the other fish. Having found strange worms in the water he decided to clear out his 120 litre tank which meant a complete scrub out including the gravel. He has 3 uplift tubes and an under ground filter and he does a 50% water change about every 3 weeks. I know this isn't the "ideal" maintenance program but I've given up telling him he needs to watch the water quality. However he comes to me when things go wrong! His big catfish had caramel patches on it after the ammonia poisoning and looked very dehydrated but has recovered well since we cleared out the tank. We put in some Methylene blue when we cleaned the tank and some filter start and saved "gunge". The catfish initially looked very well, put on weight, lost his caramel colour and became a lot more active. Of late he has been jumping out of the water and gasping lots of air and then flushing his gills at the bottom of the tank. Anyway now ( a week later and 2 30% water changes) we see that around his anal vent he has a large bubble (polo mint size)with a small cotton thick strand from the centre of it. He is not showing any other signs of distress but hasn't eaten all week and isn't pooing. He is not bloated or sunken. He usually gets algae wafers and catfish pellets. He has 2 tank companions(only ones left)... a neon and a platy. Prior to the changes the water was acidic (6) nitrate (5)ph (6.4) ammonia (4). Now the levels are good but the blue tint remains from the Methylene blue. Is this chemical not good for catfish? Great site. I've learnt loads! Karen <Hello. Saying this tank isn't "ideal" doesn't begin to cover things! This tank is a death trap, and nothing I can say here will fix things unless your father is prepared to return the fish he can't keep (i.e., the big catfish) and properly maintain the tank so that the rest of the fish have a chance of surviving. The Plec is swimming about because water quality is poor; normally they rest during the day, but when poisoned they surface regularly to gasp air. The various signs of Finrot (damage to the fins) and systemic bacterial infections (around the anus) may be fixed with a suitable antibiotic (e.g., Maracyn) or antibacterial (e.g., eSHa 2000) but without fixing the tank, treating the fish thus would be spitting into the wind: they'll get sick again within weeks. Ditto any fungal infections (anything that looks like white cotton threads) or Mouth Fungus (slimy tufts on the face and body). Your "levels" don't make any sense to me: acidity and pH should be measured with the same test kit, and a pH of 6.4 is low, and dangerously low so far as Platies are concerned. The ammonia level is just plain lethal. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: strange bubble, Pleco dis.  ~ 01/01/09
Neale Thanks for your prompt reply. <My pleasure.> We shall get some of the treatment you suggest and work on the water quality. <Cool.> You will be pleased to know that after another water change today the levels are better but still a way to go. A 30% water change and addition of stress zyme and stress coat hopefully with help. <The water change will certainly do a lot of good; the other "potions" certainly do no harm, may even help a little.> Can you tell me if it would be ok to do this every couple of days or is this too drastic? <Just fine; so long as the water going in has roughly the same chemistry and temperature of the water going out, you can change as much as you want!> I am mindful that it is not good to alter conditions too quickly. <Quite so; does depend on whether you're in a hard or a soft water area. Most of Southern England for example is hard water, and water chemistry changes hardly at all between water changes. So if you're in a hard water area, the bigger the better so far as water changes go. In parts of the UK with soft water, like the Scottish Highlands, things are different, and it's best to do multiple small water changes rather than big weekly or two weekly changes.> I think the problem occurred because he doesn't test the water and because he cleared everything out he hasn't been maintaining the bacteria to restore the biological filter. <Sounds a good hypothesis.> He has however reduced the feeding to a fraction of what he was until the catfish starts eating again. <I'd not feed at all while ammonia is not equal to zero; fish can go many days, even weeks, without food.> Have you any advice re improving the biological filter in the short term? <Rinsing out the sponge or ceramic noodles in a bucket of water from the tank is a good way to clean away silt without losing bacteria. The "cleaner" the biological media, the more bacteria it will host. Of course, brand new media contains no bacteria at all, hence the art is keeping mature (6+ week old media) as silt-free as possible.> How often could the stress zyme be added safely? <Weekly should be ample. It isn't a product I use myself, but I have no objections to others using it as they prefer.> I think this problem has encouraged him to take notice of the levels as what arrived as a small sucker fish to keep the glass clean has grown into the ugliest and biggest thing I've ever seen but he is really quite attached to it and is very sad he has caused it distress. <Big catfish can be fun pets; I've had a Panaque nigrolineatus Suckermouth cat for some 15 odd years, and am very attached to her -- despite the fact she destroys any plants or wood I stick in the tank!> Regards Karen <Happy new year! Neale.>

New Pleco has white lines on underside... Need info.  12/28/08 I recently added a Pleco to a 20 gallon tank that already has one cichlid in it after my last Pleco passed away. <What species of Cichlid, Pleco?> He was very light in coloration when we first got him and has darkened a lot in our tank, <Will change with mood... conditions> and his coloration now resembles the one we had before (before he died). I have notice whit lines on the underside of the Pleco and I was wondering if Plecos have plates on the bottom, <Yes they do><<Mistake... Only on the rear area underneath, not the "belly". RMF>> and if it is common for them to have this or if it is a fungal infection. Unfortunately I do not have a quarantine so he's in there with the cichlid now. Do you think it's a fungus? <Mmm, no. Not likely... else it would be dead in short order> If so I can treat with Mardel powder I have on hand. Thanks, Brett <Brett... like the show "House" on TV, we need more information (and your test results) to make accurate "diagnoses"... Need to know the species involved here, your set-up and maintenance history, water quality tests... to help you. Bob Fenner>
Re: New Pleco has white lines on underside 12/28/08
The cichlid is Julidochromis ornatus. The Pleco is Liposarcus anisitsi. <Mmm, gets much too large for this tank: http://fish.mongabay.com/species/Liposarcus_anisitsi.html> The tank is my dad's and does not get cleaned very often, it's a 20 gallon with a bottom filter. The cichlid is about 4 inches long and the Pleco is about 3. pH 6.4-6.8; <Mmm, low for the Juli...> alkalinity b/w 120-180; hardness 250-425; <Good... sufficient buffering> Nitrates are at 40 ; <Yeeikes! Much too high... see WWM re...: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwnitrates.htm...> nitrites are 0.5. Temp is 72 F. Let me know if you need to know anything else. Thanks Brett <For you to read the linked files above. BobF>
Re: New Pleco has white lines on underside 12/28/08
Thanks, those links were very helpful, I'll take care of the nitrates and pH. <Bob didn't mention, but will add, that nitrite levels not equal to zero are dangerous in freshwater tanks generally, and highly dangerous to Tanganyikan cichlids. Suspect this tank is overstocked: a single large Plec-type catfish would overwhelm any but the most heavily filtered 20 gallon system.> I also noticed that there were chunks missing out of the Pleco's left rear fin and was wondering if that might be fin rot. <Could easily be.> Also, do you think I should worry about the white lines around the plates on the Pleco's underside? <Plecs don't have plates on the underside of the body; they bellies are leathery skin. This is distinct from the other armoured catfish family, the Callichthyidae, such as Corydoras, which have plates all around the body forming a robust "box". By contrast Plecs (family Loricariidae) are armoured on the flanks and dorsal surface only. Plecs generally do not suffer from many diseases, but Fungus and Finrot are certainly possibilities and worth being on the alert for. Fungus usually looks like fluffy white stuff, whereas Finrot on the body at least reveals itself as patches of dead white tissue around red inflammation. These two diseases have similar causes and often occur together.> Brett <Cheers, Neale.>

Fungus on Pleco's head?   8/29/08
I have a Pleco who is about 12" long. I'm not sure of type or age since he was given to me. He is very healthy and looks great except for his nostril. I think it is a nostril on top of his head. It looks like it was full of a pink, flesh colored worm. I have treated with an Ick and anti fungus medicine.
<Could be Fungus, but equally likely Finrot or Mouth Fungus (this isn't actually a fungus despite the name). Need to treat with a combination Finrot/Fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Do remember to remove carbon when medicating. A photograph would help us confirm.>
I have also done a good water change and am using metaflax.
<Melafix is pretty useless.>
The longer it goes, the more this pink pop-corn looking stuff keeps coming up out of the hole.
<Probably decaying organic matter, or pus to put it another way. Needs fixing, fast.>
Can you tell me what this is and how to get rid of it?
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fungus on Pleco's head? 09/07/08
Thank you for your quick response. Although things are not better. Sunday I started a treatment of Maroxy from Mardel. <Don't know this product, and looking over the list of ingredients it isn't one I'd recommend. With fungal infections and certain bacterial infections looking so similar, you want something that zaps them both. Hence Maracyn (in the US) or eSHa 2000 (in the EU) are my standard recommendations.> I also gave 3 treatments of Tetracycline tablets. <Do you mean Tetracycline? Again, not a recommendation I'd make (had made). There's a reason we recommend specific medicines: from experience, we know they work. While there's nothing to stop you experimenting with other medications, I have no more idea if they'll work than you do!> I also kept the tank in the dark since when I did a water change, I had fuzzy little pieces floating around. <Could be anything! Whatever they are, siphon out.> Today, I have taken the tank down and cleaned and re-set up. <Not what I'd do. When you're treating fish, you need to avoid causing problems by stressing the fish or upsetting the biological filter. Stirring the gravel and doing a decent water change prior to dosing the tank on Day 1 of treatment is fine, but after that leave it alone. The medication is often designed to be used over a series of days, and the people who did this assume you're NOT doing water changes in between. By altering things by removing water you're going to throw the medication off track.> In the process, I tried to pick the fungus off his head...now it is bleeding and only a small part came off. <I bet. Don't do this. Just like your mom said when you grazed your knee -- don't pick at it! Secondary infections set in because the skin is damaged; by picking at the skin you're exposing more of the delicate tissues under the skin, making things worse.> What now? <Grab either Maracyn or eSHa 2000 depending on where you live. Don't mess about with other medications. We know these medications work! Dose and use EXACTLY as the leaflet says. Do not alter anything through the treatment. Make sure there is no carbon in the filter. If this catfish is on its own, don't feed it while treating; that'll keep the water a bit cleaner.> Chris <Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fungus on Pleco's head?    9/20/08
Today is the 19th and I have done the treatment that you recommended. do you think this looks good? It is getting bigger.
<That's actually pretty nasty, and looks like an ulcer, seemingly coincident with the nostril. If Maracyn isn't working, switch to Maracyn 2 (Minocycline). These two medications have complimentary actions, one working on gram-positive bacteria, the other gram-negative. In other words, if Maracyn doesn't work, Maracyn 2 should do.>
Also, I have another 55 gallon tank that is overrun with bright green, furry algae. I have tried everything to get rid of it - closed tank for months and have taken it down, cleaned and put back. What do you recommend? Chris
<I'm guessing these is Blue-green Algae. This stuff looks like slimy, matted threads, and can have a dark blue-green colour. When removed from the water it has a very distinctive musty smell. Anyway, it's impossible to "eliminate" unless you fix the conditions in the tank. Blue-green Algae (BGA) is almost always a sign of three things: poor water circulation, high nitrate/phosphate concentration, and direct sunlight. Could easily be two or three of these. Often a real pest in overstocked, under-filtered tanks. Review, and act accordingly. The stuff could be Red Algae. Despite this name, freshwater varieties are green! Anyway, doesn't have the same smell as BGA and looks more like turf or long (often dark blue-black) threads. Most commonly infests solid objects and around the edges of plant leaves. Again, plague levels of Red Algae are difficult to fix because nothing much eats it vigorously, though Siamese Algae Eaters and a few other species will peck at minor infestations sufficiently well to keep them in check. The only 100% reliable way to control Red Algae is to provide intense lighting and use lots of fast-growing plant species. Somehow, and no-one really understands why, fast-growing plants have a strongly negative effect on these types of algae. Ensuring the nitrate/phosphate level is low will also help, particularly if you manually remove Red Algae on sight. It's worth mentioning that none of the fish or snails sold as "algae eaters" have much use in controlling outbreaks of either Red or Blue-Green Algae. Controlling algae is almost entirely about getting the environment right, in particular by balancing the fish with healthy, fast-growing plants. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Pleco? Hlth...  9/29/08
Hello it's me again. My Pleco still looks no better and I've done the treatment twice...just wait a little longer?
<If you've tried Maracyn, try switching to Maracyn 2. These two drugs treat different sets of bacteria, so often when Maracyn fails, Maracyn 2 works. Certainly do a water change between starting a different medication.>
thanks for your help Chris
<Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco head -10/28/08 Hi I've been speaking with Neale about a Pleco with some kind of growth on his head. The water is fine, he is acting fine but the growth has not went away. I have tried 2 5-day treatments of Maracyn and Maracyn 2. It is in his nostril and has ripped it open. the ulcer itself looks like fleshy, popcorn. Any suggestions? Chris <Hi Chris. If I recall correctly, the nostril has been infected. On the plus side, on fish the nostrils don't connect to anything important, so the infection isn't likely to be fatal. But the infection will certainly take a long time to fade away; the dead tissue will need to fall away, and then the wound close up. This will surely take some months. Antibacterial medications are the best you can do to speed things up, so far as I can judge. Use them carefully and not excessively (wait a few weeks to a month after one treatment and then decide if it needs to be used again). You're essentially trying to make sure things don't get worse, and then wait for the fish's immune and repair systems to put right the damage. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco Bloat or Preggers  9/18/08
I was just looking at my Pleco (standard) who is about 4" long from nose to tail, a yellow and black striped Pleco (meat eater kind) that is about 3 1/2" and 2 Bushynose who are around 1 1/2". FYI. It is a planted discus tank with a giant apple snail, a few tetras and several discus. It is a 150 gallon. I noticed last week that the Pleco seemed a little chubby, but there is a lot of algae to be eaten, so I gave it no thought until today after dinner it was SO fat that it couldn't barely lay flat against the glass and there was a clear round thing coming out of its rear. It is perfectly clear like glass with a little red dot in it. I have pictures if you want, but I figured you may know what it is.
Carrie :)
<Hello Carrie. The standard Plec is Pterygoplichthys pardalis, or some very similar species, a fish that gets to about 45 cm/18" when full grown. So I'm glad you have it in such a big tank! They are generally extremely robust and don't normally get sick when kept in big, clean tanks. Now, like most herbivores they are capable of consuming a lot of food and will look very plump. Providing they don't stay plump indefinitely, this isn't a problem. Cut back on the food for a while and see how things go. In fact with Plecs generally skinniness is the thing to be most cautious about. Being egg-laying fish, they don't become pregnant. The anus does indeed end with a small, nipple-like structure, and under some circumstances it can be visible when the fish is pressed against the glass. This is not normally a problem; the only things to be wary of are Camallanus worms, but these will be very obvious wiggling, red, thread-like animals protruding from the anus. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco Bloat or Preggers 9/18/08

The Pleco was dead this morning. :(
<Oh dear! Just goes to show that doing a diagnosis without a photo isn't completely reliable. In any event, your job now is to understand why the fish died. Do check water chemistry and water quality. Also look at the cleanliness of the substrate. What aquarists called Dropsy, technically oedema, appears when organ failure occurs. Realistically, cures are very difficult to effect because the damage has already been done. This is why you need to try and establish what factor in your tank wasn't precisely right. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco Bloat or Preggers 9/19/08

I do water changes of 20 to 40% every couple of weeks.
<Less than I'd recommend for such messy fish, but if your nitrate levels stay low enough for Discus, no big deal.>
All the other Plecos I had were fine. Just a fluke I guess.
<Maybe. But do remain open-minded and critical. Observe the other fish, and consider the possibilities. Cheers, Neale.>

Help!!  Pleco hlth.   8/7/08 Hi <Hello!> Firstly, sorry if this is the wrong way to contact you guys. I've checked through your (excellent) site but ended up with this email address. <Yep.> Ok, I have a Pterygoplichthys pardalis. I'm just back from hols and had my sister look after the fish when I was away (one week). Since I got back I've noticed that the Pleco has developed a pale colour along its extremities (i.e. edge of tail, outer fins(?), and seems paler around his mouth). <Sounds a lot like Finrot or Fungus. Treat promptly with a suitable medication; in the US Maracyn seems to be the drug of choice, but here in the UK I recommend eSHa 2000 as being reliable and safe with finicky fish. Do remember to remove carbon from the filter (if used).> I've had him for over a year, when's he's gone from 2 inches to 18! <Wow!> I asked in my local store, but was told he's probably ok.. as you can imagine, 'probably' isn't enough. <Agreed.> I'm quite worried and would really appreciate if you could give some guidance. <These are very hardy fish, and assuming you treat promptly, I have every confidence the fish will recover. A photo will help use make a positive diagnosis, but if you send a photo, be sure and follow the rules and keep the file size small (~500 KB). We have only limited e-mail space and big images cause other messages to be bounced back to their senders.> Again, apologies if this is the wrong way to contact you. however I cant find a similar post anywhere. Many thanks Alan <Cheers, Neale.> P Please consider the environment before printing this email <???> <<A spiel re the use of paper et al... vs. some sort of electronic storage/sharing... RMF>>

Re: Help!!  8/7/08 Hi Neale Many thanks for your fast and helpful mail. <Happy to help,> I'm off to the fish store to get the treatment advised (I'm in Ireland). <Very good. Make sure you avoid Melafix (or Pimafix), tea-tree oil products at least some of us here have found to be less than reliable.> Also, I will take a phone picture and send it on to you (if that's ok). <Yep.> Thanks again for your help, its very much appreciated. Best regards Alan <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Help!! Pleco hlth.    8/8/08 Hi Neale <Alan,> Further to the below, please find attached two pictures of our Pleco. I've tried to show the affected part (on his tail) and also a full length picture for information (hope there not too big file-wise). <Hmm... does look like a secondary infection of some sort. I wonder if the fish was scalded by the heater? Does happen. Would recommend putting a plastic guard around the heater where catfish are concerned because they do like to wedge between the heater and the glass.> I have a couple of other pictures if required. When I went to the fish-store, the treatment they had is "Interpet No. 8, Anti-fungus and Finrot", a UK product. <Haven't used this medication for years, but it should do the trick. Do follow the instructions and always remove carbon while treating fish.> Thanks again for all your help, and hopefully the above will help our man get better. <I suspect he will.> <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Help!!  Pleco hlth.   9/11/08
Hi Guys
Just a quick mail to thank you all for your help.
I followed your advice to the letter and everything is right with the world of my Pleco. He's back to full health and everything is in order.
Many thanks again to you all.
Best regards
<Hello Alan. Well, this is great news, and I'm glad that we were able to help. Enjoy your fishkeeping, and thanks for writing! 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>

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.>

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... 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 red spots   1/11/08 Hello, <Ave,> I have a 4 1/2 year old, 14 inch Pleco, the brown one with a squiggly line pattern and approx. 11 or 12 rays on his sail fin. <That would be one of the traded Pterygoplichthys sp., which attain a length of up to 45 cm/18" in captivity.> I had him in a tank with a pair of zebra Danios only. I decided the tank could handle a few more small fish so I got a couple more Danios and neon tetras about 2 weeks ago. He was very content with the "one pair of Danios". <No such thing as a pair of Danios; they are schooling fish, and the only kind way to keep them is in groups of at least 6 specimens. Anything less is, not to be too fine a point on it, cruel. Likewise with Neon tetras. Do note that both Neons and Danios appreciate cooler than normal temperatures, around 22-24C is ideal for Neons, and as low as 18C good for Danios. This is a bit cooler than your catfish wants, but it should be fine at 23 or 24C.> The tank seemed a little empty. As soon as I put the new fish in, my Pleco "Jaws" became very unhappy. He wasn't calm anymore. He became agitated, swimming from one side of the tank to the other, up and down, whipping his tail around taking out all of the fake plants and trying to push around the decor with his "nose". <Very odd. Do check water quality.> All of this because I added some tiny fish???? It seemed like he doesn't want anything in his space. Can a Pleco be a very solitary fish? <How big is this aquarium? Yes, Pterygoplichthys is territorial, but not normally towards midwater fish. So in the smallest possible tank for these catfish, a 55 gallon tank, the addition of a school of Neons or Danios should make no difference.> Now, he has started going up and gulping air - frequently. <Again: check water quality, i.e., nitrite and pH at the very least.> He used to do it occasionally but it has become quite often and when he comes back down he makes a splash with great force. I have even wondered if he has hit the lid. <These catfish will breathe air when water quality drops or it is too warm for them.> I recently noticed he had some spots on his head behind his eyes that appeared to be fungus after doing some research. They looked like matted hair but the same color as his skin. <Sounds like fungus, yes. Treat with a combination Finrot/fungus medication such as Maracyn or eSHa 2000. Don't waste your time with Melafix/Pimafix. Do remove carbon from the system (if you're using it) while treating. Do not delay! Treat right now!> Today, on his belly, some of the tiny dots in his pattern that are usually cream colored are now red dots. The edges of his fins are red, his rays on his sail fin appear to be red and the tail fin appears to be red on the bottom edge also. I also saw a couple of red circles on his side. <Sounds gloomy.> I checked the water quality and all things checked out normal. <Meaning what precisely? Give me numbers! Zero ammonia and zero nitrite are essential, and nitrate should be less than 50 mg/l, ideally less than 20 mg/l. The hardness should be in the "slightly soft" to "very hard" range, and the pH should be between 6 and 8. Salt is not required.> I have a 55 gallon tank. It has a 80 gal Eheim canister filter, plus I put a 60 gal Topfin filter and two bubble curtains. I think there is good aeration. <The ratings stuck on filters in terms of tank size are meaningless. Rather, assume a big, messy catfish needs filtration of at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So a 55 gallon tank needs filter (or filters) that provide not less than about 300 gallons per hour turnover. You'll see the turnover rating on the pump someplace (either in GPH or LPH).> I keep the temperature between 76-78*. <A bit too warm for Danios and Neons, both of which come from relatively cool environments. Aeration is relatively unimportant in a tank with good water circulation, but certainly does no harm.> What could be causing the spots that look like matted hair, all of the red streaking/spots and is any of this related to the possibility of him just getting to big for the tank? <Finrot/Fungus is the immediate problem, and needs to be dealt with ASAP. Both are almost always caused by either [a] poor water quality or [b] physical damage, such as fighting or rough handling. This type of catfish should be happy enough in a 55 gallon system, though obviously 'the bigger, the better'. Do check the filter you have is properly maintained, and you're doing sufficient water changes.> Thanks, Julie <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco with red spots   1/11/08
Hello again, <Hello!> Thanks for the quick response. <No problems.> What would be an acceptable temperature for my Pleco, Danios and tetras to live with? <I'd go for 24C, tops.> According to the test strips I am using from PetSmart to test my water quality, the results are: ammonia = 0 <Good.> chlorine = 0 <Good.> nitrite = 0 <Good.> total hardness = 50 which is at the top of the soft end and bottom end of the? moderate scale (done by color coding so it is a guesstimate) <This is mg/l calcium carbonate, I'm assuming. Yes, this is pretty soft, and one problem here could be lack of pH stability. To cut a long story short, all tanks acidify, and tanks with limited carbonate hardness (measured with a carbonate hardness rather than total or general hardness test kits) is that the pH plummets between water changes. There are various ways to deal with this, but all involve raising the carbonate hardness. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm > pH = 6.8 (done by color coding so it is a guesstimate) <Acceptable, though would be interesting to compare plain tap water with aquarium water a week after a water change. The absolute value is rather less important than the rate of change.> My test kit doesn't include a nitrate test. <Ah. In that case, pre-empt things by doing 25-50% water changes weekly.> I have 6 Danios and 5 tetras with my Pleco. They have been swimming at the bottom of the tank - could this be due to the water temperature being to warm? I thought they were mid-water swimmers? <Neons actually stay close the bottom; Danios at the top. Does rather depend on how secure/happy they feel.> I have done a recent water change and cleaned the filters. <Good.> I have done some quick research and my combined filters (if you can add them together) are doing about 400 gph. <Should be ample for a 55 gallon tank.> I will get the medicine to take care of the fungus. Any ideas on the red stuff? <It's irritated skin/blood.> My Pleco has been jetting all over the tank, hitting everything in sight, just like he is in a bad mood so maybe the redness is due to him slamming into everything. <very odd, and usually a sign there's something that's making him cranky. If water quality is acceptable, as seems to be the case, then do check other factors. Do you use dechlorinator when doing water changes? If your local water supplier adds Chloramine (call/check web site) you need a dechlorinator that removes that as well. I'd do a big (50%) water change now and another tomorrow. Why? If there's something in the water, like a poison, this will dilute it. Possible poisons include things like paint fumes. It's surprisingly easy to poison fish.> He has 2 small holes in his sail fin where he has tried to squeeze into between some fake plants. I have seen that before and it heals up. <Should do again, all else being equal.> Your advice is greatly appreciated. Julie <Happy to help, 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>

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>

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>

Treating Pleco Wounds 07/24/07 Hello One or All, <Hello.> I guess tank issues first right? 100 gallon tank. Everything is testing fine, and everything has been going just fine until last week. The tank's inhabitants are: 5 Rasboras, 1 Danio (who thinks he's a Rasbora), 4 Neon Tetras, 20 Corys (long story) and 1 Pleco. Nothing fancy about him, he's just your everyday kind, but I think he's exceptional. We've had him for 6 years and he's survived a lot of stuff: moves, poisoned tank, living in a 30 gallon tank for too long. He's grown from 2 inches to 15 inches, and has always been healthy. <OK.> Last week I noticed he wasn't eating his zucchini, and this guy is addicted to the stuff. The Corys were acting weird too. I also noticed some little white areas on some of the Corys. All other fish were fine. Then I noticed some small patches of white on Pleco too. <Fungus or Finrot. Treat quickly.> Long story short. Husband treated the tank for something. Used Maracyn and Melafix. Took out the charcoal. <Melafix largely useless, but OK.> The Corys got better, but Pleco was on death's door yesterday. <Oh dear.> He had a large white patch around his mouth, and his tail looked bloody. For a couple of days I noticed that I could see blue streaks in his tail and fins, but now these were all bloody or the fins were dissolved looking. <Bacterial infection moved from fins to body, and now very serious indeed.> He was breathing rapidly and unable to hang on to the tank sides. I yelled at hubby that I didn't care what the meds were supposed to do they were killing Pleco. <Some catfish do indeed react badly to common medications. That said, I'm not familiar with Plecs being among them.> So we did a 50% water change and washed all the fake plants and stuff in the tank. When the water was really low, he went to the corner where the water was pouring in from the filter. It actually seemed to revive him somewhat. Enough that I said hold off on the clove oil. <OK. Now, when you see a fish pep up after a big water change, that's often a sign that the problem is more complex than just disease, and that the disease may even be a symptom of a water quality/chemistry issue. Always worth following up this line of thinking. Test the pH, hardness, and nitrites. Double check for any potential toxins or sources of anaerobic decay. Make sure the fish isn't burning itself on the heater. That sort of thing.> This morning he's in another corner, breathing slower, but the white around his mouth has turned bloody. All other fish are fine. Is there anything I can do to save him? Treatment for the wounds? <Plecs are pretty tough, and I've seen them come back from worse. But it all depends. Treating the bacterial infection is clearly critical. I'd be wheeling out the antibacterial or antibiotic medications. perhaps not Maracyn given your bad luck here. But certainly something like a Furan or Sulfa drug. Seawater dips can also be excellent for cleaning up wounds.> If I can reduce this down better - started out with white patches on his mouth, and blue streaks in his fins. Now the fins are ragged, and the area around his mouth is bloody. Also some other bloody patches. <It sounds like Finrot to septicemia. Since Finrot usually follows from something else like water quality issues, double check the aquarium conditions.> Help if you can before I have to use the clove oil. I really care about this guy. Tara <Well, it sounds 50/50 right now, but I think you have time. Switch treatments, optimise water quality, increase aeration, and hope for the best. Good luck. Neale>
Re: Treating Pleco Wounds  7/26/07
Thanks so much for your response. I know there's a way to make a donation for the help, but not sure what it is. Let me know. <Hello Tara. Yep, there's a "tip jar" on the front page of the site. If you scroll down, you'll see an Amazon logo at bottom left.> Update: we were ready to euthanize Cos last night when he perked up, went upright, and is sucking on the glass. He has some bad wounds though that are growing a little fuzz on them. I know this can't be good. Is there anything we can put directly on the wounded areas to help him out? We retested the water and everything is good. All the other fish are fine now. Really hate to lose this guy if there's something I can do to help him. I put a piece of zucchini in just in case. He's still staying where the water flow is strongest....with his injured parts right above the bubble stones. Thanks again. Tara <OK, the white stuff is fungus or Finrot bacteria. You have to treat, right now! I'd also recommend that AS WELL as adding anti-fungus/Finrot to the tank (to kill the infectious organisms) I'd recommend doing some saltwater dips to clean the wounds. These are simple. Put a few litres of aquarium water into a bucket. Add 35 grammes of non-iodised salt (e.g., aquarium salt or marine salt mix) and stir well. When it's dissolved, dunk the fish for a short period. At first, do this for about 1-2 minutes, each day, for two or three days. This should clean up the open wounds, much like iodine does on wounds on humans. It isn't a cure for the pathogen, but by cleaning the wound it helps the medication get to the pathogens more easily and so helps the fish heal more quickly. As you've noticed, your fish is swimming into the 'cleanest' water. Fish do this when sick, and it's something that happens in the wild. When fish are sick they will swim towards warmer patches of water to speed up their immune systems, effectively "running a fever". So, there's your list of things to do: 1. Check water quality; 2. Add Finrot/fungus medication; 3. Dip fish in salty water. Follow that, and I think your catfish has a good chance of surviving. I've seen plecs come back from far worse. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Treating Pleco Wounds 07/26/07
Me again. Quick question. I don't have a quarantine tank. Will it be ok to treat the entire tank? Reminder: 20 Corys, 4 tetras, 5 Rasboras, 1 Danio. I'll start treatment ASAP. Pay on the way. Thanks so much! Tara <Hello again Tara! You should be fine treating all these fish together in the one tank. Be sure and remove the carbon from the filter (if you use any) and always follow the instructions on the packaging to the letter. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Treating Pleco Wounds 08/17/07
Hi again, I just had to let you know how things turned out. Cosmus (the Pleco) was looking really bad. Laying on his side, bloody sores, etc. So we finally decided to euthanize him. My husband went out to get Clove Oil, and we put water in a bucket. Then we read the part about the vodka. No vodka in the house, so he went out again to pick up a bit. Comes back and gets ready to start the process. I told him that I couldn't watch and started to leave the room. Right then Cosmus straightened up and started swimming around! It was like a Monty Python skit (but I'm not dead yet). So we changed our minds. Did a major water change, and everything else we could think of, including cleaning everything in the tank. Here we are three plus weeks later. Didn't lose a single fish. Cos only has a very small place on his tail that we're still treating. He's eating and swimming, and coming up for me to hand feed. I think I read on your site that you shouldn't give up on these guys and you're right. He did lose some of his tail fin, shortening him from 15 inches to about 13 and a half, but other than that.... Thanks for your help. Tara <Hello Tara. Nice to have a story with a happy ending! Fish have amazing recuperative powers. His tail will grow back. Have you ever seen pictures of wild piranhas mating? They bite chunks out of each other, down to the spine sometimes. A few weeks later, they're right as rain. I'm always loathe to give up on an injured fish, and more than once I've seen a fish seemingly come back from the dead. Anyway, good luck, and enjoy your fish. Neale>

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>

Crab Eating Plec or is it Plec Eating Crab? - 10/21/2006 I have a rather large common-sail fin cross Pleco that is showing signs of discoloration and his armor it starting to stick out. I have tried krill shrimp to boost his color I have treated with a medication made for many illnesses including parasites and scaling. I even tried feeding him algae wafers. I am all out of options. I have seen that one of my fiddlers is missing can a Pleco eat a fiddler by accident if so can this make him sick? He is a male. I was also wondering if I need to get him a mate or another larger Pleco. I have tiny tot the baby Pleco, it is the same breed as he is, which by the way is fat and happy. I did put my Bettas in the tank with him while I cleaned their tank and the female is a bit more aggressive than the male which made them chase each other and the female beta did challenge big boy. Could they of stressed him out? I feel I am running out of options he's not even full growth potential yet, he's supposed to get up to 18 inches and he's only 10 could it be old age he is a rescue fish from a lady that didn't want him anymore. Do I need to get him more tank mates? Please help in stuck up the creek without a paddle... and need as much help as I can get. <It may be that a bit of crab shell is the underlying problem. Bloating is usually caused by either constipation or an infection. If this is a blockage, and he's still eating, you can try some fresh or frozen veggies. Shelled raw peas work well to get things moving. If he's not eating you can try adding Epsom Salt to his water. One heaping tablespoon per 5 gallons of water. For an internal infection medicated flake is called for. But only if he's eating. Internal infections that progress to a point where the fish is not eating are very difficult to treat. In that case your best chance is keeping his water pristine with very frequent (daily), and very large (50%), water changes and crossing your fingers that his immune system will kick the bug. I doubt a three inch Betta stressed out a ten inch Pleco. Also, there are no crabs that can live a full life in freshwater. So no more crabs, OK? Don>   This is the edited copy I am sorry I sent it before I checked last time I hope this is better on your eyes. <Thank you!>

Sick Sailfin Pleco With Bloat  - 10/21/06 I have a rather large common-Sailfin cross Pleco that is showing signs of discoloration and his armor it starting to stick out. I have tried krill shrimp to boost his color. I have treated with a medication made for many illnesses including parasites and scaling. I even tried feeding him algae wafers. I am all out of options. I have seen that one of my fiddlers is missing. Can a Pleco eat a fiddler by accident? If so can this make him sick? He is a male. < Plecos eat anything including algae and a fiddler crab if he thinks he can get it down.> I was also  wondering if I need to get him a mate or another larger Pleco? <No not needed.> I have a tiny tot, the baby Pleco which is the same breed as he is. He by the way is fat and  happy. I did put my Bettas in the tank with him while I cleaned their tank and  the female is a bit more aggressive than the male. Could they of stressed him  out? < No, not really.> I feel I am running out of options he's not even full growth potential  yet he's supposed to get up to 18 inches and he is only 10. Could it be old age? < Not likely.> He  is a rescue fish from a lady that didn't want anymore. Do I need to get him  more tank mates? < No, that is not the problem.> Please help in stuck up the creek without a  paddle... < I think that your fiddler crab may have died and you Pleco tried to eat him. The hard exoskeleton of the crab is probably lodged in his digestive system somewhere. Bacteria in the gut are now working on the skeleton and breaking it down. In the process they are developing gas and distending the gut of your Pleco. Try treating with Metronidazole and hope he is able to move this waste through his gut.-Chuck>

Sick Sailfin - 10/22/2006 We have a Sailfin Plec who is very poorly.  He seems to have developed some sort of fungus/disease (I thought it was the disease 'Velvet' at first) which has made large parts of his body discolored, almost red raw and what  must be extremely sore. There are approx 3 whitish 'eaten away' marks on his body and he has redness along his fins, tail and top lip as well as near the white marks. He has lived happily and problem free for a number of years in our tank and has always been a hardy fish so we are upset at watching him decline in this way and are feeling quite helpless. He has been lying on the bottom upside down breathing quite rapidly and seems to be stressed. We  were told to try applying sea salt to his wounds which we did approx 4 days ago where his condition seemed to improve but now seems to have taken a  downward turn. No other fish in the tank are effected (we also have  Corydoras, tetra and silver dollars) and we are at a loss at what to do. We have also changed approx 50% of the water following the salt treatment.   What would be your advice? Many thanks. M. Bradshaw    Devon, U.K <If he is laying upside-down on the bottom it would seem your fish is near death. There may not be anything you can do at this point. But since the salt seemed to work, I would pull him away from the others and add about two tablespoons of aquarium salt to the water. Take the temp up to 82 to 84 and add an airstone. Good luck. Don>

Bloated sail-fin Plecostomus   8/4/06 Hello , <Hi there> My sail-fin Plecostomus (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps) has bloated up in the past 4 hours. He (I assumed) is so bloated that the slight current from the stone running in the back of the tank nearly bowls him over. He uses his fins to level himself out. I also noticed when I nudged him a bit, when he swims upward he struggles and semi-sinks back down. Here are my stats: 20 gal high tank <Too small for this species> Penn-Plax Cascade 100 power filter fake plants 2  pots ( not sure of composition) Gravel bottom 1 - 12" air stone 3 x-ray tetras 1 sail-fin Plecostomus Tested water here are those stats : Temp: 84F PH : 6.6 Nitrite : 0 Nitrate : 5 ppm Ammonia : .25 or 1 ppm <This last should be zip, 0.0...> I get confused with the ammonia test result. The product I use is Red Sea Fresh Test NH3/NH it gives a chart for PH values between 7.2 - 8.8 & temps between 68F - 89F, The lower the PH & temp the lower the ammonia reading. So I assume based on this with the PH has low has it is that the above reading is correct. If I'm wrong please correct me. <I'd seek out another test kit/make/model> There is no salt added to my tank. Was told by Petco that X-ray tetras were a freshwater only fish. <They are> I have seen that this may not true, that they may be a slightly brackish fish. (yes/no?) <No> I have done no other tests not sure if there are any others I should be doing. The tank has been set up for 2.5 months. I will be adding live plants in the next couple of weeks, Has soon has I figure out what is best for my tank & fish. Have been researching for awhile. I haven't had a tank in 20 years and I seem to suffer from CRS. <Mmm... a common human ailment... to be recognized, guarded against> I had 2 Rosey Barbs , which I figured the reason they died was the Pleco sucked them to death. <Mmm, not likely> I also has 3 Silver-Tip sharks all died. I read on your website they are copper sensitive. Is there a way to test for copper ? <Yes... there are commercial test kits for this> How would I remove or avoid poisoning my fish with copper ? <... avoiding its introduction... filtration, using removal products> I've attached a couple of pictures of my Pleco showing how bloated he is. The red dot is from my camera. I've cropped them has much has possible. I've blanched a pea & pealed it , but he has no interest in it. Well I've given you all the information I could think of.  Any ideas or suggestion . would be greatly appreciated Thank you for your time & help. Sheri N. Maine, USA <May be something it ate... the Ammonia should be addressed immediately. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwammfaqs.htm and: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/loricdisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Ill Loricariid   8/1/06 Hi. <<Greetings, Emma. Tom>> I have a leopard Sailfin Plec who is about 5 - 6 yrs old, lives in a community tank.  Over the last few days I have noticed the tank glass  getting dirty inside, he usually cleans it well.  Tonight I have noticed he has gone very, very pale. At first I thought it may be the sunlight coming into the tank, however I pulled the curtains and he has stayed the same pale colour. <<The "paling" in color is almost certainly stress related rather than tied to a specific pathogenic problem. Not all that uncommon with Plecos, in general, but pretty disconcerting when you see it for the first time...in an otherwise healthy animal, no less.>> The water temp is between 25 and 27degC; normal for my tank.  No new fish have been introduced or plants, in fact, nothing has changed in the tank at all. The water test is also normal for my tank. <<When a problem occurs and nothing has seemingly changed to cause it, I look for the "unusual". In this case, Emma, the one thing you haven't mentioned is your Pleco's diet. All fish, regardless of what their primary food source is, appreciate variety to some degree or another. Cichlids, for example, kept on a perfectly healthy, yet boring, diet, can/will become ill, sometimes to the point of death. With nothing else to "hang my hat on" here, Emma, I'd look into a change of diet to see if your Pleco snaps out of it. If, by any chance, you observe something else that you can share that might give us more to go on, please post back to us. I, for one, am interested in this one.>>    Please can you help Emma <<My best. Tom>>  Re: ? FW... What? Disease... no prev. corr., no prev. title... Search FW dailies to match up... Ahh... Ill Loricariid   8/1/06 Hi <<Hi, Emma. Tom once again.>> Thank you so much for your reply.... <<Any time, Emma, and happy to do so.>> I always feed him on algae tablets, cucumber and courgette but a few days ago a friend gave me some home grown VERY large courgette/ marrow.   <<Which, as you are no doubt aware, is nothing like what you purchase at the produce store. Tough, fibrous and tastes like (fill in the blank). :)>> He tucked into it but on looking at him very closely something strange has happened to his mouth.   <<Without going further, I can pretty much guess...>> It seems to be torn and there are small possibly fungal growths around his mouth.  He can't suck on to the side of the tank.  I have tried holding him and putting food on his mouth but with no luck he just will not suck.  He seems to be starving to death.... <<To put you a little more at ease, starvation isn't our immediate problem. He's most likely torn up his mouth on the "homegrown" courgette and, while laying on the bottom of the tank - as he is wont to do - has "inherited" a bacterial or fungal infection. Aquarium salt is effective but Plecos aren't very tolerant of it and we've got enough stress going. MarOxy, Maracyn, Furanace (Furanace) or Sulpha-based antibiotics may be used for this. My recommendation - albeit not from "firsthand" experience - would be MarOxy. It's purported to be effective against external bacterial infections as well as being an anti-fungal, and (importantly) should be easy to come by.>> He is also getting very frustrated and thrashing round the tank.   <<Understandable. You'll want to start the treatment ASAP.>> I really don't know what to do. I am not sure if it is the courgette/marrow I have given him.  He has normal courgette from the super market all the time with no problem. <<Last time around, I mentioned that I look toward the "unusual". You gave it to me. Courgette/marrow that you purchase at the market is harvested at a very immature stage of its growth. Not the same "critter" as the veggie (actually "fruit") that's left on the vine for a long time. Very, very different textures and possibly/probably the cause of the problem. Regardless of the "cause", we've got an "effect" and it needs to be treated promptly.>> It's desperate to watch him, I just don't know what to do. Any advice I would be most grateful. <<You have the best that I've got right now, Emma.>> Thank you Emma <<Keep me posted, please. Best regards. Tom>> Re: Ill Loricariid  8/2/06 Again thank you, <<No problem, Emma.>> I will get that in the morning for him.  Will this treatment affect my other fish at all?  All community fish. <<Worst case (thus far), Emma, this is Columnaris, which is highly contagious. Ideally, you'd medicate any single fish in a quarantine tank (QT). I think it best that you medicate the entire tank, removing any carbon filtration you have going. Follow the manufacturer's instructions with the medication. You'll be instructed to replace the carbon media/filter at the end of the medication period to remove the med's from the tank. Following this, discard the carbon media/filter. It can't be re-activated or "cleaned" and is, therefore, worthless to you. Also, follow the water change protocol that should be included with the instructions. Typically, this will call for a change of about 30% prior to starting the treatment.>> Emma <<Tom>>

Pleco Melting Away  - 04/11/2006 Hello I have always found your site very helpful in the past, I am hoping you can help me now. My mum has a Plectropomus fish that she has had for about 8 years, he's not very big about 13" long. The thing is all of a sudden he has become very sick, his back fin is all peeling away and looks all shredded and the surface of his body has started going a lighter colour and he has now started getting white looking smears around his mouth and gills. The thing that is worrying me the most is the speed that all this has happened in less then 48 hours he has gone from a happy sucky fish playing with his cucumber to a sorrowful looking sucky fish laying on the floor refusing to move and breathing rather short and heavy, and I fear he will not last long at all. The fraying of his back fin happened so quickly it only took about 5 hours, is this right for this to happen so sudden and quick? No changes have been made to the quality of the water up until he got sick no new fish, ornaments, chemicals nothing. So far since he has got sick I have put in a bacterial and fungus medicine (guessing that it may be something like fin rot) and a aloe vera stress relief tonic. I have also done a strip test and everything quality wise is perfect. What else can I do? I'm just concerned that its happening to quickly to do anything. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks < These nasty bacterial infections can be very difficult to stop. Start by placing the fish in a hospital tank with clean water. I would try a double dose of Nitrofuranace or a single dose of erythromycin. These medications will effect the nitrifying bacteria in an established aquarium.-Chuck>

Sick Pleco  - 01/24/06 Our office has a 50 gallon aquarium up front with two Oscars and a large Pleco. <Need more space...> It's probably about 10 or 11 years old, and about a foot long.  He was acting normally last week, but we came in this morning, and he's laying upside down at the bottom of the tank. <Not good>   He's still breathing, and occasionally we see him move, but nothing more than an inch or so from a small wave of the tail.  He looked in good shape last week, but we noticed he's got a small white spot on the tip of his nose, like he scraped it on something. <Likely so... generally not a problem> We've seen him do that before and it's gone away pretty quick, so I don't think that's a cause here, I just wanted to give all the details.  We tested the water, and everything seems to be in the normal range.  Any ideas what we can check next?  Or is this maybe just the end of the road for an older fish?  (How long does a Pleco usually live?) <In this setting... a decade is a good long time. In a bigger tank, perhaps twice this long. I would change about a quarter of the water (every week) and leave all else be. Bob Fenner> Any help would be great. Thanks, Mike Williams

Pleco With Bloat   1/14/06 Hello, I have a Pleco that isn't well. He(?) is about 7 years old & about 8-10 inches long. The other day he started to swim to the top of the tank more often than usual. Now (3 days later) he is violently swimming up and down. I noticed he can't stay down. He struggles and fights and gets comfortable on the glass then his tail slides up to the surface. He has been holding himself down with the heater and return from the filter to just keep under the water. I am very concerned, I don't want him to die, but I'm not sure how to help him. I've read all of the Q&A's on your website, which are very helpful! The water tests fine, no major changes recently. The other fish are all fine. Water quality appears normal. I have recently (3 weeks ago) added a Cory catfish to the tank? I feed them discs regularly and cucumber every now and then. Note from reading your Q&A's, I do not have any live plants or driftwood in the tank? I've never had any? Is that a big issue? Besides the buoyancy problem, I believe he is slightly bloated. Also I have noticed he always had waste hanging from him, but none at all this week. I believe his anus is enlarged/swollen and pinkish in color. I have added some additional stress coat and stress zyme hoping that might help him. I'm trying not to disturb him too much. Any suggestions? Thanks Nicole < You Pleco is suffering from an internal bacterial infection. Probably found an algae wafer in some form of decomposition and the long intestines of the Pleco just could not pass it through in time. Do a 50% water change vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Try treating with Metronidazole. When they are this bloated it is difficult for them to recover.-Chuck>
Pleco Almost Better    1/19/06
Hi Chuck, Thank you very much for your advice, he is doing much better. He is almost normal again. I followed the treatment directions and treated the tank twice. Do you recommend a third treatment? < In your reply you said he was almost normal. I would treat one more time until he is acting normal.> He now has a few tears in his fins and one pinkish sore on his back from all of his thrashing around. Any advice on helping the recovery along? Thanks again for the quick and good recommendation. Nicole < Keep the water clean and watch the spot closely. If it looks like it is getting bigger then treat with Nitrofuranace. This medication will affect the good bacteria needed for breaking down the fish waste. After treatment, use a good carbon to remove any leftover medication and then add Bio-Spira from Marineland to get the bacteria going again.-Chuck>

Sick Plec - 08/16/2005 I got a new common Pleco (about 8") inherited from a 125 gal. tank I am starting in my basement, but put him in my 55 until it is ready. There were 3 other small common Plecos in there before adding him (I know it was overkill, but I fed them enough algae discs to make it.) <Feeding isn't so much the issue, as aggression.> Well the smallest of the four died the next biggest, then the other, and now the big guy is sick. His eyes are very cloudy, and his stomach is puffy. <Many, many possibilities, here....  test your water, first and foremost - ammonia an nitrite must be ZERO, nitrate less than 20ppm....  adding such a large, waste-producing animal may have caused your tank to cycle again.  Another major possibility is Ich, which typically only affects a plec's gills; possibly internal parasites or bacterial infection.  Adding an unquarantined fish is always risky when it comes to any disease.> I can't find anywhere online what to do, you are my last hope, he's not going to make it much longer if even through tonight. He lays on his back and just breathes, but is not eating. Can you help me out? <Test your water, fix if necessary....  Beyond that, I would consider treating for Ich - it's very, very difficult to know if that is the problem, though....  and there are so very many other things it could be.  From your descriptions, though, I doubt if you would have success treating if it were something internal, at this point.> I appreciate it. <I wish I had better advice.> Mark Cygan, Olathe, KS <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina, who grew up in/near Augusta, KS.... I do miss those Kansas storms!>

Spotted Sailfin Pleco behavior, health 7/15/05 Hi I was wondering if you could help me. I have a 190 litre tank which is currently being filled out with Tetra. I also have a spotted Sailfin Pleco which I have had for approximately five years.  I came home yesterday to find the Plec at the bottom of the tank resting on the artificial grass but more on its side.  It looked liked it was dead! Anyway when it was touched it swam off but came back minutes later to again lie on its side and not move. <Happens> It has never been like this before it has always been an active fish and I am quite concerned.  I have checked the ph and nitrate levels which seem fine and the water temp hasn't risen dramatically (very slightly due to the weather).  I have also caught him and given him the once over but there are no odd areas of spots or anything on him.  Any advice as to what is happening or is he just dying of old age.  Thanks.     <Large Loricariid species can/do live for a few decades. I suspect yours was just resting... natural. Bob Fenner>

Pleco donation 7/13/05 Hello WWM crew! <Hi there> I am looking for ideas on where to donate a Pleco that is too big. I want to find him (his name is Harley) a good home. I wish I had known when I got him how big he would get. He is about 14" long and we've had him for several years. We have a 50 gallon tank and he is cramped in there with other fish. We don't have enough money to buy anything bigger. Do you have any suggestions of safe homes or places where there would be a mutual benefit? Thank you for any help you have to offer, Rain and Harley <Mmm, you could try a local public aquarium if there is one... Or the local tropical fish society (likely listed on the Net)... maybe place an advert. at your local fish stores, or even ask them for a trade for a couple of smaller Plecostomus. Bob Fenner>
Re: Donated Pleco 7/14/05
Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I had not thought of the aquarium. I tried the zoo, but they said they don't take animals that don't have known histories. I appreciate the thoughts - Rain and Harley <Thank you for your concern, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Pleco-Ulcer Hi, <Hello> I have a Pleco that's approx 9" long that developed a small ulcer on its belly between its front fins, about 2 weeks ago. I don't know if it was caused as an injury or a bacteria. Since then I have bought an antibacterial treatment which I have administered to the ulcer as instructed by the shop owner where I purchased the Pleco from. The fish is in a quarantine container and is eating it's food ok, however the ulcer has gotten considerably bigger and the ulcer is quite deep now. Can you advise me as to how to treat the Pleco please. <I will try... I strongly suspect what you have here is a tumor born of nutritional deficiency... and the best way to treat this is to soak this animals foods in a vitamin and iodine based supplement. Please check with your fish store re brands, and add to the food ten-fifteen minutes before offering. 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

Subject: leopard Pleco and royal Pleco best friends? Hello me again. I am setting up a new 110 gallon tank and was wondering if I could put a leopard Pleco  (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps) and a royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus) could be put together in the same tank because I know Plecos belonging to the subfamily Panaque are aggressive to each other. <Mmm, am inclined to dissuade you from this mix... but actually don't know how well these two Loricariids would get along... In all the years I retailed the more popular Panaque we kept them one to a tank as adults... If the system were big enough I guess you could try them together... observe if there is much negative interaction... I doubt if there would be much damage with these highly armored cats in a short trial. Bob Fenner> 

Gulping Plecostomus A few months ago I spoke to Marina about my tetra with no eyes. Sadly he passed away some time ago. I think I over-enthusiastically gave him too much food which possibly removed a lot of the oxygen from the water in his protective container as it began to decay. I came home from work and he had died during the day. It was upsetting - stupidly you always get attached to the sick or injured ones! Thanks for all your help though Marina. I have two huge (8ins, 7 1/4ins) plecs in my 4ft tank, which is getting too small for them now. The tank is in my bedroom and I think its been one or both who've been keeping me up at night! Over the last 4 nights or so, I've been waking up what seems like every few minutes. Yesterday I couldn't get to sleep because of the irregular splashing, gulping noises coming from the tank every few minutes or so. I think this might be the cause of my insomnia, but I'm concerned from the plecs' perspective. I understand some plecs do gulp to "gain better control of their buoyancy", to allow themselves to graze upside down etc. However this shouldn't be necessary every few minutes should it? They hardly ever do it during tank light hours. I have two huge internal filters (Fluval 4 Plus and Fluval 3) that double as aerators (they are great wave machines!) so do not use a separate air pump. The Fluval 3 has not been running well the last few days. Could this have affected the oxygen content enough to cause this behaviour? The other fish seem unaffected. The only other thing I can think is that is might be a symptom of their outgrowing the tank. The dominant Plec has begun to physically harass the submissive one, though thankfully there have been no actual battles - the submissive just swims away as fast as possible! What do you think? < When water enters a canister filter it contains oxygen. The bacteria in the filters utilize this oxygen so when it comes out of each filter it essentially contains no oxygen. Now two things could get going on with your tank. If it is an oxygen deficiency then the addition of a small air pump and an airstone should take care of the problem. Plecos are really nocturnal so I suspect that they are feeding on the algae and left over food that may accumulate at the waters surface along the edge of the tank. If they are hungry then give them a couple algae wafers when you turn out the lights and that should keep them busy until you fall asleep.-Chuck> Thanks ever so! Rachael Bartlett

Plecos and Goldfish Hi, I was just given a 12" Pleco that had outgrown it's tank. After three days I noticed it was trailing long ropelike poop. Is this normal? If not what is the cause and what should I do? < This is normal for large algae eating Plecos and requires no attention> Also, I have several large goldfish. Are there any problems keeping them together? < Your Pleco comes from South America were the water is soft , acidic and warm (80+). Your gold fish like cooler water below 70. So if you try and keep it around 75 they will survive but may not thrive. If either becomes ill then you may have to place them in their own tanks with either warmer or cooler water depending on the species.-Chuck> Thank you for your help. Doug

Sailfin Monster Hi, my name is Chris, and am new to your site which, by the way I find enjoyable and very informative. <Hello, Chris.  Thank you for the kind words.> My question is this; My sister has turned me on to a marble Sailfin Pleco, which she says doesn't get any longer than 6". After many searches on the internet, I'm finding most references leaning toward the "Sailfin Pleco", which can grow rather large. Are they one in the same? <Quite likely.  A few fish probably fall under this name, but far and above, the most common is the 'gibbiceps' Plec - Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps - which can and will grow to 18" quite easily.  Take a look here:  http://www.planetcatfish.com/catelog/loricari/glyptope/148_f.htm . And if not, could you give me the Latin name for the "marble" Sailfin Pleco? <Again, same beast.  If you're interested in plecs, browse through http://www.planetcatfish.com/core/index.htm and browse through the L numbers, see what all there is that interests you.  Sizes, food requirements, and gobs of other info can be found there.  Enjoy!  -Sabrina> Thanks, Chris

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

Re: Pleco with big spot Yes, I have done all of those. Although, about every 3 to 4 weeks, it seems I will see a fish staying constantly at the top, and picked on by other fish, then a few days later, is dead. As far as ammonia, the natural cycling of the tank would show a high level of ammonia before high nitrites, and then nitrates. I am currently out of Nitrite/Nitrate test sticks, I do have ammonia testing available, and it remains at 0. (Although a test at PetCo after fish had died indicated slightly high ammonia, I immediately went home and tested, and my test kit indicated 0.) <Thats the correct pattern but sometimes an ammonia spike will be so fast that if you arent testing daily you will miss it. I recently had a new tank show 0 ammonia but the nitrites were at 5. This was after just one day of being set up. However, I dont think thats the problem in this case. Since these are smaller tropicals (judging from your photos), it is still possible that whatever is on your Pleco is killing them even though they dont show signs of it. I know I said yesterday it wasnt likely but I did some thinking on this last night and with the small size of them it is possible that there would be no visible symptoms.> I have considered that the 2 indications I mentioned point to 1 of 2 things - a fish constantly at the top is supposed to indicate a lack of oxygen or burning of gills, correct? <Usually> And being picked on by other fish of the same species indicates something may be wrong with that fish, right? <With the types I saw in your pictures, yes. These are generally non aggressive fish that dont often pick on their own species.> I have made a few mistakes. Buying fish from PetCo and immediately introducing them into the tank. After doing so, I had been at the same PetCo a few days later, and noticed a lot their fish had Ich, or the cotton effect, and a lot of their tanks had dead fish floating in them. I pointed this out to them, but they really could have cared less. <Ouch. Unfortunately, this is all too common.> What I learned from that situation is, don't buy fish from anyone who doesn't care about the condition of the fish. <Sometimes theres no other option though. A strict QT period is necessary for all new additions, regardless of where its purchased.> I suppose this might be a cause of some of them dying. <Not the Ich but they may have been mis-handled somewhere along the line. Or they may have some sort of internal problem. At this point, I would recommend just keeping exact track of when you lose a fish. Mark the day on your calendar and see if youre actually losing them as often as it seems. And when one is dying, inspect it closely both before and after death to see if you can find anything.> I appreciate your help with this, but I still haven't found enough meaty info by looking on this site, do you have any exact links that go in depth? Or any other sites that give a step to step? <Unfortunately, I dont. Use your favorite search engine to search for Plecostomus disease and see what it pulls up.> One of the descriptions of the problem suspected with the Pleco, says Black or yellow nodules, ulcers on or under skin. ON the skin would be accurate. It actually looks like a dime sized area where someone piled caviar. So this one, I tend to think is not it - Flukes. Red or Black nodules under skin. Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thanks. Kirk <I agree but I couldnt see closely in the pictures so figured they were both worth mentioning. At this point, unless you find something more definitive in your search, isolate him and treat him for Ichthyosporidium. Have you been feeding him anything or just letting him eat whats in the tank? If you arent already, you may want to try supplementing him with algae wafers, particularly ones with Spirulina. I am very sorry that I havent been of more help! Oh, the correct link (since I gave you a broken one yesterday!) is http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm Ronni>
Re: Pleco with big spot He has been in a tank with many other tropical fish, are they infected then? I lose about 1 fish every month, is this why? Kirk <Its possible but they would probably have been showing some kind of symptoms. My guess is that the losses are from something else. Have you tested your ammonia and nitrites recently and kept up with the water changes? Ronni>

Re: Pleco with big spot Yes, I have always fed him algae discs, but when I feed the fish, he always goes to the top and gets as much of that as he can too. I feed him 3 or 4 discs at a time (since he is so big) about every other day. (since I know he eats the other fish food too) <Very good> I have an 18 Gallon tank that I took down when I moved, and never set it back up. I had a lot of trouble with that tank. Fish always died. The temp was incredibly difficult to keep steady (thus I bought a Tronic settable heater) The gravel in the tank was large gravel, which I later learned is a no, no, especially in a smaller tank. It had only an undergravel filter, which wasn't doing the job, so I bought a small power filter for it. But fish were always dying, and I was always busting the small Pleco in that tank, harassing, attacking, or eating the other fish. I got rid of that Pleco, and moved the remaining fish from that tank (molly babies) To my 65 Gal. (where the 13 inch Pleco is) <Not uncommon with some Plecos. Theyre generally mild mannered but once in a while they can be a terror. For now, I would suggest setting the 18g back up with the power filter, no gravel, a heater, and a light if you have one.> Also, that smaller tank, when I would look close at the gravel, had some very tiny white creatures, about the size of a speck of dust, swimming and squirming around in it. I was told this was sometimes normal, and those creatures were not harmful to the fish, but actually gave them more protein to eat. <Yes, its true that these are harmless. Many tanks seem to get them.> Anyway I will get some smaller gravel and set that tank up, but shouldn't it sit with only water, gravel, plants and filtering for about 4 weeks to get the cycle in place? <Nope, you can set it up and begin using it immediately by filling it with water from your 65g. Try to get some of the dirt that accumulates in the gravel and put it in the 18g also. This will seed your tank and you wont have to wait for the full cycle. You will still have to monitor ammonia and nitrites and possibly do a few water changes but by setting it up this way you can at least reduce the cycle period to just a few days (my longest cycle period with this method has been about 4 days)> Would it be safe to treat the entire 65 Gallon tank for what the Pleco has? <Its not recommended. Some fish are more sensitive to medications than others and you also run the risk of medicating fish that dont need it.> And if so, will doing so destroy the carbon in the filters, thus they should be removed? Does any type of additive that requires removal of the carbon cause harm to the fish if put in and carbon is not removed? In other words, does it cause a reaction or dissolve the carbon and send it into the water, being dangerous for the fish, or does it just ruin the carbon? Or, does the carbon do its job and remove the additive from the water making it a waste of time to use the additive? <The latter. It doesnt ruin the carbon but the carbon removes the medication.> OK, enough for now, thanks again for your help. Kirk <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: Pleco with big spot I am replying to you again to send better pics of the Pleco. <Yes, these show the affected spot much better> I have now set up the 18 gal tank, and quarantined him. <Very good> I am still unable to truly know exactly what this is he has. He displays no signs of any of the descriptions I've researched, other than the obvious raised cysts you can see in the pics. Basically, about all I have found are these 2 things, and have found no references after endless searching as to exactly what it could be, and even if it is the Ichthyosporidiosis, how to treat Ichthyosporidiosis (other than this one reference to food additives and water treatment). One of the descriptions even indicates that at the point that cysts appear its most likely too late for the fish. This greatly saddens me. Here are the 2 descriptions I have come across: Ichthyosporidiosis A. Ichthyophonus hoferi; large 10-250 micron spores which may germinate to form large hyphae (similar to the hyphae of Saprolegnia). B. This fungus infects all species of fish. C. Clinically the fish are emaciated with small round occasionally ulcerated black granulomas in the skin. Scoliosis is occasionally observed. Internally numerous granulomas are observed in many visceral organs. Microscopically the lesion consists of granulomas with encysted large PAS-positive spores. Occasionally large irregular shaped hyphae are observed. D. Transmission is unknown. Ichthyosporidium Symptoms: Sluggishness, loss of balance, hollow belly, external cysts and sores. Ichthyosporidium is a fungus, but it manifests itself internally. It primarily attacks the liver and kidneys, but it spreads everywhere else. The symptoms vary. The fish may become sluggish, lose balance, show hollow bellies, and eventually show external cysts or sores. By then it is usually too late for the fish. Treatment is difficult. Phenoxethol added to food as a 1% solution may be effective. Chloromycetin added to the food has also been effective. But both of these treatments, if not watched with caution, could pose a risk to your fish. It is best, if diagnosed soon enough, to destroy the affected fish before the disease can spread. Here are the latest pics: (also notice how he always gets all splotchy with areas of lighter color on his skin for a few days after I have moved him.) <OK, I have conferred with others on the crew and Bob suggests that this may actually be the plecos internal mass showing through after and injury. Hes seen this before in some pond fish and it generally heals itself with time. You may want to keep him QTd during this time just to make sure no other fish pick on him and in case you do need to medicate but its not absolutely necessary at this point. The lighter colored splotches that you see when you move him are just from stress and will disappear once he relaxes again. Ronni>

Re: Pleco with big spot OK, here's the thing though. Last July, when I picked this Pleco up from my sister (the previous owner) I transported him and an Oscar 6 hrs north to my house. It was a rough ride, and later I discovered transporting them the way I did was a no, no. The Oscar died the next day. The day after that, as I was setting up the tank, and preparing to put the Pleco in, we noticed the spot, and wondered if he had been injured during the move. <Possibly> I asked my sister (who was in poor health, and actually hadn't looked at the fish tank in about 4 months) and she said, well, last time I saw him, he didn't have any sores. Now keep in mind, that he was in a tank, that the water had gone down to about half way, no water changes had been done in all those months, the filtration system was turned off all that time, and it was questionable whether they had been fed any time recent, or if there were even any fish in the tank, because the water was so murky, you couldn't even see anything but grey murky water. <Goes to show how "tough" these animals are> I fished around through the water later and discovered the Oscar and the Pleco. After observing that sore back in July 2002, I have kept an eye on him, and the sore has not gotten smaller, its gotten bigger. He has been in a 65 gal tank with other tropicals and lots of plants and ornaments, until I moved him to this 18 gal tank for quarantine the other day. (which he is mad about, I've observed him trying to swim around, and he bumps against the glass, then swims to the top, then bumps the glass again, like he is having trouble accepting that this tank is smaller than what he is used to. Have never seen him do that in the other tank) So, I suppose its possible this is an injury. My question is, why has it gotten bigger? <Perhaps a continuing infection, maybe secondary> I also suppose he could be re-injuring it, but if so, I have seen no behaviour to indicate how or when he would have, other than the last few days in the new tank. Kirk <Catfishes come in two "varieties", "naked" and armored... Plecos are of the latter group. Once the skin and armor is broken it can be trying to cure an infectious disease. Bob Fenner>

Sailfin Pleco problem, Pleco Problems? Howdy, <How Y'all doin. Scott F. here for you!> Great website, w/ great info. I've seen that you have given helpful advice to tons of people and I hope that you can do the same for me. I have a 29 gallon freshwater, planted, community tank. My 4" sailfin's tail has turned reddish orange at the very tips on the top and bottom. His activity seems to be normal although he doesn't limit his eating schedule to just night time. Diet consists of algae, algae discs, and the occasional zucchini. Ammonia, Nitrite, and pH levels all proper. Regular 1.5 - 2 week water changes (RO). No sudden changes in any aspect (except for maybe slight water temp fluctuation.) Aeration seems to be OK, Sailfin and other fish seem to be breathing at normal rates. That is about all the info I can think to report. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Bill Walker <Well, Bill-it sounds like your water conditions and husbandry are excellent, the Pleco seems to be eating well, and his diet seems okay. I cant be 100% certain from here, but I'll bet the red is just a color variation for your particular fish, or perhaps this is a pattern unique to a specific geographic "race" of Plecos. I have had leopard Sailfins that developed a reddish tinge on the upper part of their tails, and they were fine. The fact that the color is on both tips, and no where else on an apparently healthy fish is a good sign, IMO. In the absence of any disease "symptoms", I'd say that there is nothing wrong with your fish. Do keep a close eye on him, and be prepared to take action if disease becomes evident. Perhaps you should check the store where you acquired him to see if the other Plecos show that coloration, or check with fellow hobbyists who own this fish. But I'll bet he's fine!>

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