A lot of people are under the common misconception that they do not have to provide any food for their algae-eating crew. Unfortunately, this is very far from the truth and results in a lot of fish casualties along the way. Here are a few tips that may help you keep your next pleco alive.
1. Offer them a varied diet of fresh greens and veggies.
There are many different types of algae that grow in the aquarium, and not all plecos will eat every single kind. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find an algae-eating fish that will show interest in species of algae outside of their specialty. For this reason, it is important to supplement their diet with various greens and veggies to keep them from starving. This also applies to snails, otocinclus, and any other algae-eating critter you’ve got in your tank.
2. Don’t keep multiple algae eating fish together.
Make sure that you don’t go overboard on fish and invertebrates that specialize in eating algae. If you do, there will be too much competition for a food source that simply cannot sustain all of them. Common plecos are also notorious for becoming territorial with their own kind as they mature, so eventually you may end up having problems keeping more than one in your fish tank set up.
3. Ditch the aquarium salt.
Many species of plecostomus are very sensitive to salt, so if you are adding aquarium salt to your tank you will have to decide between the pleco or the salt! The best thing you can do is research the species that you have purchased so that you can learn about its ideal environment.
4. Only purchase babies that have a well-rounded stomach.
This is a very important tip that is often overlooked. Don’t be afraid of asking for a specific pleco at the pet store – they may be fast but they are not impossible to catch! You do not want to bring home a baby that has a very sunken in stomach because this is a very good indication that it is not a healthy fish.
5. Research your chosen species before you purchase it.
Taking the time to learn about your fish is a huge part of keeping them alive. Many species of pleco and other algae eating fish have very specific care requirements that you will have to meet. For instance, some plecos rely heavily on a diet that contains driftwood, and some so-called algae eaters are not herbivores at all! Rather, they prefer a very meaty diet that usually results in them taking chunks out of your other peaceful community fish.
It’s very important to remember that your pleco (or other algae eating fish/snail) is not going to do the whole job for you. If you are having difficulty controlling excessive algae growth in your fish tank set up then you will need to figure out what the root cause is.
For instance, are you feeding your fish too much, or leaving the lights on for too long? A fish will never replace prevention on your part when it comes to getting rid of algae. In fact, most of my larger plecos simply turn into large tank decorations once they hit about 6-8 inches – Felix, my former 20+ inch one became very spoiled and only ate vegetables that I prepared!
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