View Full Version : I suck at plecos

UAV online
11-22-2010, 06:10 PM
I have a 30 Gallon tank with 3 baby bala sharks (harmless and keep to their own) and 5 average sized tiger barbs.and I've had them living fine in this tank for almost 4 months now. They were all my original first fish. But I've had about 4 different common plecos, all died within a week or two of introducing them to the tank. I have algae, driftwood, algae tablets, zucchini, perfect PH NH3 and NO2 levels, and plenty of hiding places. I do not know why these plecos keep dying. It is extremely frustrating to me now. Can someone please explain to me what I am doing wrong?

Lady Hobbs
11-22-2010, 06:29 PM
Just as well because 30 gallons is too small for a pleco and also much too small for bala sharks. Bala's get big.....10"-12"......and more.

Size:Up to 16" (40cm), females smaller

UAV online
11-22-2010, 06:38 PM
I knew i would get a comment like that. honestly.. they're fine. if I need to get a bigger tank, then I'll get one when I need it. my Bala Sharks are only 2.5 inches long. I highly doubt my 3 inch pleco are suiciding because they have no room, yet at every fish specialty store, they have almost 6-7 fully grown plecos in a tank no larger than mine.

11-22-2010, 06:46 PM
Fish stores can do that because the fish are only kept in such cramped conditions for a short length of time before they're sold. It's not ideal, but it doesn't have to be, long term. If you do successfully introduce a common pleco, you'll need to upgrade your tank quickly, they're fast growers. Bala sharks need a lot of space not just because they get big, but because they're very active fish that need a lot of room to run.

As for your plecos that have died, can you tell us anything you've noticed about them immediately prior to and after their deaths? Have their bellys been full or sunken (some plecos and other fish are not given proper food during shipping and storage at the store and could be starving by the time you buy them)? Any signs of disease (also entirely possible with new fish) or physical damage (tiger barbs can be pretty nasty)?

11-22-2010, 06:50 PM
Not all water is suited to plecs. My wife was never able too keep them either. The good news for you is that you shouldn't be trying. Most plecs are too big for a 30 gal ,especially commons. The bad news is if a common won't make it for you neither will any of the smaller plecs.

UAV online
11-22-2010, 06:59 PM
they usually turn a palish gray color the night before and kinda hang out at the top of the water. I did notice this last one looked as though it was shedding and had a fuzzy spot on its nose area, so I assumed it was some sort of bacterial disease. I immediately did a 50% water change, and added a tiny bit of freshwater salt.

11-22-2010, 07:23 PM
what type water test do you use? BTW. The balas have no business being in such a small tank either.They have the capacity to reach well over a foot and to be kept correctly need over a 100 gal tank.I know Im telling you alot of what you dont want to hear:11: but thats what I do:ssmile:

11-22-2010, 07:57 PM
My common pleco is around 3-4 years old, he is up near the 16" mark. My balas hit 8" in about a year and a half. That is a pretty normal growth rate. Common plecos also grow pretty large pretty fast. A 30g is a good stepping stone into a larger tank, but as others told you, it is WAY too small in the long run.

Put simply, you WILL stunt your fish, they will be deformed, and they will not live long. I have seen a few bala's kept in less than ideal conditions. They end up stubby and short bodied. Properly kept, they are active, longbodied fish. Also, a full grown bala is a force you do not want to underestimate. They spook easy, and will beat themselves up, possibly kill themselves in a smaller tank, just by running into the sides. Something to consider.

As far as the pleco's go,
1- they don't like salt
2- what is your water reading? ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and PH. Perfect is relative. Your testing method also comes into play. Dip strips I am assuming?

3- have you compared your Ph to the Ph where you purchase your fish? A drip acclimator might help you with this.

4-do you have a heater in the tank? Do the plecos have any hiding places aside from behind the heater? They have a bad habit of scorching themselves.

UAV online
11-22-2010, 08:42 PM
I have a tetratest laborett it has a bunch of different test chemicals and stuff.

I know Balasharks and plecos get big. thats why I got them, they seem to enjoy their stay in the 30 gallon for now until I can afford to buy a tank the size of the Atlantic. Its a long 30 gallon, not a cube. they have lots of length to swim. I enjoy the support of being told I need a bigger tank, but you can only read it so many times a day. especially in youtube comments, those usually include death threats and hateful remarks. My 3 best friends all have had aquariums before I got mine, so I'm a little more informed about aquarium stuff than the average noob :P.

but yes I have a heater, set at around 78 degrees. I was also told that common plecos are a lot more sensitive than others. and that maybe a bristle nose would be more appropriate.

11-22-2010, 08:49 PM
I enjoy the support of being told I need a bigger tank, but you can only read it so many times a day.

You keep getting told you need a bigger tank because its true, and it's going to bite you soon if it hasn't already (the fish may be getting stunted even if you think they have plenty of room at this size). You're expressing annoyance at being given correct information. You came here for advice, but you're rejecting at least part of the advice you've been given simply because you don't like it. That attitude will make people lose interest in giving you additional advice very quickly.

I was also told that common plecos are a lot more sensitive than others. and that maybe a bristle nose would be more appropriate.

I'm not sure about sensitivity between commons and bristlenoses, but bristlenoses are a much better choice for the simple reason that they grow to be 4-6" rather than 18-24".

11-22-2010, 09:00 PM
I gotta jump in here just to give another angle to the comments about the tank being too small. I know, I know, I know - I just can't run out and get a 75 gallon tank today. So my question is regarding the level of importance and speed in which to get a small (3.5") sailfin pleco into a larger tank without "stunting growth" or other maladies causing my sailfin to not live life to his fullest. My sailfin seems happy and healthy - good color, habits, "pleco love handles" - the whole deal. I want to be a good owner....

11-22-2010, 09:10 PM
Lug: check your pm.:22:

11-22-2010, 09:14 PM
What size tank is it in now, Lugnut?

The thing both of you need to understand is how fish growth hormones work. Fish secrete hormones into the water around them, and they can sense the concentration of those hormones and by extension how much space they have. When they sense they are short on space, that is when stunting starts to happen. A stunted fish stops its exterior growth but the growth of internal organs continues, which needless to say is a very bad situation for the fish.

The point? You cannot wait until a fish is bumping against the glass to declare that it "needs a bigger tank". If you have found yourself in possession of a fish that will ultimately need a bigger tank (which happens to almost all of us when we are new to the hobby), upgrading the tank or finding a new home for the fish should be your highest priority if you care for the health of the fish and want to maximize their health and lifespan.

When money is an option (and honestly, when isn't it?), used tanks and equipment can be found in classifieds or craigslist for pennies on the dollar, and sturdy tank stands can be built yourself with a minimum of labor and materials. UAV, my suggestion would be to stop spending money on new plecos and instead use that money to look for a good deal on a larger tank.

11-22-2010, 11:26 PM
What are your water chemistry readings? Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, and PH. How often do you do water changes? Is the tank only 4 months old or have you just had these fish for 4 months? In my experience pleco only do well in aged tanks and as soon as you say "my pleco is doing great" they die.


PS: I think we've driven home the point of the tank being too small. It is, we know it, he knows it. We can only hope that he goes through with the plans to upgrade for the sake of the fish. We've all made mistakes in keeping fish I think we can move on.

UAV online
11-23-2010, 04:38 AM
i just got back from the movies. thanks for all the replies. that comment wasnt supposed to be snotty, it was just me expressing that I understand it and no one has to write it anymore. im more frustrated that they even sell 30 gallons.


My tank was aged a month before adding fish.

after the new year, if I can afford it after taxes and what not, i will purchase a 55 or a 75 gallon tank. one thing i forgot to mention was that i planned on distributing my bala sharks to my friends 75 when they got to be about 6 inches. but I guess this wont be necessary anymore.

11-23-2010, 05:06 AM
Still too small of a tank. Balas need more than 50 to 75 gallons. they need AT LEAST 100 gallons. I once had a leopard pleco (similar to commons) and I upgraded to the 80g mainly because of him. I ended up selling him to a guy who planned on getting him into a 100 gallon tank. Plecos can do well or awful in a tank. It depends on the water. My plecos have always done well. Yes, a BN would be a better choice but if the commons died I wouldn't risk just getting another pleco. Also, IMO you have 2 options:

1. Sell the bala sharks and buy some tetras. Then you can have a nice little community tank.
2. Keep the balas but get a tank over 100 gallons ASAP.

11-23-2010, 05:12 AM
I could just tell you this in person, and I know you want a pleco as your main fish, but I'm going to say a bristle-nose will be a good option for the tank size you have. Get the normal type as they get bigger than the albino type but they only need around 20 gallons to be happy. A zebra or clown pleco are smaller too, and they have stripes o_o

I told you about the balas too :)

11-23-2010, 05:13 AM
Zebras are very expensive though.

UAV online
11-23-2010, 05:42 AM
I think I'm just going to get a zebra. I can at least ride a zebra to work or a friends house. and I wont ever have to worry about getting a bigger backyard.

11-23-2010, 05:54 AM
LOL. I meant a zebra pleco. They are often around $300 each and are hard to find. If that dies, you would have wasted all that money. I heard the Brazillian government won't allow them to be caught which is why they are so expensive and difficult to find.

11-24-2010, 01:09 AM
zebra pleco, or an 125 gallon tank. Hmmm

11-24-2010, 03:17 AM
What are you feeding the plecos? They may not be getting proper nutrition. Were they eating at all? It is possible their hormonal secretions are inhibiting their appetite in a 30 gal tank -they may be succumbing from lack of nutrition, I don't know if this is a proven issue, but it is not disproved either. I've never run into this myself but I keep predominately micro fish and never have to worry about it.

The fish's metabolism may be trying to control it's growth based on the concentration of the hormones. It looks to you like it has lots of space - but the hormone concentration might be telling it not to grow at the normal rate and if that is what is happening it may be impeding appetite. I've seen so many large plecos in too small tanks so it would seem unlikely, but there is a lot of diversity from fish to fish and there could be a parameter in your water that is contributing to a feed back loop of this kind, or your food choice might lack an essential nutrient for a pleco and it is enough combined with these other issues that they can't overcome the set backs. Small plecos are young, and young fish are by nature not as robust as adults so they succumb more quickly to environmental challenges.

And a long shot might be what else in the tank - is it planted, and what are the plants? It sounded like the tank is not very old, I have seen some people put plants in their tanks that are not true aquatic plants ( a pox on those bad LFS that sell these!) . Some terrestrial species will live a short time completely submerged (a few months) but some are toxic and Plecos will try to scrape algae off the leaves - especially if they are not given enough algae in their food. This would provide a vector for poisoning the fish.

Have you checked your water hardness, Kh and other parameters (pH, trates and dissolved organics) compared to the parameters the Plecos were in at the fish store? Many fish have a difficult time making large adjustments quickly, if you are buying through the mail you could have a large variation between your parameters and the parameters they were hatched in. As young as yours were (2 inches is very young) they may not be able to adjust fast enough to survive.

The thing you have to remember is that you are creating a complete eco system - the fish are intimately connected to the ecosystem in every conceivable way, any imbalance or poor match will have a cascade of responses in the fish. Sometimes the cascade is within the fish's ability to adapt, but sometimes there will be something in the cascade (or several things in combination) that it cannot adapt to, (or adapt fast enough) and the fish will succumb. Since you have fish in the tank currently and you are only losing Plecos, I think you have a cascade of issues that for the juvenile Plecos is incompatible with life. I wouldn't look for one explanation, but would instead assess the total environment and note every issue that is known to be not ideal for the species. Look at your plants, your decorations, temp, every water parameter you can measure, the other species in the tank, every parameter you can measure in the water the fish came to you in, the source of your Pleco (same store, same breeder?), the amount of light/dark in the tank, the food you are feeding the Pleco, the food you are feeding the other fish, the oxygen level in the water, the current, the ambient noise in the room if there is enough volume to transmit through the tank walls, the size of the tank (sore subject I know, but it has to be included in the picture). Look at the total environment, because there is some combination of factors that is responsible for the consistent Pleco mortality. If you know what the contributing factors are you can decide if it is worth the effort for you to change them.

Good luck to you - I hope you can overcome this challenge, as Plecos are fascinating fish and well worth the effort to keep.