Can Guppies Live With Plecos? Will a Pleco Eat Guppies?

As a fish owner, there were times when I failed to combine two types of fish that were too different. That was when I started to question whether my guppies can share their tank with the pleco I wished to buy. To prevent potential issues, I started to investigate the topic pretty extensively.

Guppies can live with plecos in the same tank since both species are relatively docile and require similar water conditions, including pH and temperature. Yet, species like the Common Pleco can grow large and eat guppies, so the comparatively smaller Bristlenose Plecos would be the better choice.

As we move forward, I will share a few tricks that will help you to grow guppies and plecos successfully in the same tank. Those become useful once conflicts arise since they eliminate underlying stressful conditions, such as inappropriate water conditions.

Guppies and Plecos: Can They Live Together?

Guppies can potentially live with plecos, especially if you get the right one, such as the Bristlenose Pleco.[1] Plecos can live with most fish. The key is to keep them comfortable and well-fed. If they have a generously sized tank and sufficient food, they won’t make any trouble. 

Guppies are the same. They are community fish that are not opposed to sharing their tank with plecos. If you compare and contrast the attributes of plecos and guppies, you will reach the same conclusion:

1. Small Size Differences

Size is the biggest worry where plecos and guppies are concerned. That is because guppies have an average size of 2 inches.[2] Plecos, on the other hand, can reach 24 inches.[3] They are a pretty massive type of fish. If you have any experience with fish, you know that bigger fish tend to eat smaller fish. 

Fish will eat anything they can fit in their mouths. However, with plecos and guppies, the size isn’t necessarily a problem. That is because plecos come in various sizes. Admittedly, the most common plecos are relatively larger, boasting an average size of 12 inches. That is what most stores sell. 

However, if you’re worried about the size difference between the two species, plecos are available in various types, some of which are relatively small. For instance, some Bristlenose Plecos are just 3-5 inches long.[4]

Another example would be the Clown Peckoltia, which is 3 inches on average. If you don’t want to pair your guppies with much larger fish, look for smaller pleco types. Nevertheless, you should make sure that the type you buy will remain small as it grows.

2. Docile Temparmenets

Plecos are attractive community fish that can live peacefully with most other aquarium fish because they are nocturnal creatures. They spend most of the day hiding, only emerging at night. Some plecos will abandon their nocturnal habits after joining a community tank.

But in most cases, they prefer to stay out of sight during the day. Additionally, they are bottom dwellers that will steer clear of the tank’s upper sections that guppies frequent. Therefore, even when upset, the two species aren’t likely to encounter one another. 

Generally, plecos mind their own business. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call them docile.[5] Guppies are just as peaceful. They are social creatures that enjoy the company of other fish. They might show aggression towards other guppies, but they rarely antagonize different species, especially if those species are more significant than them.

3. Similar Water Requirements

The tank conditions might present a challenge for some people. On the whole, plecos and guppies can survive in the same waters. Guppies require a temperature of 75-82 degrees F, a pH of 6.8-7.8, and slightly harder water.

Plecos require temperatures of 74-80 degrees F, a pH of 7.0-8.0, and alkalinity ranging between 3 and 10dKH.[6] The parameters of the two species don’t differ that drastically. However, you might have a problem where the tank size is concerned.

Plecos are usually small when they are young, roughly two inches in size. But they get much more prominent as they age. The average pleco requires a 150-gallon tank. Admittedly, this doesn’t apply to every pleco.

Bristlenose plecos, for instance, can live in 25-gallon tanks. Gold nugget plecos need at least 50 gallons. The size of the fish will determine the size of the tank. The bigger the pleco, the bigger the tank required.

The same is true for the numbers. If you want to house multiple plecos, you need a massive tank. If you wish to avoid the large aquarium’s financial demands, you shouldn’t bother keeping plecos in your guppy tank.

On the other hand, if your tank can host numerous plecos, you wouldn’t have trouble introducing guppies to it. They are relatively small fish that don’t require much space. Also, as was already mentioned, they swim in different sections than plecos.

4. Plecos Are Not Picky Eaters

Usually, when introducing a new fish to the tank, one must perform little changes to diet. For example, shrimp require different food than fish, and will probably not grow healthy with merely pellets and flakes.

Luckily, plecos don’t require much. They are bottom feeders that typically eat algae and sinking algae wafers.[7] That means that you can feed your guppies as you did before adding plecos to their tank, and the two should grow just fine.

However, if you’ve cleaned your tank pretty frequently, you should do that less when it comes to plecos. Since they eat leftovers and algae, too clean tanks could challenge and interfere with their diet.

How to Make Guppies and Plecos Coexist?

Plecos are docile creatures, but that doesn’t guarantee a peaceful coexistence with your guppies. If you have observed some aggressive behavior in the tank, the following will help you diffuse the violence:

1. Feed Both Species Properly

As was noted above, plecos won’t cause any trouble if they are comfortable and well-fed. The creatures eat algae, and for that, people use them to keep their aquariums clean. However, that doesn’t mean that plecos can survive on the algae solely. 

In some cases, it would be best if you supplement their meals with food items like cucumbers, raw zucchini, and shelled peas. A malnourished pleco, the kind that has only eaten algae, may attack your guppies. It won’t hesitate to eat them to survive.

If your tank doesn’t feature any algae, the supplements mentioned above are mandatory. You should also consider adding those if your pleco appears slim and doesn’t grow as it should. The same goes for guppies, which may nibble on your plecos or their algae when starved.

Therefore, you should feed your guppies the amount of food they can consume within two to three minutes. If they have finished their meal before that period, pour some more. That is particularly true if they share the tank with aggressive fish that share their meals.

2. Choose the Right Number of Fish

Plecos are indeed peaceful fish that are unlikely to act aggressively towards their tank mates. But that primarily applies to tanks with one pleco. The easiest way to invite conflict is to store multiple plecos within the same aquarium.

First of all, because they are so large, housing two or more plecos would require aquariums of 300 gallons or more, which is not tenable for many aquarists. Secondly, in the presence of their kind, plecos can become quite territorial, and that can cause aggression. 

For the good of your aquatic community, you should keep one pleco in each tank. Higher numbers may compete over territories and food. With guppies, you need at least three females for every male fish to keep the peace.[8] If you have too many males, they may become aggressive towards one another and their tankmates.

3. Add a Few Plants

Plecos need as many hiding places as you can provide. That includes plants, logs, and caves. But you should apply care where live plants are concerned. Plecos have been known to destroy them in an attempt to eat the algae attached to them.

Broad-leafed plants are not suitable for tanks with plecos. You can either prioritize hardy plants or species like java moss with a rapid growth rate. Plecos might behave aggressively in tanks that lack sufficient foliage. They need to feel secure in the day time. 

Without decent hiding places, your plecos will probably act out. The same is true for guppies and guppy fry. To avoid conflicts from their side, put a few high plants or decorations. That will lower their stress and will prevent aggression towards other fish in the tank.

4. Ensure High Water Quality

Plecos are popular in some circles because they eat algae. As a result, some people think that they can rely on their plecos to keep their tank clean. But that is a mistake. While the plecos will eat the algae in the aquarium, you are still expected to carry out essential maintenance.

That means vacuuming the substrate (though plecos will eat the leftovers found at the bottom), performing water changes to minimize the concentration of toxins like ammonia, and installing heaters to maintain the right temperature.

On that matter, I highly recommend checking the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon)Opens in a new tab.. That bundle will measure your pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites and show you if they are out of the desired range. That is probably the best choice I’ve made when it comes to aquarium products.

Bear in mind that low water quality will induce stress in plecos. Stressed plecos may quickly attack your guppies once they encounter them. If you want your plecos to behave, you should make them comfortable by maintaining their water quality.

5. Perform Aquarium Rearangemenets

If your plecos and guppies seem calm and share the same tank without any issue, you should remain things as they are. However, if the tank’s conditions are proper and you still see aggression and chasings, you should act before it worsens. 

One trick is to rearrange the decorations and plants in the aquarium to reset the preexisting territories. For example, if you move your pleco’s favorite cave or rock, it will have to seek a new place to hide. It won’t necessarily remember its previous spot.

By doing so, you will eliminate aggression that arises once a guppy fish enters your pleco’s territory. It also works if your pleco favors a spot ruled by a guppies group, especially the male ones. It works like a charm and doesn’t require much effort.

6. Avoid Overstocking

While plants and decorations are necessary, you should also avoid overstocking your tank. Your guppies and their tankmates should be able to swim freely without encountering their companions too frequently. That, in turn, could cause conflicts.

When fish live in territories that are too close to one another, aggression will likely manifest. To avoid that, make sure that the decorations and plants are far from one another. Keep the pleco’s cave or rock on a different side, far from the guppies territory.

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Conclusions

The most crucial factor you should consider when it comes to guppies and plecos is their size. To make sure the two can share the same environment, you should keep their size differences minimal. That is why you should pick species like the Bristlenose Pleco, which remains relatively small.

Then, it would help if you took care of the tank’s conditions. Start by testing the water for pH, nitrates, and ammonia. If either one is out of the desired range, you should perform more frequent water changes. I also recommend cleaning the substrate for leftovers while providing your plecos with other foods such as zucchini and cucumbers.

References

  1. https://smartaquariumguide.com/best-guppy-tank-mates/
  2. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/guppy-care-guide
  3. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/plecostomus/
  4. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/bristlenose-pleco/
  5. https://pethelpful.com/fish-aquariums/Common-Plecostomus-Fish-Care
  6. http://aqueon.com/information/care-sheets/plecostomus
  7. https://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/caresheets/plecostomus.html
  8. https://www.aquariumnexus.com/guppy-male-female-ratio/

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