Pleco Fry 101: Care, Food, Growth, Survival Rate & More

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Even after years of experience, I recognize that raising Pleco fry can be tough.

This is particularly true for those new to fishkeeping, as Pleco fry bring a host of questions with them.

How do you look after such fragile beings? What is their diet? How frequently should you feed them? Is it necessary to remove the parents? And what gear do they require?

Here, I’ll discuss all of that, so you leave with all the information you need. Let’s get started.

For those in a hurry, here is a table summarizing the most crucial information on Pleco fry:

Tank Size20-30 gallon tank
EquipmentShelters, heater, sponge filter, hiding spots
pH Level6.5-7.5
Temperature24-28°C (75-82°F)
Water HardnessModerate hardness
Ammonia LevelsKeep at zero
Nitrite LevelsKeep at zero
Nitrate LevelsKeep low
Types of FoodMicron pellets or powdered spirulina
Feeding FrequencyFeed small amounts 2-3 times daily
Separation DurationUntil strong and large enough to compete with adults
Survival Rate60-90%
Growth StagesEgg, Newly Hatched, Early Fry, Middle Fry, Late Fry

Also Read: Pleco Fish Care Guide

The Pleco Breeding Process

The Pleco breeding process involves distinct stages from courtship to hatching, each requiring careful observation.

It progresses from pre-spawning activities to egg-laying in secluded areas, and then the incubation period until the eggs hatch.

  • Pre-Spawning Activities: Plecos exhibit increased movement and male Plecos clean suitable egg-laying sites, usually within caves or PVC pipes.
  • Egg-Laying: Females lay 50-400 eggs, often in concealed areas like caves, ensuring a secure environment for future offspring.
  • Guarding the Eggs: Male Plecos guard the eggs, fanning water over them to supply oxygen and prevent fungus development.
  • Incubation Period: Lasts about 5-10 days, ending with the hatching of the eggs into juvenile Plecos, starting the new generation.

Also Read: Breeding Pleco Fish

How to Hatch Pleco Fish Eggs

To hatch Pleco fish eggs, keep the water temperature at 78-80°F (25.5-26.6°C) and provide a calm and clean environment.

Ensure the adult Plecos are separated from the breeding tank to avert any harm to the eggs.

  • Consistent Temperature: Maintain a stable 78-80°F (25.5-26.6°C) water temperature using reliable heaters and frequent monitoring. I personally use the Fluval E300 Advanced Heater (link to Amazon).
  • Isolate the Eggs: Transfer eggs gently to a separate tank, or remove adult Plecos, preventing them from potentially consuming the eggs.
  • Proper Aeration: Utilize air stones or gentle filters to ensure consistent water oxygenation, crucial for Pleco eggs’ healthy growth. My recommendation: Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon).
  • Routine Monitoring: Inspect eggs daily for health; remove unhealthy ones promptly to avoid contamination to healthy eggs.
  • Patience is Key: Let the Pleco eggs hatch naturally within 5-10 days, ensuring a hands-off approach for optimal hatching success.

How to Care for Pleco Fish Fry?

Caring for Pleco fish fry involves seven central steps. Here’s what you should do:

Step 1: Set Up the Right Tank

Setting up the right tank involves considering the size and the internal setup. Proper space and a safe environment ensure healthy growth for Pleco fry.

  • Right Tank Size: Opt for a minimum 20-gallon tank for Pleco fry. This size ensures ample space for growth and movement, promoting healthy development.
  • Proper Filtration: Install a sponge filter to protect fry. It keeps the water clean without the risk of Pleco fry being sucked into the filter intake. My recommendation: Pawfly Nano Bio Sponge Filter (link to Amazon).
  • Safe Materials: Use smooth rocks and live or silk plants. This setup provides a safe and natural environment, preventing Pleco fry injuries.

Step 2: Keep the Water Clean and Warm

Maintaining the water’s cleanliness and temperature is vital. It guarantees the healthy and steady growth of the Pleco fry.

  • Consistent Temperature: Use heaters to maintain 78-80°F water. Consistent warmth is paramount for the optimal growth and health of Pleco fry.
  • Regular Testing: Employ water testing kits weekly. Ensuring stable pH, ammonia, and nitrite levels provides a healthy environment for Plecos.
  • Timely Water Changes: Change 10-15% of tank water weekly. This practice helps in maintaining a clean and healthy habitat for Pleco fry.

Step 3: Give Them Places to Hide

Providing various hiding places offers safety and comfort for Pleco fry. Secure environments encourage healthy growth and development.

  • Various Hiding Spots: Include PVC pipes, plants, and caves. These elements offer Pleco fry the necessary safety, comfort, and hiding spots. My Plecos absolutely loved this Jabukosu Aquarium Cave (link to Amazon).
  • Suitable Decor: Opt for soft, smooth decorations. This guarantees a secure and harm-free zone for the developing Pleco fry.
  • Regular Check: Keep a close eye on and clean hiding spots frequently. Maintaining clean and accessible hiding areas enhances healthy Pleco growth.

Step 4: Provide Proper Nutrition

Feeding appropriate food is essential for the correct development of Pleco fry. A nutritious and suitable diet is fundamental to ensuring the fry’s health and vigor.

  • Balanced Diet: Provide nutrient-rich, small-sized food. Adequate nutrition is essential for the healthy development and growth of Pleco fry.
  • Consistent Feeding: Supply food to Pleco fry 2-3 times a day. A steady feeding schedule ensures regular nutrient intake.
  • Oversee Food Consumption: Observe the fry’s food consumption carefully. Modify food portions to make certain that Pleco fry are eating sufficiently and growing appropriately.

Step 5: Closely Monitor Their Health and Development

It’s crucial to keep a frequent watch on the Pleco fry’s health and growth. Regular checks and observations make sure they are developing appropriately and maintaining good health.

  • Daily Checks: Inspect Pleco fry daily for any irregularities. Prompt intervention can avert health problems and guarantee the Pleco fry’s well-being.
  • Growth Charting: Keep a growth log to monitor development. Regularly charting their growth ensures Pleco fry are developing at a healthy rate.
  • Health Consultation: Consult a vet for unexplained issues. Professional guidance is crucial to address any health concerns promptly for Pleco fry.

Step 6: Change the Water Regularly

Changing the water regularly is a fundamental step in ensuring a clean and healthy environment for Pleco fry.

  • Weekly Water Changes: Replace 10-15% of the water weekly. Regular water changes prevent waste buildup and ensure a clean environment for Pleco fry.
  • Water Quality Check: Test the water parameters during changes. Maintaining optimal water conditions is vital for the healthy growth of Pleco fry.
  • Proper Water Treatment: Use dechlorinators and conditioners as needed. Proper water treatment ensures a safe and healthy habitat for Pleco fry. I personally use the Tetra AquaSafe (link to Amazon).

Step 7: Gradually Acclimate Them to the Main Tank

Getting Pleco fry accustomed to the main tank should ideally be done at 4-5 weeks of age. It should be a steady, gentle process.

  • Gradual Introduction: Gently and gradually introduce the Pleco fry to the main tank. Taking time for acclimation helps ensure the fry adjust comfortably to their new environment.
  • Observe Behavior: Pay attention to the behavior of the Pleco fry during the transition period. Consistent observation helps ensure that the fry are settling well, without experiencing stress or discomfort.
  • Modify Environment: If necessary, make changes to the main tank to ensure it is fry-friendly. Ensuring a suitable environment in the main tank fosters the well-being of the Pleco fry.

Is It Mandatory to Separate the Parents from the Breeding Tank?

No, it is not always required to remove the parents from the Pleco breeding tank. Nonetheless, doing so in certain instances can help in safeguarding the fry.

  • Parental Behavior: Some Plecos exhibit defensive parental behavior, potentially safeguarding the eggs and fry and minimizing risks.
  • Possible Threat: In some situations, Pleco parents that are stressed or inexperienced may pose a threat to the eggs or fry by consuming them. Keeping an eye on them can help avert such occurrences.
  • Stress Reduction: Separating the parents can sometimes reduce stress. This can be especially true in tanks where space is limited.
  • Fry Safety: Without parents, fry have a free environment. This ensures they can explore and grow without interference or potential threats.

What Gear Do Pleco Fish Fry Require?

To ensure the health and growth of Pleco fry, specific equipment is essential in the tank to create the ideal environment.

  • Gentle Filtration: Sponge filters are ideal for Pleco fry tanks. They ensure clean water without the risk of the fry being sucked into the intake. My recommendation: Pawfly Aquarium Nano Bio Sponge Filter (link to Amazon).
  • Consistent Heating: A reliable aquarium heater is vital. Maintaining water temperatures around 78-80°F is crucial for Pleco fry development.
  • Hiding Spots: Offering PVC pipes, caves, and plants is key. These provide Pleco fry with shelter, safety, and a sense of security.
  • Soft Lighting: Dim, indirect lighting benefits Pleco fry. Softer lighting is favored as harsh lighting can stress the fry.
  • Testing Kits: Regular checks on water parameters ensure a thriving environment. Use testing kits to keep track of pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, maintaining ideal conditions for Pleco fry growth.

What is the Diet of Pleco Fish Fry?

Pleco fish fry flourish on a protein-rich diet filled with essential nutrients to bolster their quick growth.

Provide small, easy-to-handle portions of high-quality, specially made fry food, and blanched vegetables.

  • High-Quality Fry Food: Choose specially designed Pleco fry food to ensure they obtain the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development. My recommendation: Northfin Fry Starter (link to Amazon).
  • Blanched Vegetables: Serve small bits of blanched vegetables. Zucchini and spinach supply additional nutrients to Pleco fry and are easy for them to eat.
  • Varied Diet: Offer a range of food items for comprehensive nutrition. Providing a varied diet ensures that Plecos receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

How to Feed Pleco Babies

To feed Pleco babies, provide a mix of foods in the right quantities and at consistent times to guarantee appropriate growth and nutrition.

  • Scheduled Feeding: Feed Pleco fry 2-3 times a day at the same times. Consistency in feeding helps regulate their digestive systems and ensures proper nutrition.
  • Appropriate Portions: Provide food that Pleco fry can consume within 2-3 minutes. This amount prevents food waste and ensures clean water conditions.
  • Avoid Overfeeding: Give small amounts of food to Pleco fry frequently. Overfeeding may lead to water pollution, adversely affecting the fry’s health.
  • Nutrient-Rich Food: Offer high-protein and vitamin-rich food, like specialized fry pellets. The right nutrition aids in the healthy and robust development of Pleco fry.
  • Observe Eating Habits: Monitor the Pleco fry’s eating habits to adjust portion sizes. If food is left after feeding, reduce the amount given next time.
  • Blanched Vegetables: Provide pea-sized pieces of blanched vegetables like zucchini or spinach every other day. This adds essential nutrients to their diet and promotes digestive health.
  • Gradually Introduce New Foods: Add one new food type to their diet every week. This slow introduction helps Pleco fry adjust to varied nutrients and textures without digestive upset.
  • Consult Experts for Diet Plans: Reach out to veteran aquarists or vets for personalized Pleco fry feeding schedules and diet plans. Expert advice can tailor the diet to your specific Pleco breed and tank conditions.

How Many Fry Can a Pleco Fish Have?

The number of fry a Pleco can have varies greatly, typically ranging from 20 to 500, depending on the species.

Some Pleco species may have even more offspring, laying up to a thousand eggs at a time.

  • Common Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus): Common Plecos can lay hundreds of eggs at once. On average, they may produce around 300-400 eggs per breeding cycle.
  • Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus spp.): Bristlenose Plecos generally have fewer eggs, typically around 20-100. This manageable number is great for beginner breeders.
  • Sailfin Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps): Sailfin Plecos can produce a large number, around 500 eggs. Their breeding can be more challenging due to the large fry number.
  • Rubber Lip Pleco (Chaetostoma milesi): Rubber Lip Plecos typically lay around 30-150 eggs. This moderate number is easier to manage for many hobbyists.
  • Clown Pleco (Panaqolus maccus): Clown Plecos have a modest egg production, generally laying about 20-40 eggs. This makes their breeding more manageable and controlled.

Understanding the Pleco Fish Fry Growth Stages

Pleco fish fry go through several stages of growth, each characterized by specific developments, changes in size, and dietary needs.

  • Egg Stage (Day 1-7): Pleco eggs are tiny and fragile. During this time, they need a stable environment and careful monitoring for successful hatching.
  • Newly Hatched (Day 7-14): New Pleco fry are minute, around 1-2 cm long. At this phase, they start absorbing their yolk sac and don’t need extra food.
  • Early Fry Stage (Week 2-4): During this period, pleco fry grow to approximately 2-3 cm. Proper nutrition and clean water are crucial for promoting robust growth.
  • Middle Fry Stage (Week 4-8): Fry now grow to approximately 3-5 cm. They begin to look more like adult Plecos and need a diet rich in both protein and vegetables.
  • Late Fry Stage (Week 8+): Plecos reach about 5-8 cm. Ongoing care, observation, and a well-rounded diet ensure their continued healthy development.

Can Pleco Fish Fry Survive in the Main Tank?

Yes, Pleco fish fry can survive in the main tank, but it’s dependent on various factors like tank conditions and the presence of predators.

Providing a secure and stable environment significantly boosts the chances of their survival.

  • Secure Hiding Spots: Provide numerous hiding places for Pleco fry to escape predators and adult fish within the main tank.
  • Proper Nutrition: Ensure Pleco fry have access to adequate nutrition, like algae and specialized fry food, for healthy growth.
  • Tank Conditions: Maintain optimal water conditions, keeping the temperature around 78°F (25-26°C), crucial for the survival of Pleco fry.
  • Monitor Adult Fish: Keep a watch on adult fish to ensure they are not preying on the Pleco fry, ensuring the fry’s safety.

Also Read: Pleco Fish Tank Mates

What is the Survival Rate of Baby Plecos?

The survival rate of baby Plecos generally falls within a 60-90% range, contingent upon the care and environment provided.

Providing optimal conditions and monitoring can help in achieving higher survival rates.


For those in a hurry, here’s a brief recap:

  • Comprehending Pleco mating patterns, egg laying, incubation, hatching, and growth phases is essential for successful breeding.
  • There’s no strict need to separate Pleco parents from the breeding tank as some may display protective behavior.
  • Essential equipment for Pleco fry tanks includes gentle filtration, consistent heating, hiding spots, soft lighting, and water testing kits.
  • Feeding Pleco fry a balanced diet and monitoring their health and growth are key to achieving a survival rate of 60-90%.
  • Pleco fry go through various stages, from egg to late fry, each requiring specific care and nutrition to ensure healthy development.