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Can Plecos And African Dwarf Frogs Live Together?

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Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs are both fan favorites in freshwater aquariums. But, can they coexist in one tank?

What do you need to think about if you’re housing them together? How should you set up the tank, manage water conditions, and address their distinct feeding preferences?

Which Pleco varieties work well with this combo, and which ones are best to steer clear of? And what about other potential tank mates?

In this article, I’ll dive into these topics and more, so you leave with all the information you need. Let’s dive right into it.

Can I Keep Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs Together?

No, Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs are not ideal tank mates. While they can technically share space, there are some pressing concerns.

  • Aggressive Nature: Some Plecos can become territorial and may see smaller creatures, like the frogs, as intruders, potentially leading to confrontations.
  • Size Disparity: Plecos can grow quite large, and their sheer size can stress or inadvertently harm the much smaller African Dwarf Frogs.
  • Habitat Preferences: Both Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs are bottom-dwellers, which can lead to competition for space and potential territorial disputes.
  • Temperature Requirements: Plecos typically thrive in warmer water (76-86°F) whereas African Dwarf Frogs prefer slightly cooler conditions (around 75°F).
  • Activity Levels: Plecos are mainly nocturnal and might disturb or outcompete African Dwarf Frogs during their periods of rest or nighttime activity.

Also Read: Pleco Fish Tank Mates

Plecos vs. African Dwarf Frogs: Behavior

The first factor worth considering is the Plecos’ and African Dwarf Frogs’ natural behavior. Here is what you should know:

Pleco Fish: Natural Behavior

Plecos, originating from South American rivers, have unique behaviors shaped by their environment.

They’re primarily nocturnal and are well-known algae eaters in home aquariums.

  • Nocturnal Lifestyle: Plecos are primarily active at night, scavenging for food and exploring their environment.
  • Algae Eating Habits: These fish possess specially adapted mouths to cling to surfaces and graze on algae, making them excellent tank cleaners.
  • Territorial Nature: Especially when mature, Plecos can become territorial, staking out their favorite hiding spots.
  • Sucker Mouth: Plecos use their uniquely shaped mouths not just for feeding but also for clinging onto surfaces, such as rocks or tank walls.

African Dwarf Frogs: Natural Behavior

African Dwarf Frogs are fun little amphibians, primarily spending their lives underwater. They’re known to be quite active and social, often seen swimming or floating.

  • Aquatic Lifestyle: While they are frogs, they spend almost their entire lives submerged, only surfacing for air occasionally.
  • Group Behavior: They tend to be social and thrive better in groups, often seen “dancing” or playing with each other.
  • Hunting Technique: African Dwarf Frogs hunt live or frozen prey, using their keen sense of movement to catch it.
  • Vocal Tendencies: Males often “sing” or produce a buzzing sound to attract females or communicate.

Ideal Parameters for Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs

The right water parameters ensure the health and well-being of aquatic life. Here’s a comparison of the ideal conditions for Plecos, African Dwarf Frogs, and a combined tank:

ParameterPleco FishAfrican Dwarf FrogsBoth Types
Temperature72°F – 86°F (22°C – 30°C)68°F – 78°F (20°C – 25.5°C)72°F – 78°F (22°C – 25.5°C)
pH Level6.5 – 7.56.8 – 7.86.7 – 7.6
Water Hardness6 – 10 dGH4 – 8 dGH5 – 9 dGH

Pleco Fish: Ideal Parameters

Plecos are somewhat forgiving but do have specific water needs. They prefer warmer, slightly acidic to neutral water conditions.

  • Temperature Preference: Plecos thrive in warmer water, usually between 76-86°F (24-30°C).
  • pH Level: A pH level ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 is ideal for most Pleco species.
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water is best, with a general hardness of 4-10 dGH.

African Dwarf Frogs: Ideal Parameters

These little frogs are tropical creatures and enjoy specific water conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

  • Temperature Requirement: African Dwarf Frogs prefer slightly cooler conditions, around 72-78°F (22-25.5°C).
  • pH Level: A pH of 6.5 to 7.8 ensures their health and well-being.
  • Water Hardness: Soft to medium water hardness, with a range of 5-20 dGH, is ideal for these amphibians.

Plecos vs. African Dwarf Frogs: Tank Setup

To create a thriving environment, Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs require specific tank setups. This table provides insights into their individual and combined preferences:

Setup ItemPleco FishAfrican Dwarf FrogsBoth Types
Ammonia Nitrite NitrateLow levels; 0 ppm for ammoniaLow levels; 0 ppm for ammoniaLow levels; 0 ppm for ammonia
Tank Size30+ gallons for small species10+ gallons for a pair50+ gallons
FoliageBroad-leaf plantsFloating plants like HornwortMix of both types
DecorationsDriftwood, cavesSmooth rocks, cavesVariety of both
FilterStrong filtrationModerate filtrationStrong with gentle flow
SubstrateSand or fine gravelSoft sandSand or fine gravel
PumpNot strictly necessaryBeneficial for water movementModerate strength
LightingDim to moderateDim lightingDim to moderate

Pleco Fish: Tank Setup

Plecos are larger and more active fish that demand particular attention to tank setup. A spacious and well-filtrated environment is essential for their well-being.

  • Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate: Keeping these levels in check is crucial; Plecos produce a fair amount of waste.
  • Tank Size: A minimum of 55 gallons for juvenile Plecos; larger species can require up to 150 gallons or more as they mature.
  • Foliage: Plecos enjoy places to hide, so ample foliage and plants, both real and artificial, are beneficial.
  • Decorations: Driftwood is a favorite for Plecos, aiding in digestion and offering a grazing surface.
  • Filter: A strong filtration system is essential to handle the waste they produce and keep the water clean.
  • Heater: Plecos prefer warmer waters, so a reliable heater is necessary.
  • Substrate: Soft, sandy substrates work best for Plecos, mimicking their natural habitat.
  • Pump: A good water circulation is key, ensuring a flow that simulates their native river environments.
  • Lighting: Dim or moderate lighting is preferred; remember, they are primarily nocturnal.

African Dwarf Frogs: Tank Setup

Being aquatic amphibians, African Dwarf Frogs have unique tank needs, focusing on both water quality and accessibility to surface air.

  • Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate: Stable levels are essential, as these frogs are sensitive to drastic changes in water chemistry.
  • Tank Size: A 10-gallon tank is the minimum for a pair, with more space needed for additional frogs.
  • Foliage: Plenty of plants, whether real or artificial, provide hiding spots and resting areas.
  • Decorations: Smooth stones and cave-like structures can offer refuge and enrich their environment.
  • Filter: A gentle filter is crucial; strong currents can stress and tire the frogs.
  • Heater: Consistent warm water temperatures are necessary for their health and comfort.
  • Substrate: Fine sand or smooth gravel is best, ensuring the frogs’ delicate skin isn’t scratched.
  • Pump: Adequate water circulation helps in oxygen distribution but should be gentle to avoid strong currents.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting conditions suit these frogs, simulating their tropical habitat’s canopy coverage.

The Dietary Requirements of Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs

A balanced diet is crucial for the longevity and health of aquatic species. Here’s a comparison of dietary needs for Plecos, African Dwarf Frogs, and when they share a tank:

Dietary AspectPleco FishAfrican Dwarf FrogsBoth Types
Food TypesAlgae wafers, veggies, occasional proteinInvertebrates, brine shrimp, bloodwormsVaried diet for both
Quantity2 wafers daily depending on size2-3 times weekly, tiny portionsMonitor to prevent overfeeding
Feeding ScheduleDaily2-3 times weeklyAdjust for both species

Pleco Fish: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Plecos have a primarily herbivorous diet but appreciate occasional protein. Their dietary requirements are diverse and include both commercial and natural foods.

  • Food Types: Algae wafers, fresh veggies (like zucchini), and occasional protein treats like shrimp pellets.
  • Quantity: Amounts vary by species and size; a large Pleco might consume a full zucchini slice in a night.
  • Feeding Schedule: Typically, feed once a day during the evening when they’re most active.

African Dwarf Frogs: Ideal Dietary Requirements

These little amphibians are carnivorous and enjoy a diet of meaty foods, requiring careful feeding to ensure optimal health.

  • Food Types: Live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia are ideal for them.
  • Quantity: A pinch of food per frog, ensuring they can eat it within a few minutes, is a good rule of thumb.
  • Feeding Schedule: Feeding 4-5 times a week is generally sufficient, ensuring they’re not overfed.

Pleco Species Most Suitable for a Tank With African Dwarf Frogs

When considering Plecos to share a tank with African Dwarf Frogs, smaller and more peaceful species are ideal.

They should not be overly aggressive or grow too large, which would overshadow or intimidate the frogs.

  • Bristlenose Plecos: Growing only up to 4-6 inches, they’re among the smaller Plecos, making them compatible with the tiny frogs.
  • Clown Plecos: A diminutive size of about 3-4 inches and their calm demeanor make them a good match for a community tank.
  • Rubber Lip Plecos: Another smaller species, they reach sizes of around 4-5 inches and are non-aggressive.
  • Pitbull Plecos: These tiny creatures, at 3 inches, won’t pose a size threat to the frogs and have a peaceful nature.
  • Candy Striped Plecos: Growing to 4 inches, their gentle temperament and attractive pattern make them suitable for shared tanks.

Also Read: Can Plecos And Turtles Live Together?

Pitbull Pleco

Which Pleco Types Shouldn’t Be Kept with African Dwarf Frogs?

Certain Pleco species can either become too large or show behaviors that might be harmful or stressful to African Dwarf Frogs.

These species should ideally be kept separate from the small amphibians.

  • Common Plecos: These can grow up to 24 inches and can easily become dominating in the tank, overshadowing the frogs.
  • Sailfin Plecos: Their potential size of 18 inches and their territorial nature can make the environment stressful for the frogs.
  • Royal Plecos: With sizes reaching up to 17 inches, their presence can be intimidating and unsuitable for dwarf frogs.
  • Vampire Plecos: Although striking in appearance, their size (10 inches) and occasional territorial behavior aren’t frog-friendly.
  • Gold Nugget Plecos: Growing up to 10 inches, their sometimes assertive nature can pose a threat to the more docile African Dwarf Frogs.

How to Introduce Your Pleco to a Tank with African Dwarf Frogs

To harmoniously introduce Plecos with African Dwarf Frogs, careful planning and precise steps are essential. Here’s a comprehensive approach to ensure a smooth transition:

  • Acclimatization Process: Float the Pleco’s bag in the tank for precisely 30 minutes, balancing temperatures and reducing initial shock.
  • Gradual Introduction: Every 10 minutes, add 50ml of the tank’s water to the Pleco’s bag, adjusting it to pH and hardness levels.
  • Use a Quarantine Tank: A 10-20 gallon quarantine tank for 3 weeks prevents the spread of diseases and pests to the main tank.
  • Observe Behaviors: For the first 72 hours, watch for aggressive chasing or nipping between Plecos and frogs to intervene if necessary.
  • Provide Hiding Spots: Add 3-4 caves or driftwood pieces, ensuring each species has a refuge to escape and feel secure. I personally picked the Dr. Moss Malaysian Driftwood (link to Amazon) for my Pleco.

Tips for Keeping Plecos with African Dwarf Frogs

To ensure a thriving coexistence between Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs, consistent care and attention to detail are key. Here are actionable tips for a serene tank environment:

  • Choose Compatible Pleco Species: Prefer species like Bristlenose or Clown Plecos, which remain under 6 inches and exhibit docile behaviors.
  • Monitor Diet: Feed Plecos 2 algae wafers daily and ensure they’re consumed to prevent them from targeting frog-specific foods. My recommendation: Invert Aquatics Mini Algae Discs (link to Amazon).
  • Maintain Clean Water: Weekly checks using a liquid test kit ensure ammonia stays below 0.25 ppm, essential for both species’ health.
  • Offer Adequate Space: A 50-gallon tank reduces chances of territorial disputes and ensures ample roaming space for both.
  • Limit Stress: Using LED lights on a 10-hour cycle creates a consistent environment, mimicking natural day-night rhythms.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: Keeping a ratio of 1 Pleco to 3 frogs prevents resource competition and territorial confrontations.
  • Regular Observation: Dedicate 10 minutes daily to observe behavior, ensuring no signs of stress, disease, or aggression arise.

Best Tank Mates for Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs

Both Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs thrive when housed with certain peaceful and compatible species. It’s crucial to select tank mates that won’t be aggressive or compete heavily for resources.

  • Guppies: These small, vibrant fish are peaceful and can coexist with Plecos without competing for food or space.
  • Tetras: Neon or Cardinal Tetras, with their calm demeanor, make a colorful addition without threatening Plecos or frogs.
  • Corydoras Catfish: Bottom-dwelling like Plecos, they search for food remnants, ensuring a cleaner substrate without territorial conflicts.
  • Ghost Shrimp: These transparent crustaceans are beneficial cleaners, and their peaceful nature complements both Plecos and frogs.
  • Mystery Snails: These large snails contribute to tank cleanliness and pose no threat to Plecos or the African Dwarf Frogs.
  • Rasboras: Harlequin or Chili Rasboras are peaceful schoolers, making them compatible with both Plecos and the gentle frogs.

Also Read: Can Two Plecos Live Together?

Mystery Snail


For those of you who are just skimming through, here’s a short recap:

  • Plecos and African Dwarf Frogs are not ideal tank mates due to potential issues like aggression, size disparity, and habitat preferences.
  • Plecos are primarily nocturnal, algae eaters, while African Dwarf Frogs are aquatic, carnivorous, and social in behavior.
  • Ideal water parameters differ slightly, with Plecos preferring warmer water and African Dwarf Frogs favoring slightly cooler conditions.
  • Tank setups for Plecos should include ample hiding spots and strong filtration, while African Dwarf Frogs require gentle filtration and plenty of plants.
  • Choosing compatible Pleco species, monitoring diet, and maintaining clean water are essential for successful cohabitation with African Dwarf Frogs.