Can Plecos And Rope Fish Live Together? (7-Must Know Tips)

Disclosure: When you purchase something through my affiliate links, I earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Both Plecos and Rope Fish are favorites in freshwater tanks. But can they really coexist in the same aquarium?

What do you need to think about if you’re planning to keep both? How should you set up the tank, manage the water, and what are their feeding preferences?

Which types of Plecos work well with this combo, and which ones should you steer clear of? Any other fish that could join the party?

In this article, I’ll cover all these questions and more, giving you all the information you need. So let’s dive in.

Can I Keep Plecos and Rope Fish Together in the Same Tank?

Yes, Plecos and Rope Fish can be kept together in the same tank. Both species have characteristics that make them compatible under the right conditions.

  • Tank Size Considerations: Plecos, especially common varieties, can reach 24 inches. Both species prefer larger tanks, making their cohabitation more feasible.
  • Behavioral Traits: Plecos are generally docile bottom-dwellers, while Rope Fish are peaceful mid-water swimmers. This reduces the likelihood of territorial disputes.
  • Dietary Habits: Plecos primarily graze on algae and detritus. Rope Fish, being carnivorous, won’t compete with Plecos for food resources.
  • Hiding Spots Abound: In natural habitats, Plecos hide under rocks while Rope Fish use aquatic plants. A well-decorated tank can support both species’ behaviors.
  • Temperature Tolerance: Both species thrive in similar temperature ranges, between 72-78°F, making it easier to maintain suitable conditions for both.

Also Read: Pleco Fish Tank Mates

Plecos vs. Rope Fish: Behavior

The first factor worth considering is the Plecos’ and Rope Fish’s natural behavior. Here is what you should know:

Pleco Fish: Natural Behavior

Plecos, native to freshwater habitats in South America, have developed unique behaviors tailored to their environment.

They’re known for their algae-eating tendencies and nocturnal activities.

  • Algae Eaters: Plecos have specialized mouths allowing them to scrape algae off surfaces, making them a favorite for natural aquarium cleaning.
  • Nocturnal Activity: Most Plecos are more active at night, hiding under rocks or wood during daylight and exploring when it’s dark.
  • Bottom Dwellers: Plecos spend the majority of their time near the substrate, using their flat bellies to glide across surfaces.
  • Territorial Nature: Especially during breeding times, Plecos can become territorial, guarding their chosen spot from intruders.

Rope Fish: Natural Behavior

Originating from Central and West Africa, Rope Fish have elongated bodies and display behaviors that are markedly different from Plecos.

  • Mid-water Swimmers: Unlike Plecos, Rope Fish tend to occupy the middle layers of the water column, gracefully gliding through the water.
  • Escape Artists: Rope Fish are known to be great escape artists, often wriggling their way out of tanks if not securely covered.
  • Group Behavior: Rope Fish, in their natural habitat, prefer to be in groups, often seen intertwining with one another.
  • Carnivorous Diet: While Plecos graze on algae, Rope Fish are carnivores, feeding on smaller fish, worms, and crustaceans.

Ideal Parameters for Plecos and Rope Fish

For the health and well-being of both Plecos and Rope Fish, understanding and maintaining ideal water parameters is vital. This table highlights their individual and shared requirements:

ParameterPlecosRope FishBoth Types
Temperature74°F – 80°F75°F – 82°F75°F – 80°F
pH Level6.5 – 7.56.0 – 8.06.5 – 7.5
Water Hardness6 – 10 dGH5 – 15 dGH6 – 10 dGH

Pleco Fish: Ideal Parameters

Plecos thrive best when specific water conditions are met, which mirror their natural habitats.

  • Temperature: Plecos prefer water temperatures ranging between 72-78°F, mirroring their tropical origins.
  • pH Level: A slightly acidic to neutral pH, usually in the range of 6.5-7.5, is ideal for Plecos.
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water, around 4-15 dGH, suits Plecos the best.

Rope Fish: Ideal Parameters

Rope Fish, being from different regions, have slightly different water parameter preferences compared to Plecos.

  • Temperature: Rope Fish thrive in temperatures between 72-82°F, given their tropical and subtropical origins.
  • pH Level: They are comfortable in a pH range of 6.5-8.0, allowing for some flexibility in the tank environment.
  • Water Hardness: Similar to Plecos, Rope Fish prefer soft to moderately hard water, ranging from 5-12 dGH.

Plecos vs. Rope Fish: Tank Setup

Ensuring an ideal tank setup for both Plecos and Rope Fish is crucial for their well-being. This table offers a comparison of their unique and shared requirements:

Setup ItemPlecosRope FishBoth Types
Tank SizeMinimum 30 gallonsMinimum 55 gallonsMinimum 70 gallons
FoliagePlants & driftwoodDense plant coverPlants, driftwood & dense cover
DecorationsRocks & cavesCaves & tunnelsRocks, caves, tunnels
FilterStrong with good flowModerate flowStrong with moderate flow
SubstrateSand or fine gravelSoft sandy substrateSand or fine gravel

Pleco Fish: Tank Setup

Plecos are known for their distinct tank requirements that emulate their native South American habitats.

A proper setup is crucial for the health and longevity of these intriguing bottom dwellers.

  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate: Plecos need a tank with stable water parameters. Ammonia and nitrite should be at 0ppm, while nitrates should be kept below 20ppm.
  • Tank Size: Given that Plecos can grow significantly, tanks of at least 55 gallons or larger are recommended for adult specimens.
  • Foliage: Live plants not only offer Plecos hiding spots but also provide a natural source of food as they munch on algae.
  • Decorations: Rocks and driftwood pieces are essential as Plecos often cling to and hide beneath them.
  • Filter: A robust filtration system is crucial. Plecos produce a fair amount of waste, so a powerful filter ensures clean water.
  • Heater: Maintaining the aforementioned 72-78°F requires a reliable heater to mimic their tropical environment.
  • Substrate: Soft sands or fine gravels suit Plecos, allowing them to glide across the bottom without damaging their undersides.
  • Pump: A water pump that creates mild current mimics riverine environments, beneficial for Plecos.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is ideal. Plecos are nocturnal and can be sensitive to overly bright lights.

Rope Fish: Tank Setup

Rope Fish, with their serpentine forms, hail from Central and West Africa. Their specific setup needs should match the slow-moving rivers and ponds of their origin.

  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate: Like Plecos, Rope Fish require 0ppm of ammonia and nitrite, and nitrates below 20ppm for optimal health.
  • Tank Size: A minimum of 40 gallons is recommended, given their length and active swimming habits.
  • Foliage: Dense aquatic plants are ideal for Rope Fish, offering shelter and mimicking their natural habitats.
  • Decorations: Rope Fish enjoy tunnels and caves, so using pipes and rocks to create such structures is beneficial.
  • Filter: A gentle but effective filter is key, as they prefer less turbulent waters.
  • Heater: A temperature between 72-82°F is best, requiring a stable heater to maintain these conditions.
  • Substrate: Soft sand is ideal, allowing the Rope Fish to occasionally burrow and feel at home.
  • Pump: A mild current, less intense than what Plecos might enjoy, is perfect for these fish.
  • Lighting: Dim to moderate lighting complements the Rope Fish’s preference for a murkier environment.

The Dietary Requirements of Plecos and Rope Fish

Feeding Plecos and Rope Fish the right diet is vital for their health and vitality. This table illustrates their dietary needs and what’s shared when housed together:

Dietary ItemPlecosRope FishBoth Types
Food TypesAlgae wafers, veggiesBloodworms, small fishAlgae wafers, bloodworms, veggies
Quantity2-4 wafers/day depending on sizeBased on size & appetiteModerate, based on each species’ requirement
Feeding ScheduleNightlyEveningPlecos: Night, Rope Fish: Early Evening

Pleco Fish: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Plecos, with their unique mouths, primarily feed on algae and detritus. However, a varied diet ensures they receive all necessary nutrients.

  • Food Types: Algae wafers, blanched vegetables, and occasional protein sources like brine shrimp are ideal for Plecos.
  • Quantity: Feeding should be moderate. Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues, especially given the Plecos’ efficient digestive systems.
  • Feeding Schedule: Plecos can be fed daily, but ensure uneaten food is removed to maintain water quality.

Rope Fish: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Rope Fish, being carnivorous, have a dietary preference vastly different from Plecos. They thrive on a protein-rich diet.

  • Food Types: Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small feeder fish are part of the Rope Fish’s dietary staples.
  • Quantity: These elongated fish have a good appetite. However, overfeeding should be avoided to maintain water parameters.
  • Feeding Schedule: Rope Fish can be fed every other day, ensuring they get a balanced amount of nutrients without excess waste production.

Pleco Species Most Suitable for a Tank With Rope Fish

When considering Plecos to cohabit with Rope Fish, it’s best to look for species that are less aggressive and can coexist peacefully.

Size and temperament are crucial factors to consider for harmonious tank mates.

  • Bristlenose Plecos (Ancistrus spp.): Typically reaching 4-6 inches, their manageable size and calm demeanor make them suitable for tanks with Rope Fish.
  • Clown Pleco (Panaqolus maccus): This smaller Pleco, growing to about 3-4 inches, is peaceful and won’t compete aggressively for space.
  • Rubber Lip Pleco (Chaetostoma spp.): Growing up to 7 inches, these Plecos are non-aggressive and can adapt to various tank environments.
  • Blue Eyed Pleco (Panaque cochliodon): Although rarer and a bit larger at around 15 inches, they’re generally placid and can coexist with Rope Fish.
  • King Tiger Pleco (Hypancistrus spp.): With striking patterns and a size of up to 5 inches, their peaceful nature complements the Rope Fish’s temperament.

Also Read: Can Plecos And Puffer Fish Live Together?

Which Pleco Types Shouldn’t Be Kept with Rope Fish?

Certain Pleco species can display aggressive behaviors or grow too large, making them less suitable companions for Rope Fish.

These species might pose territorial or space challenges.

  • Common Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus): Often reaching over 24 inches, their size and territorial nature can become problematic in shared tanks.
  • Sailfin Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps): Another large species, growing up to 20 inches, they can dominate tank space and resources.
  • Vampire Pleco (Leporacanthicus galaxias): While striking in appearance, they can be more aggressive, potentially clashing with Rope Fish.
  • Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus): Their size, reaching up to 20 inches, combined with territorial tendencies, might lead to tensions in the tank.
  • Royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus): Growing up to 17 inches, their significant size and assertive behavior might overshadow the more docile Rope Fish.

How to Introduce Your Pleco to a Tank with Rope Fish

When introducing a Pleco to a Rope Fish tank, careful acclimation is vital to minimize stress and foster a peaceful environment.

Careful steps ensure both species adjust well to each other’s presence.

  • Quarantine: Always quarantine your Pleco in a separate 10-20 gallon tank for 2-4 weeks, checking for signs of illness.
  • Tank Adjustment: Float the Pleco’s transport bag in the main tank for 20-30 minutes, balancing the water temperatures.
  • Gradual Mix: Over an hour, add 50ml of tank water to the Pleco’s bag every 10 minutes to acclimate it to water parameters.
  • Monitor Behavior: For the first 48 hours, observe interactions every 2-3 hours, ensuring no aggressive chases or nipping occur.
  • Provide Hiding Spots: Arrange driftwood or caves, ensuring at least 3-4 hiding spots for the Pleco to seek refuge. My recommendation: Dr. Moss Malaysian Driftwood (link to Amazon).

Tips for Keeping Plecos with Rope Fish

Coexistence between Plecos and Rope Fish requires understanding each species’ unique needs and creating a balanced environment.

Implementing specific practices ensures long-term harmony.

  • Tank Size: Choose a tank of at least 70 gallons; this gives both species ample space and reduces territorial disputes.
  • Hideaways: Design the tank with 5-7 distinct hiding places using rocks, caves, and dense plant clusters. My Pleco absolutely loves this Jabukosu Aquarium Cave (link to Amazon).
  • Balanced Diet: Feed Plecos with algae wafers at night and offer Rope Fish bloodworms during early evenings to avoid food fights.
  • Regular Monitoring: Dedicate 15 minutes daily to observe their behavior, ensuring they aren’t displaying territorial aggression.
  • Maintain Water Quality: Commit to bi-weekly water tests, ensuring ammonia and nitrite are always at 0ppm for both species’ health.
  • Separate Zones: Dedicate the tank’s bottom third mainly for Plecos and the middle zone for Rope Fish, minimizing overlap.
  • Nighttime Feeding: Since Plecos are nocturnal, feed them after lights out, allowing them to eat undisturbed.

Best Tank Mates for Plecos and Rope Fish

For a harmonious tank containing both Plecos and Rope Fish, it’s essential to choose tank mates that are non-aggressive and share similar environmental needs.

The ideal companions will peacefully coexist and thrive alongside these species.

  • Corydoras Catfish: These peaceful bottom dwellers share the tank’s lower levels with Plecos without any territorial disputes.
  • Tetras: Small and peaceful, species like Neon Tetras or Cardinal Tetras can occupy the mid to upper levels, avoiding Plecos and Rope Fish.
  • Angelfish: With their calm disposition and preference for middle tank levels, they seldom interfere with Plecos’ bottom territory.
  • Loaches: Species like the Clown Loach coexist well with Plecos, both appreciating the tank’s substrate and crevices.
  • Rasboras: These are non-aggressive mid-level swimmers, such as the Harlequin Rasbora, that won’t compete with Plecos for food or space.
  • Gouramis: Peaceful variants, like the Honey or Pearl Gourami, swim in upper levels, far from the Plecos’ domain, ensuring minimal conflicts.

Also Read: Can Plecos And Crayfish Live Together?

Corydoras Catfish


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

  • Plecos and Rope Fish can coexist successfully in the same tank with the right conditions, including a large tank and compatible behaviors.
  • Understanding natural behavior, ideal water parameters, and dietary requirements is essential for their well-being when housed together.
  • Careful consideration of Pleco species is crucial, with some being more suitable tank mates than others.
  • Avoid aggressive or excessively large Pleco species to prevent territorial conflicts.
  • To introduce a Pleco to a tank with Rope Fish, use a gradual acclimation process and provide hiding spots, with regular monitoring and water quality maintenance.