Can Plecos And Shrimp Live Together? (9 Essential Tips)

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Plecos and Shrimp are both favorites for freshwater aquarium enthusiasts. But is it possible for them to coexist in the same aquarium?

What do you need to think about if you want to house them together? How should you manage the tank environment, water conditions, and their diets?

Which Pleco varieties work best with shrimp, and which ones might not be a good match and even eat them?

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

Can I Keep Plecos and Shrimp Together in the Same Tank?

Yes, Plecos and shrimp can share the same tank. However, compatibility largely depends on the species and the specific conditions of the tank.

  • Size Discrepancy: Plecos, especially common ones, can grow up to 24 inches long, while most shrimp are much smaller. This size difference might make shrimp an easy target.
  • Diet Overlap: While Plecos mainly eat algae, they might also consume small animals, which can include shrimp, especially if food is scarce.
  • Habitat Niche: Plecos like hiding spots and flat surfaces to graze on, and shrimp need hiding spots to molt and breed. This might lead to some competition.
  • Tank Space: Considering Plecos’ potential size, they demand larger tanks, while shrimp have lesser space requirements. Overcrowding can stress both species.
  • Shrimp Vulnerability: During molting, shrimp are soft and vulnerable. In such states, they can become easy prey for even the less aggressive Plecos.

Also Read: Pleco Fish Tank Mates

Plecos vs. Shrimp: Behavior

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

Pleco Fish: Natural Behavior

Plecos are nocturnal bottom dwellers that primarily graze on algae. They are known to be somewhat territorial, especially when they find a preferred spot in the tank.

  • Algae Grazing: Plecos are often kept in aquariums because they help control algae growth, acting as a natural cleaner.
  • Territorial Nature: Especially during breeding times, Plecos can get territorial, guarding their chosen spots or caves.
  • Nocturnal Activity: Plecos are more active during the night, which means they might disturb the substrate or decorations in their search for food.
  • Hiding Preferences: Given their nocturnal habits, Plecos often seek shaded or hidden areas during daylight hours.

Shrimp: Natural Behavior

Shrimp are small, delicate creatures that spend much of their time foraging for food on the tank’s surfaces. They can be shy and often require hiding spots, especially during molting.

  • Constant Foragers: Shrimp continually graze on biofilm, algae, and detritus, making them helpful for tank cleanliness.
  • Shyness: Especially when introduced or stressed, shrimp might hide behind plants or decorations.
  • Molting Behavior: Shrimp periodically shed their exoskeletons, and during this phase, they hide because of their vulnerability.
  • Group Dynamics: Shrimp often feel safer in groups and can exhibit more natural behaviors when kept in colonies.

Ideal Parameters for Plecos and Shrimp

When maintaining a tank with Plecos and shrimp, it’s crucial to understand and meet their individual and collective water parameter requirements for optimal health.

ParameterPlecosShrimpBoth Types
Temperature74°F – 80°F65°F – 80°F74°F – 78°F
pH Level6.5 – 7.56.0 – 8.06.5 – 7.5
Water Hardness6 – 10 dGH3 – 15 dGH6 – 10 dGH

Pleco Fish: Ideal Parameters

Plecos thrive best under certain water conditions, reflecting their native tropical freshwater habitats. Keeping these conditions consistent is key to their well-being and lifespan.

  • Temperature: Plecos enjoy warmer waters, usually between 72°F to 86°F (22°C to 30°C).
  • pH Level: They favor water that’s a tad acidic to a bit alkaline, within a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
  • Water Hardness: Plecos can handle various water hardness levels, but they typically prefer 4 to 15 dGH.

Shrimp: Ideal Parameters

Different shrimp species have distinct water requirements, but there are some general conditions for typical freshwater shrimp.

  • Temperature: Popular freshwater shrimp, like Neocaridina, like it between 65°F and 80°F (18°C to 27°C).
  • pH Level: Depending on the specific kind, shrimp usually like a pH from 6.5 to 8.0.
  • Water Hardness: Generally, shrimp favor water hardness in the 3 to 15 dGH range, but this might differ by species.

Plecos vs. Shrimp: Tank Setup

For a harmonious tank housing both Plecos and shrimp, it’s important to factor in their individual and joint habitat requirements.

Setup ItemPlecosShrimpBoth Types
Tank SizeMinimum 30 gallons10 gallons or moreMinimum 40 gallons
FoliageNeeds hiding spotsNeeds dense plantsVariety of plants & hiding spots
DecorationsLoves driftwoodPrefers moss ballsCombination of both
FilterStrong filtrationGentle flowMedium flow with filter guards
HeaterRequiredOptional but beneficialRequired
SubstrateSand patches for diggingFine substrate for foragingCombination of both
LightingModerateLow to moderateModerate

Pleco Fish: Tank Setup

Plecos are robust fish that can grow quite large, necessitating spacious tanks and specific considerations for their habitat.

Their environment should mimic the tropical, freshwater conditions from where they originate.

  • Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate: Plecos are sensitive to ammonia and nitrite spikes, requiring a well-cycled tank and regular water testing.
  • Tank Size: Due to their size, especially for common Plecos, a tank of 55 gallons or larger is often recommended.
  • Foliage: Plecos enjoy some plant cover, but their size might uproot delicate plants.
  • Decorations: Caves or shaded areas are essential for Plecos to hide and rest.
  • Filter: A robust filtration system is vital to handle Pleco-produced waste.
  • Heater: Tropical temperatures are essential, necessitating a reliable heater.
  • Substrate: Soft substrate like sand can help Plecos as they often dig around the bottom.
  • Pump: Good water circulation mimics their natural riverine environments.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is suitable for Plecos, but they appreciate shaded spots.

Shrimp: Tank Setup

Shrimp require a stable environment with places to hide, forage, and molt. The setup should consider their small size and vulnerability.

  • Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate: Shrimp are very sensitive to water quality; ensuring zero ammonia and nitrite is crucial.
  • Tank Size: For small shrimp species, a 5-gallon tank can suffice, though larger is always better.
  • Foliage: Live plants provide natural foraging grounds and hiding spots for shrimp.
  • Decorations: Structures like driftwood or rocks allow shrimp to find refuge, especially during molting.
  • Filter: Sponge filters are recommended to prevent shrimp, especially young ones, from being sucked in.
  • Heater: Consistent temperature, specific to the shrimp species, is essential.
  • Substrate: Soft substrates, often dark-colored, can make shrimp feel secure and encourage natural behaviors.
  • Pump: Gentle water flow replicates calm freshwater environments shrimp prefer.
  • Lighting: Moderate to low lighting, complemented by plant cover, suits most freshwater shrimp.

The Dietary Requirements of Plecos and Shrimp

Understanding and catering to the dietary needs of both Plecos and shrimp is essential for their growth, health, and coloration.

Dietary NeedsPlecosShrimpBoth Types
Food TypesAlgae wafers, veggiesAlgae, detritusVaried diet of both
Quantity1-2 wafers/day (size-dependent)As much as they can eat in 2-3hAdjusted to avoid overfeeding
Feeding ScheduleDaily or every other dayDailyDaily with careful observation

Pleco Fish: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Plecos are mainly herbivores, but their diet can vary based on species. A mix of plant-based and protein-rich foods can be essential.

  • Food Types: Algae wafers, vegetables (like zucchini), and occasional protein (e.g., brine shrimp) are suitable.
  • Quantity: Feed enough that Plecos can consume within 20-30 minutes, adjusting based on observation.
  • Feeding Schedule: Daily feeding is typical, but some Plecos might appreciate a fasting day weekly.

Shrimp: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Shrimp are omnivores that graze constantly, feeding on biofilm and supplementary foods provided by aquarists.

  • Food Types: Algae pellets, blanched vegetables, and specially formulated shrimp foods cater to their needs.
  • Quantity: Tiny amounts are needed; overfeeding can harm water quality.
  • Feeding Schedule: Supplementary foods can be offered every other day, while they graze on biofilm continuously.

Pleco Species Most Suitable for a Tank With Shrimp

When considering adding Plecos to a shrimp tank, it’s essential to choose smaller, less aggressive Pleco species.

The following species are typically more shrimp-friendly and might coexist better in the same environment.

  • Bristlenose Plecos (Ancistrus sp.): These are relatively small, growing up to 5-6 inches, and they mostly focus on algae, making them less likely to bother shrimp.
  • Clown Plecos (Panaqolus maccus): A small species, reaching about 3-4 inches in length, they are wood grazers and aren’t naturally predatory towards shrimp.
  • Rubber Lip Plecos (Chaetostoma sp.): Another smaller variety, they’re more interested in biofilm on surfaces than hunting, reducing risks for shrimp.
  • Dwarf Plecos (Otocinclus sp.): One of the tiniest Pleco species, they’re algae eaters, making them less threatening to shrimp populations.
  • Zebra Plecos (Hypancistrus zebra): While a bit pricier, these Plecos are not only visually stunning but also peaceful, focusing more on a protein-based diet than on shrimp.
  • Queen Arabesque Plecos (Hypancistrus debilittera): With striking patterns and a max size of 3.5 inches, they’re generally shrimp-safe due to their preference for meatier foods over invertebrates.
  • Snowball Plecos (Hypancistrus inspector): Named for their unique white spots, they reach about 5-6 inches and primarily consume a protein-rich diet, leaving shrimp largely undisturbed.
Snowball Pleco

Which Pleco Types Shouldn’t Be Kept with Shrimp?

While many Plecos can coexist with shrimp, there are some species that can pose a significant threat due to their size, diet, or temperament.

It’s best to avoid the following Plecos if you have a shrimp-centric tank.

  • Common Plecos (Hypostomus plecostomus): Growing up to 24 inches, these Plecos can easily see shrimp as a food source or accidentally harm them.
  • Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus): Not a Pleco per se, but often mistaken for one, they’re active hunters and will likely feed on shrimp.
  • Royal Plecos (Panaque nigrolineatus): Large and with a tendency to rearrange tanks, they might disturb or consume shrimp inadvertently.
  • Sailfin Plecos (Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps): Their significant size, reaching over 18 inches, means they can be unintentional threats to shrimp.
  • Vampire Plecos (Leporacanthicus galaxias): Predominantly carnivorous, their diet might include shrimp if given the opportunity.

Can Plecos Eat Shrimp?

Yes, Plecos can eat shrimp, especially if the shrimp are small or the Pleco is of a larger, more carnivorous species.

However, many Pleco species are primarily herbivores and may not actively hunt shrimp but can still pose inadvertent threats.

  • Size Matters: Larger Plecos can easily consume baby shrimp and might even go after adult shrimp if they fit in their mouth.
  • Natural Diet: While many Plecos feed mainly on algae, they are opportunistic eaters and might consume shrimp if available.
  • Accidental Consumption: Plecos, especially when rummaging through the substrate, might inadvertently swallow shrimp hiding there.
  • Territorial Behavior: If shrimp wander into a Pleco’s territory, especially during breeding periods, they might be seen as intruders and be attacked.
  • Species-Specific Behavior: Some Pleco species lean more towards a carnivorous diet and are more likely to view shrimp as food than others.

Shrimp Species Most Suitable for a Tank With Plecos

For aquarists wishing to combine Plecos and shrimp, it’s pivotal to choose larger, hardy shrimp species that can hold their own.

These shrimp species are more likely to coexist peacefully with Plecos in a shared environment.

  • Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata): Known for their larger size and hardiness, Amano shrimp are less likely to be consumed by smaller Plecos.
  • Bamboo Shrimp (Atyopsis moluccensis): As filter feeders, they’re larger in size and usually out of the predation size range for most Plecos.
  • Vampire Shrimp (Atya gabonensis): Another larger filter feeder, they keep a low profile and their size deters most Plecos from attempting any harm.
  • Ghost Shrimp (Palaemonetes paludosus): While smaller, they are fast and agile, making it harder for Plecos to catch, but caution should still be exercised.
  • Neocaridina Shrimp (e.g., Cherry Shrimp): They breed rapidly and, even if some juveniles become Pleco snacks, the population often remains stable.

Also Read: Can Plecos And Turtles Live Together?

Vampire Shrimp

How to Introduce Shrimp to a Tank with Plecos 

When introducing shrimp to a tank with Plecos, it’s crucial to ensure a smooth transition that minimizes stress for both parties.

By taking deliberate steps, you can optimize the chance of harmonious coexistence between Plecos and shrimp.

  • Acclimation: Slowly acclimate shrimp to the tank’s water parameters over an hour or more using the drip method to prevent shock.
  • Hiding Spots: Before introduction, ensure the tank has ample hiding places like caves, plants, and driftwood, so shrimp can retreat from curious Plecos.
  • Feeding First: Feed the Plecos well before introducing the shrimp. A full Pleco is less likely to show interest in the newcomers.
  • Night Introduction: Consider adding shrimp during the evening. Plecos are less active, allowing shrimp to explore and find hiding spots more safely.
  • Observation: Monitor the tank closely for the first few days. If you notice aggressive behavior from the Plecos or stressed shrimp, consider making adjustments.

Tips for Keeping Plecos with Shrimp

Keeping Plecos and shrimp together in one tank can be rewarding if done correctly.

By following specific guidelines, you can foster an environment where both Plecos and shrimp can thrive harmoniously.

  • Tank Size: A tank of at least 30 gallons offers ample room; for instance, a 40-gallon breeder provides width, aiding in territorial disputes.
  • Varied Diet: Offering Plecos zucchini slices, algae wafers, or specialized pellets ensures diverse nutrition and less interest in shrimp.
  • Ample Hiding Places: Use Java moss for shrimp cover and caves or PVC pipes which Plecos, like Bristlenose, often favor for refuge.
  • Species Selection: Bristlenose Plecos, maxing at 6 inches, paired with robust Amano shrimp, can reduce interspecies conflicts.
  • Regular Monitoring: During the initial week, spend at least 15-20 minutes daily observing, noting any chase behavior or nipped shrimp.
  • Water Quality: Regularly test parameters; for example, maintain ammonia and nitrites at 0ppm, ensuring a healthy environment for both.
  • Breeding Considerations: If breeding shrimp, use fine mesh guards on filters to protect larvae from getting sucked in and consumed.
  • Environmental Enrichment: Offer varied substrates, such as sand patches for Plecos and leaf litter, enhancing shrimp’s natural foraging.
  • Tankmates: Add peaceful fish like tetras, ensuring a calm environment, as boisterous tankmates might increase Pleco aggression.

Best Tank Mates for Plecos and Shrimp

Plecos and shrimp, being relatively peaceful, can coexist with a variety of tank mates as long as care is taken to select compatible species.

It’s essential to introduce fish that are non-aggressive and won’t view shrimp as food.

  • Tetras: Species like Neon and Cardinal Tetras are peaceful and small, making them ideal companions for both Plecos and shrimp.
  • Corydoras Catfish: As bottom-dwellers like Plecos, they sift through substrate without disturbing shrimp, sharing similar diets.
  • Rasboras: Harlequin Rasboras, with their tranquil demeanor, neither outcompete Plecos for food nor chase shrimp.
  • Otocinclus: These tiny algae eaters coexist perfectly with Plecos, often helping in algae control, and pose no threat to shrimp.
  • Dwarf Gouramis: While they can be slightly territorial, they’re generally peaceful, but always ensure ample hiding spots for shrimp.
  • Snails: Varieties like Nerite or Mystery snails are excellent for algae control and won’t interfere with Plecos or shrimp.

Also Read: Can Plecos And Crayfish Live Together?

Dwarf Gourami


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

  • Plecos and shrimp can coexist in the same tank, but successful compatibility depends on factors such as species, tank size, and diet.
  • It’s crucial to choose smaller, less aggressive Pleco species when keeping them with shrimp to minimize potential conflicts.
  • Both Plecos and shrimp have specific water parameter requirements, so maintaining appropriate conditions is essential for their health.
  • Careful consideration of tank setup, hiding spots, and feeding habits is necessary to create a harmonious environment for both species.
  • While Plecos can potentially eat shrimp, selecting larger and hardier shrimp species can increase the chances of peaceful coexistence in the same tank.