Can Plecos Live In Cold Water Ponds? (Complete Guide)

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One of the questions I get asked frequently is whether plecos can live in cold water ponds. It seems like a pretty basic question because it would seem that any fish could live in water, even if it’s cold. But the problem is the temperature requirements for plecos.

Plecos can live in cold water ponds, although their temperature requirements may pose a challenge. Plecos thrive in temperatures ranging from 68 to 82 degrees F, which can be hard to achieve in outdoor ponds. Also, plecos can quickly crowd ponds, especially if it is already filled with other fish.

As we move forward, I will take you step-by-step on how to house your pleco in a pond. Following this guide will ensure a healthy and safe environment for your fish. Besides plecos, I will also list some useful species that can quickly clean your pond by removing algae.

Also Read: Pleco Fish Facts

Can Plecos Live In Ponds?

Plecos can live in ponds. Depending on your location, keeping them alive may present a challenge. However, for the most part, if you have a well-maintained pond, it can sustain your plecos. 

These are just a few of the factors you should keep in mind:

1. Ponds Can Be Too Cold For Plecos

Temperature is your biggest concern. While plecos can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, they prefer warm water. In an aquarium, their temperature typically ranges from 68 to 82 degrees F. Temperatures of 55 degrees F or below are dangerous to plecos.

This is why ponds are problematic. They are located outside, which means that the plecos are at the mercy of the ambient temperature. The fish may survive the pond in the summer but not winter.

This is why many aquarists find it so much easier to keep plecos in an aquarium. An aquarium allows them to maintain the temperature within the appropriate range. A pond takes some of that control away.

2. Plecos Can Easily Crowd Ponds

You may assume that aquariums always provide the best conditions for a pleco to thrive. But that isn’t true. Plecos are large. Some of them can grow to a size of two feet or more.[1] 

They also live a long time. A healthy pleco will stay with you for three decades. Unless you have the money to buy a large tank, a pleco could easily overcrowd your aquarium. 

But before you identify the size as the perfect justification for keeping plecos in ponds, you should know that plecos can crowd a pond just as easily as they would an aquarium, especially if the pond is filled with other fish.

But that isn’t your only challenge. Many people keep plecos in ponds for the summer only to transport them back to an aquarium during winter. While this strategy sounds rational, it isn’t easy to execute.

First of all, many aquarists will tell you that catching a pleco in a pond is easier said than done, especially if your pond is on the large side. Secondly, even if you can catch the fish, transporting a 12-foot long pleco to an aquarium is far from easy:

3. Plecos Can Pollute Ponds

Hygiene is a big concern. Plecos sound like a blessing because they eat algae. In fact, plecos living in a pond with other fish do not require that much food. This is because ponds have plenty of algae. 

Additionally, the plecos can eat leftovers. Unfortunately, any advantage they bring to the table as algae eaters is immediately negated because they excrete a lot of waste.

If you’re not ready to install the filters and pumps required to keep your pond clean, you should consider housing the pleco in an aquarium. Aquariums are easier to maintain than ponds.

Also Read: Are Plecos Good Tank Cleaners?

How Can I Grow Plecos In A Pond?

Keeping plecos in a pond requires diligence and experience, but it can be done. Keep the following in mind:

1. Make Sure Your Pond Is Clean

As you now know, plecos are messy. Yes, they eat algae and debris, but they also produce too much waste. First of all, you have to install filters and pumps. Secondly, you must take steps to clean the pond. That involves the following:[2]

  • Move the fish to a separate container.
  • Drain the pond. You can use some of the water to fill the container temporarily holding the fish. You can allow the rest of the water to seep into the surrounding landscape.
  • Rinse the pond. Do not try to remove all the algae. The plecos will eat it. A pressure washer will simplify this process. Though, an ordinary garden hose can also work. Whenever the dirty water accumulates at the bottom, use your pump to drain it.
  • Don’t forget the filters. Try to unclog the filter media.[3] Small filters tend to clog more frequently than large ones. If your pond’s filter requires frequent cleaning, you should consider getting a larger one. The filter media should be free of debris before you put it back. 
  • If you’re satisfied with the work you’ve done, fill the pond with fresh water and apply conditioners and detoxifiers. I highly recommend considering the API POND STRESS COAT Pond Water Conditioner (link to Amazon). That product will make tap water safe while providing a stress coat to protect your fish.
  • You can’t just throw the plecos back into the pond since the conditions in the pond have changed. The parameters are not the same as they were before the plecos left. I suggest acclimating them by placing the individual fish in containers and then floating the containers in the pond water.
  • You should also splash the plecos in the containers with water from the pond. Do this for 15 minutes. The process will allow the plecos to grow accustomed to the water.
  • Put the plecos back into the pond.

2. Prevent Deterioration In Water Quality

You can’t afford to clean the pond every other week. Not only is the task time-consuming, but your plecos won’t appreciate the frequent changes to their environment. That is why I suggest taking steps to prevent the conditions in your tank from deteriorating too quickly. 

That includes the following:

  • Don’t overcrowd the tank. Even if you have an ordinary Bristlenose pleco, you still need 40 gallons of water to keep the creature happy. Plecos in a pond require the same consideration. Because they are so large and they generate so much waste, plecos in a crowded pond will ruin the water faster than you can clean it. 
  • Do not overfeed. Plecos eat leftovers. But you cannot rely on them to eat all the leftovers in the water, especially if you keep adding food to the pond in ridiculous quantities. Leftovers that go uneaten will decay, causing the ammonia concentration to spike.[4] 
  • Just like an aquarium, the pump attached to the pond should be powerful enough to circulate all the water once an hour. 
  • Do not wait for the filter to catch all the debris in the pond. If you can see pollutants like sticks and leaves on the surface of the pond, use a net to remove them. Like the leftovers, those sticks and leaves will decay. 

Also Read: Can Plecos Live Without Oxygen?

3. Ensure The Temperature Is Suitable For Plecos

What do you do when winter comes? You have the option of moving your plecos to an aquarium. But you should also consider raising the temperature of the pond using one or more of the following methods:

  • Use Hardware

The market is filled with tools and devices that can maintain or raise the temperature of a pond. De-icers are one example. You can find these cheap devices in various sizes. A 400W de-icer will prevent ice from forming on the surface of a 500-gallon pond.[5]

One of the known devices is the TetraPond De-Icer (link to Amazon). In cold temperatures, you will soon notice your pond fish, including plecos, hanging out near the warm water. You can’t go wrong with that device.

But if the pond is too small, the de-icer may raise the temperature to unsafe levels. You can also use immersed electric heaters. They can work in tandem with de-icers to create pockets of warmth in the pond.

  • Cover Your Pond

Place a covering over the pond. You can use the same materials found in greenhouses. A covering will trap the heat at night and during the winter. If you can’t afford a proper cover, many aquarists rely on plastic sheets. They float them on the surface of the pond.v 

  • Consider Depth

Give your plecos the deepest possible pond. Plecos can survive outside in the winter if the water is 4 feet deep or more. The cold won’t reach the plecos at those depths. 

  • Allow Snow To Accumulate

If the surface of the pond is covered with ice and snow, leave it. This covering provides insulation, preventing freezing winds from influencing the temperature of the pond.

Also Read: Plecos Temperature Guide

4. Pick The Right Pleco Type

Some types of plecos are stronger than others. The common pleco, also known as Hypostomus plecostomus, is popular because it is not only tolerant of poor conditions, but it doesn’t require as much maintenance as other plecos.

The clown pleco, on the other hand, needs additional filtration because of the significant quantities of waste it produces.[6] Select a type of pleco that is best suited to your pond. 

5. Pick The Right Companions

You can hardly keep plecos with other plecos in an aquarium.[7] This applies to the pond. On the whole, plecos are docile creatures that can live with various fish, including guppies, loaches, and gouramis. In that regard, you don’t have to work that hard to find suitable companions for your plecos.

That being said, if you want to maintain peace in the pond, limit the number of plecos in the water to one. This is especially true for males. With bristlenose plecos, the females can live together. The males, on the other hand, may kill each other.[8]

Also Read: Pleco Fish Tank Mates

Can Plecostomus Live In Cold Water?

Plecos cannot live in cold water. They are tropical creatures that can tolerate temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees F. Colder water may kill plecos, as their immune system will be compromised, making them susceptible to disease.

But if push comes to shove, plecos can tolerate 65 degrees F. Even though they can withstand 60 degrees F; they won’t be happy about it. In fact, they probably won’t survive. Cold conditions tend to attract health complications in plecos. They will become inactive before finally dying. 

Can You Put Algae Eaters In A Pond?

You can put algae eaters, such as goldfish and koi, in your pond. They will help you get rid of algae and maintain a clean environment. You can also use species such as the Common Pleco, Pond Loaches, Mollies, Guppies, and Grass Carp.

You can also use shrimp to eat algae from your pond. That includes Cherry, Ghost, and Amano shrimp. These three are excellent algae eaters and can survive in various temperatures. 

However, it is better not to rely on fish and shrimp solely. If you wish to get rid of pond algae, I suggest manually removing it every once in a while.


Plecos can live in ponds, but the water should be kept at a temperature suitable for them. They require food and oxygen at all times. Too small a pond will crush the pleco’s environment, making it impossible for it to survive. 

The size of the pond is also important because it influences the number of fish you can keep in the water. Plecos, in general, are peaceful creatures that do not require an aquarium to live in peace with other plecos or fish. They will tolerate cold water but not extreme cold.