Can Plecos Live With Cichlids?

When aquarium owners begin looking at fish for their tanks, they often decide in the very beginning which fish they can pair up as tank mates in a community tank. There are many fish right from the start which are not suitable to go with each other, and then there are the fish which can leave you wondering.

In many cases, this can lead to a common question for fish pairing.

Can Plecos live with cichlids? Cichlids can be found worldwide, yet the most common areas being African lake or South American. However, one thing they have in common is, they can all be aggressive for their size. Plecos can be one of the very few fish that can live happily with cichlids, yet there are a few things to understand first.

Here, we will look at why these two fish can get on together, and what you need to know to make sure you cater for both, and ensure they have the ideal environment.

Plecos, What You Need to Know

You can find over 150 species of Pleco (Plecostomus catfish), although the most common found in aquariums is the common Pleco (Hypostomus Plecostomus). One of the primary reasons this is a favorable fish to live with any other is that it is a kind of armored catfish.

The usual habitat is the freshwater streams of South America. The fish is quite hardy and can withstand some variations in water conditions. It can have a long lifespan of between 10 and 15 years, and it can grow to a considerable size of up to 24 inches in length.

Plecos when first purchased are around three or four inches, although they are fast growers. Once they begin maturing, you can find aquariums need to be at least 80 gallons in size to cater for the fish’s growth. Tank size requirements can end up in the 150-gallon size to provide appropriately for Plecos of this size.

Water conditions can vary, and temperatures can be in the range of 72°F and 86°F. The ideal pH levels should fall in the range of 6.5 to 7.5.

Plecos are bottom feeders and love algae. It is this reason so many aquarium owners turn to a Pleco as a way to help maintain a clean aquarium.

Cichlids What You Ought to Know

For a start, cichlids will never grow anywhere near as large as your Pleco. In full maturity, they only grow to a few inches in length.

Water conditions are a bit more crucial for your cichlids, so it is better to focus on their needs. They prefer an ideal pH level of 7.5 to 8.5, which is a little over the ideal for your Pleco. Water temperatures are suitable in the range of 73°F and 82°F, which falls inside the ranges of ideal water temp for your Pleco.

One of the most significant differences between the two fish and tank conditions is that Pleco’s are nocturnal, while cichlids are diurnal, so they are active in the day, and sleep at night.

One thing you may find surprising is the size of the tank you require for cichlids alone. A tank volume of 30 gallons is sufficient for one cichlid, and it takes the addition of another three gallons for each additional fish.

Once you have a combo of Pleco and cichlid, you will be aiming for a much larger tank.

Pleco and Cichlid Diet

Most Pleco fish are sold for the reason they eat algae. It is a misconception that this is all they eat because they are, in fact, herbivores. However, in the wild, they lean toward more carnivorous and will eat smaller fish if they need to.

In regard to only eating algae, they do need their diet. In many respects, both the Pleco and the cichlids have the same requirements, though Pleco’s are bottom feeders. You will need to make sure your Pleco does have its food source, because leaving them to feed on uneaten food from your cichlids, and algae will lead to fish that are undernourished and unhealthy.

For this reason, you can add vegetables such as lettuce, zucchini, shelled peas, spinach, and cucumber as some of the more common vegetables.

If you feed them live foods, worms are preferable because they sink, and make it easier for your Pleco to feed. Besides these, you can feed them larvae and small crustaceans. A pleco does require a good source of fiber in their diet, hence the vegetables you should feed on a regular basis.

Adding driftwood is also favorable because this aids their digestion. Feeding times are also vital for a pleco because of their nocturnal nature. So, with this, you need to feed right before you turn your aquarium lights off in the evening.


As you can see from the above information, it is possible to have both fish in one tank. Water conditions are very similar, and both fish will tend to keep out of each other’s way.

The most substantial consideration is that of your aquarium size. Unless you already have a large size tank, you will need to consider a larger one before your Pleco grows to the extent it is too large, and water conditions begin suffering.

While cichlids are not suitable for community tanks because of their aggressive nature, they will happily ignore your Pleco as it goes about its tank cleaning duties toward the bottom of your aquarium.

Related Questions

Do African cichlids kill other fish? It is another misconception that cichlids are killers. They can be aggressive to some other fish that encroach into their territory, although they rarely kill. Cichlids can even feed directly from your hand at the top of your aquarium if you don’t spook them.

Do cichlids pass on any disease? If you have good clean water, it is rare for cichlids to fall to any disease. With a pleco in your tank, the water should nearly always be clean with them feeding on the algae. All you need to be sure of is your water filter can cope, and other conditions are met as your Pleco begins growing.

Do cichlids venture to the bottom of the tank? Cichlids may like digging up aquarium plants; they will venture to the bottom to do so, so be wary on the number of plants you add. If they are at the bottom of the tank, there is a good chance your Pleco will be tucked away sleeping until the night time, so they shouldn’t be bothered too much. One thing to note is, a pleco may also join in with digging up or eating your plants.

How many Pleco can I have in my tank? Even if you have a large aquarium, you should never house more than one pleco.