How Fast Do Plecos Grow? Get A Bigger Tank!

Wondering about keeping Plecos in your home aquarium? I know the toil when it comes to petting the Plecos that get way bigger than a normal aquarium fish. You might be planning to start small but might still have second thoughts about what’s wrong and what’s right. Even when you are fully prepared, there are few things that will always surprise you when it comes to raising Plecos. Firstly you need to understand how fast do Plecos grow? What type of tank do you need to prepare for your Plecos?

Well, the growth of Plecos depends on the type of Plecos you are planning to keep. For the first year, they won’t grow much and will be okay in 30 gallons tank however that won’t be the case once they start growing rapidly.

I know this is not the clear information you are looking for. So, I tried to being all the Plecos together and dedicate the article entirely to: how fast they grow.

Hence, with no further ado, let’s get started.

How Fast Do Plecos Grow?

The most unpredictable thing in the fishkeeping world is how well your fish will grow and how big will they get.

There is no certainty in the fish attaining maximum size neither is there a certain answer to why they won’t grow bigger.

And of course, the speed and frequency of growth is the real headache. You will never know when your fish will attain the full size.

And you won’t know what Plecos will do or how fast they will grow with certainty. Let me tell you a funny story that happened to me a few years back when I was just a beginner.

I got a 20-gallon tank to raise a Pleco and trust me this is not the only bizarre thing I did back then. When I started petting my Pleco and was very attentive with water parameters and diet, I could see them growing bigger each month.

After a span of 6 or 8 months, my Pleco grew into a bigger fish which was hardly adjusting in the smaller tank.

I was in awe and did not know what to do. Believe me, I never imagined the unpredictable growth of Pleco and ended up handing it over to my friend with a bigger tank.

I had known that the growth rate is faster in the first year with a gradual increase after that. But oh boy, had I planned about this unique situation, I would still have my first Pleco living with me.

You might be interested to learn more about 10 Best Large Peaceful Community Fish For Your Freshwater Aquarium

How Fast Do Common Plecos Grow?

Do you know a wild common Pleco can grow up to 24 inches? And even the aquarium common Plecos can reach up to 15 inches provided that they live in the well-cared aquarium.

But are they always this big? Well, no. These common Plecos grow when you give proper environment and diet without a miss.

When you get these Plecos from the store, they are merely 2 inches in size. So, it can be quite surprising to learn how big they can get.

But don’t worry they won’t get this big within few days. The highest growth rate of common Plecos like any other Plecos takes place during the first year of their life.

That doesn’t imply that these Plecos won’t grow after this, they do grow but at a slower pace.

This supposedly 15 inches common Pleco will only attain 3 to 4 inches size within the first year and will grow slowly after that.

They will; reach up to 15 inches within the lifespan of 30 years and the size may vary according to the living conditions.

Sometimes, you will end up seeing larger common Plecos that are bigger than 15 inches. So, don’t be surprised, it is kind of normal and you will even see these Plecos attain more than 12 inches in the first year only.

You can’t plan to upgrade the tank later when these Plecos will be bigger as it is unpredictable to see when these fast-growing Plecos will attain their maximum size.

So, it is better to stay prepared and go for the bigger tank that has the capacity to handle nearly 80 gallons or more water.

How Fast Do Bristlenose Plecos Grow?

Here is a thing, Bristlenose is one of the smaller Plecos which will grow up to 5 inches max. And the growth rate of this typical type of Pleco is kind of similar to that of common Pleco.

They will grow up to few inches in the first year of their life and this happens quite rapidly. However, that doesn’t mean the growth will stop here.

These Bristlenose can live for 20 years in an aquarium with optimum water parameters and a good diet.

And throughout their life, they grow gradually but at a slower pace than the first year to attain their maximum size.

Here is a detailed article on Albino Bristlenose Pleco: Detailed Care Guide. Have a look!!!

How Fast Do Clown Plecos Grow?

Clown Plecos are another one of my favorite Plecos, thanks to their smaller size. These Plecos won’t give you a hard time when it comes to the growing frequency.

They will only grow up to 4 inches, hence a 30-gallon tank will be alright. If you really want to raise Pleco in the home aquarium and can’t afford a bigger aquarium, go for this one.

They won’t grow much in the first year and will be around 1 to inches. So, it is quite good news for someone who loves to keep small fish and has fallen in love with algae eaters.

How Fast Do Rubber Lip Plecos Grow?

If you want to keep a smaller version of common Pleco, go for this one Rubber Lip Plecos. Half the size of common Pleco, the growth rate of this Pleco is similar to that of common Plecos.

They will grow up to 7 inches throughout their life while the growth is quite faster in the first year.

So, be prepared with a 55-gallons tank so you might not get surprised when they outgrow your smaller tank.

The thing is you cannot plan on getting a new tank once they grow up. This will directly affect their health and these Plecos don’t deal with change in the environment properly.

How Fast Do Galaxy Plecos Grow?

Are you someone who has a genuine love for Twilight Series or The Vampire Diaries? If you have a weird attachment with vampires alike me, then you would absolutely love the idea of keeping a fish with a name starting with a vampire.

Yes, I am talking about galaxy Plecos that are otherwise known as Vampire Plecos. I was in awe when I heard this name for the first time.

Okay babbling aside, these Plecos are not as big as common Plecos but are of average size for Plecos. They are nearly 8 inches in size and you will see most of their growth in the first year only.

These Plecos will grow for 4 to 5 inches for the first few years and will keep on growing in the following years.

The tank they ask for can be quite bigger for you if you are looking for the ones that can live in less than 75 gallons tank. These fish ask for a tank with the capacity to handle 75 or more gallons of water.

How Fast Do Zebra Plecos Grow?

Now, let’s talk about a smaller beauty who refuses to eat algae despite having Plecos in their name. I am, talking about zebra Plecos that are so beuati8ful to look at, thanks to their black and white stripes.

These Plecos grow for 3 inches only and will not make any fuss with unpredictable growth, to be honest. I have personally kept this one and I still adore them equally.

These beautiful fish adjust in a 20 gallons tank without asking much. So, the existence of this Pleco is apparently a boon for those aquarists who want to keep Plecos and have 20 gallons tank only.

How Fast Do Royal Plecos Grow?

We are going big here my friend. Trust me a 100 gallons tank is what we are looking for when we are talking about royal Plecos.

Okay, the royal in their name definitely makes them one of the kind even when it comes to Plecos. These big Plecos grow bigger than common Plecos and trust me the growth rate i9s no different.

These 17 inches Plecos will happily reside in 100 gallons tank despite being bigger than common Plecos.

The catch is you have to keep them in this very tank from the very beginning. They grow unpredictably and are wonderful when they reach nearly 5 inches in the first year of their life.

How Fast Do Gold Nugget Plecos Grow?

Let’s dive into the world of a nugget. Not that nugget but the one you can keep in your 75 gallons tank. Gold nugget Plecos are not as big as common ones but do not underestimate them.

These 9.5 inches fish can surprise you like common Plecos. Every Pleco has the habit to grow rapidly in the first year, so you need to pay attention.

Do not keep them in a smaller tank just because they are small when you get them. Most of the time Plecos are small with a mere size of 1 to 2 inches when you bring them home.

However, they grow unquestionably and rapidly once they get a good environment and proper diet. So, please for the sake of this beautiful nugget, get a bigger tank in the first place.

How Fast Do Sunshine Plecos Grow?

Another one of the bigger Plecos comes the sunshine one. Well, it may not be the J-hope from BTS but boy, the sunshine this Pleco is undoubtedly the best one.

The brilliant coloration of these Plecos is the very reason aquarists tend to keep in the tank despite their bigger size or even when they are prominent algae eaters.

You will need to prepare at least 100 gallons tank for this 12 inches long Pleco. The sunshine Plecos might not be as big as common Pleco but their need and growth frequency don’t vary much from common.

The growth rate is highest in the first year when your sunshine Pleco will attain the size of nearly 5 inches. After that they would grow too but at a slower pace.

How Fast Do Butterfly Plecos Grow?

If you are in love with zebra Pleco, then there is a chance you will adore this dear butterfly pleco too.

The rate that they grow withy is quite similar to that of common Plecos. But these ones are quite smaller compared to common Plecos.

These butterfly Plecos only grow 7 inches in size and the first year won’t exceed more than 3 to 4 inches.

You will be okay with 40 gallons tank. Do not risk or contemplate that these Plecos will adjust to smaller tanks just because they are smaller.

As I mentioned earlier, despite the smaller size, they ask for more space in the tank to swim or graze in the bottom.

Factors That Affect How Fast Plecos Grow

Environment and climate play important role in deciding how well your fish will grow in the tank. You need to be more careful with small details before you dive into Plecos keeping.

I know the curiosity and excitement to start something new even if it is a fishkeeping hobby you have always been doing.

Plecos do add excitement to fishkeeping, there is no doubt in that. However, let me guide you through some of the basic things you need to do.

Do not rush things and plan them thoroughly even for the unforeseeable future. Plecos are unpredictable, so plan accordingly.

Now let’s get started with the things you need to prepare for keeping Plecos and help them grow properly in your home aquarium.

Tank Size

First of all, you need to learn about the consequences that are led by tank size in the growth of Plecos. To reach its full potential in terms of growth, Plecos need a spacious tank too.

A 150 gallon is a real deal when it comes to raising and helping the common Plecos to grow full size. Or else they will be fine in a 55-gallon tank too.

But for me, I think it is cruel to forbid something to grow into its full potential just because you can’t afford for them to be.

There are times when you will have to ask if you want to keep fish for their sake and yours as well or just because you want to show them off.

Love your fish like you love any other pet. It is no big deal to take care of a larger tank and to be honest it is easier to maintain compared to smaller ones.


Now, another basic need of any other living being: food. Plecos are no different when it comes to their love for food.

And everyone knows how important it is to feed your fish properly so that they can grow properly into healthy ones.

You might be familiar with the need for fibrous food for Plecos too. Vegetables such as zucchini, lettuce, shelled peas, cucumber, and spinach are a great source of fibers and your Plecos actually loves to munch on them.

The availability of food and the high fiber content in them contributes to making your Plecos grow fast and healthy.

Again, their love for live food especially bloodworms is undeniably great. So, remember to feed them these every alternate day. Along with this live food, you can feed them pellets that sink in the bottom of the tank.

Remember these Plecos are bottom feeders so every food you give must sink to the bottom of the tank.

Algal Growth

You may be familiar with the term algae eaters: those aquatic beings that would lovingly eat all the algae present in the tank.

Plecos apparently belong to the group of algae eaters that would feed on algae present in the tank. So, let some algae grow in the tank with Plecos.

You don’t have to worry about getting rid of algae as Plecos will slowly munch on these. They will clean out all the algae without making any fuss.

And this will even make you worry less when it comes to deciding how much you need to feed your Plecos.

Even if your Plecos remain hungry after a meal, they can easily eat the algae growing in the tank. Trust me, algae isn’t always bad and sometimes can come as a blessing in disguise.

Here is an article on How To Get Rid Of Algae In Fish Tank Naturally?

Hiding Places

Do you know your Plecos are nocturnal? You will not be able to see them when the lights are on in the tank.

Plecos will only come out and stay active once you switch off the lights. That’s why you need to give them places where they can stay within the daytime.

A happy Pleco will grow faster and healthier rather than those who are confined to live in a well-lit space with no hiding spots.

Decorations are the prime factor when it comes to setting up a tank for Plecos. Be careful with what you add to the tank with the bottom feeders.

These Plecos graze in the bottom of the tank, so the substrate and the decorations need to be safe for them.

Here is an article on Aquarium Decorations: What To and What Not To Add – Beginners Guide

What To Do With Your Overgrown Plecos?

Did you Plecos surprise you with their whole body size? Or have your aquarium became small for your big Plecos?

Hmm, I can understand your dilemma because I have been through the same thing a few years back. Back then, I didn’t know what to do next with my overgrown Pleco so I gave them to my friend who had a bigger aquarium and more experience.

You can do the same if you do not have any bigger aquariums around the house. There is also another solution where you can make little profit too.

Sell your bigger Plecos to someone else who would lovingly take care of it. You can get smaller baby Plecos after that and repeat the same fishkeeping experience.

Or you can just buy a new bigger tank if you have the budget to afford one. It is best to have your pet with you rather than giving it out to someone else.

I had so many doubts and mixed feelings while I was handing out my dear Plecos to the friend. Although that Pleco is well cared for and is still alive and healthy, I have a tiny bit of regret and sadness for letting it go.

Can You Drop Your Overgrown Pleco In The Wild?

Okay emotions aside, if you want to have your Pleco with you. Then you can always buy and prepare a bigger tank.

However, never ever drop your Pleco into the wild again just because they have outgrown the tank. What will happen to you if you are sent off to live in Antarctica after living half of your life in Africa?

Your Pleco is well-adjusted and adapted to the environment in captivity. Hence, it will have a hard time to readjust in the wild environment after all these years.

Your Pleco will die in a day or two once you drop it back to its natural habitat. You cannot go back to living the same life after you have lived a life entirely different for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions

I know how many questions will follow you when you decide to keep Plecos in the home aquarium. And I can’t deny how important it is to have all the answers, well most of them actually. So, I tried to collect some FAQs and give the answers to make it easier for you.

Will Plecos Outgrow Tank?

Well, you are on a roller coaster ride if you are going to keep Plecos at your home aquarium. Actually, it is more like a horror house trip where you have no idea what comes up next.

Here is the main problem you will face when it comes to the growth rate of Plecos: It’s unpredictable. They grow as they wish and there is no say in it. They reach their maximum size when you provide excellent water parameters and food.

While the growth rate might decline once they face inadequate water parameters. Some Plecos will remain a certain size while some can get bigger for smaller tanks.

So, yes Plecos will outgrow the tank if you are keeping them in a tank smaller than 30 gallons. And even 30 gallons is the standard tank for only one Pleco. If you want to keep more of them then you need to go big.

Why Did My Plecos Die So Fast?

The sudden death of Plecos is quite common in the aquarium where all the optimum water parameters are not met. If you see your Plecos gasping for breath or losing their appetite, take action immediately.

I ended up having a dead fish in the tank as I overlooked the signs of stress my Pleco was clearly showing. First of all, let me tell you what might bring a death angel by the side of your Plecos in the tank.

  1. Inadequate water parameters
  2. Ammonia spikes
  3. Fluctuation in the temperature
  4. Incompatible and bullying tank mates
  5. Smaller tank
  6. Overcrowding
  7. Starvation
  8. Improper aquarium cycle
  9. Diseases and health complications
  10. Presence of salt in the aquarium water

You might like to read an article on Ammonia Poisoning in Fish Tank | How to Get Rid of It

How Do I Know If My Plecos Is Stressed?

It is never certain why or when your Plecos will get stressed however most of the time it is due to your carelessness.

From smaller tanks to inadequate food, every little change and inattentiveness results in stress in your Plecos. You don’t even realize most often when your Plecos are stressed.

I don’t blame you. When I was a mere beginner in the case of Plecos, I always mistook signs of stress as their natural behavior.

But as I was wrong and ended up losing the only Pleco I was petting, I realized my mistake and did some research immediately.

Let me tell you some of the signs of stress that you should never overlook when it comes to Plecos:

  1. Rapid Breathing
  2. Swimming erratically
  3. When you see your Plecos on the surface gasping for breath.
  4. Loss of appetite


In conclusion, if you are really planning to keep Plecos in the tank, then be prepared with the larger tank as well as all the other means. People barely give a second thought to the requirements once they are done setting an aquarium. But in the case of Plecos, the growth frequency is unpredictable and you might have to purchase an entirely new aquarium. So, be wise and act accordingly. As already stated, it is better to go for a tank with the capacity to hold 150 gallons of water if you are planning to keep a few of them. There are although smaller Plecos you can choose from, it is still better to have a backup plan.

I know how scary it can get when we start something new. So, if you have any queries or problems, drop a comment below and I will try to get back to you almost immediately.

Don’t worry, you will do great if follow all the instructions of basic fishkeeping.

Good luck!!!

Happy Fishkeeping!!!

Recommended Articles:

  1. Why is Tap Water Not Safe For Fish? & How to Make It Safe?
  2. Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle | Fishless Cycling | Fishkeeping Guide
  3. 10 Best Freshwater Fish For Those New To Fishkeeping | Beginners Guide