Clown Pleco: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

If you thought they were only famous for their attractive markings, perhaps it’s time to pay closer attention to Clown Pleco.

The Clown Pleco’s behavior is characteristic of a small, shy, freshwater fish species whose only desire is to eat, swim, and relax.

Not only do they form a beautiful pattern when switching from one position to another in the tank, but they can also coexist with most other fish species in the same space.

And that’s one of the reasons we have always recommended them to aquarists of any level or those looking for something unique to spice up their rooms. 

They’ve been called Clown Plecos, Clown Panaque, Ringlet Plecos, and Clown Plecostomus. But what is the experience like to have them in your aquarium?

In this guide, you will learn essential facts about Clown Pleco care. We will discuss their suitable tank mates, ideal tank size, diet, appearance, breeding, and much more!

Species Overview

With the scientific name, Panaque maccus, Clown Plecos are part of the Loricariidae family and a natural inhabitant of Venezuela.

Precisely, these fish species are native to the regions of Apure and Caroni River basins that cover a major part of the beautiful South American country. But they’ve also been located in Columbia.

As expected, this region has condensed driftwood and a variety of tree species growing along the banks of fast-flowing water sources. Because of the huge impact, such an environment will have on the Clown Pleco’s life, these fish will thrive in aquariums with similar characteristics.

Even in captivity, they will want natural hiding places where they can secretly feed on their favorite protein-rich diet with little disturbance.

They are equally skilled in navigating through low visibility waters thanks to their natural habitat of tightly packed vegetation and decaying matter. Unsurprisingly, they can also handle dirty water.

So, you can already tell that a Clown Pleco is built for any occasion. They are a hardy fish species that can tolerate different conditions hence their increasing popularity in the aquatic world.

ColorBlack with bright orange or whitish-yellow stripes
Lifespan10-12 Years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentPeaceful
CompatibilityNano fish, small shrimps, and snails
Food and DietOmnivores
Size3.5-4 Inches
Tank SetupFreshwater, Floating Plants, Hiding Places, Rocks and Plenty of Driftwood
Tank Size (Minimum)20 Gallons


A Clown Pleco will have a relatively good lifespan compared to most other fish species in captivity. They can live for as long as 10-12 years under the right conditions. For aquarists who are fond of creating timeless bonds with their pets, there you go.

You will enjoy your Clown Pleco’s company for at least a decade or even more if you take good care of it. But just like many fish species, your Clown Pleco may not even finish half a decade if you don’t protect it.

Giving them the right living conditions is the secret to keeping them for a long time. Low water quality, poor diet, and endless stress could all combine to reduce the Clown Pleco’s lifespan to just a few years.

We might have mentioned that these are hardy fish species that can survive in different aquatic conditions. But we didn’t say you should ignore their most basic needs such as quality food and water.


The Clown Pleco’s distinctive color patterns are quite something. Their beautiful bodies allow them to stand out irrespective of the tank size or the tank mates. Their bellies are black, with vibrant, colorful stripes covering the whole body.

They will have unique shades of orange or whitish-yellow coloration. However, multiple genetic factors and health status influence the coloration and color patterns in these fish. And it’s pretty normal for the wild varieties to show more vibrant coloration than those in captivity.

Their almost symmetrical bodies compare with the Bristlenose Plecos, which implies a large head and thick body starting from the dorsal fin to the superior part. Towards the dorsal fin will look slimmer as you continue to the caudal peduncle.

Also, the dorsal fin looks taller than you would expect in many species and evenly spreads when swimming. The large pectoral fins will rest easily behind them as they shift beautifully from one place to another.


A typical Clown Pleco measures only 3.5 inches, with a maximum size of 4 inches. Any size variations will be influenced by several factors, such as genetics and the existing water conditions.

Of course, you should address the controllable factors to give your Clown Pleco quality care and help them grow to optimal size.

Clown Pleco Care

For Clown Plecos, effortless is the right word. That’s how we would describe caring for them. You can keep them in any aquarium without experiencing major problems.

The general rule is to provide the best conditions for their health and well-being while frequently monitoring water conditions to prevent different diseases.

Tank Size

A 20-gallon tank is ideal for a Clown Pleco’s optimal growth and survival. They are a small fish species that don’t engage in much swimming, after all.

If you expect to include multiple fish species or many Clown Plecos in the same space, you may need a larger tank. However, a small one will work best for a small group of fish. Factor in an additional 10 gallons for every new mate you introduce into the tank.

Water Parameters

And now on to more critical aspects of Clown Pleco care. Despite being a hardy fish that can survive in most aquatic environments, you could be mistaken to believe that a Clown Pleco will tolerate regular shifts in water parameters.

Accurate Clown Pleco care entails three key parameters, including water hardness, temperature, and pH levels. For the hardness, keep it at 10dGH.

Similarly, you should maintain the ideal temperatures for Clown Pleco’s survival by controlling it within the levels of 73°F to 82°F. Finally, you should keep the pH levels in check at 6.8-7.6.

Maintaining consistent levels means testing the status of the water regularly to ensure it is ideal for your little pets.

What to Put in Their Tank?

When designing the Clown Pleco’s new home, you will only want to imitate the existing conditions in Venezuela and Columbia, its original territory. And that would almost certainly include natural plants and other hiding spots.

Clown Plecos and driftwood are inseparable. They know driftwood as their best hiding spot and an important food source whose presence in an aquarium should be automatic.

Besides, you may consider introducing a few rocks and vegetation to complete your new friend’s lovely little home. And Hornwort will be ideal for the Clown Plecos.

Common Diseases

Clown Plecos are not vulnerable to any conditions that are specific to this species. And that’s a big plus if you include them in your aquarium.

However, they can be susceptible to the Ich disease and other parasitic conditions affecting the freshwater fish community. Fortunately, you can also prevent these conditions by maintaining stable water conditions.

Just give them high-quality food and water, and you will have succeeded in creating the perfect world for your lovely fish. The downside of exposing them to poor water quality is that it reduces their lifespan to just a few years.

If you maintain the ideal water conditions, provide the right food, and frequently monitor the water status, you will have taken a huge step to put all bothersome diseases at bay.

What Do Clown Plecos Eat?

A Clown Pleco’s normal diet should comprise the popular food they eat every day in the wild. You don’t have to overfeed them on low-quality food, but you can supplement their diets with the most suitable food sources.

Algae should be part of their typical diet, but you will need to provide a balanced diet. Clown Pleco’s ideal diet will feature a variety of plant-based foods such as peas, cucumber, and lettuce.

You may need to include meat in a Clown Pleco’s diet to provide much-needed protein. The most suitable food choices here include daphnia and bloodworm that can be offered as a random snack once in a while.

Behavior & Temperament

Clown Plecos are known peace lovers who are happy in their own company. They are satisfied in their own space and won’t look for unnecessary trouble elsewhere.

You can’t blame them for adopting a shy demeanor when that’s all they’ve known throughout their lives in the wild. They are nocturnal and tend to avoid bright light until you keep them in groups.

If you don’t see them scavenging for food at the lower end of the tank, they will be drifting carefully around the driftwood, munching the unconventional snack.

If it’s introducing a new tank mate, you don’t want to disturb a Clown Pleco’s peace by bringing in more aggressive fish species to the aquarium. Sometimes, the larger fish will even see them as a food source. And that’s not the best way to care for a little friend.

Don’t be surprised by their seemingly never-ending appetite for driftwood. It’s in their nature and should be pretty normal despite looking seemingly strange to many aquarists.

Generally, the Clown Pleco will be peaceful in their habitat until you opt to keep two males in the same space.

At that point, there could be a little show of hostility as the two males fight for territorial control. But this is not enough reason to worry. It shouldn’t even be a problem if you provide enough space for swimming and exploration from the start.

Clown Pleco Tank Mates

With their mellow and peaceful temperament, Clown Plecos are sure to coexist with a wide range of fish species in the same habitat.

It’s easy to keep a peaceful fish that doesn’t depend on their energy for survival, and that’s the case with Clown Plecos.

While they are a luxury to watch inside the aquarium, Clown Plecos will also be compatible with any of the following as their tank mates:


Breeding Clown Plecos is never fully understood because of conflicting opinions. While a section of aquarists claim that breeding these fish is pretty straightforward, others maintain that it is pretty taxing.

So, forget about the conflicting ideas for a moment and always remember that breeding in Clown Plecos is possible.

However, it requires meticulous planning. Ideally, you will be looking to create the perfect tank that mimics the actual breeding environment in the wild. And plenty of natural plants and driftwood will come into play.

A Clown Pleco requires an ideal hiding place to spawn, and you may turn to wooden caves if you can’t find the right plants. Also, it is advisable to control the water temperature as the breeding period approaches.

This will align with the prevailing conditions in its original aquatic environment, which experiences heavy rainfall just before the spawning season.

As the breeding period approaches, you will also want to increase the pH levels to create the perfect environment for successful breeding.

And now the most significant part? Increase food supply, especially the protein-rich diet, during this period to facilitate the breeding process. Here, we are talking about popular fish food such as bloodworms.

As soon as the female finishes laying the eggs, the male will protect the territory until they are hatched. It will be time to separate the adult Clown Plecos from the little ones when all is done.

Also, this is the time to maintain a steady supply of algae, driftwood, and proteins to the newborns until they mature.

Final Thoughts

Caring for the Clown Pleco is not taxing and can be done by aquarists at any level. These unique species are not just about beauty. They are just as good for low maintenance.

If you still can’t decide what fish species to include in your aquarium, we wouldn’t be shy to recommend the Clown Plecos. They will thrive as long as you provide a stable food supply and maintain the right conditions in the aquarium.

If you want to introduce new tank mates with the Plecos, go with the less aggressive species. Your Clown Pleco friends will thank you for it!