Royal Pleco Care – Size, Life Span, Tank Mates, Breeding

Royal Pleco Species Summary

Royal Plecos are a one-of-a-kind freshwater fish that will command attention in any aquarium. For obvious reasons, these vast, interesting-looking fish are prevalent among aquarists. They not only add a nice look to the tank, but they’re also low-maintenance!

They’re also known as Royal Catfish, and due to their beautiful look and non-aggressive behavior, they’re a popular freshwater tank species.

While Plecos are not uncommon in aquariums, the Royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus) is a widespread species with a lot to offer.

Royal Pleco

They’re not only attractive, but they also have some unique biological characteristics that make them an intriguing addition to your aquarium. These fish are native to several South American countries. The Amazon and Orinoco River basins are home to them.

In the more prominent Royal Pleco family, there are multiple subspecies. All of these have a similar appearance and require the same level of care. There are, nevertheless, some slight physical changes among geographical variations.

Taking care of a Royal Pleco, regardless of the species, maybe a gratifying experience. They are excellent additions to more extensive community tank situations due to their calm temperament and distinct behavior.

Royal Pleco Appearance

The size of Royal Plecos is the most apparent characteristic of their appearance. The more frequent is roughly 17 inches long on average (43 cm). They develop slowly but steadily, which is one of the reasons you’ll need a huge tank to help them reach their full potential.

They have light grey bodies with dark grey stripes that stand out. The dark grey is sometimes black, and their bodies are more brownish than grey. Because the strips aren’t all the same, each Royal Pleco has its design.

Occasionally, you’ll come across one with spots rather than lines. Other distinguishing characteristics of Royal Plecos include their vast mouths and spoon-shaped wood-cutting teeth.

The Royal Pleco’s characteristic crimson eyes are both terrifying and intriguing, especially against their grey bodies.

Among the several subspecies, there are a few different color variations. Gray and black are, however, the most prevalent color morphs in the trade. The most common base color is light grey. It might also take on a brownish hue at times.

Bold black or dark brown stripes go with the base hue. The lines go horizontally down the length of the fish. The bars are uneven, resulting in a unique design from one fish to the next. A creamy gold tint covers the tip of the broad dorsal fin.

You might also come across Royal Plecos that are black or have dots instead of stripes. These types are, for the most part, uncommon in the fish trade.

The Royal Pleco, like other Plecos and catfish species, lacks scales. Instead, thick armour-like skin plates protect it. The belly is substantially more significant than the rest of the body, even though these plates cover the entire body.

Royal Pleco Care

It is critical to maintain normal circumstances for Royal Plecos to grow. Because these vast catfish are sensitive to environmental changes, keeping their water parameters consistent is essential.

They are also picky about cleanliness, so use a powerful filter, regular water changes, and test the water levels to keep your tank clean. The care of Royal Plecos is not tricky, but it is necessary.

Maintaining a clean tank will lower their stress levels and risk of contracting diseases that typically affect freshwater fish. The parasitic Ich illness, as well as bacterial and fungal infections, can affect Royal Plecos.

Copper, which is harmful to Royal Plecos, is found in many over-the-counter treatments for Ich and other disorders. They are susceptible to copper-containing medications due to their lack of scales.

For Royal Plecos with Ich, quarantine is required. After you’ve separated them, you’ll need to gradually raise the water temperature over several days to try to get rid of the Ich.

Royal Pleco Food & Diet

Royal Plecos are omnivores, which means they eat plant-based foods primarily but also appreciate the meat. They have a propensity for wood consumption, as I previously stated. They have evolved into wood carving machines thanks to their teeth.

They resemble spoons in appearance, with the tips being more extensive than the base. They can crush wood thanks to these particular teeth and their muscular jaws. It’s essential to keep in mind that they’re not just eating wood.

Algae, debris, and microbes on the wood provide them with nutrients as well. They will eat plants and detritus of the tank’s floor, as they are bottom dwellers, in addition to the wood and its companions.

Their diet includes flakes, pellets, and wafers, both algae-based and meatier, which are what you can supply for the Royal Plecos.

Royal Pleco Behavior & Temperament

The majority of Royal Plecos are docile. They stay at the bottom of the tank, paying no attention to fish in other sections of the water column.

Other Royal Plecos and catfish species are the sole exceptions. These fishes have a reputation for being very protective of their kind! As a result, keeping numerous Royal Plecos in the same tank is not recommended. Otherwise, you can end up in a brawl!

During the day, Royal Plecos will usually hide beneath driftwood or among the plants in your tank. Because they are nocturnal, they are more reserved during the day.

They like to cling to their regions because they are territorial by nature, and they are at ease beneath the tank, where they hide or consume the wood present inside.

Royal Pleco Tank Mates

Because Royal Plecos are bottom feeders and nocturnal, it’s preferable to pick tank mates who live in the middle to upper levels of the tank and those who are more active during the day, so the different species aren’t vying for tank space or attention.

Keeping Royal Plecos with calm and mellow tank mates is only aggressive with their type, and if they are put in a tank with more aggressive fish, they will stress them out, putting their health at risk.

Aside from avoiding aggressive fish, mixing them with faster, more enthusiastic swimmers is a bad idea. Due to their lack of swimming ability, Royal Plecos cannot protect themselves if a quicker fish nips at them or threatens them.

Suitable Tankmates

  • Angelfish
  • Black Skirt Tetra
  • Bloodfin Tetra
  • Congo Tetra
  • Flag Cichlids
  • Headstands
  • Jaguar Cichlid
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Silver Arowana
  • Silver Dollar Fish
Leopard Cactus Pleco Pseudacanthicus leopardus aquarium fish

Royal Pleco Breeding

In captivity, breeding Royal Plecos is difficult. I don’t advise attempting this task at home. In a home tank, successful breeding is unusual. On the Internet, you can discover instructions on how to try to breed them.

However, because I believe that trying to breed in captivity is unfair to the fish and possible fry, I will instead describe why it is so difficult.

  • Royal Plecos mate in their natural habitat during the rainy season when the water conditions change. It’s practically hard to replicate these water conditions in your home aquarium.
  • To mate, Royal Plecos create bonded pairs, which means you’ll need a tank large enough to house multiples because you can’t guarantee that two will connect.
  • Because Royal Plecos are aggressive toward their species, confining multiples in a tank, even a large one, is a recipe for disaster.

Royal Pleco Availability

The murky waters of Brazil’s Xingu River and its tributaries are home to Royal Pleco. This area has low oxygen levels in the water, making it ideal for fish that prefer to stay near the top. It dwells in a dark environment with many rocks where it may hide from predators.

It originated in South America and has since spread to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. They’ve escaped from home aquariums or were purposefully released by owners who no longer wanted to maintain them in other areas.

Royal Pleco Aquarium Care

One of the most acceptable ways to care for the royal plecos is to set up the tank correctly. As previously stated, these fish are quite large and require large tanks. The following are some requirements to keep in mind when setting up the tank:

  • Because these fish have the potential to grow quite large (on average, they grow up to 17 inches long! ), the aquarium should be at least 120 gallons in size.
  • The pH level of the water for plec should be between 6.6 and 7.5, and the water-hardness level should be between 5 and 15 degrees dH.
  • The temperature within the tank should be kept between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius at all times to keep the royal plecos happy.
  • Because the enormous royal plecos will produce a lot of waste, a sound filtration system inside the tank is essential. When filtration systems aren’t working correctly, it might lead to low water levels inside the tank, making the royal plecos feel smothered.
  • You must keep an adequate amount of wood within the tanks at all times. This will not only assist in feeding the royal plecos, but it will also provide ideal hiding locations for them. While driftwood will suffice in this situation, vine tree wood would be suitable because royal plecos adore it.

They can survive for at least ten years if properly cared for; thus, you must consider close examination to the environment in which you plan to raise the royal plecos. Even if you have a royal pleco in your tank, determining its gender can be tricky.

This is due to the difficulty in determining the sex of these massive fish. Female royal plecos with spherical and blunt genital papilla are classified as females, according to current practice.

Male royal plecos are distinguished by their pointy and tiny genital papilla. However, it is still unclear if this identification procedure is correct or not.

Royal Pleco Diseases

Royal Plecos are susceptible to a variety of common freshwater illnesses. These fish, on the other hand, demand specialized care. These Plecos, for example, may contract Ich, a very contagious protozoan disease.

Usually, copper-based drugs can be used to treat this, but this is not the case with Royal Plecos. Even while royal plecos don’t move around much, they aren’t entirely stationary.

Royal Pleco Panaque nigrolineatus, or royal plec aquarium fish

If you detect a high level of sleepiness in these fish, as well as endless amounts of leftover food inside the tank, one should suspect that the royal plecos are suffering from a loss of appetite.

Dropsy and fin rot are two terms for the same thing. The condition is also known as dropsy or tail rot. Bloating, loss of color, and lethargy are symptoms of this bacterial infection in royal plecos.

The best approaches to treat this condition are to feed the fish excellent quality wood and give them drugs as soon as possible.

Another common affliction among royal plecos is a hole in the head. Because of the erosion of the lateral lines, you will find a spot in the leaders of the fishes, as the name implies.

While the actual cause of this sickness is unknown, it is clear that it is not a life-threatening condition. The royal plecos can recover faster if the tank’s water quality is improved, the fish are fed nutrient-rich diets, and their exposure to activated carbon is reduced.


Royal Plecos are, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating and gorgeous Armored Catfish species. You should have no trouble producing any catfish species if they come from a reliable source and are given the proper care.

They also make good pets, so keep them if you don’t mind sharing anything fresh life. Before making a final pick, keep in mind their adult size and demands, as it is challenging to sell them once they’ve grown too huge.

There aren’t many people interested in buying an adult Royal Pleco. Many people buy them when they’re young, and they swiftly grow into enormous fish.


How long does Royal Plecos live?

These fish can live for almost ten years if given proper care, so maintaining them is a long-term commitment. Females have a longer life expectancy than males. Holding a young female may be easier and less expensive than holding an older male.

Are Royal Plecos a rare species?

Due to their popularity as aquarium fish, Royal Plecos are becoming increasingly rare in the wild. Sharks have also played a role in their extinction. They are, however, bred in huge numbers today. However, given their rarity and need for special care, they are still relatively costly.

Is It True That Royal Plecos Are Aggressive?

Royal Plecos can be aggressive, especially if they share a tank with a smaller tank mate. They may regard you as a threat and as food. If this happens, any little fish in the area will be devoured by the Pleco.

What is the cost of a Royal Pleco?

A Royal Pleco can cost anywhere between £20-£150, depending on where you buy it, how old the fishes are, and whether there are any special discounts. The cost of shipping is sometimes included in the price. If you’re charged extra for this, make sure to read their terms and return policy if you change your mind later.

How big do emperor plecos get?

Emperor Plecos can grow up to 24 inches (61 cm) in length. This, however, is dependent on the type of pPlecoyou’re maintaining. The common pleco, for example, can reach a height of 20 inches, but dwarf plecos only get a length of 2–5 inches.
Plecos are typically sold while they are small, and there is a misconception that plecos will only grow as large as the space available to them, leading to individuals keeping them in tanks that are too small.
Plecos grow slowly, but you should expect them to reach adulthood at the average size of their species. A 30-gallon tank should be sufficient for smaller plecos. If you have a common pleco or another larger species, a 75-gallon tank may be required.

What do you do with an aggressive pleco?

Plecos are often aggressive exclusively towards other plecos. They don’t like it when other fish get in their way as they get bigger. This can appear bold when the pPlecois the largest fish in the aquarium, but it is only going about its job.

What are the best plecos?

Common Pleco (Pterygoplichthys pardalis)
Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus sp.)
Clown Pleco (Panaqolus sp.)
Butterfly Pleco (Dekeyseria picta)
Rubber Lip Pleco (Parancistrus aurantiacus)
Galaxy Pleco (Leporacanthicus galaxias)

Can a pleco survive in an outdoor pond?

If you don’t stay in a warm climate, don’t leave your plecos outside to overwinter. You can use a pond heater or transport plecos inside to an indoor pond or aquarium to help them survive the winter, as long as the pond or aquarium is large enough to accommodate this enormous species. You must also avoid stressing the fish when capturing it for transport since this makes them more prone to illness and disease and makes it more difficult for them to adjust to any temperature fluctuations in the water when they are moved to a new container.

About the author

I'm Gulshan, a passionate pet enthusiast. Dive into my world where I share tips, stories, and snapshots of my animal adventures. Here, pets are more than just animals; they're heartbeats that enrich our lives. Join our journey!