Are Plecos Catfish? [6 Similarities And 4 Differences]

Pleco that looks like catfish

Like most catfish, plecos are bottom dwellers that scavenge at the bottom of the water body. So, are plecos catfish?

Plecos or suckermouths belong to the armored catfish family “Loricariidae.” It’s the largest fish family in the world, with 92 genera and over 680 species. They originate in the tropical waters of northeastern South America and are known for the bony plates covering their bodies and sucker mouths.

Let’s now understand why plecos are considered catfish and how they differ from catfish.

6 Reasons Why Plecos Are Considered Catfish

Plecos are considered catfish because they belong to the catfish family “Loricariidae.” There are many other similarities between plecos and catfish too.

Given below are the six main reasons why plecos are considered catfish.

1. Nocturnal

Some species of catfish are nocturnal and spend their day hiding under covers and exploring the tank bottom during the night in search of food.

Plecos are also nocturnal and spend their day hiding in the dark corners of the tank. They’re active during the dark hours, and you can see them exploring the tank for food at night.

2. Bottom Dwellers

Catfish species are benthic or bottom dwellers, so they like to stay at the bottom of the water body.

Plecos are also bottom dwellers that like to spend their day at the bottom of the tank.

You can also find them at the bottom near the sandy substrate in their natural environment.

3. Timid

Catfish stay covered under the murky waters in the wild. They also take shelter in caves and brush piles under the water surface in captive environments.

Similarly, plecos are timid and need plenty of hiding places. They will immediately seek refuge undercover at the first sign of danger. They will stay hidden until the danger passes.

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4. Scavengers

Catfish are freshwater scavengers. They have a diverse diet and eat a wide variety of things found in the rivers. A catfish is an omnivore and feeds on aquatic plants, fish, snails, clams, and mollusks.

Plecos are also omnivores and scavengers. They feed on algae, detritus, veggies, and decomposing fish.

5. Scaleless

Catfish don’t have scales. Some catfish species use their mucus-covered skins for cutaneous respiration (breathing through their skin). Some catfish also have rigid bony plates covering their skin called scutes.

Similarly, the body of a pleco is covered by rigid, bony plates called armor-clad scales. These bony plates protect them from any harm. However, these plates are not found on the head and belly of the plecos.

6. Peaceful And Aggressive Behavior

Most catfish species are peaceful, and you can keep them in community tanks. However, catfish can turn aggressive toward other tankmates if stressed or threatened.

Just like catfish, plecos are also peaceful but can get aggressive when threatened. They can get territorial and display aggression toward the intruders in community tanks.

4 Differences Between Plecos and Catfish

Catfish that looks different from plecos

There are a lot of similarities between plecos and catfish. They like similar habitats, tank conditions, and even food. However, there are few differences between them.

Given below are the four main differences between plecos and catfish.

1. Size

Plecos are much smaller than regular catfish. They usually grow only up to 20 inches.

In contrast, large-sized catfish can grow up to 60 inches or more, depending on the species.

2. Water Depth

In the wild, both these fish live in the same habitat but at different depths. Plecos live in shallow waters of the fast-flowing rivers and streams.

In contrast, catfish reside at 15 to 20 feet depth in lakes. They live at such depths in most lakes, so these depths are called the “catfish zone.”

However, depending on the season and temperature of the lake, they can also be found in shallow areas.

3. Barbels

Catfish have barbels loaded with tiny taste buds and special olfactory sensors. They help the catfish to taste and smell the prey in the dark and murky waters without relying too much on vision.

Unlike catfish, plecos don’t have barbles. However, zebra plecos have long barbels that help them sense the surrounding environment and locate food in the dirt.

4. Behavior

Plecos do wonderfully well in community tanks when they’re the sole or only representative of their species.

When plecos become adults, they become highly territorial with their species. So they don’t get along with fellow plecos.

On the other hand, some catfish species like the glass catfish are schooling fish. This means they stick together with their species for safety and protection.

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Can Plecos And Catfish Live Together?

Plecos are omnivorous bottom feeders. They’re kept in a community aquarium with small fish of their size and temperament. They’re also algae eaters and can control the algae bloom inside the aquarium.

Similarly, catfish are also bottom feeders and love to scavenge at the bottom of the tank for food. So…

Yes, plecos and catfish can live together. To keep them together, you will have to create a habitat where both these fish can co-exist. However, both are bottom feeders and can get aggressive when threatened or stressed.

So it’s essential to provide a large tank with lots of hiding places for both these fish. It will give them the necessary space and help them avoid confrontations and stress.