Plecos are considered tank cleaners that can control algae growth in an aquarium. So, do plecos eat algae?
Most herbivorous and omnivorous plecos eat algae. Bristlenose and rubber lip plecos are excellent algae eaters. However, sailfin and royal plecos prefer to eat only green algae, while zebra plecos don’t eat algae. Although plecos eat algae, they can’t thrive on algae alone and need a proper diet.
There are more than 150 pleco species. So let’s learn about the algae-eating abilities of various plecos.
What Kind Of Algae Do Plecos Eat?
Plecos eat all types of algae, except hair algae and black beard algae (BBA).
This is because they have a specialized mouth for eating certain algae types.
Bristlenose plecos, in particular, love eating brown algae and diatoms.
So they’re sometimes used in planted tanks for eating the excess algae.
Green spot algae, green dot algae, and black algae are other types of algae that plecos eat.
Since algae form a part of the daily diet of plecos in the wild, they also enjoy eating them in a home aquarium.
Fun Fact: Here are some common saltwater fish that eat hair algae.
Can Plecos Live Off Algae?
Plecos can live off algae in the wild, where algae are abundant.
However, the same can’t be said in captivity, where the algae quantity is limited.
So feeding plecos a varied diet is essential to meet their nutritional needs.
You can feed plecos a plant and meat-based diet as they’re mainly omnivores. Algae wafers are an excellent option to feed plecos.
You can also feed them sinking pellets, protein-rich bloodworms, shrimp, earthworms that are either live or frozen, and veggies such as shelled peas, kale, zucchini, broccoli, celery, lima beans, and cabbage.
Small pieces of papaya, honeydew melon, breadfruit, and cantaloupe are good fruits to feed plecos.
You should avoid feeding acidic fruits or veggies such as oranges and tomatoes.
Which Plecos Eat Algae?
Several pleco species eat algae. Not all of them, though, consume algae in abundance.
Their algae-eating capacity varies by species and feeding habits.
Given below are the most popular plecos that eat algae.
1. Bristlenose Plecos
Bristlenose plecos have an insatiable appetite for eating algae.
Amongst all pleco species, bristlenose plecos are excellent algae eaters.
They can keep algae growth under control in your tank and reduce it to a minimum.
You can always notice bristlenose plecos munching algae on all tank surfaces, even though they’re well-fed.
Bristlenose plecos are also favorite among aquarists as they don’t grow huge, are easy to care for, and have a unique appearance that makes the tank look more attractive.
2. Rubber Lip Plecos
Rubber lip plecos are efficient algae eaters. Their diet majorly consists of algae in the wild.
They’re found sticking to the riverbeds and rocks in their natural habitat, munching on the available algae.
Rubber lip plecos can also be seen munching on all the green algae in a tank. However, they don’t eat brown algae.
Although rubber lip plecos eat a considerable amount of algae, you need to feed them a nutritious diet in captivity as algae alone may not be sufficient to satiate their hunger.
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3. Butterfly Plecos
Butterfly plecos are also efficient algae eaters. You can certainly keep them in aquariums to control algae growth.
However, algae alone aren’t sufficient for their optimum growth.
Being herbivorous, butterfly plecos feed on a variety of plant matter.
You can feed butterfly plecos algae wafers and veggies such as cucumber, blanched spinach, zucchini, and other vegetable matter.
4. Clown Plecos
Clown plecos are one of the prettiest pleco species. They eat algae but aren’t efficient algae eaters like bristlenose plecos.
Clown plecos consume algae in fewer quantities, especially when they’re young.
Once clown plecos become adults, they show very little to no interest in algae.
In the wild, clown plecos primarily eat wood. Wood fibers from driftwood are their primary diet.
5. Sailfin Plecos
Sailfin plecos are good algae eaters and can clean the tank pretty quickly. However, they don’t eat all types of algae.
Sailfin plecos prefer to eat green algae that grow on glass surfaces and substrates.
Algae wafers are one of their favorite commercial food.
You can also feed sailfin plecos sinking pellets, blanched veggies, and protein-rich live or frozen food.
6. Royal Plecos
Royal plecos majorly eat algae in the wild.
Being herbivorous, they also feed on plant matter, submerged wood, and various organisms and detritus that live on the wood.
In captivity, they primarily eat an abundance of green algae growing on the driftwood, glass surfaces, substrate, and other decorative items of the tank.
You can also feed royal plecos algae supplements like algae wafers and other food like sinking pellets, flakes, tablets, and frozen food.
7. Galaxy Plecos
Galaxy plecos eat a negligible amount of algae. Being omnivorous, they eat both plant and animal matter.
Galaxy plecos are bottom feeders and hence prefer eating a varied diet.
They can eat algae, decaying plant matter, sinking pellets, and meaty food like bloodworms and fish flakes.
8. Sunshine Plecos
Sunshine plecos eat algae but in less quantity. They’re not effective algae eaters like bristlenose or ribber lip plecos.
However, many aquarists prefer keeping sunshine plecos due to their colorful appearance.
Sunshine plecos are omnivores that thrive on a balanced mix of vegetable and protein-rich food.
9. Common Plecos
Common plecos are often sold as algae eaters. They do eat algae, but only until they’re young.
Once mature, common plecos stop eating algae. Common plecos are also not preferred as they grow very large.
However, you can buy smaller common plecos for controlling algae bloom and keep them alongside other algae-eating fish once they grow up.
10. Gold Nugget Plecos
Gold nugget plecos do eat algae but in small quantities.
They like to eat algae that grow on the substrate and other surfaces at the tank’s bottom.
Since you can’t rely on them to clean the excess algae from the tank, you need other algae eaters too.
You also need to supplement their diet with algae wafers, sinking pellets, flakes, and green veggies.
Why Are Plecos Considered Algae Eaters?
Plecos are considered algae eaters because algae are part of their regular diet.
Some pleco species like bristlenose and rubber lip plecos eat a considerable amount of algae.
They can control algae bloom in an aquarium. However, they can’t clean the entire tank all by themselves.
Some plecos, such as common plecos, eat algae only when they’re small.
Once they grow up and become adults, common plecos stop eating algae.
Not all pleco species consume algae. For example, zebra plecos don’t eat algae at all.
They’re carnivores and prefer eating meaty and protein-rich food such as bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, etc.
Plecos, in general, can be kept in a tank to clean the algae partly.
They won’t clear the algae entirely as specialized algae eaters will, like siamese algae eaters.
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Do plecos eat algae on the glass?
Plecos eat algae on the glass. They don’t care whether the algae is on the substrate, decorations, or sidewalls of the glass.
How much amount of algae can plecos eat?
The amount of algae that plecos can eat in a day depends on their species and size.
While bristlenose plecos can eat a lot of algae, zebra plecos don’t eat algae.
Larger plecos eat more algae compared to smaller ones.
An average pleco that eats sufficient algae can clean one side of a 20-gallon tank in a week.
Do plecos eat algae wafers?
Plecos eat algae wafers. Algae are an integral part of their diet in the wild.
Since there aren’t enough algae in a tank, algae wafers are an excellent option to meet the algae needs of plecos.
You can feed one or two algae wafers to your pleco.