Do Plecos Lay Eggs? (What Do They Look Like?)

Pleco about to lay eggs

Some fish are livebearers, while others are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. So, do plecos lay eggs?

Yes, plecos lay eggs. A female pleco lays around 10 to 300 eggs, depending on the species. The female pleco prefers to lay eggs inside a cave in the home aquarium. The male pleco fertilizes the laid eggs and safeguards them until the fry are born. It takes around 4 to 10 days for the eggs to hatch.

Let’s now understand more about the spawning process of plecos.

How Do Plecos Spawn?

Plecos have a unique spawning process. They prefer hiding places such as caves for spawning.

So the cave in your aquarium should be large enough for the pair to mate and lay eggs. However, the cave shouldn’t be so big that it becomes difficult for the male pleco to block the entrance of other male plecos.

After the plecos pair up, the male pleco cleans the cave and waits for the female pleco to visit.

Once the female pleco enters the cave, the pair mate inside the cave. After some time, the female pleco lays the eggs inside the cave. This process may take a few hours.

After the female pleco lays the eggs, the male pleco scares her and sends her outside the cave. The male pleco then fertilizes the eggs and guards them until the fry are born.

The male pleco guards the eggs by moving his fins to provide fresh oxygenated water. He also eats the poor and unfertilized eggs.

The fertilization success largely depends on the male pleco’s experience. If he is inexperienced, the male pleco may kick the eggs out of the cave or even eat them out of stress.

Since the entire reproduction process is done inside the cave, it’s crucial that you don’t re-scape the aquarium or move the cave.

Where Do Plecos Lay Eggs?

In the wild, plecos search for a suitable hiding place, such as a gap under the rocks to lay eggs. The hiding spot helps to safeguard their eggs from predators.

In captivity, plecos prefer a suitable place like a cave to lay their eggs. The cave in the tank serves as a safe place to hatch the eggs and keep them warm.

What Do Pleco Eggs Look Like?

Pleco eggs are pretty large, around 2 to 4 mm in size. They’re round and laid in clutches inside the cave in the aquarium.

So sometimes, you may not even notice the eggs as the male pleco guards the eggs inside the cave until the fry are born.

The eggs will be visible only if the male pleco pushes the eggs outside the cave, either accidentally or due to stress.

The color of the eggs varies as per the pleco species. Bristlenose pleco eggs are more orange in color than zebra pleco eggs, which are pale and more grey to yellow.

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How Many Eggs Do Plecos Lay?

Plecos lay around 10 to 300 eggs, depending on the species. Hypancistrus species such as zebra plecos lay fewer eggs, between 5 to 20. On the other hand, Ancistrus species like bristlenose plecos lay around 50 to 200 eggs.

Apart from the species, other factors also determine the number of eggs. As plecos breed until their last moment, they experience several spawning cycles throughout their life.

Given below are factors that influence the number of eggs that plecos lay:

  • Size of the fish: Smaller pleco fish lay fewer eggs than bigger plecos.
  • Age: The age of the plecos also influences the number of eggs they lay. A younger female pleco that is spawning for the first time will lay fewer eggs than a more mature one that has experienced several spawning cycles. However, very old female plecos are less fertile and lay fewer eggs.
  • Feeding live food: The quantity and quality of food fed to the pleco pair influences the breeding process. Feeding live food high in protein helps to condition the fish and increase the number of eggs laid by the female plecos.
  • Water quality: Water quality plays a vital role in determining the number of eggs. Poor water quality causes a lower fertility rate among the female plecos.
  • Stress: Female plecos will lay fewer eggs if they’re stressed during the spawning process.

How Long Does It Take For The Pleco Eggs To Hatch?

Pleco resting after laying eggs

The time it takes for the pleco eggs to hatch depends on the water temperature and species. The eggs hatch faster in higher temperatures compared to lower temperatures.

On average, it takes 4 to 10 days for the eggs to hatch once the female pleco lays them. Typically, it takes around 2 to 3 hours for the whole batch of eggs to hatch.

Once the fry are born, the male pleco keeps them inside the cave for some days until they start free-swimming. The male pleco also cleans the residual membranes and takes full responsibility of its fry.

Initially, the fry feed in the yolk sac for the first few days. They usually come out of the cave by the end of one week.

You can optionally transfer the fry into the main tank or continue to grow them a bit more in the breeder tank itself.

How To Identify Fertilized Pleco Eggs?

The best way to identify fertilized pleco eggs is by looking at their color. Fertilized eggs stay yellow to orange in color, unlike unfertilized eggs that turn white.

You can also notice a mold-like layer on the unfertilized eggs. The male pleco usually identifies them immediately and eats those eggs.

You can even see a tiny embryo in a fertilized egg, further confirming its fertilization.

There can be around 10% to 50% unfertilized eggs, depending on the male pleco’s fertilization experience.

Unexperienced plecos usually have a lower success rate as they get stressed and even eat their eggs or kick them out of the cave.

Do You Need To Pull The Pleco Eggs Out Of The Cave?

It’s unnecessary to pull the pleco eggs out of the cave if the male pleco is experienced and takes good care of the eggs. Pulling out the eggs unnecessarily can stress the male pleco, and you may lose more fry.

Aquarists often pull the eggs out of the cave and hatch them separately only if the male pleco starts eating the eggs regularly.

Once you notice that the male pleco is incapable of taking care of the eggs, you can scare him back and remove the laid eggs from the cave.

For that, you will first need to set up an egg tumbler box to hatch the eggs. Transferring the eggs immediately to the egg tumbler box minimizes the risk of stress.

You can even hatch the eggs in a breeder box. You can add an airstone to provide a constant flow of oxygen. The eggs will usually hatch in a week.

The only challenge in hatching the eggs outside is to prevent them from turning bad and developing bacterial infections.

It’s therefore essential to monitor the eggs closely. If an egg turns white, you need to remove it immediately as it can infect the other fertile eggs.

The eggs also need to be monitored for possible fungal growth. They can turn bad if there is less oxygen. So an air stone is vital to avoid fungal growth on eggs.

Some experienced aquarists add shrimp to the breeder box, where the eggs are kept for hatching. Shrimp are known to eat rotten eggs, leaving behind healthy fertilized eggs.

You can successfully hatch the pleco eggs by taking proper care and monitoring them closely.

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Can Plecos Spawn In A Community Tank?

Plecos can spawn in a community tank as long as they have a cave for spawning. However, it’s not advisable to breed plecos in a community tank.

The eggs can be at risk in a community tank. Although the male pleco will try his best to guard the eggs, other fish can bully him and eat the eggs.

The tankmates can also bully the plecos, leading to further stress. So it’s always better to let the plecos spawn separately in a breeding tank.