Do Plecos Need A Filter? [4 Main Reasons They Need A Filter]

Pleco in a tank with a filter

A filter is essential in a fish tank to remove unwanted toxins and maintain good water quality. But do plecos need a filter?

Yes, plecos need a filter in their aquarium. They’re messy fish that create a lot of waste compared to the number of algae that they clean from the tank. That’s why a filter is required in a pleco tank to clean the water, remove the build-up of ammonia and nitrates, and oxygenate the aquarium water.

Let’s now understand why plecos need a filter in more detail.

4 Reasons Why Plecos Need A Filter

Plecos create one the largest bio-load among all aquarium fish. So it’s a challenge to keep the tank clean without a filter, even if you have just one pleco.

Given below are the main reasons why you need a filter in a pleco tank.

1. Reduces Stress

Plecos are messy fish. Although they control algae bloom, they’re known to ruin the water quality by excreting a lot of waste.

In the absence of a filter, you will have to carry out the arduous task of partially changing the water every day.

This will also cause immense stress to the plecos. They will start looking pale in appearance due to their discomfort during the water change.

By installing a robust filtration system, you can maintain stable water parameters without undertaking daily water changes. It will reduce the stress and keep the plecos happy.

2. Decreases Tank Size

Since plecos are messy, a large tank of 100 gallons or more is a better option as it allows the waste to disperse and dissolve more efficiently.

However, if you have a tank smaller than 75 gallons in size, you will need to install a robust filtration system.

This is because plecos produce a lot of waste that can spike ammonia levels in the water. An unfiltered tank will have poor water quality that can stress the plecos.

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3. Oxygenates The Tank

Live plants are a must in a pleco tank as these fish produce a lot of waste. Aquatic plants not only create a cover for the plecos but also oxygenate the tank.

However, aquatic plants are unable to circulate oxygen. So an aquarium filter is a must to circulate aerated water throughout the tank.

This will also create water movement at the tank’s surface for the gas exchange to occur, thus increasing the oxygen levels of the water.

4. Avoids Frequent Cycling

The filter media provides a place for the beneficial bacteria to grow. Beneficial bacteria help balance the nitrogen cycle, which is essential to protect the fish from harmful waste.

Without a filter, the excess bio-load from the plecos will rapidly grow harmful parasites and infections inside the aquarium.

This means you will have to cycle the tank frequently to eliminate the harmful parasites and infections from the tank.

So it’s essential to install a filtration system in the tank to avoid frequent cycling, which stresses the plecos.

Can Plecos Survive Without A Tank Filter?

Plecos can’t survive without a tank filter. They create a lot of waste, resulting in the build-up of ammonia and nitrates. So a filter is necessary to clean the debris from the water and remove the toxic build-up of ammonia and nitrates. A filter also aerates the water for the plecos to breathe.

A tank filter not only cleans the water and eliminates the toxins but also helps in circulating the oxygen throughout the tank.

In the absence of a filter, you will have to change the water frequently to eliminate the waste and harmful bacteria.

Removing the plecos from the tank during a water change can stress them. Adding a filter will save the fish from those stressful moments.

It will also save you valuable time by avoiding frequent water changes to maintain stable water conditions.

How Does A Filter Help In Aerating The Pleco Tank?

Pleco tank with a filter

Aeration is the addition of oxygen to an aquarium ecosystem. The filter does an excellent job of cleaning the water and, more importantly, aerating or oxygenating the fish tank.

Given below are the ways in which a filter helps in aerating the pleco tank.

1. Gas Exchange

The gas exchange occurs at the water’s surface by taking in oxygen from the atmosphere and releasing carbon dioxide from the water. It’s done by breaking the surface tension of the water.

An aquarium filter helps to break the surface tension by creating bubbles and agitating the water surface, thus oxygenating or aerating the aquarium water.

2. Oxygen Circulation

Lack of water movement results in low oxygen levels at the tank’s bottom. So you can sometimes see the fish gasping for oxygen at the top of the tank.

Water circulation moves the water from the lower part of the tank to the upper part so that the oxygen concentration increases throughout the tank.

A filter helps to circulate the water, thereby distributing the oxygen throughout the tank. This helps the fish to breathe easily.

Besides aerating the water tank, a filter also cleans the debris and eliminates the ammonia, nitrates, and harmful bacteria from the water. This improves the overall quality of the water.

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What Tank Equipment Are Essential In A Pleco Tank?

In the wild, plecos inhabit the freshwater water bodies containing rocks and stones. So you need to create a traditional riverbed environment in your aquarium to replicate their natural habitat.

Given below is the list of equipment needed to replicate the natural environment of plecos in a tank:

  • Substrate,
  • Filter,
  • Heater,
  • Lights,
  • Aquatic plants like Java Fern, Amazon Sword, Anubias, etc.
  • Water conditioner,
  • Thermometer,
  • PH testing kit,
  • Water siphon, and
  • Decorations like artificial rocks, caves, tunnels, driftwood, etc.

Regardless of whether you have a filter system or other maintenance equipment, it’s essential to clean the aquarium regularly to maintain stable water parameters.