6 Types Of Plecos That Stay Small

Plecos (or Plecostomus to give them their full title) are a part of the Loricariidae family which are the largest family of catfish with around 700 species out there. As you can imagine with that many species, they can come in all different shapes and sizes.

Types Of Plecos That Stay Small

If you have a smaller aquarium then you need to know which types of plecos are going to be suitable for you. Thankfully you’re not going to be short on choice. Here we look at the types of plecos that stay small for your aquarium.

What types of plecos that stay small?

Below is a list of plecos that stay small

  1. Bristlenose Pleco
  2. Rubber Lip Pleco
  3. Clown Pleco
  4. Queen Arabesque Pleco
  5. Zebra Pleco
  6. Pitbull Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco

A bristlenose pleco will grow to around 5 inches in size and are the most popular small pleco that you’re going to see. The reason for that is because they are great fish to watch while also being widely available and quite cheap. They are a great option for anyone that has never had plecos before.

Another reason that they are popular is the long lifespan that they have. You may well have your bristlenose pleco for 20 years which is helped by them being so easy to take care of. A great advantage of these fish is that they are also good at cleaning algae.

If you wanted to be able to breed plecos then they are also brilliant for that as they don’t need a huge amount of care and attention. They can get aggressive if they don’t have their own space and therefore each one should have their own cave.

As long as they have enough space then they will also make great community fish along with other types of tropical fish. They are a good option for adding to your community tank due to their ease of care and also those algae-eating qualities.

Bristlenose Pleco Fact file

Other names: Bristlenose Catfish, Bushynose Catfish, Bushy Nose

Size: Up to 5 inches

Life expectancy: Over 5 years

Social nature: Friendly and suitable for a community tank

Tank level: Bottom dweller

Minimum tank size: 40 gallons

Ph level needed: 5.8 to 7.8

Temperature range:  73-81F


Rubber Lip Pleco

The Rubber Lip Pleco is another popular type of pleco which isn’t too expensive easier. They look great and can grow up to around 7 inches. Some people place them in a smaller tank but they should ideally be in a tank that is 20 gallons in size.

They are also a brilliant option if you want to keep your tank clean as they will be able to eat up any excess algae. They are easy to take of and are another great community fish that will sit at the bottom of the tank. Life expectancy is also great at around 12 years.

Rubber Lip Pleco Fact File

Other names: Chaestoma milesi, Chaetostomus milesi.

Size: Up to 7 inches

Life expectancy: 12 years

Social nature: Peaceful community fish

Tank level: Bottom

Minimum tank size: 20 gallons

Ph level needed: 6.5 to 8

Temperature range: 71 to 78F


Clown Pleco

If you wanted a really small pleco then this could well be the perfect choice as they’ll only grow to around 3.5-4 inches. They also look great in an aquarium and are peaceful but can become a target for larger fish.

As with many plecos, it’s a good idea to add driftwood to your tank as this is going to be their main source of food. They’ll mainly situate themselves to the sides of the tank or the bottom. For such a small fish, they have an impressive life expectancy of 10 years.

Clown Pleco Fact File

Other names: Panaque maccus

Size: 3.5 – 4 inches

Life expectancy: 10 years

Social nature: Friendly

Tank level: Bottom or side

Minimum tank size: 20 gallons

Ph level needed: 6.8 to 7.6

Temperature range: 73 to 82F


Queen Arabesque Pleco

We’ve looked at a few fish here that are common and well-priced but the Queen Arabesque Pleco is going to be a more expensive option. Part of the reason for that is the color of the fish which helps to make it unique. They are mostly black but with white lines running all over them which look like a maze.

They usually grow to a little over 3 inches and is a brilliant fish to have in your tank. It’s a great bottom feeder and will help to tidy up a lot of food scraps. You should avoid putting them in a tank with more aggressive fish as they are peaceful and can become a target. A tank size of 20 gallons and up should be more than comfortable for them.

Queen Arabesque Pleco Fact File

Other names: HypanWcistrus L260

Size: 3.1 – 3.5 inches

Life expectancy: 10 years

Social nature: Peaceful but don’t like aggressive fish

Tank level: Mostly at the bottom

Minimum tank size: 20 gallons

Ph level needed: 5.5 – 7.5

Temperature range: 73-82°F


Zebra Pleco

Don’t mind spending a little extra? Then you’ll love the zebra pleco. As you can gather from the name, the coloration on this fish is thick bands of black and white. They are a beautiful fish and would get positive comments from anyone in your aquarium.

One thing that you may see as a negative is that they’re very shy and need plenty of hiding spots. It’s also worth noting that they need to be at a slightly higher temperature than a lot of other tropical fish. With the price you pay, you’ll want to have a very reliable heater and also high-quality food.

Zebra Pleco Fact File

Other names: Hypancistrus Zebra, Imperial Pleco, L46, L48

Size: 3 – 4 inches

Life expectancy: 10 – 15 years

Social nature: Can become territorial, but are usually peaceful

Tank level: Bottom dweller

Minimum tank size: 30 gallons

Ph level needed: 6.5 – 7.0

Temperature range: 78 – 86F


Pitbull Pleco

You won’t find a smaller pleco than this. The little fish grow up to 3 inches and can be quite rare when compared to other plecos that we’ve looked at on this list. They aren’t cheap but neither are they as expensive as the likes of the zebra pleco.

An important aspect of these fish is that they don’t like being alone and should be kept in a small group. They also should be in a tank with sand substrate as they will hide in the sand if they feel threatened or stressed.

Pitbull Pleco Fact File

Other names: Goby Plec, Parotocinclus Jumbo

Size: 3 inches

Life expectancy: 3-5 years

Social nature: Peaceful

Tank level: Bottom

Minimum tank size: 15 gallons

Ph level needed: 6.5 – 7.5

Temperature range: 68 – 78F


Hello, I'm Jason. I'm the guy behind HelpUsFish.com. I volunteer at my local fish shop and I created this site to offer tips and advice on the fish I care for.