Why Did My Pleco Die Suddenly {The 8 Hated Reasons Why Plecos Die}

Did your pleco just die and you are wondering why did my pleco die suddenly?

In that moment you feel anguish. What did I do wrong?

Was there something you could of done?

Why Did My Pleco Die Suddenly

The most likely cause is stress. The water parameters must stay within range. Ammonia, nitrites, salinity and temperature spikes can easily lead to the death of a plecostomus. The nitrogen tank, choice of tankmates, disease prevention and inadequate tank size must be correct or death may occur suddenly.

It’s a moment of reflection and introspection. You say to yourself, “What Could I Have Done Better?”

Do Plecostomus Die Easily?

Are plecos hardy? If we are measuring the hardiness of a plecostomus, we should say that they are indeed hardy. The spiny fin and hard plate body protects them from exterior and organ damage. Plecos sometimes arrive to our tank already stressed.

Once we take over, we have to acclimate them properly and slowly. Drip acclimation is the slowest way to integrate our tank’s water parameters into the bag where our plecostomus wants to eventually get out of.

If our nitrogen cycled tank isn’t optimal, we are entering a challenging and possibly a losing battle.

The Top 8 Reasons Why Plecos Die

  1. Birth defect
  2. Salinity
  3. Starvation
  4. Failed nitrogen cycle
  5. Water parameters off
  6. Stress from surroundings
  7. Too much food
  8. Illness

1. Birth defect

Sometimes we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. Captive marine life like the pleco that just died could have arrived to my local fish shop in a bad batch. Genetic defects, tainted commercial tanks and arriving diseased already could have been the culprits to the early death of my pleco.

2. Salinity

We hear about adding salt to a tank to medicate it. Freshwater fish with scales should be able to handle 1 tablespoon of salt per 5 gallons of water. Plecos are most sensitive to salt. I didn’t see burned gills, but it could have been partially responsible by dehydrating my pleco.

3. Starvation

Originally, I wanted a pleco for algae cleaning reasons. I realized quickly that although plecostomus like to scavenge the substrate and suck on surfaces, we have to provide more plant matter and vegetables.

Sinking rounds, pellets and wafers carry blends of protein, algae and vegetables to satisfy the nutritional needs of a plecostomus. 2-3 times a week, I would offer cucumbers, zucchini and kale leaves.

I used a metal skewer to keep the food in place at the bottom of the tank. I don’t think my pleco starved.

4. Failed nitrogen cycle

The first response from our helpful aquarist community usually centers around whether or not our tanks were cycled properly. The beneficial bacteria allows for ammonia or harmful parasites and infections to stay away from our marine life.

Did I cycle my tank? Yes. Did I continue to check if there were any spikes in ammonia, nitrites and nitrates? Double yes.

5. Water parameters off

The following parameters served me well. The community always helps and we pay it forward by helping anyone with our shared experiences. I lost a pleco today. The water parameters stayed within this recommended range:

  • Water Temperature: 74-80° F
  • pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Alkalinity: 3-10° dKH (54 ppm to 180 ppm)
  • Nitrates: Less than 40 ppm
  • Nitrites and Ammonia: 0 ppm

6. Stress from surroundings

The tank was too small. I needed to keep up with my growing plecostomus. At 12-14 inches, I needed to upgrade to a 75 gallon community tank. 50 gallons works for most types of plecos, but 100 gallons would be better for these fish who love to cover ground and explore.

Overcrowding, aggressive tankmates, not enough hiding spaces and not enough plant matter also contribute to a stressed plecostomus. This wasn’t my case, but I should have used a larger tank.

7. Too much food

Sometimes I wonder how much is too much for a growing plecostomus. Feedings were daily, then changed to every other day for a while when my pleco was eating anything I offered. I slowed down when I realized that overfeeding could lead to sudden death as well.

I switched to more algae wafers and less pellets. I also bought larger sheets of algae and clipped them with a suction cup to the glass near the substrate. It worked well, until my pleco died.

8. Illness

  • Ich
  • Dropsy
  • Hole in the Head
  • Fin Rot

These diseases are common in plecos. A pleco will show it externally through wounds, abrasions, spots and infections. Sometimes it’s the lethargic behavior and lack of appetite that gives it away.

Near the end, my pleco gave up eating. He stopped doing anything. Then it was over.

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How Do I Prevent My Pleco From Dying?

It’s important to dust ourselves off and learn from failures. Let’s get back to it and give any future plecos a better chance by using the following tips:

  • More water testing
  • Frequent water changes
  • Maintaining stable temperatures
  • Getting a 75+ gallon tank
  • Regular feeding schedule with varied foods
  • Drip acclimation
  • Stress free tankmates
  • Quarantine tank

With these lessons in mind, I’m better equipped with a larger tank and ready to try again. I will maintain water parameters below:

  • Water Temperature: 74-80° F
  • pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Alkalinity: 3-10° dKH (54 ppm to 180 ppm)
  • Nitrates: Less than 40 ppm
  • Nitrites and Ammonia: 0 ppm

Feedings will happen daily, but I will observe more often to make sure that if something is being avoided, I’ll remove it and try another vegetable. I have the 40 gallon tank as a quarantine tank and a 75 gallon tank for my new pleco.

The community tank includes:

  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Danios
  • Guppies
  • Mollies

Conclusion

My pleco died in a tank that was too small. I may have overfed my pleco at times and an undiagnosed disease that wasn’t visible may have contributed to the final demise of this plecostomus.

I wrote this article for all of us who have experienced the loss of any marine life. We have to pick ourselves back up and keep moving forward as better fish enthusiasts and aquarists.

 

Thanks for visiting HelpUsFish.com for another article on plecostomus that we greatly enjoy taking care of in our aquariums. Check out more of our articles on the variety of marine life we research and keep. Bye for now!

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.

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