Breeding Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus)
A popular freshwater aquarium fish is the Pleco, or common catfish. It is a hardy fish that can tolerate a variety of water conditions and can grow to be two feet long. Plecos eat a large amount of vegetative matter and can keep the aquarium clear of algae. The two most popular Plecos are Bristlenose and Suckermouth.
Because Plecos are relatively easy to raise, they are often a favorite fish for beginners. In many areas, Plecos are one of the available options for a 4-H animal-raising project. However, breeding Plecos is a bit trickier. A sound understanding of Pleco diet, habitat, and behavior is necessary for maintaining good breeding practices.
What Do Plecos Eat?
Contrary to popular belief, Plecos are not vegetarians. Though many types of Plecos eat mainly vegetable matter, they need protein in their diet as well. Some Plecos, those with well-defined teeth, need a regular supply of protein, both live and supplements, on their menu. Some types of Plecos need wood in their diet. Larry Vires of planetcatfish.com suggests adding soft driftwood to the tank for these types of Plecos, and green beans as the most widely-acceptable Pleco vegetable.
How to Tell Your Fish’s Sex
Before you can breed your Plecos, you must first be sure that you have a male and a female. Telling the difference is simple. Adult males have projections and depressions on their heads that creates the appearance of horns, while females have smooth rounded heads. Though the size and location of these “horns” varies among different types of Plecos, you will most likely be able to pick male Plecos out easily.
How to Encourage Breeding
Fish breeding experts agree that breeding Plecos in captivity is not always easy. Most advise that creating the right environment and simulating breeding season conditions will assist your Pleco in spawning successfully. Here are some ideas from the experts.
Though you can start your Pleco community by breeding a single male and female pair, creating a colony with one male and several females will increase the likelihood of spawning. The larger the female, the more easily and more often she will breed.
Some Plecos will use the floor or the walls of the aquarium for breeding, but most Plecos like to breed in caves. The male lures the female into the cave and after she deposits her eggs, the male fertilizes them. Once the eggs hatch, the fry (baby fish) reside in the cave until they are old enough and large enough to enter the adult environment.
You can create cave options by placing a PVC pipe or a plastic square container on its side for the fish to swim into. The male usually favors a “cave” with a square hole just large enough for him to squeeze into. Some males prefer excavating their own caves. For these Plecos, you can fill a low, wide bucket with aquarium gravel and lay something heavier on top so the male can burrow under it into the gravel.
To alert the Pleco colony that it is breeding season, you must make some changes in their habitat. First, allow them to have as natural a water quality as possible, in other words, stop adding chemicals for a few weeks before breeding begins. Lower the temperature a few degrees and then allow the temperature to come back up to normal. Be sure to keep all the fish well-fed as you perform these activities. Finally, some fish prefer a current surrounding their “cave” to stimulate the breeding response.
By sexing your Plecos, creating colonies, and providing your fish with the right conditions for breeding, you can be successful in helping your Plecos multiply.
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