Why Do My Plecos Always Die And How To Keep Plecos From Dying?

Last Updated on August 27, 2022 by cmoarz

If you’ve been trying to keep plecos for some time and they always seem to be dying, you might be wondering why do my plecos always die? This article will address the most common issues that lead to plecos dying and how to prevent them from dying.

Why Do My Plecos Keep Dying

Having fish such as plecos die from time to time isn’t uncommon and it’s something we fish keepers need to deal with on a regular basis at times. It’s just part of the hobby in general.

However, if you’ve had a really bad run with your plecos dying more than what would be deemed normal, you might want to look into the following things that may be causing your issues.

The biggest reason for plecos dying is because of water quality issues. Water changes are important and crucial in aquariums, especially when it comes to maintaining healthy parameters for fish such as plecos.

If you’ve been ignoring water changes or haven’t been doing them often enough, it can lead to poor water quality which in turn leads to oxygen depletion and nitrites/ammonia issues, both of which are deadly for fish such as plecos if not dealt with immediately.

Be sure to test your water regularly and keep your tank properly cycled.

If this was the cause of the deaths then you would notice other fish in the aquarium having similar issues as well as signs of ammonia burn and surface swimming. If not, then it may have been a more singular issue with your plecos dying.

Underfeeding or overly aggressive feeders causing plecos to starve to death is another common issue amongst plecos owners.

Plecos can’t live on algae alone. They need supplemental feeding of balanced pleco food.

Even if you feed your plecos enough of a balanced diet on a good feeding schedule, are you sure they are actually getting all that food?

If you’ve got other species of fish in the aquarium, they could be scooping up all the food before it ever makes it to the bottom feeders.

An easy solution to this is to feed the other fish at the same time as you feed your plecos and other bottom feeders.

Keep the top and mid-feeders on one side of the tank while feeding, and drop the bottom feeder’s food in on the other side.

If that isn’t possible then you might need to consider helping the food get to the bottom of the tank with your arm.

This should ensure your plecos are getting the food they require and that other fish aren’t stealing it before the plecos have a chance to get their fair share.

Another common cause for plecos dying is some sort of injury.

Plecos are extremely tough fish, but they aren’t invincible and some injuries can be fatal (such as getting caught in the filter intake or torn fins).

Make sure your pleco has enough space in the aquarium to maneuver around without getting blown into an object by the water flow or getting stuck near a filter intake.

Don’t have the filter going so strong that they get blown around in the tank either. It’s best to have a moderate current with no strong water movement directed at one spot in the aquarium for longer than a few seconds. This can cause problems with plecos when they get stuck against an object or in the current.

Sharp decorations can also cause problems when placed in an aquarium.

If you’ve had your plecos for a while, it’s possible they simply grew too large for their aquarium.

Plecos can grow fast and when that happens, they need larger accommodations than what they started out with. They grow into very big fish and most people don’t seem to realize that.

The bottom line is if your pleco is too big for its aquarium then it can easily cause health problems.

And as always, watch out and keep a vigilant eye for any signs of illness such as spots, discoloration, fungus growths, red streaks in the fins, or other abnormalities.

If all else fails then it could be that your plecos are just bad luck. Sometimes fish die for no reason whatsoever.

They don’t necessarily suffer from any illnesses and they show no signs of injury, but they just die.

These instances will most likely happen in the first few months after you get your plecos due to stress or simply because it is a difficult period for them where lots of things can go wrong.

Bad stock is a very big cause of plecos dying.

You need to make sure that you are buying your plecos from a reliable source, especially if you plan on getting them online.

If you’ve been buying your plecos from the same place and they all seem to end up dead then it might be a good idea to try somewhere else.

How Do I Keep My Pleco From Dying?

To keep your plecos from dying, follow these simple steps to achieve a long healthy life for your plecos.

  1. Feed your plecos properly and on a good schedule so they can get everything they need.
  2. Make sure there is an established pecking order in the aquarium so no one fish intimidates any other into not getting enough to eat (more common with cichlids).
  3. Provide adequate space and decor (ornaments and positioning of objects) so there is no danger for your pleco.
  4. Keep the filter, heater, and lights on for long enough periods of time to ensure their comfort.
  5. Make sure the tank has been cycled before introducing any fish to it so there are no dangerous spikes in the water.
  6. Make sure your plecos are getting enough space in their aquarium. Remember, plecos are big boys and they grow exceptionally quickly.
  7. Buy good stock from reputable vendors
  8. Deal with any signs of illness or stress as you see it.
  9. Keep a constant eye on the temperature and pH of the aquarium. If it’s too low, raise it slowly so you don’t shock your plecos.
  10. Take care of your plecos by giving them good conditions to live in and they will take care of themselves.

How Do You Tell if a Pleco Is Stressed?

Fish all show signs of stress in different ways, but there are also a lot of commonalities between them. Look for these signs to try to figure out if your pleco is stressed.

  • The first sign of a stressed pleco is usually an injury
  • If you notice that your plecos are very inactive and hiding, then they might be stressed
  • Watch out for red streaks in the fins or any other type of discoloration on the fish’s body as well as spots and fungus growths
  • You may also see signs of stress if there is a lot of reddening around the eyes or mouth area
  • Another indication would be if they start to develop white patches on their scales
  • Excessive scratching at themselves as if they were itchy
  • Coloration may change, but not always dramatically
  • Coming to the surface to breathe heavily.

If you notice any of these signs in your plecos, then there is something wrong with them.

It could be that they are distressed due to some illness or bad conditions in the aquarium so it is important that you get to the bottom of it.

Remember, You know your fish better than anyone, and you should be able to spot any change in behavior and take immediate action to correct it.

In conclusion, a pleco dying will show symptoms of lethargy, open mouth breathing (gasping), and a loss of appetite, and a pale complexion. Several reasons for the death of plecos are water parameter changes, parasite infections, and starvation.


Owner of AquariumGravel.com and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!