15 Great Small Pleco Species (With Pictures!)

Want to keep a pleco, but worried you may purchase a breed that grows to a foot in length?

It’s not uncommon to think this since you may have heard how big some species get. In today’s blog post, I will focus on small pleco species. These plecos are some of the smallest pleco species in the hobby and will fit in many community tanks. There are many options for you to choose from, but I’m focusing on my top 15, all with key info and photos to help you pick the best one for you!

Key Takeaways

  • There are over 150 pleco species, with several being under 6 inches in size
  • Several examples clude Zebra, Clown, and Bristlenose plecos
  • Make sure to provide the right environment and nutrition to ensure these fish thrive in your aquarium and community
  • Most plecos are peaceful, but may be aggressive towards members of their own species or other bottom dwellers

The Top 15 Small Pleco Species

Finding the perfect small pleco species for your fish tank is an enjoyable experience. Plecos are not only attractive, but also aid in preserving a healthy aquatic atmosphere. Below, we present 15 tiny pleco varieties that make suitable companions for those with limited tank size – from popular Bristlenose to eye-catching Zebra ones!

Take note of the following key states that I will provide for each pleco fish breed:

  • Common Name
  • L-Number
  • Scientific Name
  • Origin
  • Adult Size
  • Minimum Tank Size
  • Care Level
  • Temperament
  • pH
  • Temperature

1. Bristlenose

  • Common Names: Bushynose pleco, bristlenose pleco, Bristlenose catfish
  • L-Number: Ancistrus sp.3
  • Scientific Name: Ancistrus cirrhosus
  • Origin: Argentina
  • Adult Size: 3.5 – 5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.5-7.5
  • Temperature: 70-79 °F

Aquarium aficionados will love the Bristlenose Pleco, an armored catfish species known for its remarkable appearance. This Ancistrus genus member is native to South America’s Amazon River basin and features small bristles on its snout, a unique trait that sets it apart from other plecos. You can find these fish in calico, piebald, albino and super-red color variations for those who want some added diversity among their tank inhabitants.

When housing your new Bristolenese Pleco friend, you should consider at least 20 gallons of space but if possible go with a larger 30 or 40 gallon breeder Tank due to having more bottom surface space. Make sure there are plenty of places where they can hide along with heavily oxygenated water currents necessary for optimal health. They love to munch on driftwood so try adding it so they have sometime to graze on.

Their gentle nature of this suckermouth catfish makes them ideal cohabitants inside community aquariums plus they will consume any algae!

2. Clown

  • Common Names: Clown Pleco, Clown Panaque
  • L-Number: L-104
  • Scientific Name: Panaqolus maccus
  • Origin: Venezuela
  • Adult Size: 3.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.8-7.6
  • Temperature: 73-82°F

Clown Plecos, scientifically known as Panaqolus maccus and able to grow up to 3.5 inches in size, are often seen as a captivating addition for smaller tanks due to their eye-catching colorings and algae eating habits. They enjoy living with schooling fish, small cichlids, and tetras without any negative interactions because of their peaceful nature.

In order to keep them healthy, it is essential that driftwood be present within the tank, which serves not only aesthetic purposes but also nutritional benefits since they primarily feed on various types of woods found amongst underwater aquatic habitats. Vegetables such as squash or cucumber should also make additions. At the same time, frozen foods and wafers can be added to their feeding schedule.

Overall, clown plecos makes these fish relatively easy long-term care companions that require very little maintenance outside careful provisioning once settled into its new environment.!

3. Zebra

  • Common Names: Zebra pleco
  • L-Number: L046
  • Scientific Name: Hypancistrus zebra
  • Origin: Brazil
  • Adult Size: 3.2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate-advanced
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6-7.5
  • Temperature: 79-86°F

The Zebra Pleco is a remarkable species of peaceful and carnivorous fish known for its black and white striped pattern. At most, these plecos grow to 3.5 inches making them an ideal size for aquariums alike! To ensure they stay comfortable, the tank should emulate their natural habitat which includes driftwood, rocks with rounded edges as well as sand-based substrate complete with strong currents and high oxygen levels.

It’s crucial that this tiny creature receives plenty of meaty foods such as bloodworms in order to feed adequately on the proteins needed due to their strict carnivore dieting habits (yes they are primarily a carnivore!). If all these prerequisites are met, you will be rewarded handsomely when your zebra pleco morphs into an attractive focal point in your aquarium! Keep in mind that zebra plecos are one of the most expensive pleco breeds you can purchase in the hobby.

4. Blue Black Beggini

  • Common Names: Blue Panaque, Flyer Pleco
  • L-Number: L235
  • Scientific Name: Panaque sp
  • Origin: Brazil, specifically found in the Rio Xingu
  • Adult Size: 3.2 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.5 to 7.5
  • Temperature: 73°F to 84°F

The Blue Black Beggini, with its particular dull charcoal black shade tinged with blue hues, is a captivating species that can grow up to 3.2 inches in size when bred correctly. It makes an attractive choice for aquarists wanting something unique and simple to care for.

To look after the stunning pleco optimally one should maintain a pH level of 6.0 -6.5 (though it can adapt to a larger range) and give it an assortment of vegetation. They are a great addition to community tanks when kept with similar sized fish.

5. Pitbull

  • Common Names: Pitbull Pleco
  • L-Number: LDA 25
  • Scientific Name: Parotocinclus jumbo
  • Origin: South America, specifically found in the Rio Tocantins basin in Brazil
  • Adult Size: They are relatively small, typically reaching about 2-2.5 inches (5-6.5 cm) in length.
  • Minimum Tank Size: A minimum of 20 gallons (75 liters)
  • Care Level: Easy to Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.4 to 7.6
  • Temperature: The ideal temperature range is between 68°F to 78°F.

The Pitbull Pleco, a South American species that can reach up to 2.3 inches in size, is an excellent choice for those with minimal room in their aquariums. In order to house it in the perfect environment and enough space, it’s ideal to put them into a 20-gallon tank, which should have driftwood, rounded stones, and hiding spots included.

Its diet typically consists of algae, but pitbull plecos can benefit from treats such as bloodworms or shrimp pellets once in a while too! In the wild they live in shallow low current waters with rocky bottoms.

6. Gold Spot Dwarf

  • Common Names: Gold Spot Pleco
  • L-Number: L001
  • Scientific Name: Pterygoplichthys joselimaianus
  • Origin: Brazil
  • Adult Size: 2″
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.8 to 7.5
  • Temperature: 71°F to 82°F

The Gold Spot Dwarf Pleco is an attractive, small species that stands out with its dark base color and yellow markings on its body. These omnivorous plecos make a great addition to community tanks as they can live in harmony alongside small tetras and other fish varieties.

To keep this gold spot dwarf healthy, it’s important to have the correct environment. Specifically maintaining pH levels between 6.4 – 7.5 (I included a larger range in the states as they can adapt) and temperatures of 68-78°F. With proper care, any tank can become more vibrant by housing one of these unique plecos!

7. Queen Arabesque Pleco

  • Common Names: Queen Arabesque Pleco
  • L-Number: L260
  • Scientific Name: Hypancistrus sp.
  • Origin: South America, specifically from the Rio Tapajós basin in Brazil
  • Adult Size: 3.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 to 30 gallons (75 to 114 liters)
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.4 to 7.6
  • Temperature: Ideal temperature range is between 73°F and 82°F (25°C to 28°C).

The Queen Arabesque Pleco is an eye-catching species that will reach 3.5 inches in length at full size. Characterized by its intricate pattern and peaceful demeanour, this pleco requires strong water flow with high oxygen levels to do well in a tank setup. Hiding spots are also necessary for it to thrive so they feel safe from potential predators or disturbances from other inhabitants of the aquarium habitat.

When selecting food options, focus on providing them with meaty meals such as bloodworms, mussel pellets and shrimp flakes. They are sensitive to high nitrates so water needs to be kept extra pristine. When paired correctly with compatible tankmates they will blossom into an impressive centerpiece!

8. Alenquer Tiger

  • Common Names: Alenquer Tiger Pleco, Tangerine Tiger Pleco
  • L-Number: L397
  • Scientific Name: Panaqolus sp.
  • Origin: Typically found in the rivers near Alenquer, Brazil.
  • Adult Size: 4″ inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons (113 liters)
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.4 to 7.7
  • Temperature: 75°F and 86°F

The Alenquer Tiger, also known as the Tangerine Tiger Pleco, is a captivating fish with its distinctive orange and black stripes. It grows up to 4 inches in size and has been successfully bred for aquariums, making it an attractive addition. To ensure your algae remains healthy, the aquarium needs an environment with pH 6.4 – 7.7 along with food like algae wafers intermixed with meaty items.

9. King Tiger

  • Common Names: King Tiger Pleco
  • L-number: L066
  • Scientific Name: Hypancistrus sp
  • Origin: This species is native to the rivers of Brazil, particularly in the Amazon River basin.
  • Adult Size: 4-6 inches.
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.8 to 7.0
  • Temperature: 77°F and 84°F

The King Tiger Pleco, a species of small plecos bigger that only get to 4-6 inches, is distinguished by its light base and tiger like dark lines with transparent fins. These curious creatures should be provided with an aquarium that features great water circulation as well as ample oxygen levels. Also, they will need a meaty diet such as bloodworms, mussels or shrimp pellets for optimal care.

This pleco is often compared to other L species, but this is the original. Other similar plecos include L333, L399, and L401

10. Rubbernose

  • Common Names: Rubbernose Pleco, Rubberlip Pleco
  • L-Number: L187
  • Scientific Name: Chaetostoma milesi (There’s some debate on the exact scientific classification, but this is commonly accepted.)
  • Origin: South America, particularly found in the Andean river systems in Colombia and Venezuela
  • Adult Size: 4-5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon long, otherwise 30 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.8 to 7.8
  • Temperature: 66°F and 77°F

The Rubbernose Pleco (video source), also known as the Rubber Lip Pleco or Lip Pleco, is a small species that can be maintained in a 20 gallon long aquarium. These fish are quite lively when searching for food and need plenty of room to swim around horizontally, adding an enjoyable element to any tank system.

Their diet should include various kinds of hair algae, and they can even eat Black Beard Algae. They can be trained to eat wafers, but this species will generally prefer live and frozen foods.

11. Leopard Frog

  • Common Names: Leopard Frog Pleco, Imperial Tiger Pleco
  • Scientific Name: Peckoltia compta
  • L-Number: L134
  • Origin: Amazon Basin, specifically from the lower and middle stretches of the Tapajós River in Brazil
  • Adult Size: 3.5 – 4.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.0 to 7.4
  • Temperature: Ideal temperature range is between 75F and 82°F

This species of pleco is captivating, distinguishable by its starkly contrasting black and white stripes. A manageable 3.5 inches in size when fully grown, the Leopard Frog Pleco can be a great addition to any tank environment that resembles their native deep river channels – with sand-filled substrate areas coupled with rocks and driftwood for them to hide among. They enjoy high protein food such as bloodworms as much as veggies like cucumber slices. They do great with small to medium sized fish.

12. Dwarf Snowball

  • Common Names: Dwarf Snowball Pleco, Snowball Pleco
  • Scientific Name: Hypancistrus contradens
  • L-Number: L102
  • Origin: South America, specifically found in the Rio Negro basin in Brazil
  • Adult Size: Up to 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.4 to 7.6
  • Temperature: Ideal temperature range is between 72°F and 86°F

The Dwarf Snowball Pleco (video source) is one of the largest on this list growing to just under 6 inches in length. It stands out with a dark base coloration and spots along its fins and body. This omnivorous pleco can thrive when living alongside small tetras or other smaller fish species, making it suitable for adding to any community aquarium setup.

They prefer a strong current so they should be housed with other fish that prefer stronger water flow.

13. Angelicus Pleco

  • Common Names: Angelicus Pleco
  • Scientific Name: Panaque angelicus (sometimes listed under Peckoltia angelicus)
  • L-Number: L004
  • Origin: South America, specifically the river basins of Brazil and possibly Venezuela.
  • Adult Size: 4 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallon tank
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.6 to 7.6
  • Temperature: The ideal temperature range is between 75°F and 82°F

Angelicus Pleco (video source) is a beautiful fish that can reach up to 4 inches in size and has an intriguing spot pattern on its body. It must live in water with strong currents and high levels of oxygen for optimal health, making it ideal for aquarists looking to add strong swimming fish like rainbowfish.

They don’t eat plants and aren’t large enough to uproot them. Care should be take to make sure they get enough food to eat.

14. Fine Spotted Pleco

  • Common Names: Fine Spotted Pleco, Starlight Bristlenose Pleco
  • Scientific Name: Hypancistrus sp.
  • L-Number: L262
  • Origin: South America, specifically found in the Rio Negro basin in Brazil
  • Adult Size: 3.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Temperature: 76°F to 82°F

The Fine Spotted Pleco is a small species that reaches no more than 3.5 inches, making it suitable for limited tank sizes and ideal to include in community tanks. This attractive fish can be identified by its light base color with dark lines as well as transparent fins.

They require plenty of oxygen-rich water flow plus an omnivorous diet consisting mostly of meaty food items such as bloodworms, mussels and shrimp pellets as they are carnivores. They will do well with similar sized fish.

15. Starlight Pleco

  • Common Names: Starlight Pleco, White Seam Pleco
  • Scientific Name: Ancistrus dolichopterus
  • L-Number: L183
  • Origin: Manaus, Brazil
  • Adult Size: 4.5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • pH: 5.0 to 6.5
  • Temperature: 73°F and 83°F

The Starlight Pleco is a fascinating species that can reach up to 4.5 inches in length and boasts attractive patterning on its body with trademark white highlights on it’s dorsal and tail fins. This peaceful fish will need conditions with high oxygen levels as well as good water flow, making them ideal for any aquarist looking for something out of the ordinary!

Like most Plecos on this list, they are omnivores and appreciate vegetables from time to time. They are appropriate with most community fish as long as they aren’t very large or overly territorial.


We only kept our list to 15. However, there are a lot more. If we missed anything and if you have a species you would like mentioned,, drop us a comment below, and we will add it to our list.

  • Gold spot dwarf plecos
  • Rubber lipped pleco
  • Candy striped pleco

Frequently Asked Questions

What do plecos eat?

Plecos are freshwater catfish that sport an armored plate covering and suction-cup type mouths. Feeding on algae, debris from the bottom of a tank and scavenging for other food sources, they need additional sustenance like shrimp, bloodworms, as well as kale or zucchini in order to be truly healthy, not forgetting their beloved algae wafers!

How big do plecos get?

Plecos are long-lived fish that typically grow to about 18 inches, though some species like Hypostomus and Hypopostomus can grow larger – up to 12” and will need an aquarium of at least 75 gallons.

Otocinclus, on the other hand, are perfectly content in a 10-gallon tank. Learn more about these distinctive fish.

What are the dietary requirements of small pleco species?

Small pleco species need a combination of protein-rich foods and algae for their nutrition, ensuring they get the right balance. Such food sources provide variety to these small plecos’ diets while meeting all their dietary requirements.

Can small pleco species coexist with other fish in a community tank?

Small plecos can be kept with other fish in a community tank, as long as compatible species are chosen. As such, these types of plecos have the ability to coexist peacefully with their aquarium mates.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re looking to add a touch of beauty and fascination to your aquatic life, small plecos provide the perfect option. With 15 distinct species available for aquarium enthusiasts of any level, these tiny fish come with unique characteristics and requirements that must be taken into account when creating their ideal tank setup.

Providing adequate care, environment and nutrition are crucial in order to ensure a thriving community. By understanding each species needs, we can ensure they live happily within our underwater haven!

From visually appealing specimens through to functional varieties – it’s essential careful planning is involved in setting up optimum home aquariums for these magnificent creatures so that all may benefit from their presence throughout its lifespan. After all, who doesn’t want amazing pleco friends swimming around?

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