How To Stop Plecos From Breeding?

When we talk about plecos it’s a really broad topic as there are a lot of varieties and they come in different sizes and colors. A Bristlenose plecos can lay more than 300 eggs per year. So, if you have a fish tank and it’s getting overpopulated with plecos, you might want to know if there are any ways to stop them from breeding.

The easiest way to stop plecos from breeding is to keep the male and female plecos separate. However, you will need to have multiple fish tanks to do that and it might not be a feasible option for most people.

In this article, I will talk about all the possible ways that expert aquarium hobbyists use, to prevent plecos from breeding and then decide which one is actually the best option for you. So, let’s get started, shall we?

So, How Often Do Plecos Breed?

The breeding frequency of plecos will vary depending on the particular species of pleco. On average Bristlenose and Snowball Plecos breed every 1.5 months. If you have a pair of pleco, you can expect that they will spawn 8 times per year. Plecos actually breed year-round.

I have followed the spawning times of a particular Bristlenose pleco for a year and here’s the data:

Spawn MonthNo. of Pleco Fries
1. Beginning of January37
2. Beginning of February39
3. Beginning of April36
4. Beginning of June40
5. Middle of July35
6. Middle of September32
7. End of October33
8. Middle of December35

How Long Are Plecos Pregnant For?

Well, it’s a pretty hard thing to find out exactly how long Plecos are pregnant. According to my observation, a female pleco keep carrying eggs or stay pregnant as long as a male fertilizes her eggs.

It takes around a week to hatch the eggs and the hatchlings can live feeding on their yolk sac for 4-5 days after that, they will require food from external sources.

5 Effective Tips To Stop Plecos From Breeding:

1. Separate The Male and Female Plecos

Well, this is the most obvious trick to stop any fish from breeding. If you have multiple tanks shift the male or female pleco into another tank and the breeding will stop.

However, make sure the new tank doesn’t have any other plecos of the opposite gender. Otherwise, the breeding will continue.

There is one downside of separating the male and female plecos though. Number 1, you will need to have multiple fish tanks.

Also, plecos aren’t good for every tank. If you shift a pleco to a planted tank then you will notice the pleco is tearing down and digging out all the plants. So, be careful about that.

Most regular aquarists keep only one tank so, it’s not possible for everyone to follow this trick.

2. Remove Hiding Spaces and Caves:

Plecos in a bare bottom tank (No hiding space and caves)

Plecos require hiding spaces or caves to spawn. You will see that plecos lay eggs inside a cave. That’s why breeders keep caves in the pleco tanks. If your aquarium has caves for plecos to hide, mate, or lay eggs, removing them might help.

I have heard some plecos breed less often when they don’t get a proper spawning place. I haven’t tried that yet, but I think this might work.

Also, if you have other omnivorous fishes, they can feed on pleco eggs as well. Although plecos protect their eggs, If plecos have to lay eggs in the open space, other fishes will surely take their chances to grab a bite of pleco eggs.

Recommended Article: Do Pleco Need Driftwood? (Reasons Explained)

3. Introduce Predatory Fishes 

We want to stop plecos from breeding as we don’t want our fish tanks to get overpopulated with plecos, right?

So, if you introduce fishes like angelfish/ gourami/ betta / Arowana; they will happily feed on the pleco babies and your problem will be solved while your fish will stay healthy getting live foods as well. I think it’s a win-win situation for you and your fish.

Here’s a list of FIsh That Will Keep Pleco Population in Check:

  • Puffer Fishes
  • Gouramis
  • Freshwater Sharks
  • Bettas
  • Angelfish
  • Cichlids
  • Arowana

4. Don’t Make Massive Water Changes:

In the wild plecos usually lay eggs in the rainy season. During this time new water enters their habitat and a lot of foods are available during the time in the wild for their babies.

So, if you do massive water changes more often, it forces the plecos to start breeding thinking that it’s the rainy season and high time for them to breed. So, large water changes are something to avoid if you want your plecos to breed less.

5. Exchange The Male Plecos With Female Ones:

You can take your male pleco/plecos to the pet store, return them and get female plecos instead. Doing this will stop their breeding as there will only be female plecos in your tank. So, no more mating and no babies! Problem Solved.

You can also do the opposite. I mean trading the females for males. Either way, this trick is going to work. So, you should definitely try this one.

Recommended Article: Can Two Plecos Live Together?

Things To Avoid:

Plecos living in cloudy water

 Some people will tell you to mess up with the diet of plecos or water parameters. Don’t try this sort of advice as it is cruel for the fish. Yes, lowering the temperature or not feeding the plecos enough will stop their breeding.

But I think starving plecos or not providing them with an ideal environment just to stop them from breeding is hostile and I don’t recommend such measures.

Also, if your tank is overpopulated with adult plecos or pleco fries, don’t just throw them in the ponds or rivers. Doing such a thing will harm the environment. Just take them back to the pet store and the pet store guys will be happy to keep your excess plecos.

As a side note, some species of plecos have large bioload and they can cause Ammonia problem in your fish tank. Check out this article to learn more on this topic: Do Plecos Cause Ammonia? Everything You Need To Know

Related Questions:

Will Plecos Breed In a Community Tank?

Plecos living and breeding in a community tank

If you want to breed plecos, it’s better to keep a pleco-only tank. However, plecos also breed in community tanks as well. If the community has the right environment then plecos will breed like crazy.

So, in the community tank, you should keep fishes that can help you control the pleco population unless you want to breed plecos for a profit.

From my perspective, pleco breeding can be profitable. But for that, you will need a separate breeding tank. Breeding plecos in a community tank isn’t a good idea as many fries will eventually be eaten.

If your tank has a lot of hiding places some of the fries will survive.

Recommended articles:

How Do I Know If My Plecos Are Mating?

If you see that the male pleco is cleaning a cave and trying to lure the female pleco inside the cave, then you can confirm that your plecos are mating.

Usually, male plecos clean the walls of the cave so that the female can stick the eggs in the walls of the cave after they are done mating.

If you notice there are eggs inside the cave and a male is guarding the cave you can know that your plecos are already mating and you can expect pleco babies soon.

Once the male has chosen a “cave” to breed in, it will meticulously clean the sides and attempt to attract the female into the cave. If the female is enticed in by the male, it will deposit eggs on the side of the cave, and the male will then set about guarding the eggs until they hatch.

Also, you might have thought about crossbreeding different types of plecos. Check out my recent article about cross breeding plecos.

Final Thoughts:

There you have it! I have shown you 5 easy methods to stop plecos from breeding. I have been there. My fish tank got overpopulated with fries and I had to take some of the above steps myself to solve this issue.

However, if you ever think of breeding plecos for commercial purpose, then introduce Breeding caves for plecos (Amazon Link) in your fish tank and they will start breeding more often.

If your pleco is breeding like rabbits, I can understand your concern and I think now you know how to control this situation. Thanks for reading this article. I hope this article was helpful.

Thanks for reading this article, If you have a minute, check out my article on, Do Plecos Grow To The Size of The Tank?

Asif Iqbal

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