royal pleco

Royal Pleco: Discover The Secret Of This Long-Living Freshwater Fish

Royal Plecos are an increasingly popular freshwater fish, attracting attention with their unique size and appearance. But before you get one of these fascinating creatures for yourself, it’s important to cover the basics of Royal Pleco care, including size, growth rate, food, and more.

Here we’ll go over everything you need to know to successfully take on a Royal Pleco.

royal pleco
Regal in size and beauty, the Royal Pleco swims gracefully in its underwater kingdom.

Species Summary

Royal Plecos (Panaque nigrolineatus) are a subspecies of the larger Pleco family native to South America. It is found in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins with several variations in physical characteristics based on the region. These fish possess a distinctive beauty and bring a fascinating aesthetic to any tank, making them a favorite among aquarists around the world.

Average Royal Pleco Size

Royal Plecos can reach fairly large sizes, with the average max size being around 16 inches. The Black Royal Pleco species has the potential to grow up to 24 inches in the right conditions! It’s important to take into account the fact that they have a slow growth rate when considering their tank size requirements.


When cared for correctly, Royal’s can live up to 10 years. Although, there have been cases of individuals living much longer than this. As with any other fish species, their lifespan hinges upon the level of care they receive. To maximize the lifespan of your Royal Pleco, it’s important to stay aware of its environment and provide consistent care.


Aside from their size, Royal Plecos have a few distinct visual characteristics. They have a large head, downturned sucker mouth, and large fins. On their head, you’ll also notice bright, red eyes that pop against their muted body coloration. This species is girthy than other Plecos, with their mass mainly situated on the head. They also have sharp spoon-shaped teeth that help them with their wood diet.

Colorations vary among the subspecies, but the most common type seen in the trade is gray with black stripes. The base color is usually light gray and may sometimes take on a brownish hue. Accompanying the base color are dark brown or black stripes running along the length of the body. The dorsal fin is tipped with creamy gold.


While Royal Plecos have some unique care needs, they are still considered relatively low-maintenance. Keep in mind that they are large fish with special feeding habits, so proper planning of the tank environment is required. Here are some basic care guidelines to get you started:

Water Conditions

These fish thrive in environments with high water quality.

1. Temperature

The ideal temperature range for Royal Plecos is 72-82°F (22-28°C). It’s important to maintain a stable temperature in the aquarium as fluctuations can lead to stress and illness in the fish. If possible, use a thermometer to monitor the temperature regularly and make adjustments as necessary to keep it within the recommended range.

2. pH

The preferred pH range for Royal Plecos is slightly acidic to neutral, 6.0-7.0. It’s important to regularly test the pH of the water in the tank and make adjustments if necessary to maintain the ideal range.

3. Hardness

The ideal water hardness range for Royal is moderate to high, with a general guideline of 5-20 dKH. It’s important to monitor the water hardness regularly and make adjustments as necessary to maintain the ideal range.

Sudden changes in hardness can be harmful to the fish and impact their health, so slow, gradual adjustments are recommended.

4. Filtration

A good filtration system is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for Royal Plecos. They produce a large amount of waste, so a strong filtration system that can handle the waste load is important. A canister filter or a hang-on-back filter can be used, as long as they have adequate flow rate, flow control, and mechanical filtration.

Regular maintenance of the filtration system is also important to keep it functioning properly and to prevent the buildup of harmful chemicals in the water.

5. Lighting

Royal Plecos do not have specific lighting requirements, and moderate lighting is suitable for them. They prefer a dimly lit environment and do not need strong lighting. If the tank has plants, low to medium-intensity light can be used to promote plant growth. It’s important to avoid exposing the fish to sudden or excessive changes in lighting, as this can stress them and impact their health.

Regular monitoring of the lighting levels and making adjustments as necessary to maintain a stable environment is recommended.

6. Substrate

These fish are not particularly fussy about the substrate, but a soft, fine-grained substrate is preferred. They like to dig and forage for food in the substrate, so it’s important that it’s not too rough or sharp. A sand or fine gravel substrate can be used, or a mixture of both. The substrate should be kept clean to avoid the buildup of harmful chemicals and to maintain a healthy environment for the fish.

Regular vacuuming of the substrate during water changes is recommended to keep it free of debris and waste.

7. Aquarium Size

They can grow to a large size, up to 24 inches or more, so they require a spacious aquarium. As a general rule, a minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended for a single fish. However, larger tanks are preferred as they allow for better water quality and provide more swimming space.

The more space the fish have, the happier and healthier they will be. When keeping multiple Royal Plecos, it’s important to provide enough space to allow for each fish to have its own territory and to avoid aggression between them.

The aquarium should also be equipped with a good filtration system to ensure proper water quality.

Tank Mates

Royal Plecos (Panaque nigrolineatus) are peaceful and generally non-aggressive, but they can grow to be quite large (up to 30 inches in length). It’s important to choose compatible tank mates for Royal Plecos that won’t stress them out or become aggressive toward them.

Here are some good tank mates for Royal Plecos:

  • Other peaceful fish, such as tetras, catfish, and angelfish
  • Livebearers, such as guppies and mollies
  • Large, peaceful bottom dwellers, such as sailfin plecos or green terrors

It’s important to remember that each fish has its own personality and behavior, and it’s best to monitor their interactions to make sure everyone is getting along. Royal Plecos also need plenty of hiding places, such as caves or dense vegetation, to feel secure and comfortable in their aquarium.

Incompatible Tank Mates for Royal Plecos:

  • Aggressive fish, such as cichlids or barbs
  • Smaller fish, as they may become prey for Royal Plecos
  • Fin-nippers, as they can damage Royal Plecos’ delicate fins


Royal’s are omnivores and will eat a variety of foods in their diet. They prefer a balanced diet of both meaty and vegetable-based foods. Some of the best food options for Royal Plecos include:

1. Live or frozen food, such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, or krill

2. Sinking pellets or tablets designed for plecos or omnivorous fish

3. Vegetable-based foods, such as blanched lettuce, spinach, or peas

4. Fruit, such as melon or papaya, which can be offered as a treat

It’s important to vary their diet and not rely solely on one type of food to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients they need. Royal Plecos are also known to be messy eaters, so it’s important to have a strong filtration system to remove excess food and waste from their tank.

Note: Overfeeding can quickly lead to water quality problems and affect the health of Royal Plecos. Only offer what they can eat in a few minutes and remove any uneaten food.


Breeding Royal Plecos can be a challenging but rewarding experience, and it requires a combination of proper water conditions, a suitable aquarium setup, and a balanced diet.

Water conditions are one of the most important factors in breeding Royal Plecos. These fish prefer slightly acidic to neutral water with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 and a temperature of 72-82°F. Maintaining these conditions will help to keep the fish healthy and encourage them to breed.

A suitable aquarium setup is also essential for successful breeding. A breeding tank should be at least 30 gallons in size and should provide plenty of hiding places, such as caves or pipes, for the fish to lay their eggs. This will also provide a secure environment for the eggs and fry.

A balanced diet is important for maintaining the health and breeding condition of Royal Plecos. These fish are omnivores and require a varied diet of both vegetables and protein-rich foods. A diet that provides a sufficient amount of nutrients will help to maintain the overall health of the fish and increase the likelihood of successful breeding.

When breeding Royal Plecos, it is recommended to keep one male and several females in the breeding tank. These fish are polygamous and the male may mate with multiple females, so having several females will increase the likelihood of successful breeding. Once the eggs have been laid, the male will guard and fan the eggs to increase their oxygen supply, which is essential for their survival.

Royal Plecos requires careful attention to water conditions, a suitable aquarium setup, and a balanced diet. With patience and persistence, the result can be a successful breeding experience and a thriving population of these fascinating fish. Breeding Royal Plecos can provide an educational opportunity to learn about the natural behaviors and reproduction of these freshwater fish, and can also contribute to the preservation of this species in captive populations.


In conclusion, the Royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus) is a unique and fascinating freshwater fish that is prized by aquarium enthusiasts. To keep them healthy and thriving, it’s important to provide a balanced and varied diet, including meaty and vegetable-based foods, live or frozen food, sinking pellets or tablets, and keep a close eye on water quality to prevent issues that could arise from their waste.

With proper care and attention, the Royal Pleco can live a long and healthy life in the aquarium. So, take the time to discover the secrets of this long-living freshwater fish and enjoy their fascinating and unusual appearance and behavior in your tank.