Can Plecos Live With Goldfish: Everything You Need To Know!

Plecos and goldfish can be kept in the same tank and often thrive provided the aquarium has been setup correctly.

Plecos, known for their unique appearance and peaceful nature, are often sought after by aquarium enthusiasts for their algae eating abilities. Goldfish, on the other hand, are a popular choice due to their hardiness and vibrant colors.

Only certain species of plecos, such as the bristlenose pleco or the rubber lip pleco, are suitable tank mates for goldfish, as they are smaller, less aggressive and unlikely to cause harm. Additionally, it is important to house them in a tank, that is at least 40 gallons but larger tanks may be required depending on the number of goldfish you keep.

We are going to be pointing out a number of common mistakes that we see people make when keeping plecos and goldfish in the same tank to try and help our readers create a setup that can truly thrive.

Compatibility Between Plecos And Goldfish

Goldfish and a pleco in an aquarium
“Pleco” by cheetah100 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

When analyzing the compatibility of plecos and goldfish, it is essential to consider factors like water temperaments, activity levels, diet, and their interactions with each other. Both plecos and goldfish are freshwater fish, but they thrive in slightly different water parameters.

Goldfish prefer cooler water temperatures of around 68-74°F, while plecos generally thrive in warmer water ranging from 74-80°F.

However, there is a small amount of overlap in their preferred temperature ranges and plecos can often do well when kept at the goldfish temperature ranges making it possible to house the two species together.

It is important to note the activity levels of plecos and goldfish. Goldfish are known for their higher activity levels, while plecos tend to be far less active and like to do their own thing. It can be common to see your goldfish swiming around their tank while your pleco remains stationary in its prefered hiding spot.

A pleco in its tank
“pleco” by Genista is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Regarding their diets, goldfish and most species of pleco are omnivorous meaning they consume both plant and animal-based foods. Providing a varied diet with both plant and protein sources will help keep both species healthy.

As for aggressiveness, plecos are generally peaceful fish and seldom cause harm to tank mates. However, there have been instances where some plecos are known to suck the slime coat off goldfish, which may cause stress and injury. To avoid this behavior ensure that your pleco is well fed and it will usually opt for the easiest food source.

Lastly, when creating a shared habitat for plecos and goldfish, it is vital to consider elements that will ensure compatible environment, such as a big tank with proper water parameters, hiding spots, and optimal filtration to maintain water quality. Following these guidelines will help ensure a harmonious environment for both plecos and goldfish to thrive.

Pleco Species That Can Thrive With Goldfish

can plecos live with goldfish

There are numerous pleco species, but not all of them are suitable tankmates for goldfish. When considering compatibility, it is crucial to select a pleco species that will peacefully coexist with goldfish and enhance their living environment. In this section, we will discuss specific pleco species that can thrive alongside goldfish.

A Male Bristlenose Pleco
A Male Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Plecos are known for being one of the best pleco species to live with goldfish. They are small, cheap, easy to care for, and have a peaceful temperament. Bristlenose Plecos also contribute to maintaining the tank’s cleanliness by eating algae and leftover food, a beneficial trait for a goldfish’s environment.

We would highly recommend that you opt to keep a birstlenose pleco with your goldfish. They are great options for both beginners and experienced fish keepers alike and work very well with goldfish.

Rubber Lip Plecos are another suitable option for goldfish companions. They share similar water parameters and will not cause problems in a goldfish community. Like Bristlenose Plecos, Rubber Lip Plecos help control algae and keep the tank clean.

A Zebra Pleco
“Hypancistrus Zebra Pleco Juvenile” by Peaceinpianos is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Zebra Plecos are more timid than most other plecos but you can often overcome this potential problem by having plenty of hiding spots in your tank. The unique appearance and small size of zebra plecos has made them a popular option for community tanks.

Clown Plecos are small, non-aggressive pleco but their water parameter requirements can make it difficult to keep them with goldfish. We have seen some people do it in specific tank setups but other types of pleco will usually be better.

A Common Pleco
A Common Pleco

Common Plecos are best avoided when seeking a pleco companion for goldfish. They tend to grow quite large, reaching up to 2 feet long, and may become territorial and aggressive towards goldfish over time, especially in smaller tanks. Some people have managed to keep common plecos with their goldfish in larger tanks though so it can work if needed.

In conclusion, Bristlenose and Rubber Lip Plecos are the two pleco species most compatible with goldfish, making them excellent tankmates. They contribute to a clean, healthy environment and peacefully coexist with goldfish. Remember to consider tank size and water parameters as key factors when introducing plecos and goldfish together.

Types Of Goldfish That Can Thrive With Plecos

Types Of Goldfish That Can Thrive With Plecos

Most types of goldfish can thrive with Plecos in a properly set up and maintained aquarium. That said, a large number of beginners fail to realize that there are actually multiple species of goldfish out there so we wanted to go into a few options that can work well for this type of tank.

Some common goldfish in their tank
Common Goldfish

Common Goldfish are hardy and adaptable that have the ability to tolerate a wide range of water conditions. They are cheap, easy to care for and every local fish store will have them available due to their popularity.

A comet goldfish in its tank
A Comet Goldfish

Comet Goldfish, similar to Common Goldfish, are active swimmers and can live together with Plecos in a large aquarium. They require a clean environment and ample swimming space, which also suits the needs of Plecos and their low price tag makes them a great budget friendly option.

A Shubunkin Goldfish
A Shubunkin Goldfish

Shubunkin Goldfish exhibit beautiful calico patterns and are known for their hardiness. They can thrive with Plecos if provided with the right water conditions and sufficient tank size but their hardy nature is their main selling point as they are very beginner-friendly fish.

An Oranda goldfish in its tank
An Oranda Goldfish

Oranda Goldfish are characterized by their wen (a fleshy growth on their head) and are generally peaceful, making them compatible with Plecos. Most local fish stores will stock orandas as standard and they are usually cheap.

Ryukin goldfish swimming in its tank
A Ryukin Goldfish

Ryukin Goldfish have a humped back and are available in a huge range of color patterns. They can live with Plecos if given the appropriate care and attention to their specific requirements.

All of these goldfish work very well and you can choose the one that meets your budget, experience level, or color tastes without issue. There are a number of other types of goldfish that can also work well with plecos too but they tend to be a little more difficult to find or have higher price tags.

Choosing The Right Tank Size

A goldfish in an aquarium

When considering the suitable tank size for housing both goldfish and plecos, it is crucial to understand their individual needs and the importance of providing enough space for them to thrive. The tank size should be large enough to accommodate the specific requirements of both fish species, ensuring compatibility and a healthy environment.

Goldfish are known for producing a high bioload, meaning they generate a considerable amount of waste. Similarly, plecos, especially given their size and nature, also contribute significantly to the bioload as they are poop machines when given an optimal diet.

Therefore, a larger tank with a decent filter is often needed to maintain the appropriate water quality and prevent stress in both fish species.

We usually recommend a tank with a capacity of at least 40 gallons when keeping plecos and goldfish together. This often provides enough space for your fish to swim freely and go about their business without issue but the specific type of pleco and size of your goldfish will come into play.

A goldfish swimming around its tank

Both the birstlenose pleco and rubber lip pleco are able to thrive in a 40 gallon tank making them both great options for a tank with goldfish.

Larger tanks are always better and we have seen some people keep huge community tanks that are over 100 gallons that contain plecos, goldfish and various other types of fish. Beginners are usually better off starting with smaller tanks though making the 40 gallon an excellent option.

In summary, a minimum tank size of 40 gallons is recommended for housing both goldfish and compatible pleco species. This ensures not only a healthy environment but also allows them to coexist peacefully. Remember to take into account the individual needs of each fish species and select the appropriate types of plecos for your goldfish companion.

Necessary Tank Conditions

A number of goldfish in an aquarium tank

When considering keeping plecos and goldfish together, it’s essential to create suitable tank conditions. These will not only keep both species comfortable and healthy but also allow them to coexist peacefully.

Firstly, the substrate should meet the requirements for plecos, which prefer fine gravel or soft sand so they can filter through the substrate to find food. Goldfish usually don’t care too much about their substrate so always prioritise the needs of your plecos.

A robust filtration system is vital for maintaining clean water and removing harmful bacteria in the tank. Both goldfish and plecos produce a significant amount of waste, so a high-quality filter will help maintain water clarity, reduce ammonia and nitrite levels, and promote a healthy environment for both fish species. Ensure the water pH is kept between 6.5 and 7.5 as both fish prefer these levels.

An orange and white goldfish swimming

Although goldfish can survive in colder water, a heater may be necessary in some locations due to local temperatures. Plecos prefer slightly warmer temperatures, so keeping the tank at around 73-75 degrees Fahrenheit can be suitable for both species.

Proper lighting is essential to create a natural day-night cycle for both fish species. A standard aquarium light on a timer can adequately simulate this cycle, with approximately 10-12 hours of light per day.

Regarding tank setup, focus on creating hiding spots and areas for exploration. Plecos are huge fans of hiding and appreciate having places to hide in their tanks. Rocks, driftwood, and sturdy plants like Anubias or Java ferns can provide excellent hiding spaces while also doubling as pleco food sources.

A golden pleco releaxing in its tank

There are a number of commercial tank decorations that can work very well when it comes to providing hiding spots for your plecos too. Pleco caves are probably the best commercial decoration for this type of tank and you can get them at most local fish stores with ease.

Lastly, even though both species are relatively peaceful, a spacious tank is vital. To accommodate plecos and goldfish together, aim for a tank with a minimum capacity of 40 gallons with a long tank design rather than a tall tank design.

By addressing these necessary tank conditions, you will create a healthy and comfortable environment for plecos and goldfish to share, increasing the chances of peaceful coexistence.

Water Parameters

A pleco eating biofilm off aquarium glass

When keeping plecos and goldfish together in an aquarium, it’s crucial to maintain optimal water parameters that will suit the needs of both species. This includes maintaining the ideal water temperature, pH level, hardness, water flow, lighting, and other factors.

The ideal water temperature for goldfish ranges between 68°F and 74°F, while plecos prefer slightly warmer temperatures between 74°F and 80°F. To find a suitable compromise, consider maintaining the water temperature at around 73°F to 75°F, as this range will accommodate the needs of both species.

The pH level is another important consideration when housing plecos and goldfish together. Both species thrive in water with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. Goldfish are more tolerant of slightly higher or lower pH levels, while plecos prefer a more stable pH within the suggested range. It’s advisable to regularly monitor and adjust the pH as needed to ensure a healthy environment for both fish species.

A pleco relaxing in its tank

Water hardness should also be regulated to ensure the well-being of your aquarium inhabitants. Goldfish can adapt to a wide range of water hardness levels, while plecos prefer slightly softer water. The optimal water hardness for plecos is between 3 and 10 dGH (degrees of general hardness). By maintaining the water hardness in this range, you’ll create a comfortable environment that both species can tolerate.

Adequate water flow and filtration are essential components of a healthy fish tank. Plecos appreciate moderate water flow, as it helps to mimic their natural habitat. Goldfish also benefit from water movement as it aids in maintaining a good oxygen level in the tank. We usually recommend low to moderate water flow for this type of setup with both options working well and having their advantages over the other.

By maintaining these water parameters and conditions, you can successfully create a suitable and healthy environment for both plecos and goldfish to coexist in your aquarium.

Nutrition And Feeding Requirements

A pleco grazing on some wood

Plecos and goldfish have slightly different dietary requirements and feeding habits, but with proper consideration, they can coexist in the same tank. Most types of goldfish will do well on a standard flake or pellet heavy diet with small amounts of live, freeze-dried or frozen food as a treat but plecos can struggle on this and not eat.

Most plecos eat a large amount of algae and are considered one of the better algae eaters in the hobby.

Beginners often make the mistake of manually removing as much of the algae in their tank as possible which in-turn removes a large amount of your plecos preferred food supply. If you are planning to add a pleco to your tank, be sure to leave some algae for it to eat and suppliment its diet with other food sources.

When feeding both species in the same tank, it is essential to provide a diverse and nutritious diet to meet their respective nutritional needs. Here are some great food options for both species:

For Goldfish:

Staple Diet:

  • Commercial goldfish flakes or pellets (specially formulated for goldfish).

Fresh Foods:

  • Cooked peas (skins removed).
  • Blanched spinach or lettuce.
  • Blanched zucchini.
  • Chopped oranges and other citrus fruits (in moderation).

Protein Sources:

  • Brine shrimp.
  • Daphnia.
  • Bloodworms (freeze-dried or frozen).


  • Specially formulated goldfish treats found at pet stores.
An infographic going over Food For A Goldfish

For Plecos:

Staple Diet:

  • Algae wafers (commercially available specifically for plecos and other algae eaters).

Fresh Vegetables:

  • Blanched zucchini, cucumber, and carrots.
  • Blanched spinach and lettuce.
  • Peas.
  • Sweet potatoes (cooked and unseasoned).

Protein Sources:

  • Bloodworms.
  • Brine shrimp.
  • Tubifex worms.

Occasional Treats:

  • Fresh fruits like melon or banana (in small amounts).


  • Some plecos will also gnaw on driftwood as part of their diet.
An infographic going over food for a pleco

It is worth mentioning that soe plecos may suck the slime coat off goldfish, but only if they are not provided with enough food. To avoid this, ensure that the pleco gets its preferred diet and enough food to satiate its appetite.

In terms of feeding frequency, younger goldfish can be fed twice a day, while adult goldfish can be fed once to twice daily, depending on their size and activity level. Plecos, on the other hand, can be fed once a day in the evening and they will feed on algae in the tank as required throughout the rest of the day.

However, be careful not to overfeed plecos, as they can become poop machines if provided with too much food. Overfeeding can also cause water quality issues in the tank, which can negatively affect both species’ health and well-being.

Some pleco species also require wood for grazing. Make sure to include some driftwood in the tank, which will not only provide a natural grazing surface for the plecos but also serve as shelter and hiding spots.

In summary, it is possible to maintain proper nutrition and feeding requirements for both plecos and goldfish when housed together. Just be mindful of their individual needs, provide enough food for each species, and monitor their overall health to ensure a harmonious coexistence.

Potential Risks And Solutions

A goldfish fish in a tank swimming

One of the potential challenges for keeping Plecos and Goldfish together is their differing habitat requirements. Goldfish are coldwater fish, while Plecos are tropical, meaning they have slight different temperature preferences but a range of 73°F to 75°F should be fine for your tank.

Aggression and territorial disputes can be another concern when mixing these species in a fish tank. Plecos are generally peaceful, but larger common plecos can become territorial, especially towards smaller or injured tankmates so we advise against keeping them with goldfish.

Goldfish, on the other hand, are generally peaceful but might nibble at long fins or protruding parts of other fish. To prevent any aggression issues, provide enough space and hiding spots in your aquarium. A larger tank reduces stress and allows for more peaceful coexistence.

A pleco relaxing on a rock in its aquarium

Plecos have been known to suck the protective slime coat off Goldfish, causing injuries, stress, and increased vulnerability to disease. In the vast majority of cases, this is due to the tank keeper removing the bulk of the algae resulting in the pleco going hungry and looking for other food sources.

If your pleco is starting to suck the slime coat off your pleco consider leaving the algae to grow in your tank or start to suppliment your plecos diet with algae wafers.

Ammonia and nitrite spikes can occur due to the waste produced by both Goldfish and Plecos. Both species are known for producing significant amounts of waste, which can lead to contaminated water and health issues. Regular water changes, proper filtration, and monitoring of water quality are essential in maintaining a safe and healthy environment as pleco fin rot can develop at a rapid pace in poor water.

Common health issues and diseases, such as ich, fin rot, and fungal infections, can affect both Goldfish and Plecos too.

It’s crucial to keep a clean and well-maintained aquarium to reduce the risk of disease. Proper quarantine and treatment of new tankmates before introducing them to the main tank can help prevent the spread of disease between fish and is always recommended.

In conclusion, while some potential risks exist when keeping Plecos and Goldfish together, proper care and monitoring can ensure a peaceful coexistence. By considering the factors mentioned above, including compatibility, tank conditions, waste management, and health issues, aquarists can successfully keep these two species in the same aquarium.

On Going Maintenance For The Tank

A goldfish in its tank

Regular maintenance is crucial for ensuring a healthy environment in a tank where plecos and goldfish coexist. By keeping the water clean, monitoring parameters, and observing signs of disease, one can manage a thriving community of these two species.

Firstly, conducting routine water changes is essential to minimize harmful substances and maintain a stable environment. Changing 10-30% of the water per week (larger than usual due to the amount of waste both species produce) and removing debris and waste on a daily basis is recommended.

Utilizing a gravel vacuum or siphon makes this an easier task while ensuring waste is effectively removed from the substrate.

Monitoring water parameters is equally important. Plecos and goldfish can live together if water conditions are adjusted to accommodate both species. Maintaining a temperature range of 73-75°F accommodates plecos and goldfish. The pH level should be kept between 6.5 and 8.0, while monitoring ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels helps mitigate potential toxic spikes.

It is important to carefully observe the fish for any signs of disease. Inspect the tank daily, paying attention to the appearance and behavior of the fish. Symptoms such as red or irritated skin, white spots, clamped fins, listing or swimming erratically could indicate illness or stress. Early detection and appropriate treatment can prevent the spread of disease and improve the likelihood of recovery.

Providing a proper diet is also crucial. Feeding plecos a diverse and healthy selection of foods, including vegetables, algae wafers, and sinking pellets, ensures they receive adequate nutrition without impacting goldfish health. Goldfish can be fed a mix of flakes, pellets, and occasional fresh vegetables to promote proper growth and wellbeing.

In conclusion, by following the above-mentioned maintenance practices, one can successfully create a compatible environment for plecos and goldfish to coexist peacefully and healthily in the same tank.

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