Why Your Pleco Is Not Eating And How To Easily Fix It!

The most common reasons that your pleco may stop eating include water quality problems, issues with the feeding routine, parasites, stress, a lack of variety in the diet, and disease!

Plecos are popular aquarium fish known for their impressive ability to help control algae growth in various aquatic environments. However, there may come a time when you notice that your pleco is not eating as much as it should, or might even refuse food altogether. This is a cause for concern, as a healthy diet is essential for the well-being and longevity of your pleco.

There could be a variety of reasons behind your pleco’s loss of appetite, ranging from adapting to a new environment to stress and illness. To address this issue, it’s essential to understand the factors that could be influencing your pleco’s appetite and environmental needs, as well as knowing the suitable foods and dietary requirements for your particular species of pleco.

Implementing appropriate steps can often help encourage healthy feeding habits for your pleco and ensuring its long-term health.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognizing signs of loss of appetite helps address issues early
  • Providing suitable foods and proper environment encourages healthy feeding
  • Understanding factors affecting appetite is vital for pleco’s well-being

Signs Of A Pleco Not Eating

Signs Of A Pleco Not Eating

Plecos are generally hardy and adaptable fish, but they can sometimes face issues with their appetite. To identify a pleco that’s not eating, it’s crucial to observe any noticeable changes in behavior. Some of the common signs include lethargy, hiding, and abnormal swimming patterns.

It can be common for people to think that pleco is not eating when in actual fact, it is consuming plenty of food when you are not observing your tank so always look for secondary symptoms to confirm a problem.


Lethargy is often an early indication of a pleco not eating. If the pleco is spending most of its time resting at the bottom of the tank or showing reduced activity compared to its usual behavior, this may signal issues with its appetite. Likewise, hiding for extended periods could also be a sign that the pleco isn’t eating well.

Keep in mind, most plecos do like to hide or lay on the substrate in their tank for large periods of the day. This can make it difficult to confirm that your pleco is more lethargic than usual but you can set your smartphone up to record the tank over an extended period of time.

Abnormal Swimming Behavior

Abnormal swimming behavior, such as aimless swimming or constant rubbing against surfaces, is another sign of a pleco facing appetite issues. This could be due to stress or an underlying health problem affecting its ability to eat.

If your pleco is flipping up-side-down when swimming then there is probably a problem bloating or the swim bladder. Both of these can stop your pleco from eating and need treating as soon as possible.

Other Conditions

It’s important to monitor other behaviors and conditions in the tank to understand the true cause of a pleco not eating. Signs of poor water quality, overcrowding, or conflicts with other fish can provide useful clues about the reason behind the pleco’s lack of appetite. In some cases, the issue may be as simple as providing the wrong kind of food.

In summary, watching for lethargy, hiding, and abnormal swimming behavior can help identify a pleco not eating. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial to resolving the issue and ensuring the pleco’s health and well-being.

Suitable Foods For Plecos

An infographic about Suitable Foods For Plecos That Are Not Eating Much!

Plecos are omnivorous fish that need a balanced and diverse diet for their overall well-being. Providing a variety of food sources not only meets their nutritional requirements but also prevents your pleco from getting bored with their diet. This section will explore suitable foods for plecos that include algae wafers, vegetables, and protein sources.

Some people find that simple switching their plecos food from one thing to another can get their pleco eating again without having any further problems.

Algae Wafers

Algae Wafers are a great food for plecos that most fish enjoy eating

Algae wafers are a staple food for plecos and should be included in their regular feeding. These wafers provide essential nutrients and cater to the pleco’s natural tendency to graze on algae.

  • Frequency: Algae wafers can be fed daily or every other day, depending on the size of your pleco and the availability of other food sources in the tank.
  • Quantity: Adjust the amount of wafers according to the size of your pleco; larger plecos require more wafers than smaller ones.
  • Variety: Choose high-quality wafers that contain a mixture of algae types and additional nutrients for a complete diet.

People new to keeping plecos don’t often realize how much plecos love eating algae wafers and they are our recommended food to try if your pleco is not eating.


Most plecos love to eat Zucchini and Cucumber

Incorporating a variety of vegetables into your pleco’s diet is essential to ensure they receive enough fiber and nutrients. There are a number of vegetables that plecos love and work well as a treat food but some can be used on a daily basis.

Some suitable vegetables include:

  • Zucchini: Slice zucchini into thin pieces and blanch them before adding them to the tank. Plecos enjoy consuming both the soft inner part and the more fibrous skin.
  • Cucumber: Cucumber slices are another favorite among plecos and can be attached to the tank bottom using a veggie clip or weighed down with a plant anchor.
  • Spinach: Blanched spinach leaves provide essential minerals and can be clipped to the side of the tank for easy access.
  • Peas: Remove the skin and microwave peas for a few seconds to soften them before feeding them to your pleco.

Zucchini and Cucumber are great options that most plecos can’t resist. A small, thin slice of either will usually get a pleco eating again unless there are internal problems in the fish.

Protein Sources

Bloodworms can be a great treat for plecos

While plecos are primarily herbivores, they also require protein sources in their diet. Suitable protein sources include:

  • Bloodworms: These protein-rich worms can be fed as a treat or supplement to your pleco’s diet. Opt for frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms, and avoid live ones to minimize the risk of introducing parasites into your tank.
  • Shrimp: Frozen or fresh shrimp can be offered to your pleco occasionally, as it provides essential amino acids and other nutrients. Chop the shrimp into small pieces to make it easier for your pleco to consume.
  • High-quality pellets: Choose pellets that contain a mix of plant and animal-based ingredients to cover the diverse nutritional needs of your pleco.

Small amounts of bloodworms can be a great option to try and tempt a pleco to eat food but we usually don’t recommend them as anything more than a treat once or twice per week.

Causes Of A Loss Of Appetite In Plecos

An infographic about 6 Reasons Your Pleco Is Not Eating Its Food Anymore!

There are a number of potential problems that may be putting your pleco off its food or causing physical problems inside the pleco that prevent it from eating. Any of these need to be treat as quickly as possible to get your pleco eating again as well as to prevent the problem getting any worse.

Possible Symptoms

Loss of appetite in plecos may be accompanied by various symptoms such as lethargy, a sunken belly, or unusual behavior. Plecos may become less active, hide more frequently, or exhibit signs of stress. It’s important to closely observe your pleco and take note of any additional symptoms that could help identify the cause of their loss of appetite.

Stress As A Possible Cause

A stressed out pleco relaxing in its tank

Stress is a common reason why plecos may stop eating. Stressful conditions can include improper tank parameters, such as incorrect water temperature or pH levels, overcrowding, poor water quality, or harassment from other fish.

It’s crucial to regularly check and maintain proper tank conditions to prevent stress and promote healthy eating habits in plecos. We usually recommend you look for signs of a tank mate harassing your pleco too if possible but this be difficult.

If the cause of stress in your pleco is due to water parameters then you can usually correct the problem in a day or two. If your pleco is stressed due to tank mate aggression then you may have to re-tank your pleco or the offending tank mate.

Tank size can also be a potential cause of stress for a pleco as many people get a smaller tank for their baby pleco and then forget to upgrade their tank as the fish grows. Double check that the tank your pleco is currently living in is large enough for your pleco to thrive and consider upgrading if needed.

Stressed plecos will usually return to eating their normal diet within days of the cause of their stress being removed from their diet.

Effects Of Tank Conditions On Pleco Eating Habits

In addition to stress, tank conditions can directly affect plecos’ eating habits. Plecos thrive in well-maintained tanks with stable water parameters, a variety of hiding spots, and access to sufficient food sources. Ensuring that these conditions are met will promote healthy eating habits and reduce the chances of appetite loss.

Although they can change from species to species, some critical factors to consider are:

  • Water temperature: The ideal water temperature for most plecos is around 74-80°F.
  • pH level: Most plecos prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH levels, around 7-8.
  • Hiding spots: Provide ample caves, driftwood, or other hiding spaces to help plecos feel secure.
  • Food variety: Offer a mix of high-quality pellets, vegetables, and live or frozen foods to satisfy plecos’ dietary needs.

Dealing With Sickness And Disease

A sick pleco recovering on a log in its tank

Loss of appetite in plecos could also be a sign of illness or disease. When plecos are sick, their immune system weakens, making them more susceptible to diseases, which could ultimately lead to appetite loss.

Some common illnesses affecting plecos include:

  • Ich: This is a common freshwater fish disease characterized by white spots, scratching, and gasping for air. The fish may lose interest in eating as the disease progresses.
  • Internal Parasites: These can cause a variety of symptoms including weight loss, a bloated appearance, or abnormal feces. Affected fish may stop eating.
  • External Parasites: Some parasites like flukes or lice can cause discomfort and distract the fish from its normal feeding behavior.
  • Bacterial Infections: These can cause ulcers, fin rot, mouth rot, and a range of other symptoms that may impact appetite.
  • Fungal Infections: These can lead to discoloration and fluffy patches on the skin or gills. If the infection is severe, it can affect the fish’s appetite.
  • Swim Bladder Disease: This condition affects a fish’s buoyancy, which can result in swimming difficulties. Affected fish may eat less.

If you suspect your pleco is sick, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian or an expert aquarist to obtain a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Strict adherence to water changes, maintaining appropriate tank conditions, and providing a proper diet will also be crucial in recovering and preventing future issues.

Depending on the disease and if your pleco is in a community tank, it may be worth trying to move your pleco to a quarantine tank until it has fully healed.

An infographic on 6 Types Of Disease That May Stop Your Pleco Eating!

Dietary Factors Influencing A Pleco’s Appetite

Dietary Factors Influencing A Pleco's Appetite

Some plecos can be very picky eaters and perfectly healthy fish may simply stop eating due to their feeding routine or the type of food they are being offered. Changing things up a little may be enough to get your pleco eating again.

Feeding Routine

One essential aspect is the feeding routine. Many people think that plecos are nocturnal creatures and base their feeding routine around this.

Most plecos are actually diurnal meaning they are awake during the day and sleep most of the night so switching their feeding routine to the day time may help.

We have lost count of the number of people who have made this mistake only for their plecos tank mates to eat the food they added to the tank while their pleco was sleeping.

Importance Of Diet Variety

A varied diet is vital for the overall health and well-being of a pleco. Different food options provide a range of essential nutrients that improve digestion and help maintain a strong immune system.

While a diet consisting solely of algae might provide some nutrition, it is not enough to sustain a healthy pleco in the long run. Supplement your pleco’s diet with sinking algae waffers or pellets, fresh vegetables such as zucchini and cucumber, and occasional protein sources like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

Providing a variety of food will help to prevent any potential nutrient deficiencies and keep your pleco’s appetite robust.

Use of Supplements

Adding supplements to your pleco’s diet can help enhance their well-being and stimulate their appetite. One popular method is to soak their food in garlic juice before feeding, as the smell of garlic can entice fish to eat.

Another advantage of giving a pleco that is not eating some garlic juice is that garlic can help deal with any parasites that may be causing the problem too!

Be sure to use a high-quality, pre-made garlic juice product specifically designed for fish to ensure safety and effectiveness. Additionally, offering a diverse range of pellet and commercial processed foods can ensure your pleco receives diverse nutrition.

Garlic JuiceStimulate Feeding
PelletsDiverse Nutrition
Processed FoodsDiverse Nutrition
Some food supplements that can work well for plecos that are not eating.

Pleco Environmental Needs To Encourage Eating

Pleco Environmental Needs To Encourage Eating

Some plecos can do well in a basic tank setup but most will usually need multiple hiding spots to allow them to feel safe enough to eat normally. This is a common problem that we see people have who are new to keeping plecos but thankfully, it is an easy issue to fix.

Hiding Places

One of the essential aspects of creating a suitable environment for plecos is providing enough hiding places. Plecos need a safe and secure location to spend the day so they can feel safe and eat normally.

Adding rocks, driftwood, or commercial hiding spots to the aquarium can considerably improve your pleco’s comfort. Live or fake plants can also help provide additional cover and hiding spots for your pleco and help it relax and feel safe.

Tank Size

Another key factor in promoting healthy eating habits for your pleco is ensuring the fish has enough space in their tank. Having a spacious environment is crucial to the pleco’s growth and overall health.

Overcrowding in the tank can lead to stress, which may cause the pleco to lose its appetite. Different types of pleco require different tank sizes with some needing a tank over 100 gallons so always do your research before upgrading your tank to ensure it will be large enough for the specific type of pleco you keep.

Frequently Asked Questions

There could be several reasons why a pleco might not be eating. It could be due to stress, illness, poor water conditions, or simply adapting to a new environment. It’s essential to monitor your pleco’s behavior, water quality, and overall health to identify and address any potential issues.

Hungry plecos may display certain behaviors like constantly searching for food or becoming more aggressive towards tank mates. If your pleco is not showing interest in its usual food or showing any signs of weight loss, it may be a sign that it’s not getting enough to eat.

A starving pleco may become lethargic, have a sunken belly, or show visible signs of weight loss, such as an increasingly bony appearance. To avoid starving, ensure you’re providing a varied diet that includes algae wafers and other suitable foods, alongside maintaining optimal water quality.

Plecos are quite hardy fish, but as with any other living creature, they require regular nourishment to survive. The exact amount of time a pleco can survive without food would depend on factors such as its overall health and environmental conditions. It’s crucial to provide a regular food source to prevent starvation and ensure your pleco’s health and well-being.

Similar Posts