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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

November 21, 2011

Plecos and Algae Eaters

By David Lass


Every once in a while I feel the need to get up on a soapbox and rant about something. This is one of those occasions, and I beg your forbearance of me for this short period of time.

Why do we keep selling hobbyists fish that are simply bad for their tanks? Specifically, why do we keep selling folks common plecos (Hypostomus plecostomus) and Chinese algae eaters (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)? Both of these fish are much more problems than they are worth, especially when there are lots of other easier, better ways to deal with algae in an aquarium. Common plecos get to be huge fish—I’ve seen some that were closing in on 18 inches. And on their way to becoming that big, plecos will very often destroy any plants or other such objects in a tank. If you think about it, the only times you see really large plecos are in bare tanks, maybe with an Oscar or other rough cichlid.
Chinese algae eaters (CAEs) are really no better. They are cheap, as are common plecos, but they really don’t do much in the way of eating algae. This is particularly true as they grow, and as they learn that it is much easier to make a living by being around when the Flake Food Fairy drops food into the tank than to toil away scrubbing algae of rocks and plants. And that’s the good news about CAEs. When they grow (and they will get to be 8 in. or so), they become very nasty fish. They are quite territorial with their own species, and will spend much of their time trying to clean the slime off the sides of fish, especially flat round ones such as discus and angelfish. Plecos are also accused of this, although I think it is less the case than with the CAEs.

In either case, there are plenty of other fish that will do a much better job at cleaning algae than either a common pleco or a CAE. I really don’t understand why we continue selling fish that are not appropriate for the average hobbyist’s tanks.

Hope I don’t trip as I get down off my soapbox.

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Reader Comments
CAE's are worthless, but a common pleco in an appropriately sized tank with suitable companions can be gorgeous.
Steve, Rochester, NY
Posted: 12/7/2011 10:57:43 AM
Nice information. However, positive coments about the fish you do recommend would have been more helpful.
jim, tampa, FL
Posted: 12/7/2011 6:59:21 AM
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