September 2

Sarah Robertson

Introducing the Butterfly Pleco: the Complete Guide

The Butterfly Pleco, previously scientifically known as Ancistrus brachyurus, is a favorite aquarium pet among many hobbyists. They are members of the Actinopterygii family and Siluriformes orders. They have a striking appearance and, surprisingly, can even alter their colors to match the mood of their surroundings.

It's able to conceal itself based on its surroundings. They will show a bright design on a light colored surface and a considerably darker pattern on a dark colored one. In reality, the butterfly pleco was first discovered in the wild at night when it was displaying a darker pattern. When the fish changed color later, the individuals who caught it were perplexed since it appeared to be another fish.

Quick Facts about Butterfly Pleco

  • Scientific Name : Dekeyseria Brachyura
  • Family : Loricariidae
  • Common Name : Butterfly Pleco, Chameleon Pleco, L168 Butterfly Pleco
  • Origin : South America
  • Lifespan : 5-7 years
  • Adult Pleco Size : 5-7 inches
  • Colour : Black and white stripes
  • Breeding : Egg-layer
  • Minimum tank size : 30 gallons
  • pH : 5.6–7.5
  • Hardness : 20–35 dGH
  • Water Hardness (dGH) : 3 - 18°n (53.57 - 321.43ppm)
  • Water Temperature : 24 - 28 °c (75.2 - 82.4°f)
  • Temperament : Peaceful
  • Diet : Omnivore
  • Care Level : Easy

Butterfly Pleco Care

Butterflies are resilient, but they do require careful maintenance. On top of that, unlike some sucker fish, Butterfly plecos cannot grow on tank waste and growth alone. They are algae eaters, but they should also get other vegetables and fish food in their diets. They also enjoy rasping on driftwood. Their care level is considered easy and they make a good beginner fish.

When it comes to Butterfly pleco care, one of the main things you need to be aware of is their size. They can grow up to 7 inches (17.78 cm). A good rule of thumb is to have one Butterfly Pleco per 30 gallons of water.

They require a good aquarium filtration system and clean, oxygenated water. Water changes should be performed on a regular basis as well.

Butterfly Pleco Size

The maximum size of a butterfly pleco is approximately 6 inches. They are a relatively small pleco species. Other pleco species have been observed to reach sizes greater than twice this size.

Unsuitable Tank Mates

Butterfly Pleco Lifespan

The lifespan of a butterfly pleco is between 5 years on average, but some have been reported to live up to 7 years in captivity if provided with the proper care and tank conditions. They have a shorter lifespan than other Pleco species.

Butterfly Pleco Food & Diet

Butterfly Pleco species are herbivores. However, in an aquarium, they may eat both plant matter and animal matter. They are also known as the "tank cleaning crew" because they consume algae to keep the tank clean. Algae is one of their favorite meals.

Some vegetables that can be fed to Butterfly plecos include:

  • Broccoli
  • Blanched Lettuce
  • Canned beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Blanched spinach
  • Zucchini

Here are some of the commercially Available Food:

  • Fish food with high protein content
  • Spirulina Tablets
  • Algae Wafers

They also feed on macroinvertebrates, such as:

  • Bloodworms
  • Frozen Brine Shrimps

Plenty of driftwood is vital for the fish to rasp on, which will provide them with additional fiber. This will help the fish digest and avoid bloating by providing them with the necessary fiber.

Butterfly Pleco Appearance

The body shape of a Butterfly Pleco is quite slender, which enhances their elegant appearance. They are one of the most beautiful fish species on the planet, with magnificent and huge fins that bear the name "butterfly." They have a unique striped pattern with alternate brightly colored stripes.

Depending on their environment and how they feel, these fish may disguise themselves rather effectively. They have a chameleon-like ability to adapt hues when needed.

The male Butterfly Pleco has a broader head, with distinct and prominent pectoral spines. On their snouts, they will form odontodes. The males are also thinner than the females. The center portion of the female Butterfly Pleco is broader than that of the male.

There are different varieties of Butterfly Pleco, all with unique colors and patterns. Some of the most popular are: Albino Butterfly Pleco/ Butterfly Albino Pleco, Chinese Butterfly Pleco, Black Butterfly Pleco, Gold Ring Butterfly Pleco, Spotted Butterfly Pleco, Butterfly Clown Pleco, Butterfly Bristlenose Plecos, Butterfly Gold Spot Pleco.

Butterfly Pleco Behavior 

The majority of the time, Butterfly Plecos are quite docile and retiring. Their presence in your aquarium will put you at ease. They may also start a fight and pursue other fish they view as rivals because they are territorial. In general, they are non-aggressive and prefer to keep quiet.

Furthermore, you'll notice that these fish are the most active at night. They are not highly active during the day. They will emerge only rarely in order to forage for food.

Butterfly Pleco Tank Mates

Because of their peaceful disposition, Butterfly Plecos are unlikely to bother other fish. However, in order to guarantee security and prevent any sort of attack, you should go for other fish that are similar in size. They should also be peaceful and sociable.

Keep in mind that because Butterfly Plecos are territorial, they may be intimidated by larger fish that display territorial behavior. So, you should avoid larger, more aggressive fish.

Some of the best tank mates for Butterfly Plecos are: 

  • Barb
  • Catfish (Corydoras)
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Angelfish
  • Hatchet fish
  • Mollies
  • Danio
  • Ember Tetra
  • Swordtail fish
  • Discus
  • Guppies
  • Platy fish
  • Cichlids

Non-fish tank mates for plecostomus include:

  • Shrimp
  • Freshwater crabs

Unsuitable Tank Mates

Any fish that is bigger in size and has aggressive social behavior should not be kept with Butterfly Plecos.

Housing a maximum of two plecos in one tank is the simplest way to avoid aggression between them. Because the plecos consider snails to be food, don't house Butterfly Pleco catfish with them.

Butterfly Pleco Tank Setup

Butterfly Pleco Tank Setup

If you want to keep Butterfly Plecos as a pet, you must carefully look after their requirements and keep the aquarium in good working order. They are peaceful community fish, but prefer to live in groups. A 30-gallon aquarium is a good size for these plecos. While setting up their tank, keep the following in mind:

Tank Size

Keep your Butterfly Pleco in an aquarium that is not excessively crowded since this might stress them out, which will subsequently decrease their immunity. So, if you're still unsure about the tank size required for them, keep in mind that it depends on their growth.

Since they are significantly smaller in size, a 20-gallon tank is sufficient for a baby Butterfly Pleco. You should buy a 30-40 gallons tank for an adult fish. You should pick the best fish tank for your pet fish.

Putting your fish in a rectangular tank is always beneficial. This will allow them to swim about and discover much more space. Another benefit of a rectangular-shaped tank is that it will allow them to breathe more air.

You should avoid keeping your Pleco in a fishbowl, as these spherical bowls will have an impact on both the physical and mental health of your fish.


To live, Butterfly Plecos need adequate ventilation. You must have a look at some of the finest aquarium filtration methods available. Filters can be used to cleanse the air within the tank and freshly oxygenate it.

You should go for a canister filter or a hang-on-back filter. While choosing a filter, make sure it has an adjustable flow rate. This will give you the power to control the water movement as per your fish's needs.


For a Butterfly Pleco, the finest gravel is ideal. Even soft sand may be used to meet the need. Gravels are soft substrate materials, which allows fish to forage about for food. Finally, make sure your aquarium has a gravel depth of about 2 inches. This is to ensure that the Butterfly Pleco can easily sift and look for food.


Another key thing to keep in mind is that Butterfly Plecos enjoy living in a similar way as they would in their natural environment. So ample lighting is adequate for them. The majority of butterfly plecos prefer bright light and a lot of sunshine. To make them feel more at ease, keep the aquarium light on for at least 6-7 hours each day.

You can also opt for full-spectrum lighting to provide them with the required light. This type of lighting is essential for their growth and overall development.

If your space gets enough of sunshine throughout the day, 2-3 hours of artificial lighting is sufficient.


Butterfly Pleco's beauty is truly revealed against a light background. They'll put on a show for you because they have this unusual talent of camouflage, and you'll observe them showcase their hues the most when the aquarium is built on lightly colored substrate materials with little decorations. Dark substrates can stress out your plecos and not let them show their colors to the fullest.

You should make sure that your Pleco has adequate hide-out spaces in the aquarium. For this purpose, you can use rocks, caves, and tunnels. Never keep your Pleco in a tank without driftwood, either. They enjoy gnawing on these woods since they are nutritious and serve as a stress reliever.

Tank Lid 

The lid of the tank is always an essential element in your aquarium. It's important to keep your fish safe from dust particles and other potentially harmful outside elements. If you have a dog or a cat at home, it's important to cover the tank to avoid any type of assault.

You must ensure that the tank lid is sealed tightly. It should also allow for proper air circulation inside the aquarium.

Butterfly Pleco Breeding

Butterfly Pleco Breeding

When it comes to breeding, butterflies Plecos appreciate hiding spaces and caves. They are also known as cave-spawners due to this. They can breed throughout the rainy season. During this stage, the water level changes from 50 to 75 percent. They prefer water that is soft and acidic for breeding.

During the breeding season, the male Butterfly Pleco looks for a suitable cave to deposit its eggs. After that, the male fish removes any hazardous waste and ensures that the area is safe. The males entice the females by developing a dark, intense coloration. They also reveal their bright fins in front of the female Pecos.

The female then enters the cave after the male. She deposits her eggs on the cave's walls. The male Pleco fish then fertilizes the eggs. The males defend and look after the eggs until they hatch. The eggs hatch in 5-7 days. During that time, the fries eat mostly algae.

Breeding Butterfly Pleco in Captivity 

In captivity, the breeding procedure for Butterfly Plecos becomes rather difficult. You may imitate a natural ambience inside your tank with the aid of specific equipment since they like giving birth in their own earthly habitat, which is also when it is raining.

Caves are a favorite hiding place for butterfly Plecos. So, add a lot of caves and driftwoods to the tank. For breeding, you might want to invest in a larger tank. To re-create the rain, change the water on a regular basis and maintain a relatively cooler temperature. It's also crucial to lower the pH to around 6. Inside the tank, add one male and two to three female Butterfly plecos. The males are extremely selective while choosing their mating partners.

This imitation of their natural habitat will entice them to reproduce. After the eggs hatch, transfer the young fish to a new aquarium and properly nourish them.

Butterfly Pleco Fry

The eggs will hatch after around 5-7 days, and the fry will be free-swimming a week later. At this point, you can start feeding them small live foods such as daphnia or brine shrimp. As they grow, you can gradually increase the size of their food items. When they reach around 1.5 inches (4 cm), they can be moved to a separate tank if you wish.

Butterfly Pleco Diseases

Like all fish, butterfly plecos can be susceptible to diseases such as bacterial infections, parasites, and fungal infections. The best way to prevent these is to maintain good water quality in their tank and to quarantine any new fish before adding them to the main tank. If your pleco does become ill, it's important to seek professional advice from a vet who specializes in fish.

The following are some of the most common diseases suffered by Butterfly Plecos:

Pop-Eye and Head Holes 

Pop-eye is a bacterial illness that causes the fish's eyes to protrude. The head of the fish has several, tiny cavities.

Cleaning the tank, replacing the water, and feeding the fish vitamin-rich food are all effective treatments for pop-eye syndrome. Tetracycline is also used to cure the condition. Also, be sure to keep the aquarium clean.


This is a common disease among many freshwater fish. The most obvious symptoms are tiny white dots on the fins and the fish's body, as well as lethargy and loss of appetite.

The parasites that cause this illness most commonly live in poor-quality tank water. To get rid of this illness, you must first quarantine the fish in a separate tank. You'll also need to empty and clean the tank, as well as add new water. Install a proper filtration system. For treating your already sick Butterfly Pleco, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Dropsy, Fin and Tail Rot 

These are also bacterial illnesses. The fish's body and tail become paler in color. Poor-quality food is primarily to blame for this sort of bacterial infection. Other symptoms include tiredness, a lack of appetite, and bloating.

For therapy, provide your fish with better-quality food. On alternate days, also change 25% of the tank water. Keep your tank water clean. Most importantly, if the issue persists, contact your veterinarian.

You must pay special attention to the diet of your Butterfly Pleco. You can also notice a shift in their behaviors and movements if they are over-fed or under-fed. A sunken belly is a clear indication that your fish has digestive difficulties.


How Big Do Butterfly Pleco Get?

Butterfly Plecos grow to be 5-7 inches long. The size of your Butterfly Pleco depends on several factors like diet, water parameters, and tank mates.

Is 2 Butterfly Pleco Enough?

The most that can cohabit are two plecos. Keeping two plecos together is difficult because of their size and aggressive, territorial behavior. Plecos are territorial and aggressive towards other plecos, even though they are usually peaceful.

How Fast Do Butterfly Pleco Grow?

The growth rate of these catfish is comparable to that of typical Plecos. However, when compared to ordinary Plecos, they are considerably smaller.

The Butterfly pleco only grow up to 7 inches long and don't exceed three to four inches in their first year. A 30 gallons tank is enough for them. Do not think that these Plecos will adjust to smaller tanks since they are smaller. Despite the fact that they are significantly smaller, they require more room in the tank to swim or feed on the bottom.

Are Butterfly Pleco Poisonous?

Butterfly Pleco are not poisonous, but their spikes can deliver a painful sting. Handle with caution.

What Do You Feed Butterfly Pleco?

To keep your Butterfly Pleco healthy and growing, you need to provide them with a varied diet. In the wild, they eat algae, aquatic plants, small crustaceans, and insects. In captivity, you can feed them blanched vegetables, algae wafers, shrimp pellets, and bloodworms.

How Often Should You Feed Butterfly Pleco?

Butterfly Plecos are not particularly voracious eaters, so you don't need to worry about overfeeding them. Once or twice a day is sufficient. It's important to pay attention to your fish's eating habits and make sure they're getting enough to eat, but not too much.

What Tank mates Are Compatible With Butterfly Pleco?

Butterfly Plecos are relatively peaceful fish, so they can be kept with a variety of tank mates. Popular choices include other peaceful plecos, Corydoras catfish, Swordtail fish, Guppies, Gourami, and Dwarf cichlids.

Where to Buy a Butterfly Pleco?

The best place to buy a Butterfly Pleco is from a reputable breeder or pet store. Be sure to check the fish for signs of illness and ask the seller about the care requirements. They can be purchased from online fish stores as well. But while buying, look for a dealer who provides a health guarantee and be ready to pay shipping charges.

What Is The Life Expectancy Of Butterfly Pleco?

The lifespan of a Butterfly Pleco is 5-7 years. However, this can vary depending on the quality of care they receive. Good water quality and a healthy diet are essential for a long life.

Final Thoughts: 

Butterfly plecos are a great choice if you're looking to add some color to your tank. The colors and shapes of these fish are absolutely stunning, as their name implies. They're also quite tranquil, making them an excellent choice for community aquariums.

Butterfly plecos are easy to care for, but they do have some specific requirements that must be met. They need a large tank with plenty of hiding spots, and they should be fed a varied diet of vegetables, algae, and meaty foods.

Surprisingly, their capacity to inconspicuously disguise themselves from any potential danger makes them all the more fascinating. If you can give your Butterfly pleco the required care, you'll be rewarded with years of pleasure from these lovely fish. Even if you're a novice in the fishkeeping field, this fish would be a fantastic companion. Do make sure that you are providing them with the appropriate attention and care.

Sarah Robertson

I am a passionate blogger who also happens to be a fish keeping enthusiast. Writing about my hobby is something that I absolutely love to do, and it's no secret that my chosen topic is always centered around fish keeping.

Sarah Robertson

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