Clown Pleco

Common Name:

Clown Pleco.

Other Name:

Ringlet Pleco.

Scientific Name:

Panaque maccus.




Orinoco River basin (more specifically, the Apuré and Caroni River basins of Venezuela) and Llanos plains (of Colombia)


3.5 inches.


They eat wood as well as vegetables and small amounts of live foods. Yams seem to be taken quite well by Clown Plecos.

Water Temperature:

74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (23-25 degrees Celsius).

Water Chemistry:

They can live in any of a range of hardnesses but should be acclimated to ones that are far from moderate.


Close to neutral or slightly alkaline (6.8-7.6).

Life Span:

10-12 years (18 reported).

Minimum recommended tank size:

25-30 gallons.


Males may develop teeth-like projections on their pectoral fins and back. Females tend to be plumper just behind the pectoral fin.


This is a substrate-hugging monster with an elongated face and horizontally squat body. The Clown Pleco has brown eyes that "bug out" and give the appearance of gross exophthalmia (though such is not the case). Their entire bodies are black with the exception of yellow stripes extending across their dorsal and lateral surfaces, the same stripes on their mostly opaque brown fins and likewise yellow stripes extending from the chin to nuchal regions. There are also yellow spots and curls in the head region (which look like ringlets, hence the common name).

These plecos may have many spines on their bodies, which make capturing one an ordeal and netting them difficult as well. A plastic fish catcher such as the ones sold for the marine aquarium hobby would be a better bet than mesh netting. These spines also mean that, when double-bagging a pleco (which should be done for all fishes during transport), a layer of newspaper should be placed between the two bags so that the piercing of both is merely a remote possibility rather than an eventuality (especially on long trips).

They are well armored and they know it, so they can afford to protect their territory and do so if need be.

The large, pronounced and, in some cases, eponymous sucker mouth makes the fish look like one of those Garfield dolls found stuck to the windows of many minivans in the States.


They will aggressively defend their territories (at feeding time, mostly) and have a tendency to eject smaller interlopers with authority.

Other than that, they are pretty much peaceful and live well with conspecifics and tank mates that don't bully them.

Natural Conditions:

Driftwood and plant riddled regions of the Orinoco River basin where the water is deep but not at all aphotic.


Manipulation of the fish's concept of season may be necessary. They might spend two months at higher-pH, higher-hardness conditions while getting fed frozen foods a few times per week. Then the standard manipulation of pH/hardness begins. Daily changes with cooler rain or RO water, an unplugged heater and roiling the water with an airstone will get them ready. Re-warming the tank after half-a-week to a week should probably get the spawning going.

They do well with caves that are just large enough for the females to enter fully.

The fry may be raised on small live foods and should start to get vegetable matter as well as some wood to rasp upon within the first week.


Initially described in 1993, P. maccus has no synonyms.

These are not good algae eaters but are often unfortunately sold as utility fish that do the algae cleaning for aquarists. (Some say that they do a good job when young, but I'm not sure that continues past maturity.)

Underfeeding may also rear its head in the form of a sunken belly in Plecos. Such specimens are not in good health and should not be purchased.

The use of an asterisk in the name Pleco dates to a superstition where people believed that writing the e in Pleco is what killed theirs.

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