Clown Pleco (Panaqolus Maccus) 101: Caring, Tank Mates & More

The clown pleco (Panaqolus maccus) is a freshwater fish native to Central and South America. They are peaceful, small fish that like to live in large, flowing rivers or ponds.

The Clown Pleco has been widely regarded as one of the most handsome of all the cichlids for its luminous iridescent skin.

It’s also an extremely popular aquarium fish due to its docile nature and ease of maintenance. But what makes this species so special? Let’s learn more about this beautiful and intelligent fish.

History Of The Clown Pleco:

The clown pleco is a unique species that can only be found in South America. The name comes from the markings on its head, which can appear quite ruffled and flamboyant.

The specific name “maccus” comes from the Latin for “to play.” The clown pleco is commonly confused with the more commonly seen blue-faced or golden-plumed pleco, which is otherwise very similar.

The major difference between the two species is the black or dark brown spots on the red-faced fish’s forehead. This fish is sometimes sold as freshwater fish and sometimes as tropical fish.

The freshwater version is a slightly smaller species sometimes sold as a “toy” or for decoration, while the tropical variety can grow to around 4 inches and is mainly sold as an aquarium fish.

As soon as you see this fish, you’ll notice right away that it’s very different from other plecos. The most obvious difference is the red face, which is a sure sign that you’re in for a unique experience.

Caring, Tankmates & More:

Clown Pleco Panaqolus Maccus Caring Tankmates More

As soon as you get this fish, you’ll want to make sure you fully understand its needs. As with all pets, a clown pleco’s happiness and well-being come first. That’s why you’ll want to make sure you provide it with the right kind of water conditions.

Ideally, this means a pH level of 8-8.5, Hardness of 8-12 dGH, and a temperature range of 72-82°F. But, as with all fish, you should experiment to determine what works best for your specific setup.

Another important thing to keep in mind is the timing of your water changes. A stressful environment like a small aquarium can lead to stress-related issues like high blood pressure, an increased immune system, and even cancer.

Therefore, it’s best to change your water gently and regularly. Despite its importance, the tank mates for this fish are usually frowned upon.

Many people pick this fish to add to their existing cichlid collection because of its beautiful coloring and ease of care. But really, there are better tank mates.

How Big Do Clown Pleco Get?

Weighing in at only 8-12 grams (0.35-0.6 ounces) for a two- to three-year-old fish, the clown pleco is a small fish.

The only reason you’d want to keep this fish in a 10-gallon tank is if you want to display it and you want it big enough to show off its colors.

Unfortunately, this is not the tank of choice for most experienced keepers. Since they are very small and calm, they are quite hard to keep in an aquarium and will often escape.

How Long Do Clown Pleco Live?

Clown plecos can live up to 10+ years, though most will reach maturity at around age 5. The longer they live, the better their health. Keep in mind that this fish is a lungfish, meaning it needs high oxygenation.

It’s vital to keep your water quality high throughout the entire ecosystem so that all the fish can be healthy. That’s why it’s a good idea to add a water conditioner like Bloom to your regimen. 

Do Clown Plecos Clean Tanks?

Like many other plecos, the clown will accept a variety of foods and will even eat live foods like earthworms and brine shrimps.

But, as with all fish, check the nutrition of your food before offering it to your fish. Otherwise, you risk bacteria and parasites breeding and causing health issues.

Do Clown Plecos Eat Meat?

Clowns are herbivorous fishes. They consume mostly plants but will eat smaller fish and even aquatic insects if the need arises.

Grow plenty of plants in your tank, as this fish loves to munch on leaves and flowers. The ideal diet for this fish is a generous supply of protein, along with a few vegetables to provide fiber and vitamins.

How Often Should I Feed My Clown Pleco?

Feeding your pleco should be a routine part of your aquarium maintenance schedule. But you should feed your pleco more often if you have a larger fish or one that is not growing well.

A healthy, strong-growing pleco should be every day. A humane diet made up of a variety of foods is best for this fish.


Anyone can own clown pleco and care for them, make sure to get the big-size tanks for your clown pleco so that they can enjoy themselves and not be stressed.

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