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Armored Catfish (Loricariidae) Overview and Care Guide

Have you ever heard of Armored Catfish for keeping in a home aquarium? Well, these are simply great for those who want to have a very fun-filled and easy-to-care fish and a great partner for their tank.

Armored catfish is the most popular freshwater catfish found in Costa Rica and South America. They are shy and have a peaceful temperament. These fish live for 10-15 years and grow up to 24-inches. They are pretty difficult to breed but caring for the fries is easier.

Species Overview

Level of CareVery easy
AppearanceGrey body with black dots all over
Life Expectancy15 years
Size24 inches
Tank Size75-100 gallons
Tank EnvironmentSlightly acidic or neutral water with cave and stone formation and plants
Tank MatesVery peaceful

Loricariidae, also known as the Suckermouth Armored Catfish family, is rich with approximately 600 members. These species of catfish are usually found in Central and South America.

It usually includes a huge number of fish genera like Hypostomus, Panaque, Otocinclus, Rineloricaria, Sturisoma, Hypoptopoma, Farlowella, Ancistrus, etc.

With its 92 genera, Armored Catfish is usually known to be the largest family of catfish. They are usually the inhabitants of the subtropical area in Panama or Costa Rica.

These fish are primarily known for their bony plates, which cover their body and suckermouth area.

Usually, Armored Catfish is popularly known as “plecs,” “plecos,” or “plecostomus” among aquarists.

But do you know what makes them more interesting to keep in the aquarium? Well, it’s their algae-eating habit. Most of them are usually detritivores. Also, many of them are sold for their ornamental qualities with a variety of colors and shapes.


Usually, the size of Armored Catfish differs a lot among the variety of species. There are small plecos who grow only up to 3-inches. Also, some plecos reach up to 10-12 inches in length with proper care. And some of these can even reach up to as big as 24-inches.


Plecos or loricariids are among the best fish species to keep in your tank because of their long lives. Usually, a pleco or suckermouth catfish can live up to 10-15 years.

Thus, if you are thinking of keeping them in your tank, then it is undoubtedly the best decision as they will serve as your buddy for the long term.

Behavior & Temperament

Since the Loricariidae catfish family is filled with a large group of species, they vastly differ in their temperaments. Usually, these are nocturnal. Thus, they will easily shy away from bright lighting.

Also, they are not at all aggressive. Instead, they are friendly enough to live well with other tank mates.

Panama armored catfish

Tank Requirements

As there are many species in the group of suckermouth catfish, each of them has its own tank requirement to survive.

However, it is quite easy to take care, which makes them the best ones to have in your home aquarium.

For example, a hypostome plecostomus can grow up to 12-inches: thus, needing a large tank of up to 75–100-gallon capacity. But small fish like Otocinclus will be the best fit in a 10–20-gallon tank.

Also, it would be best if you offered them a proper place for hiding as they are very shy. You must provide more caves, logs, and hollows to let them hide in secret places, making them feel safe.

Add enough circulation to the tank water to mimic a fast-flowing river, which resembles their actual habitat in the wild.

You need to offer a proper decoration to your fish tank with driftwood and a continuous source of food to make your catfish stay healthy and happily moving.

Tank Setup

So, are you thinking of bringing Armored Catfish to your home? If yes, then offer them the best care by facilitating a proper tank setup.

But do you know what type of tank arrangements Armored Catfish prefers? Well, then have a look below.

  • Based on the size of the fish, you need to pick a suitable capacity of the tank. If the fish is more than 10-inches long, opt for a tank of up to 75–100-gallon capacity. On the other hand, if you think of petting small fish, each having a length of up to 3-inches, offer a 10–20-gallon aquarium for better care.
  • These fish are usually found in soft water. Thus, a low pH level will be best for them. Maintain the pH between 7.0-8.0 with slight alkalinity or 5.0- with a slightly acidic nature.
  • Ensure the tank water has a hardness of 3-10 dKH or 54 ppm to 180 ppm.
  • They prefer a bit warm temperature. Thus, ensure the tank water temperature is between 74-80 ℉.
  • If your room has a temperature of less than 74 ℉, you need to pick a heater for your tank.
  • Place many rocks in the tank to make caves and secret places to let them play hide and seek.
  • A good amount of filtration is also necessary for the tank.
  • To maintain a good water condition in the aquarium, do a 10% water change every week. Also, try to change 25% of the water every 2 weeks.
  • In the case of the substrate, gravel or sand will be suitable.
  • Also, consider putting driftwood in the tank.

Tank Mates

Since the suckermouth catfish are nocturnal by nature, they are pretty shy. Also, Armored Catfish are relatively peaceful fish. Some of the plecos are very social, and they quickly adapt to their aquarium life.

Thus, Loricariids are pretty compatible with the other aquarium fish. Choose those fish that are almost of the same size as your Armored Catfish. Make sure not to keep large predatory fish as they can quickly gobble up the smaller ones.

On the contrary, large plecos can easily mix with smaller fish as they will not at all eat the latter ones.

So, here are some of the most compatible fish that you can keep along:

Food & Diet

Usually, Armored Catfish are sold as catfish that like to eat algae. Hence, they are known to be excellent algae eaters.

However, some of them are also carnivores, which feed on carrion in the wild. Other species of plecos usually feed on wood. Thus, you need to do proper research on the dietary needs of a loricariid so that you can offer it adequate nutrition for its healthy growth.

In the tank, you can easily offer them bottom feeder tablets. Also, they will very easily eat shrimp pellets, algae, tropical granules, etc.

Due to their nocturnal habits, many experienced hobbyists usually feed plecos once or twice a week with a disc food or tablet. To offer them the best nutrition and help in their proper growth, you need to provide them with various high-quality foods.

Also, make sure you are not feeding them a large meal. Instead, make sure to provide your catfish with small meals several times a day.

Armored Catfish Care

Suckermouth catfish eating grass

If you are interested in keeping loricariids in your tank, you need to ensure that you offer them a top-notch level of care. Additionally, caring for them is much easier than you think.

While keeping suckermouth catfish in your tank, make sure to provide them enough room for their living. It will help them in obtaining the proper size and length.

Many tanks of these fish need to be heavily planted with a huge number of natural woods. It will help the fish to nibble on them.

But when you add wood to your fish tank, make sure the wood species is not toxic to your fish. Also, ensure the wood is thoroughly cleaned to keep the fish safe and healthy.

As you get hold of a safe wood piece, make it soak in chlorinated water for at least 24 hours. After that, rinse it thoroughly before adding the wood to the aquarium.

Armored Catfish are usually messy eaters. So, you will require frequent changing of water from time to time to keep them healthy and easy growing for a long time.

Breeding Guidelines

So, are you thinking of encouraging the breeding of plecos in your home? Well, then knowing about the breeding guidelines is essential.

Breeding of Armored Catfish is quite tricky. In the wild atmosphere, they usually spawn in the caves. They lay large volumes of eggs on a flat surface area.

Usually, the male counterparts guard the cave as soon as the eggs are about to hatch.

In case you are having a male and female loricariid in your tank, offer them proper places to hide and breed. The suckermouth catfish usually spawn on smooth rocks and tend to divot on the substrate. And guess what! This will happen in only one corner of your tank.

During the breeding season, you can also consider keeping them in a separate breeding tank. It will help your fish feel safer in the aquarium, stimulating spawning in a safer tank environment.

Fry Care

Armored Catfish fries are usually cared for by the male fish in the initial period. As soon as the eggs hatch, the baby plecos need to get the best care.

Usually, you can keep them in a nursery tank for having the right amount of growth. In a nursery tank, you need to offer your plecos many places for hiding and playing. For the first few days, pleco fries will easily survive on the yolk of the sac.

But after 5-6 days, you need to offer them a small amount of food. Usually, they need to be fed several times a day. You can feed them brine shrimps or newly hatched shrimps.

After some days, you can even offer them vegetables to facilitate proper vitamins and nutrients.

Where to Buy?

Armored Catfish are very easy to find in an aquarist shop. They are commercially known as plecos.

However, in the case of a rare species, you can look in a hobbyist shop. Also, there are plenty of online stores where you’ll get a wide variety of Armored Catfish.

Wrapping Up

Are you thinking of adding some more fun to your aquarium? Then, Loricariids are simply a great one to pet. They are easy to care for and roam throughout your tank with a fun-filled mood.

Also, they are very vibrant and come in a lot of varieties that you can choose from to keep in your tank.

But do you know what the funniest part is? These plecos will not give you enough trouble with aggression because they are sweet as a tank mate and amicably live with other fish species.

So, are you now convinced enough to keep Armored Catfish in your tank? Then, what are you waiting for? Rush towards your nearby store to get one today!