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Panaque Genus Overview, Types, Tank Setup & Breeding

Looking for unique fish for your community tank environment? Panaque or popularly known as Pleco fish should be on your list.

They’re not only distinctive with their unique armored appearance, but they’re also peaceful species for community tanks. Those are also reasons why it becomes more popular among aquarists.

It is a popular armored catfish native to South America that lives in the rivers and streams with fast flows. Growing more than 43 cm, Panaque could be the major attraction of larger tanks. It can thrive in an aquarium environment very well with controlled water parameters.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
AppearanceArmory catfish with suckermouth with distinctive motifs and scales for each species
Life Expectancy20 years
Size16 inches
Tank Size120-gallon or larger
Tank EnvironmentIt can survive in tropical water parameters with driftwood supplies at the bottom of the tank
Tank MatesCan get along well with non-aggressive species but not with their own kind

Fish originate from different areas in South America but they can massively be found in the Orinoco River and Amazon. They’re nothing new to aquariums and have been popular among aquarists as an attractive addition to a community tank.

In the aquarium industry, there are some common subspecies of Panaque that may have some physical differences. However, these fish share similar overall appearance(size and shape) and care. You may find subspecies under the name Plecos with different colors or motifs.

They are nocturnal fish so they tend to hide in the daylight. They have a docile nature and peaceful behavior that make them eligible additions to community aquariums. Since they can grow up to 16 inches, Fish would be ideal for 120-gallon tanks or larger.

It can thrive in a wider range of water parameters. Even though they prefer slightly acidic water, They generally can tolerate alkaline, hard water. Despite being nocturnal, They are territorial fish so you’d need a giant tank if you want to keep groups in the community aquarium.

Panaque Genus Types

There are some common species popular for aquarium fish including Panaque Nigrolineatus (Royal Pleco) and Panaque Cochliodon (Blue-Eyed Pleco).

Panaque Nigrolineatus

Royal pleco in aquarium

It is one of the most popular species for aquarium tank environments. Popularly known as the Royal Pleco or the Royal Panaque. It’s a smaller pleco that can only grow up to 12 inches in captivity but it has more eye-capturing properties like the dark bluish-black stripes, the greyish-green base color with gold-edged fins, and red eyes.

Panaque Cochliodon

It is popularly known as the Blue-Eyed Pleco and has been in aquarium trades for decades. The first handling of this fish could be tricky following the high mortality rate after import due to bacteria infection. However, if you get healthy and well-adapted ones, the care is quite simple.

Other Types

More Species that you want to consider for your community aquarium:

  • Panaque Armbrusteri
  • Panaque Bathyphilus
  • Panaque Schaeferi
  • Panaque Suttonorum
  • Panaque Titan

As nocturnal species, Fish are more active at night and tend to hide behind rocks or in the caves in daylight. It should be noted that Panaque can be relatively big as adults and produce a lot of waste as well. Consequently, you need larger community tanks if you want to keep them regardless of the species.

Tank Setup

First of all, you need a very large tank with width-oriented measurements for any Panaque. A 120-gallon aquarium is a very minimum requirement if you want to keep some Plecos, the larger is better. The aquarium must have a width of at least 24 inches(from front to back measurement).

The large tanks become mandatory if you want to keep them for strong reasons. It would be easier for them to explore larger tanks because they’re neither good nor strong swimmers. A spacious water environment is the best as they have also been found to live longer in larger aquariums.

Since they are tropical fish, they prefer warm, dark, fully resourced water environments. You need to set up your aquarium by replicating its original natural inhabitants. While they can tolerate the hardness, you better keep the water temperature ideal.

Water temperature should be maintained between 72 °F and 78 °F so you’d need to invest in a thermostat and heater to keep the ideal temperature throughout time. They can tolerate pH levels of 6.6 to 7.5 while the hardness should be in the range of 5 to 10 dH. In general, fish have slightly hard and acidic water or somewhere neutral.

When it comes to water parameters, you better keep them stable. Panaques could be sensitive to extreme fluctuations in the water environment. At this point, it’s very important to test the water conditions and change 1/4 of the water weekly. Maintain your water resources and general set up to keep the ideal water conditions.

They are generally bottom-dwellers and would rarely swim around or go to the surface. At this point, you must carefully decorate the bottom of the aquarium. You can either install gravel or use soft substrates to cover the tank base but be sure they’re coarse enough so your Panagues can swallow them.

For aquariums with Panaques, driftwood supplies are very important. They can be food sources for the fish and facilitate algae growth. These can safely digest driftwood thanks to their symbiotic gut bacteria.

The plantation isn’t necessary for a Panaque tank but if you decide to add plants, ensure they’re the real ones. The fish may also consider them as food sources that they can chew. Even without plants, they can still live well in the aquarium.

The tank setup with no plants allows you to apply low lighting which means a more efficient aquarium. On the other hand, a darker environment helps you replicate the natural habitat in tropical rivers. This would also compensate for the use of extra powerheads to create a strong flow to move wastes.

These can grow as big as 16 inches so they’d also produce a lot of waste as well. You’d need to install a robust water filter to cycle the aquarium. The accumulated wastes that aren’t properly filtered can contaminate and drive changes in the water environment that can lead to health issues on your Panaques.

Tank Mates

It can thrive in a community tank with other species in a community but you need to consider several factors when selecting tank mates.

Since it would occupy the bottom part of the aquarium, you need to choose tank mates that can live in the middle and upper parts. This way, you can manage spaces for all species in the community tank.

On the other hand, They have poor swimming abilities so hairy species aren’t the best choice for tank mates. It can get stuck or simply trapped on them and be unable to escape the condition.

Some fast-swimming species that like biting fins must be avoided at all. Even though Panaques are armored, their fins are not and can still be exposed to disease when wounded.

Generally speaking, you better avoid aggressive fish species and endorse the peaceful ones instead.

Check some possible ideas below.

Blue panaque
Blue Panaque

Food & Diet

Driftwood isn’t only a decoration for Panaques, it’s simply a superb delicacy, a favorite food for the fish. They love to chew wood and that’s healthy for them. They typically spend the most time in the bottom of the tank and chew the driftwood just like a panda chews bamboo.

They are natural herbivores so the algae or plant detritus in the aquarium can already be a food source for them but these aren’t enough.

It’s highly recommended to supply algae foods and pellets that can sink into the bottom of the aquarium. Panaques love vegetables very much including cucumbers, zucchini, and peas.

Breeding Guidelines

It’s no longer a secret that breeding Panaques is very difficult among aquarists. Successful breeding by aquarium owners is pretty rare since there are many factors in DIY tanks that can’t be controlled. Most successful breeding attempts are conducted by professional breeders.

Despite the environment, they tend to be aggressive to their own kind which makes in-tank breeding becomes more complicated. The best chance is to replicate the breeding season in their native habitats which is the rainy season. However, it can only work only when you’ve found a bonded pair.

Heavy rains in nature would typically change the water conditions, especially the acidity, hardness, and temperature. Theoretically, you can decrease the temperature, incrementally raise the pH, and soften the water.

Keep the best appetite of your Panaques to trigger breeding. You must supply the controlled tank with super-quality foods that are soft and easy to digest for promoting breeding. Professional breeders would typically use vinewood for this task.

Females will lay their eggs at the bottom of the aquarium whenever the breeding attempts are successful. They may lay eggs on the substrate or sands in the bottom so you better halt vacuuming when your Panaques are brooding.