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Royal Pleco Overview, Care, Tank Setup, Diet & More

The royal panaque, also known as royal pleco, is a true dweller of large aquariums.

If you want to have larger buddies to accompany your “me-time”, then this one is for you. The large plecos can entertain you all the time with their amazing light and dark grey stripes.

This freshwater creature has such great endeavors that it can be hard not to notice these when in action. If you use your aquarium as the focal point of your room, then this fish can make a great addition to your showcase.

They can last for 10 years or more if you care for them well. There will be a lot of interesting moments that you want to memorize with these buddies in their entire life.

Let’s find out more about this fish.

Species Overview

Level of CareModerate
TemperamentExtremely peaceful
AppearanceLarge size, light and dark grey stripes.
Life Expectancy10 years
Size17 inches
DietWood, plant-based food and meaty foods
Tank Size120-gallon
Tank EnvironmentDriftwoods and live plants in the bottom
Tank MatesNon-aggressive tank mates, or predator fish

Royal plecos or royal panaque has the scientific name as Panaque nigrolineatus.

Its origin is in the basins of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in South America.

The royal fish are popular because of their fantastic ability in digesting wood. Adding the driftwoods to your tank will be the right move since they will be happy to chew them.

Royal plecos are one of the most popular options for larger tanks. In many shops, you will also find some variations of the fish. Although their appearances might be slightly different, their behavior and traits are similar.

When you are in the shop, you can find this fish with the letter “L” to indicate its family name.

They will not terrify other aquarium dwellers if they are not in the presence of other Royal Plecos or catfish. So, you can have peace of mind to adding the other species to your aquarium. These colossi are kind and docile.

Given that Royal Plecos may live for up to ten years, owners must be dedicated to providing long-term care for their pets. The constant good diets, water condition, and ideal tank setup will keep them living longer. These require a clean tank and lots of swimming areas to flourish.

In general, taking care of these massive catfish isn’t tough, but there are a few tricks to master. The typical lifetime is ten years, so you want to make sure they survive and achieve their full potential before then.

The coloring of the royal panaque is greyish. It has a grey body with striking dark grey stripes. Sometimes, the dark grey is black. But some specimens could carry a brownish coloration than the grey ones. Each specimen has a unique pattern. Most of the time, you will be overwhelmed with the choices of the coloration of the fish sold in the market.

It has a bulk structure and body. You can look at this buddy’s head. You’d agree that it is bulkier than the other panaque species.

Tank Setup

  • pH Levels: 6.6 to 7.5
  • Water Hardness: 5-10 dKH
  • Water Temperature: 72-78 °F to °F (22.2-25.6 °C)
  • Tank Size: 120 gallons

They will gladly scavenge and explore the bottom level of their aquarium habitat, without regard for their neighbors in the middle and upper water columns.

Royal Plecos are nocturnal and spend the day hidden beneath their driftwood. Make sure to set up your tank where you can add more driftwoods for your cool royal. They will have a nice life when dwelling at the bottom all the time.

At night, when they are more active, you may see them swimming about the bottom of the tank looking for food. Therefore, the most ideal time to enjoy their behaviors is during the night. Don’t worry, they won’t be bothered by you.

To build the most ideal aquascape for them, you could add more bottom plants. Don’t forget to set up the substrate as well. If you plan to add the mid and upper dwellers, you could also curate them.

For the substrate, I strongly suggest you add soft sand. They like to be active in the bottom part of your tank. But you don’t want them to hurt their underbellies when they scrape on the rough surface.

Despite the matter, you could still add gravel; it is the only option that you can find on the market. But make sure to add a larger size of the gravel.

Royal pleco in aquarium

Your cool royal panaque loves to eat what they find in the bottom, including the gravel pieces. So, don’t add small gravel. They would get tempted to grab them.

Driftwood is an obligatory item you need to add to your aquarium. The most ideal aquascape for your royal buddies is the one accompanied by driftwood. There is no bargaining about this since it is the key element of your fish’s survivability and longevity.

They can eat and digest the wood since they have the bacteria in their body to do it. The woods can also host algae and other organisms. So, when they have these routine intakes, they will also attain the necessary nutrients on a routine basis.

Don’t add artificial plants since they tend to chew plant leaves. Your royal buddies cannot chew the artificial items.

They will get sick or even dead if they do. Instead, add live plants so that they can chew the leaves and digest them.

If you add the live plants solely for decoration for your aquascape, then don’t proceed. You will cry after finding out that the panaque consumes them.

Due to their lack of scales, Royal Plecos are very sensitive to changes in water conditions. The pH is a crucial metric to monitor since tannins from the tank’s wood can dangerously reduce the pH.

Vacuum the substrate’s bottom to eliminate excess waste and wood fragments. You wish to replicate closely the water conditions in South American river basins.

In the wild, they like warm, dark water with abundant food. Their native water is neutral to slightly hard, so make sure your home aquarium water isn’t too soft.

They require a 120-gallon tank. Anything less will stress the Royal Plecos and compromise their health.

Insufficient space will limit their growth and perhaps decrease their life expectancy. The fish is huge and lack maneuverability. So, make sure to measure the tank size so that it won’t give a difficult time for your pet.

Tank Mates

The royal panaque condemns its own species. It is a soloist but will get annoyed with the other catfish or plecos in their territory. But your royal buddy is just fine in a community tank.

It is weird to see the royal pet is aggressive toward each other’s catfish but ignore every other tank mate in the aquarium. But it is what it is. For that reason, I won’t recommend you add more than one royal panaque in the same tank.

There are some takeaways to consider when choosing the tank mates for your royal friend.

The first is where they are in the tank. Royal Plecos cling to the bottom, making it easy to find fish in the middle and higher portions of the aquarium.

Also, consider the Royal Pleco’s swimming ability. They can’t swim well. So they can’t get out of trouble easily.

Avoid fish that prefer to nibble at your fins. They won’t hurt the them, but they will swim down to the bottom and nibble the dorsal fin. This can stress them and expose to illness.

All in all, your royal pet will be safe and sound with non-aggressive tank mates such as

  • Tetras
  • Flag Cichlids
  • Angelfish
  • Congo Tetra
  • Headstands
  • Silver Arowana

You can also add predatory species to your tank so that you can feed them differently. As mentioned, your pleco will ignore the other dwellers. It is also a great idea to add predatory species that have different diets.

Royal Pleco Food & Diet

The royal panaque fish are omnivores. They are used to eating plant-based foods. But they are approving meat foods as well.

They are popular wood eaters. So, they can survive and thrive for a long time simply by focusing their staple on woods. With their powerful jaws, they can easily chew it and digest it. There are usually microorganisms and algae in the woods. It would be a point plus to add since they can also take the nutrition from it.

But keep in mind that they don’t only eat wood. They eat algae, debris, and bacteria on the wood.

Royal Plecos eat on plants and debris from the tank floor, in addition to wood and its partners. You may supply them with flakes, pellets, and wafers, both algae-based and meatier.

They like blanched cucumbers, peas, and zucchini. The veggies you eat are also their diet.

Food variety is crucial for your Royal Plecos’ health. Add some variations in their diet plan and they will be happy all the time.

Breeding Guidelines

Captive-bred Plecos royales are notoriously difficult to breed. This is not something I would advocate doing at home. The likelihood of having a successful reproduction in a home aquarium is quite low.

You may be able to find information on how to breed them on the internet. But breeding them in captivity is very challenging.

Plecos mate in their native environment during the rainy season. It can be difficult to produce this sort of water in your home aquarium.

If you want to keep a big number of Royal Plecos, you’ll need a tank that can house them all. As mentioned, they are aggressive towards each other.

Some people have claimed to be successful breeders. But it is just the best choice to leave it to the experts.