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Snowball Pleco Care, Size, Lifespan, Tank Setup & More

Are you looking for a different kind of pleco for your tank, which is unique and beautiful? Well, then Snowball Plecos would be the ideal one for you.

Usually, they are very easy to care for in a tank and come with a very charming personality. So, in this guide, we will give you detailed information on these species.

Snowball Pleco fish are found in the largest blackwater river, Rio Negro, in Venezuela. They are best cared for in a 40-gallon tank and peacefully live with other fish. These usually reach up to a length of about 6-inches and live for 8-10 years subject to proper care.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
AppearanceBlack coloration with white polka dots all over the body
Life Expectancy8-10 years
Size5.5-6.3 inches
Tank Size40-gallons
Tank EnvironmentSoft and acidic water with proper vegetation and hiding places with caves and rocks
Tank MatesPeaceful

Unlike other species of plecos, Snowball Plecos are not much popular. But they are one of the exotic species that come with unique black-white spots on their body. Scientific name Hypancistrus Inspector, is one of the smallest species in the pleco category.

These tropical fish hail from their natural habitat in Venezuela, specifically from the area of Rio Negro, which is known to be the largest blackwater river in the world.

In the tea-colored black water of Rio Negro, they find their best care requirements, which are necessary for their thriving. However, apart from being found in this tributary of the Amazon River, they also exist in other parts of the Amazon basin of Brazil.

The Colombian Snowball Pleco possesses a pretty black or dark grey-colored body with yellow or white spots all over, which renders them a unique and pleasant appearance.

They are even too easy to recognize with their typical torpedo-shaped bodies and unique coloration pattern. At the same time, their flat bellies and downturned mouth give them a more distinct look.

This fish’s pelvic and pectoral fins come with a much splayed-out construction with a triangular dorsal fin.


Usually, Snowball Plecos are not much big. However, they are not too small as well. These typically grow up to a length of 5.5-6.3 inches or 14-16 cm.

Also, bigger ones can reach up to 20-inches in length in the wild. However, it is better not to keep such a big-sized specimen in your home aquarium. Usually, captive-bred ones do not grow up to that much length.


Usually, Snowball Plecos are much hardy and live for a long time in your tank if you manage to offer them a proper level of care. These survive for at least 8-10 years within captivity, subject to appropriate care and adequate water change.

Behavior & Temperament

The Colombian Snowball Plecos are usually known as solitary fish. They tend to ignore all other creatures in the tank and live on their own.

These fish have a nocturnal nature, and they mostly stay active at night. Whereas, in the daytime, they prefer to remain hidden inside the caves, plant pots, and other areas.

These fish are not at all problem-causing and are relatively peaceful. But at the same time, they can become territorial towards their own kind of species or with other plecos.

If you are planning to keep multiple ones, make sure that you are housing not more than one male specimen. Usually, females are not at all that aggressive.

Tank Requirements

Snowball Plecos are usually too easy to care for. However, you need to ensure that you are offering them a proper level of care while meeting all their necessary tank requirements.

They are the habitant of the Rio Negro from Venezuela. So, if you are thinking of petting them in your tank, it is essential to opt for recreating their natural environment in your tank.

These are particularly bottom dwellers; thus, it is much more suitable to pick a softer substrate, which will not hurt their barbels. Sharp barbels might lead to cuts, giving rise to various infections.

Since these fish are not too big, it is unnecessary to opt for a larger tank for their care. They will do well in a tank having sufficient open places to swim around.

Besides, these fish are much shy. Thus, picking a tank having proper hiding places with enough plants and caves will be apt for them. Driftwood is also a good option to add to your tank to maintain a similar water condition as their natural habitat.

Snowball Plecos usually prefer optimum amounts of currents in the water. Also, they thrive well in soft and acidic water conditions like their natural habitat.

For taking better care of your fish, facilitate them with proper water movement. And for doing so, you need to ensure that the tank water has a good filtration rate. Also, maintain a higher oxygen level in the aquarium.

Tank Setup Guide

To offer your Snowball Pleco the best level of care in the aquarium, ensure that you have a proper tank setup for this purpose. Incorporate all assortments into the tank, which will make them feel happy and free.

So, here’s an easy guide that you must follow to achieve a proper tank setup.

  • To offer a proper level of care to this freshwater fish species, you will not require a vast aquarium. An aquarium with a 40-gallon capacity is fine for housing these.
  • These fish usually prefer acidic water. So, it is crucial to maintain the pH levels of the water at 5.0-7.6.
  • They usually love to stay in soft water conditions. Thus, to meet the soft water parameter, you must keep the water hardness range at around 6-10 dKH.
  • Also, maintain a moderate water temperature of their aquarium in the range of 72-86 ℉.
  • To meet the substrate requirement for them, you can opt for sand or soft gravel substrate type.
  • Make sure there is enough plantation in the tank to offer your fish proper places to hide. Adding caves and rocks to the aquarium is also a great idea.
  • For providing proper water flow in the tank, you can equip a peat filter to keep the water clean.
Snowball pleco in aquarium

Tank Mates

Since Snowball Plecos tend to ignore their other tank buddies, they will not create any problem in a community tank.

However, still, you must choose a suitable tank mate. You should pick those mates, which are quite similar in size to your Snowball Pleco. Also, it is essential to house them with peaceful fish to avoid any aggression.

It is recommended to keep them with those fish that prefer to have a similar tank environment.

Also, it is essential to make sure that you are not adding any aggressive fish. Large-sized fish or fin nippers can also come up as a threat to them.

So, here are a few suitable tank mates:

Food & Diet

Since Snowball Plecos are omnivores by nature, you don’t have to think much about their diet. These will readily accept a variety of diets.

However, to make their diet healthier and more nutritious, you can offer them fish foods with a combination of green veggies and some animal protein. They also tend to eat algae, animals, and detritus, along with seeds of some plants.

Though Snowballs are famous for eating away algae from the tank, you need to ensure that you are offering them a primary diet full of proper nutritious components.

Usually, these fish prefer to consume algae wafers, which are popular and quite a preferred fish food product for every pleco. But you must also offer them blanched peas and other veggies like zucchini, spinach, etc., to bring variety to their diet.

For their better growth, they will require adequate amounts of protein-rich foods.

So, to offer them a very proteinaceous diet, you can feed them various foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, sinking pellets, etc. Bloodworms also serve to be a highly nutritious food item for these.

To prevent them from overeating, it is vital to offer them small amounts of food several times a day. Offer only the amount of food that they can quickly finish within 2-minutes. Also, make sure to remove any leftover foods from the aquarium to maintain better water quality.

Colombian Snowball Pleco Care

Two snowball plecos

Like all other freshwater fish species, these Snowball Plecos require proper tank maintenance as they are susceptible to different health hazards.

So, make sure you are testing the water conditions of your aquarium at least once a week. It is important to do 50% of the water change every alternate week.

To maintain proper water parameters, you can also consider 30% of water changes every week. It is better not to use tap water to perform water changes in your tank. Usually, tap water possesses copper contents, which can be very toxic to your fish’s health.

Besides, you must also opt for a strong filter to keep the tank water properly clean. However, ammonia and nitrate levels can sometimes disrupt the water condition.

So, proper filtration is highly necessary. Also, try to keep the oxygen level high in the aquarium.

As these are very much prone to diseases, it is crucial to make sure that you are maintaining a proper stable water parameter for them.

Diseases like ICH, which are caused by parasites, usually get all over their body. At the same time, this disease is highly contagious and seeks to get treated immediately.

So, when your fish contracts this disease, try to quarantine it and start the treatment method for ICH. For other parasitic diseases, it is important to notice symptoms in them properly. Fish diseases like skin flukes or holes in the head can be fatal.

Nevertheless, to minimize their chances of getting sick, keep the water clean regularly. Keeping the stress level of your fish low will also improve their immunity system.

While you add any new fish to the tank, make sure you are quarantining the fish first. It is also applicable during the addition of plants, decorations, or other assortments in your community aquarium.

Breeding Guidelines

Do you want to enjoy watching little Snowball Plecos playing in your home aquarium? If yes, then there’s a piece of good news for you! These are pretty easy to breed in captivity. But you need to maintain all the necessary assortments in the breeding tank that you are setting up for them.

To achieve success in breeding, you need to mimic their exact natural habitat environment. Make sure the tank water is highly clean. Also, add large caves to the breeding tank so that the female Snowball Plecos can have enough space to lay their eggs.

You need to condition the pair by giving them an appropriate amount of frozen food products and live food. As soon as the female puffs up with eggs, spawning will take place.

A female will lay her eggs in the cave that you have made up in the tank to keep them safe and protected. The males tend to protect the eggs and continuously fan water to the eggs.

It will take almost a week for the eggs to hatch. As fries are born, they will initially survive on the egg yolk sac.

However, when these fries grow a bit big and roam around freely in the aquarium, you can easily offer them baby brine shrimp. Also, they would like to feed on smaller amounts of blanched vegetables.

Interesting Facts

To facilitate the best care for your Snowball Pleco in the tank, you need to know all the necessary and exciting facts about them.

So, here have a look.

  • Females come with a rounded body than the males.
  • Usually, male Snowballs have a noticeable reddish tone in their appearance.
  • Adults have cheek plates with external teeth on the side of their head, known as odontodes.
  • These odontodes are much more prominent in male specimens than in female ones.
  • These have a curious nature and tend to spend a lot of time exploring the entire tank at night hours.
  • They are usually well known for their quick-moving speed.

Where to Buy?

Colombian Snowball Pleco fish are not too easy to find, as they are not much popular. However, you can get them in any of the aquarist shops that sell a variety of pleco species.

Also, you can look for them in any of the hobbyist stores, where they will be readily available.

Besides, you can even try finding these by the name of Hypancistrus Inspector at any of the online fish and pet stores. These fish are not much expensive; instead, they are available at moderate pricing.

Wrapping Up

Snowball Plecos are simply great to opt for if you are thinking of keeping them in your home aquarium. Owing to their black-white spots, they come with a very captivating and charming look. And being efficient algae eaters, they help in keeping the aquarium clean for a long time. Thus, all these unique traits make Snowballs an excellent option for community tanks.

Besides, these are also very easy to care for in a home aquarium and do not require too many tank assortments, making them an excellent option for beginners. Although they are susceptible to some common fish diseases like any other freshwater fish species, treating them is quite easy, and any beginner hobbyist can manage it well.

Moreover, the exotic coloration of these fish makes them a sight to watch in your tank when you see them hovering at the bottom. Since they are not at all disturbing to other tank mates, these fish serve to be great species for any community aquarium.