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Vampire Pleco Species Overview, Care & Breeding Guide

Do you want to try something different in your fish tank? Then you need a group of vampire plecos in your tank. They are the perfect amalgamation of fun and beauty, which makes them ideal for any fish lover.

Vampire plecos are the inhabitants of South America. They are quite peaceful and easy to identify with their black or grey body, spotted with white and yellow dots. They are best to care for in a 50-gallon tank with neutral, highly oxygenated water and peaceful tank mates.

Species Overview

Level of CareVery easy
AppearanceBlack body with white or yellow dots all over
Life Expectancy15 years
Tank Size50 gallons
Tank EnvironmentSlightly acidic or neutral water with cave and stone formation and plants
Tank MatesVery peaceful

Vampire pleco or Leporacanthicus Galaxias are well-known for their origin in South America, near the waterways of Brazil. They are famous for their unique, pretty, and lovely appearance.

These species usually come with a dark body with black and brown or grey shades on it. Along with it, there are lovely white and yellow spots on their body, which makes them look different yet stunning.

These fish usually come with large caudal and dorsal fins, which look gorgeous when they hover in the aquarium. Their flat body with a hard head and long tail seem pretty different than that of the golden vampire plecos.

So, do you know what the funniest fact is about them? Vampire plecos have pupils, which dilate and shrink, according to the light intensity level. Interesting!

Also, these fish use their sucker mouth to attach themselves to the glass or rocks present in the aquarium.

Besides, their defense mechanism is quite impressive. These fish thrash against their attackers with their small and sturdy bodies. Also, their upright dorsal fin is an excellent weapon with which they can scare away their enemies.

Their sexing is easier. From the top view, you’ll find that the females have rounded bodies. On the other hand, males are skinnier.


These usually reach up to a height of 10-inches if they receive proper care and adequate amounts of nutrition.

You might often get confused between a vampire pleco and a golden vampire pleco. But a distinctive difference between these two species is that former is a bit longer than the latter one.

Nevertheless, it takes up to 5 years for them to obtain their full size.


These species are usually meant to live for a long time. If you are thinking of adding them to your tank, you are making the right decision.

Vampire plecos can live up to 15 years provided they are appropriately cared for.

Nutrition and water condition play a much crucial role in determining their health. Hence, ensure that you offer them adequate care to let them have a longer lifespan.

Behavior & Temperament

The most important thing you need to know about vampire plecos is that they are nocturnal aquatic creatures. You will not see their activities in the daytime. Instead, they will be active when the light goes off.

During the day hours, they are going to appear quite timid. Also, you can find them hiding behind the plants and inside the caves arranged in your fish tank.

As they become active, you will see that they will dwell near the bottom of the tank. These usually move slowly in the aquarium. And while they move, they flare their fin, which helps them to propel forward.

And do you know what the best part is in keeping them in your community tank? They will not cause much of a problem for others as they are not so aggressive. However, they can be aggressive if other fish tempt them. Otherwise, they are very friendly.

Tank Requirements

The tank setup needs to be top-notch to take good care of your vampire pleco. These are usually found in Rio Tocantins in the state of Brazil.

Thus, you need to imitate the water temperature and tank setup accordingly. This species are usually habituated in the wild. And that’s why they require a rapid water current even when kept in a tank.

Make sure there is a high level of oxygen in the aquarium water. It is crucial to keep the water a bit acidic. Nevertheless, neutral water will also be quite suitable for your cute pets.

The tank water temperature needs to be moderate. Too hot or very cold water is not suitable for your cute vampire plecos.

Also, the tank setup needs to be well-decorated with caves and lots of hiding places. These fish prefer places to hide, especially during their mating. Hence, rocks and caves with stone formations will be much more suitable for them.

Tank Setup

The tank setup for vampire plecos is pretty easy. There is no need to spend extra to offer them a high level of care. So, here is how you need to provide them with a proper tank setup.

  • The aquarium needs to be big enough to give them adequate space to live. A 50-gallon or 200-liter tank will be perfect for their care.
  • In the process of taking care, water chemistry plays a crucial role. Hence, make sure the tank water has a pH level between 5.6-and 7. Slightly acidic water or completely neutral water will be fine for these fish’ survival.
  • Also, the water temperature must not be too high. A temperature of about 72-79 ℉ or 22-26 ℃ is enough for these.
  • These creatures prefer highly oxygenated water. Hence, adding live plants to the tank will be a great solution.
  • Use small powerheads or direct the outlet nozzles from the filter to the tank water’s surface area to maintain a high oxygen level.
  • They are messier. Thus, equip a powerful filtration unit for the aquarium.
  • Perform 10% water changes every week to maintain the top-notch quality of the tank water.
  • Also, it is vital to make sure that the substrate is not too hard enough. Substrate like sand or gravel is going to be fine for them.

Tank Mates

Vampire plecos are relatively less aggressive. In general, they are pretty peaceful and have a calm temperament. Thus, their tank mates are not going to face many problems.

However, before making them live with a fish for a long time, make sure to check if they will be compatible with each other or not. Notice how they react. If there are any signs of aggressiveness, remove that tank mate immediately.

If everything goes well, you can keep them together. But make sure you are not keeping them with a snail. They love to feast on snails.

Also, while picking the tank mates, make sure there’s enough space in the aquarium, as on getting overcrowded, they start showing territorial nature, leading to aggression. Also, remember not to place these with too small or too aggressive fish.

Here are a few compatible tank mates that you can pick:

Food & Diet

So, are you wondering, what do they eat? Well, this particular species is usually omnivore in nature. So, you can easily offer them any food you want; they will happily eat it.

You can feed them whole tiny shrimps or chopped market-brought shrimps. Also, they prefer having brine shrimps, both frozen and live.

Besides, vampire plecos also tend to like eating pellets and flakes. Bloodworms can also be their stable diet.

In the wild, they usually eat anything that offers them adequate nourishment and a variety of food. Thus, it is crucial to provide them with various diets so that they do not get bored and grow healthily.

Other foods like wafers, pellets, and flakes will be great for these cute fish. But it is better not to give them too many veggies as they love meaty treats more.

Usually, these fish prefer fresh or frozen meat. But you can also make them habituated to dry foods for a variety in their diet.

Vampire Pleco Care

Vampire plecos are pretty easy to care for. They come with straightforward requirements.

As they like many hiding places, ensure you are picking a tank with much space and adorning it with rocks, pebbles, bogwood, etc. Also, make sure there are plenty of caves in the aquarium for them.

Well, caring can be a bit tricky if you do not know how to handle them properly. So, you need to use a very soft and fine mesh to catch the fish and place them in another tank, probably during water change or breeding season, to take proper care of them.

Never touch them with a bare hand! Don’t worry; they won’t be excessively aggressive. But they structured spines on their body, which are sharp enough to hurt you if handled with naked hands. Also, when you care for them, you need to handle them gently so that they feel safe and happy with you.

They usually tend to eat a lot of algae, which can be dangerous to their health. Hence, keep your tank algae-free.

Breeding Guidelines

Breeding vampire plecos is much easier. You need to ensure that you are having a colony of 4 of these species. To encourage them to breed, slowly moving cool water is fine. Make sure the tank water temperature range is between 72-78 ℉.

During this period, the caves and other hiding spots are going to be essential for them. They prefer caves much for mating. Make sure there is a powerhead that is directed toward the mating place to facilitate higher levels of oxygen in that space.

Besides, ensure that the current in the water is very low. But the filtration should be active and working well. Once they breed, it will take about 5-7 days for the eggs to hatch.

Fry Care

After 5-7 days of spawning, your wait finally comes to an end! Cute little vampire pleco fries evolve, making the tank look more colorful and livelier. So, are you thinking, what do fries eat?

Well, the newly born fries initially absorb their nutrition from the egg yolk or sac for the next few days. After the egg yolk is entirely consumed, they become eventually interested in tasting newer food. At this time, you can offer them crushed flakes or baby brine shrimps as the starter food.

Also, remember to keep your fries and take care of them in a nursery tank for their enhanced safety. Make sure the water quality is top-notch to facilitate proper care for the fries. Thus, a regular water change is vital for them.

Where to Buy?

Vampire plecos are pretty easy to find in any nearby aquarist shop. Also, you can easily find them in the stores of any fish hobbyist.

Moreover, there are plenty of online stores from where you can easily order one.

But make sure you understand the difference between a vampire pleco and a golden vampire pleco.

Final Thoughts

Vampire pleco is a great fish to welcome into your tank. They are not only unbelievably pretty but also offer you proper tank compatibility so that you can enjoy long years of fun along with them.

Though these fish are very peaceful, they do not thrive well with other aggressive fish. Thus, be very careful while picking tank mates for them.

Make sure you are offering them the proper level of care to maintain their well-being in your tank. So, get one today to enjoy the life-long company of a pretty and friendly pet at your home.