Vampire Pleco Species Overview, Care & Breeding Guide

If you want a handsome yet unique-looking fish, the vampire pleco is an extraordinary choice. It is a beautiful addition to a community tank with calm and gentle species.

The solitary and amicable freshwater fish is a night owl and a big foodie. It also monopolizes the entire tank bottom. This makes it an enjoyable activity to spot it in your large aquarium.

What is a Vampire Pleco?

Vampire Pleco is a freshwater fish that is nocturnal and eats a lot of food.

OriginParts of Amazon, Madeira, Tocantins, Guama, and Orinoco rivers, South America
Scientific NameLeporacanthicus galaxias
L NumberL029
Common NamesVampire pleco, galaxy pleco, tusken pleco
IUCN Red List StatusNot Evaluated
AppearanceBrown, black, or grey body with small offwhite or yellow spots, offwhite bottom side
SizeUp to 21.1 cm (8.3 in)
WeightUp to 235.7 g
LifespanUp to 15 years in captivity
TemperamentPeaceful to other level-dwelling species; Slightly aggressive towards own or similar species
Tank LevelBottom dwellers
Water Temperature71.6-78.8 °F (22-26 °C)
pH Level6.0-7.0
Water HardnessUp to 10 dGH
Care LevelEasy to intermediate
Minimum Tank Size75-gallon tank for one. Upscale to 100 gallons if you will add tank mates
Tank EnvironmentSpacious tank with minimum to no vegetation, dim lighting, and fast water flow
DietPrimarily carnivorous, but can take omnivorous feed
Tank MatesOther non-aggressive, non-territorial, upper-level dwelling, diurnal species

What is the Natural Habitat of Vampire Pleco?

Vampire plecos inhabit the fast-flowing waters of different South American rivers in Brazil, like the southern tributaries of the lower and middle regions of the Amazon RiverSolimoes River.

It is also spotted in the Tocantins, Madeira, Nhamunda, and Guama rivers. In the upper Orinoco drainage as well, the catfish inhabits the Ventuari River basin.

Which family does Vampire Pleco come from?

The fish is a part of the Loricariidae family of Siluriformes order. Its binomial name is Leporacanthicus galaxias. But commonly in the aquarium trade, it is popular as Vampire pleco, Galaxy pleco, Tusken pleco, and its L-code: L029.

In Germany, it’s found by the name Ruesselzahnwels and in Denmark, by Tocantins Galaksesugemalle.

Fun Fact: The fish gets its name from the large teeth on its upper jaw, which are like vampire’s fangs.

How does a Vampire Pleco Look?

This fish has a similar appearance to many other plecos, but there are some unique facts about its looks. So, let’s know those here.

What is the Size of Vampire Pleco?

The catfish is known to be as long as 21.1 cm (8.3 in), irrespective of gender. However, its maximum published weight is 235.7 g.

What is the Color of Vampire Pleco?

The adult suckerfish has a dark brown to black or dark grey base body color. It is spotted with small faint yellowish marks all over. Its bottom side doesn’t have this pattern and looks cream or off-white.

What are the Features of Vampire Pleco?

The fish has standard features just like any other pleco. Besides that, similar to all catfish of Leporacanthicus species, it also has a small blunt projecting plate on the top side of its head. This part looks like a thorn facing backward.

It also has a long snout and big black button-like eyes.

How does a male and female Vampire Pleco differ from each other?

Compared to females, the head of the male catfish is longer and broader. Moreover, the male fish also has small teeth-like structures (odontodes) around its head. It also has such structures on its entire body and the pectoral fin spine.

The male also has more saturated and bright colors and a larger dorsal fin.

How does Vampire Pleco Behave in the Tank?

Vampire pleco is peaceful towards small, non-threatening, non-aggressive, and other water-level dwelling species.

But males of this species are highly aggressive toward each other. It is also non-tolerant towards any other pleco and bottom dwellers.

Moreover, this catfish is nocturnal, so it is more active at night and stays in its cave during bright hours.

What is the Lifespan of Vampire Pleco?

Vampire plecos are known to live up to 15 years in captivity.

Author’s Note: If the pleco feels hungry and there are snail tank mates, it will eat them even though it is not a standard diet choice. This species is more likely to do it because of its fang-like teeth that help in de-shelling the snail.

How to take care of Vampire Pleco?

Galaxy Pleco
Image Credit: setchy

To help your fish live up to its entire lifespan, you must consider specific sensitive details like the following…

What is the Tank Size of Vampire Pleco?

If you want to house only this pleco in your tank, you can go for a standard 75-gallon tank with a base length of 48 in and a base width of 18 in.

If you plan to make a community tank, a minimum of a 100-gallon tank is necessary.

In my experience, it is better to opt for a 100-gallon tank even if you’re not willing to add tank mates in the near future. It helps in reducing the effects of its bioload on its health.

What is the Water Chemistry for Vampire Pleco?

Your pet fish can become extremely sensitive if the water parameters are unsuitable. So, make sure you religiously stick to these numbers.

  • pH Levels: 6.0-7.0
  • Water Temperature: 71.6-78.8 °F (22-26 °C)
  • Water Hardness: Up to 10 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Below 30 ppm

What is the Tank Environment for Vampire Pleco?

Now, it’s time to make your vampire pleco feel loved and appreciated. So, let’s prepare the perfect atmosphere for it.

Which Substrate is needed for Vampire Pleco?

Use fine and soft sand substrate to protect your pleco’s soft underside. Avoid using gravel, as they may swallow it.

Which Plants are needed for Vampire Pleco?

Plecos don’t need plants on the bottom level but add some floating ones to disperse the lighting.

What Lighting is needed for Vampire Pleco?

Use the dimmest setting of your tank lights to encourage your pleco to be active at night.

Which Décor is needed for Vampire Pleco?

There must be plenty of hiding space, so add smooth water-worn big rocks, caves, turned pots, and driftwood.

What Filtration system is required for Vampire Pleco?

Use an oxygenating filter with high power to eliminate the toxins of your buddy’s waste. It will help keep your pleco healthy.

What is the Water Flow Rate for Vampire Pleco?

Since this fish naturally belongs to fast-flowing currents, you must also try to mimic a strong flow in the tank.

Fish Care Tip: Use only fine and soft mesh nets when handling the catfish. Otherwise, the fish’s sharp fins, spines, and teeth-like structures may get stuck, and it’ll be a hassle for you.

What does Vampire Pleco eat?

The vampire pleco is not a fan of a veggie-only diet, and it consumes mostly carnivorous food. Its favorite meal includes anything meaty like…

  • Shrimps
  • Prawns
  • Snails
  • Bloodworms
  • Earthworms
  • Mussels
  • Larvae
  • Frozen and live feed
  • Flakes
  • Sinking pellets
  • Catfish wafers

However, make sure you provide it with a balanced diet with a small amount of these:

  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Chopped fruit

Dietary Tip: If this suckerfish scrapes algae from your aquarium, immediately feed it more, as that’s a sign of hunger.

What are the Tank Mates for Vampire Pleco?

The fish can be housed peacefully with the following species:

But these aren’t the only options. You must also consider the following while choosing its friends:

  • Any species that isn’t bottom-dwelling
  • Non-aggressive species
  • Smaller fish that minds its own business
  • Fish with similar water needs

Which Tank Mates to Avoid with Vampire Pleco?

You must avoid putting it together with:

  • Same species
  • Plecos of other species that look similar
  • Other bottom dwellers
  • Fin-nippers
  • Nocturnal species
  • Snails and shrimps – Vampire plecos might eat them when hungry

What are the Common Diseases in Vampire Pleco?

Even if you try to take the best care for your vampire pleco, things may often not work out. So, be alert about symptoms of the following diseases and always be prepared to treat your pet.

Disease NameCausesSymptomsTreatment
IchProtozoan parasiteFlashing, white spots, appetite loss, lethargyIncease water temperature, add medicines
Plecotomus diseaseFungal infectionWhite growth that looks like cotton-ballQuarantine and treat with medicine
Fin rotBacterial infectionFrayed, disintegrated, reddened and/or faded fins, lethargy, appetite lossEnhance water quality, remove cause of physical injury, medicine
ColumnarisBacterial infectionWhite or gray patches, fin fraying, appetite loss, lethargyImprove water quality, reduce stress, medicine

Quick Tip: The fish doesn’t have scales, so it is sensitive to aquarium salt and copper or potassium permanganate medicines. So, always check the medicine composition first!

How to Breed Vampire Pleco?

The fish has been bred by some aquarists, but there is no detail or report on it. So, it can be said that this is one of the most difficult to breed pleco.

However, it has an affinity to mate in the rainy season and lays eggs in muddy burrows. So, you can try to mimic the rainy season (lower temperature and higher acidity) in a special breeding tank of larger size.

But make sure you don’t change water parameters beyond the suggested ranges.

How to Buy Vampire Pleco?

This suckermouth catfish is often confused with other plecos, so people often buy the other while getting one. Here are some of the other species and how to differentiate them:

  • Tusken Pleco (L007): Comparatively, L029s have a larger head, flatter bodies, and shorter dorsal fin than L007s. L007s also have brighter and smaller yellow spots.
  • Black Saum Vampire Pleco (L240): L029s have fuller bodies than L240s.
  • Large Spotted Galaxy Pleco (L241): Similar to L240s, L241s are also flatter than L029s.

Another variant is Aripuana Galaxy Pleco (L294), but hardly much information is known about it.

While buying, check if the fish has a flattened belly or sunken eyes – these are signs of malnutrition and might lead to a shorter lifespan.

A word from FishInAquarium

Vampire pleco is an expressive catfish which makes its maintenance easier than the species that are passive. If you’re a beginner, this fish will help you enhance yourself as an aquarist.

So, if that answers all of your questions, why not share this article with more enthusiasts? Let them know about this lesser-known species and go gaga over it together! And if you have any more questions, feel free to drop a mail, and we’ll get right back to you!

Minnie B Miller - Professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium

About Minnie B Miller

Minnie B. Miller, a professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium, has over 8 years of expertise in fish breeding and care, gained through her roles at AquaticTX and Sea Lion Landing. Having honed her skills with various aquatic species, she is dedicated to empowering fellow enthusiasts by sharing her knowledge and experience.