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Gold Nugget Pleco Care | 12 Golden Facts Just For You |

Gold nugget pleco is a stunning freshwater fish with a striking appearance.

A rare addition in the aquarium trade, these fish are considered expert-only fish because of their high price tag and the difficulty in care for.

While plecos are usually easy to care for fish with a hardy nature, they are not.

They require particular water conditions and a specific diet. If you dare to take the challenge, here is a complete guide to Gold Nugget Pleco care.

Gold Nugget Pleco

What is Gold Nugget Pleco?

Gold nugget pleco (Baryancistrus xanthellus) is a remarkable member of the plecostomus family.

They are native to Brazil and inhabit the tributaries of the Amazon River, where the waters are clear and smooth-flowing.

You can see these fish, especially in the Amazon basin, where they grow as big as 13 inches long.

About three subspecies of Gold nugget plecos are found in three specific areas in the Xingu river in the Amazon rainforest.

All three Gold nugget pleco varieties are available to buy in the aquarium trade, with a reference number for each variety.

They are,

  • L018
  • L085
  • L081
  • L177

The key difference between these three types is the size of yellow-golden spots.

L081 is the fish with the smallest yellow spots, while L177 has the largest yellow spots on the body. L085 and L018 are actually the same variety that has medium-sized yellow spots on the body.

Despite their spots size, all they have the same body color; dark green to black. Both the caudal and dorsal fins have a yellow stripe on the outside edges.

Gold nugget plecos are sometimes called Gold spot pleco and Golden nugget pleco in the aquarium trade.

They are pretty popular among enthusiasts because of their attractive appearance and color morph.

How big do Gold Nugget Pleco get?

The average size of a well-cared fish is 5 to 8 inches. But a gold nugget can grow up to 13 inches long in the wild.

Is Gold Nugget Pleco aggressive?

They, like other pleco species, are peaceful fish species. They are not really aggressive and stay out of the way even with other bigger fish.

However, they may become aggressive if their tank mates try to claim their territory, which is the bottom of the tank.

They are very territorial. Therefore you should not house any more territorial bottom dwellers with them.

Gold Nugget Pleco behavior

They are calm fish that minds its own business in the tank. It will not bother around with other fish, especially those that dwell in the middle and on the water’s surface.

They spend most of their time hiding under the caves. When they are not in a cave, they will be grazing on algae on the surface, plants, or driftwood. 

They ignore almost all the species around them, except any fish that comes near them.

If these fish sense any fish (especially bottom-dwelling fish like catfish) trying to claim their territory, they will not think twice to attack them.

You can avoid this territorial behavior to some extent if you provide a larger tank, but that is not assured.

Gold nugget plecos, like other plecos, are primarily nocturnal. They will stay calm and hidden in the daytime and move around when the lights are turned off.

How long do Gold Nugget Plecos live?

They can live up to 5 years if they are adequately taken care of. However, Gold nugget plecos tend to live longer in the wild. 

One look care guide

Scientific nameBaryancistrus xanthellus
Common nameGold nugget pleco
Golden nugget pleco
Gold spot pleco
Care levelIntermediate
Native toBrazil
Type Freshwater bottom-dwelling fish
Color Dark green to black with golden-yellow spots
Tank size50 gallons minimum
Preferred temperature73°F – 79°F
Other water parameters (ammonia, etc.)pH levels: 6.5 – 7.5 (preferable level is 7)
Water hardness: 5 – 15 DH
Preferred salinityNo salinity
Size5 to 8 inches in captivity,
13 inches in the wild
Life spanFive years
Temperament Peaceful
Recommended tank matesAny middle and top dwelling fish, No bottom-dwelling fish, shrimps, and snails
Preferred foodOmnivore, fish pellets, flakes, vegetables, live and frozen food
Feeding frequencyTwice per day
BreedingImpossible in captivity

Gold Nugget Pleco care

They are relatively hardy fish, but they still require special care, like any other tropical fish.

Unlike other pleco species, they have less tolerance to lower temperatures. So, you should keep this fact in mind when setting up an aquarium for these fish.

Gold Nugget Pleco size

Although these fish grow much larger in the wild, they tend to grow smaller in captivity. they only can reach 5 to 8 inches in length in captivity.

Gold Nugget Pleco tank size

The recommended tank size for a them is 50 gallons or larger. Because these fish grow as large as 13 inches in the wild, it is necessary to provide a large tank.

These fish dwell in the bottom of the tank, so you should make sure you provide enough space at the bottom for them to explore. Better yet, choose a fish tank that has a broad base.

How many Gold Nugget Plecos should be kept together?

They are very territorial fish. Therefore, you shouldn’t place more than one pleco in one tank. This includes all other species of catfish.

Tank setup

The most important feature of gold nugget plecos’ habitat is the presence of caves on the bottom of the tank.

Without these caves, they will not feel safe, and you should avoid keeping them in a tank that does not have these features.


Because these fish are benthic dwellers, they will stay on the bottom of the tank and have a tendency to dig.

Remember this when choosing the gravel for their tank. You should avoid too coarse gravel to prevent them from accidentally hurting while exploring for algae.

Soft sandy substrates work best with these fish.

Decorations and plants

These fish require plenty of hiding spots. So, you should provide plenty of rocks, caves, and driftwood.

However, do not place these objects too close to each other because these fish may get stuck between them.

They prefer lightly planted tanks because they receive essential shelter and food from plants.

They graze on falling plant leaves, but they will not touch your plants. So, don’t worry about that.


They prefer darker areas, so you should leave the tank’s lights dim during the daytime. However, provide at least some indirect light, or they may get stressed out.

Filtration and other equipment

Provide a sound filtration system to maintain the water condition.

You should avoid using too strong a water current because it can prevent these fish from coming out on the surface.

Water quality condition

They are not as hardy as many other types of plecos. But, the ideal conditions for these fish are manageable for aquarists of all experience levels.

What’s important is the water conditions shouldn’t fluctuate as these fish can not tolerate sudden water changes.

Gold Nuggets prefer soft, slightly acidic water with a temperature between 73 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal water conditions for Gold nugget plecos are,

  • Water temperature: 73°F – 79°F
  • pH levels: 6.5 – 7.5 (preferable level is 7)
  • Water hardness: 5 – 15 DH

You should perform regular water tests to ensure stable water parameters and make necessary changes right away.

They are somewhat sensitive to water changes and require clean water conditions to thrive.

So, be sure to check if the filtration works appropriately and replace the water weekly by 25%.

Gold Nugget Pleco breeding 

Although many pleco species can be bred in captivity, Gold Nugget Plecos can not.

You may find some care guides that claim it is possible, but they are mistaken for another pleco species.

They are only bred in the wild. So, the specimens which are available to buy in the aquarium trade are wild-caught ones.

This is the main reason these fish are susceptible to water conditions as these fish are used to living in the wild in their perfect water conditions.

Since these are wild-caught fish and there are no documented reports of captive breeding, we don’t recommend breeding these fish at home.

Experienced aquarists that have complex setups, such as bordering on fishery-level resources, may be able to reproduce this fish, but that’s another topic to discuss.

Since no one knows how they breed, when and where they breed, it is best to avoid breeding your fish and buy them from a reputable source.

Special tips

They are wild-caught fish, so they are quite sensitive to different medications.  

When treating your fish with any medication, always make sure you perform extensive water changes before and after treatment.

If possible, choose a tank with a wider bottom as these fish require plenty of bottom space for dwelling.

For this, you may be better off with a breeder tank as breeder tanks have more bottom surfaces than standard display tanks.

After buying, Gold nugget plecos should be quarantined for a while to see if they are healthy.

How to feed Gold Nugget Pleco?

Feeding your fish might be the easiest part of their care as these fish are omnivorous and will eat almost anything.

It is best to provide them with a proper pleco diet, such as vegetable-based algae wafers and high-protein sinking shrimp pellets.

Gold nugget plecos are excellent algae eaters which you can use to reduce algae in your tank.

They prefer to eat algae off aquarium plants and decorations, but they will do a great job at cleaning the glass from algae too.

Maintain good water conditions and keep on feeding them a proper pleco diet that contains more plant-based ingredients.

They are omnivores, so they prefer to eat meaty foods, but their staple food should contain more plant ingredients than animal ingredients.

However, these fish also require protein-based food as well. So, supplement them with meaty food such as tubifex, bloodworms, and blackworms.

You can also feed them high-quality sinking shrimp pellets and algae wafers.

Be careful while feeding small Gold nugget plecos as they tend to overeat food. Overeating is not healthy for these fish as well.

What fish can live with Gold Nugget Pleco?

Gold nugget plecos will do incredibly fine with any other fish except other catfishes. These fish are highly territorial and don’t do well with other plecos, including their own species.

You may not be able to house other bottom-dwelling species as well.

Since these are omnivore fish species, they may try to eat shrimps, snails, and other bottom-dwelling fish if they are small enough to fit into their mouths.

Gold nugget plecos will do best with middle and surface-dwelling fish as they don’t bother exploring the bottom. To keep it simple, let your Gold Nugget Pleco rule the bottom space of the tank.

Gold nugget plecos are not a threat to other species as long as they are not small enough to be the prey and/or do not remain on the bottom. Some suitable Gold Nugget pleco tankmates are,

  • Many types of Goldfish
  • Gouramis (Honey Gourami, Sparkling Gourami, Pearl Gourami, Dwarf Gourami, etc)
  • Tetra types ( Ember tetra, neon tetra, Rummy nose tetra, etc.)
  • Celestial Pearl Danio
  • Apistogramma
  • Barbs
  • Mollies

If you feed them well, you may be able to house different types of snails as well. However, their safety is not guaranteed because if your pleco gets hungry, your snails can be their next meal.

Gold Nugget Pleco Diseases

Gold Nugget plecos, as bottom-dwelling fish, are prone to infections caused by parasites, fungi, and bacteria.

Most of the diseases these fish get are bacterial because they are scale-less fish like other plecos. Bacterial infections are not fatal if treated quickly. 

However, you should be careful when treating these fish because they are sensitive to several medications.

Gold nugget plecos can not tolerate medications that contain potassium permanganate or copper. Therefore, you should opt for a treatment that doesn’t have these ingredients.

For fungal infections, you can use salt treatment along with freshwater baths to cure the fish.

Like most aquarium fish, Gold nugget plecos are also prone to parasitic infections, mainly Ick.

A parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis causes Ick, which is the most common disease of every aquarium fish.

When infected, this parasite can attack the fish both externally and internally.

This disease spreads incredibly fast, especially under poor water conditions where the fish are stressed.

Ick can be easily transferred among fish because the parasite reproduces and grows rapidly in a fish’s infected tissues.

Gold nugget plecos will get ick quickly than other fish as their body is scale-less. Ick will also spread quickly if the water conditions aren’t good.

If you notice any unnatural spots on the fish’s body, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Medications are mostly unnecessary if the water conditions are maintained properly, and you do a 25% water change every week.

However, if you notice an infected fish, quarantine the sick fish immediately to stop spreading the disease.

Related Questions 

Are Gold Nugget Plecos rare?

Gold nugget plecos are not rare and abundant in their natural habitats.

However, these fish are rare in the aquarium trade because you will have to catch them from the wild to keep in the aquarium.

You can not breed these fish in captivity, which makes them expensive in the aquarium hobby.

How big will a Gold Nugget Pleco get?

In the wild, Gold nugget plecos will grow to be about 13 inches long; however, they will only grow up to 9 inches in captivity.

How much is a Gold nugget pleco?

A gold nugget pleco is not a cheap fish and will cost you about $30 -$100. Also, these fish are rare in the aquarium trade, and you may have to find them online most of the time.

If bought online, you will have to pay the shipping fees too, which can be vary depending on the place.

Are Gold Nugget Plecos Hardy?

Gold nugget plecos are not hardy as other plecos, but they are relatively hardy. Most gold nugget plecos die within the first few months of purchase, so you should take special care to keep them alive.

This can be done by keeping a low fish population in your tank and performing 25%  water changes on it every week, along with testing the water for any abnormalities.

Do Gold nugget Plecos actually clean the tank?

Yes. Like any other pleco, Gold nugget plecos also eat algae and left-over food in the tank.

So, It is true that Gold nugget plecos are bottom feeders, and they do clean the tank to some extent.

But, unlike other pleco species, these fish require clean water conditions. Therefore, you can not let the tank become dirty, hoping for these fish to clean it.

You have to change water weekly and provide good filtration to keep these fish healthy.


Gold Nugget plecos are fun to keep, and they will do a great job at keeping your tank clean.

But, these fish need to be bought from a reputable source as wild-caught fish are more susceptible to diseases and water conditions.

Gold nugget plecos are definitely not beginner-friendly fish. But, if you have some experience in keeping some hard-to-keep fish, you will be able to keep these fish in your aquarium without any problems.

Credit to : Below Water
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.