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Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus) Super Easy Care Guide

As a fish hobbyist, if you like to face challenges and reach success, the rhino pleco is one of the best fish to rear and care for.  In this article, I will share the best practices to keep your pleco fish healthy and happy. 

Rhino Pleco

What do you know about them? 

Pleco fish is a well-known algae eater among aquarists. Also, the rhino pleco is one of the beautiful members of the pleco group and belongs to the family of Loricariidae. Similarly, rhino pleco refers to a chocolate pleco in the aquarium industry. Further, this fish is native to the Rio Maranon and Rio Ucayali in South America. Additionally, the Peruvian river of Rio Maranon starts in the Peruvian capital.

Then, it flows through the Andean valley and Andean island. On the other hand, Rio Ucayali is one of the main contributors to the Rio Amazon. In the wild, they are mainly inhabiting these natural environments. However, if you wish to rear the them, you can give a natural experience and better life by mimicking the environment of Rio Maranon and Rio Ucayali. 

One Look Care Guide

Scientific namePterygoplichthys scrophus
Common nameRhino pleco
Chocolate pleco
Alligator pleco 
Care levelEasy 
Native toRio Maranon and Rio Ucayali in South America
Color Black Cinnamon
Rich Dark Brown
Dark and Light Mottled Brown
Tank sizeMinimum size – 75 gallons 
Preferred temperature72-82 Fahrenheit
Other water parameters pH level- 6.0-7.5
Hardness- 5-19 dH
Ammonia- zero 
Nitrate -zero
Nitrite -zero
Size27.5 cm or 11 inches in length 
Growth rateNo exact growth rate
Temperament Non-aggressive 
Recommended tank matesPlaties
Cichlids Barbs
Other catfish species
Preferred foodAlgae Wafers
Feeding frequencyOnce or twice a day
BreedingNo any records

The Appearance Of Rhino Pleco

You can distinguish this fish from the number of rays. Generally, their dorsal fins have several rays. So, these plecos that have more than ten rays belong to the Pterygoplichtys species. However, sometimes people confuse the Pterygoplichtys species with the members of the genus Hypostomus. But there are eight or fewer rays in the dorsal fins of most of the Hypostomus species. 

Further, the rhino pleco has two small horns on the head. These are like lumps arising from their big nostrils. These small horns are nasal flaps. When considering their body color, you can see they have several dark colors. It can be black, cinnamon, rich dark brown, or dark and light mottled brown.  Moreover, you know they belong to the genus Pterygoplichthys. The body of Pterygoplichthys is covered with rows of armor plating. Also, their abdomen is covered with small plates.

Further other characteristics of Pterygoplichthys members are, everted able cheek plates, adipose fin, and underslung sucker mouth. Additionally, these members have an enlarged stomach that connects to the dorsal abdominal wall. A connective tissue sheet acts as an intermediary to combine these two. 

Rhino Pleco

Other names of Rhino Pleco

Generally, this type of pleco is known as rhino pleco, chocolate pleco, and alligator pleco. Similarly, pleco also has a scientific name, Pterygoplichthys scrophus. However, many sources use synonyms to recognize rhino pleco. These are Glyptoperichthys scrophus or Liposarcus scrophus. 

As you know, they belongs to the genus of Pterygoplichthys. According to history, this genus name was derived from three words of Greek. These are pterygion, hoplon, and ichthys. The meaning of pterygion is “small wing.”  In the same way,  the Greek word of haplon means a “weapon.” Also,  ichthys or ikhthu word means “fish.” 

How Big Do they Get?

They can grow up to 27.5 cm in length. Similarly, it is almost 11 inches. However, You can support your fish to reach their maximum size by providing quality foods and arranging a better environment to live in. Here you should highly consider the water parameters, predators, substrate of the tank and decorations, etc.  

Behavior of them

Under this subtopic, you can know the specific and general behaviors of rhino pleco under various circumstances. Because the behavior of the particular species is important when you rear them. They are a shy and peaceful species. So, If you have a community tank, they are an excellent choice.

Generally, they do not hurt and fight with other species. But this can differ in some circumstances. You can keep rhino pleco with non-aggressive medium size fish species in the same tank. Additionally, this pleco lives and spends most of their time at the bottom of the tank. Thus, enough or more space is an added advantage to keep them healthy and happy. 

Is Rhino Pleco Aggressive?

No. they are not aggressive. They are a peaceful fish species. Thus, this pleco type is ideal for the community tank. Hence, you should keep them with small-medium size fish species. In general, they do not kill or eat other fish. But male plecos show aggressive behaviors towards each other. Because of this, do not add two or more male rhino plecos in the same tank.

But do not worry. These fish do not show aggression towards other fish species. Usually, they only react aggressively to other plecos. However, there are some exemptions to this. Hence, they may show aggressive behaviors under some circumstances. The main reason is an overcrowded aquarium. When your community tank is a house with a lot of fish and the tank is too small, rhino pleco tends to be aggressive.

Because rhine pleco need enough space to live and they are aggressive due to territory issues. Normally, they lives in the bottom. So, if the bottom area of your tank is crowded, it can cause territorial clashes. These territorial clashes can be a reason to increase the aggressive behaviors of plecos. Further, select fish species that can live in the midwater column or upper water column. It helps to prevent the aggression of pleco. 

On the other hand, only rear a large number of bottom dwellers with rhino pleco if you have a large aquarium. But if you have a small tank, limit the bottom dwellers. However, you can decrease the territorial clashes by dividing the bottom into several distinctive territories. As an example, you can do this easily by arranging aquarium decorations properly. 

Do Rhino Plecos Bite?

Generally, plecos have strong teeth. Also, these teeth facilitate plants off the surfaces and to scrape food pieces. But rhino pleco does not tend to bite other fish. Rarely, plecos tend to bite other fish because of territorial issues and to protect their eggs and fry. But other than that, this peaceful fish type does not bite you or other fish in your aquarium. 

Special Note: They have sharp fins, and they can injure you or other fish. But it is not lethal. Hence, it is the best possible danger that can happen to pleco fish. However, you can prevent this by handling them carefully and when handling them. But do not panic, rhino pleco is a fairly safe fish to keep in your tank. wearing gloves 

Pterygoplichthys scrophus

Rhino Pleco Lifespan

They can live a maximum of around ten years old. However, the life span of any fish, including rhino pleco, depends on the care level and quality of the environment where they live. Consequently, your rhino pleco can reach this maximum life span if you provide a balanced diet, quality water conditions, and a peaceful environment with minimal stress. 

Care In Aquariums

When you rear and care for them, one of the important things is an aquarium set up and water condition. Therefore, the following factors can directly and highly affect the life of the rhino plecos. 

Rhino Pleco Tank Size

The minimum tank size for rhino pleco is 75 gallons. Also, do not try to keep them in a small space. If you wish to rear rhino pleco, I go for a large tank. Because it is helping your pleco to keep both better physical and mental health.  

How Many Rhino Pleco Should Be Kept Together Per Gallon?

This matter depends on the size of the rhino plecos. You can keep two plecos in a 75 gallons tank. Moreover, it is better to go to a large tank. If you have a small community tank, it is better to rear one rhino pleco. Because sometimes male plecos tend to show aggression toward other plecos. However, it is recommended to keep one pleco in a tank. 

Tank Setup for Rhino Pleco

When you set up a tank for rhino plecos, try to set up an environment in an aquarium similar to their habitats. Because through this your pleco can feel the natural experience. In addition to that, you should make sure your tank has plenty of hiding spaces.  You can use caves and rocks to accomplish this purpose. Rhino pleco needs hiding spots, that is because they can confuse immediately. 

Also, to give a better and comfortable feeling to your pleco, you should add at least one piece of wood. However, when considering live plants, they are not mandatory when rearing rhino plecos. But if you need to keep a live plant with the rhino plecos, you should choose the plants that can grow fast.

Because rhino pleco likes to destroy the live plants in the aquarium. Hence, only fast-growing plants might survive. Another thing that you should consider is the filter system. Thus, rhino pleco makes a large amount of bio-load. To remove these wastes from the tank, you should have a good filter system. A better canister-type filter system is recommended. It should help you to keep water in pristine condition. 

Water Quality Condition

It would be best if you kept following water parameters at the preferable level. 

water parameterPreferable level
pH level6.0 – 7.5
Water temperature72-82 oF
Water hardness 5-19 dH
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrate, 0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm

Rhino Pleco Breeding 

Rhino Pleco Male Vs. Female Differences 

You can identify the gender difference by examining the pleco body shape. For instance, the female rhino pleco has a rounded body. But male pleco is skinnier. On the other hand, female rhino plecos have a more rounded abdomen than male fish. As well as, the female’s abdomen is longer than the rest of the body sections. Further, the female rhino pleco is larger than the male pleco. 

How To Breed Rhino Pleco

Unfortunately, there are no accurate records regarding the rhino pleco’s breeding in captivity. But there is a belief that rhino plecos are cave spawners. However, do not try to breed them in captivity via artificial way. The best thing is to care for them properly and let them breed naturally. 

Rhino Pleco Eggs

Female pleco deposits bright orange colored eggs in the caves. Then the male fish fertilize them. Further, the male pleco will clean the eggs and nest. Also,  aerate the eggs with his fins. However, eggs take 4 to 10 days to hatch. 

How Many Babies Does Rhino Pleco Have?

Generally, pleco is an egg layer and lay hundreds of eggs at one time. Moreover, the lovely thing is, when rhino plecos become parents, they put extensive care for eggs. Further, in this season, they will show aggressive behaviors. But not at all. If someone tries to catch pleco’s eggs, they will become aggressive. 

How To Care Rhino Pleco Fry

You should keep your pleco fry in a large, separated planted tank, at least 55 gallons. Also, it would be best if you can create plenty of hiding places by rocks. Furthermore, feed them by using high-protein foods. For instance, you can give them micro worms, brine shrimp nauplii, sinking tablets, or disc-type feeds. 

Pterygoplichthys scrophus

How To Feed Rhino Pleco?

Rhino plecos are omnivores. So, they accept both plant and animal matters. Also, rhino pleco are excellent algae eaters. But the algae that grows in the aquarium is not enough to keep them healthy. So, you should provide supplements.   

What Does Rhino Pleco Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, rhino pleco usually hides under the driftwoods and rocks. Thus, they tend to eat any food that they can find in their region. As an example, they fed on plant matters, algae, and other debris. Also, they like to eat animal matter, fungi, meat, small insects, worms, larvae, and other food matters that sink to the bottom.

What To Feed Rhino Pleco In The Aquarium?

Generally, they are algae eaters. However, in addition to that, you should provide a balanced diet for your pleco. In captivity, you can offer these foods. 

  • Algae Wafers
  • Pellets 
  • Flakes
  • Earthworms
  • Bloodworms
  • shrimp
  • Vegetables. Plecos love to eat cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, and kale.  Also, accept peas, celery, lima beans, broccoli. 
  • Fruits 

They eat some fruits too. Hence, you can provide small pieces of honeydew melon, breadfruit, cantaloupe, and papaya. However, do not provide acidic fruits and vegetables for plecos. 

How Long Can Rhino Pleco Go Without Food?

Rhino plecos can survive 10 to 14 days without food. But this period depends on several factors. The main factor is the availability of food that matters in your tanks like algae and plants. And another factor is the number of fish in your tank. 

When And How Much To Feed The Rhino Pleco 

You should feed your rhino pleco daily. Further, you can offer at least one algae wafer per day to one pleco. Because, generally, there is not enough algae in the home aquarium. So, give a wafer to your pleco at night before you go to bed. Because plecos are nocturnal. Then after waking up, check whether pleco eats a wafer completely or not. If pleco eats it completely, add another wafer in the morning too. 

In addition to that, you can feed rhino pleco by using vegetables and fruits. They will provide the fiber that fish need. Provide veggies and fruits once or twice per week. Before the addition, cut them into small pieces. Moreover, provide meaty foods to your pleco once or twice per week. Before putting them into the tank, cut them into small pieces. As well, in one serving you should provide a small cut-up raw shrimp or several shrimps pellets. If you choose to provide worms, it is enough one cut up bloodworms or earthworms at one time. 

Special Note: Additionally, you can attach the foods to the side of the tank (near to the bottom) by using an aquarium clip. 

What fish can live with Rhino Pleco in the aquarium?

Rhino pleco can live in a community tank. But you should add non-aggressive medium size fish species with them. In addition to that, try to add fish species that like to stay in mid-water and surface water columns. The wildly using tank mates are;

  • Platies
  • Cichlids 
  • Barbs 
  • Guppies
  • Angelfish
  • Bettas
  • Gouramis
  • Hatchets
  • Mollies
  • Loaches
  • Other catfish species
Pterygoplichthys scrophus

Will Rhino Plecos eat cleaner shrimp?

No,  rhino pleco does not eat cleaner shrimp.  Thus, they can live together in the same tank. Generally, rhino plecos do not tend to kill other fish species. But they will only show their aggression toward other plecos. But in this case, you make sure to feed your pleco adequately. However, my opinion is, do not keep the small shrimps with plecos. If their size is fitted to the plecos mouth, there is a risk.  

Rhino Pleco Predators

Do not keep your rhino plecos with aggressive fish species. Because plecos are a peaceful fish variety. If you put aggressive fish, they will try to harm your plecos. Also, they cannot live fine with large fish species. 

Rhino Pleco Facts 

  • Rhino pleco is a bottom dweller
  • If you wish to rear rhino pleco, give them plenty of room 
  • Provide them with a regular light schedule. Because they are nocturnal. So, it is not recommended to keep the lights on constantly. You can keep the aquarium light on in day time and off at night time. 
  • Give plenty of hiding spots by designing caves and tunnels. Because plecos like to spend a lot of time hiding. Especially in the daytime. 
  • Another fact to keep a healthy pleco is, do not fill the aquarium to the top. Thus, they will come to the surface to gulp the air. 
  • Further, make sure the lid on the tank is secure. Because pleco can jump out of the water. Also, if the tank’s lid is loose, it can be caused to escape, injure or kill pleco fish. 

Is Rhino Pleco Eating Plants?

Yes. Rhino plecos are omnivore fish. As a result of this, they eat both animal and plant matter. However, rhino pleco prefers to eat the plant. So, if you need to keep a good-looking planted aquarium, you have to choose live plants that grow fast. If not, pleco tends to destroy them. 

How Much Is A Rhino Pleco Worth?

The price of rhino pleco ranges from $15.99 to $99.99. But the cost can be varied with the size and age of the pleco. 

How To Catch A Rhino Pleco

You can catch rhino plecos easily by following this method. 

  1. Firstly, find a small plastic bucket with a lid. As an example, take an ice cream bucket 
  2. Then cut the hole near the top of the bucket
  3. Keep the lid of the bucket on.
  4. Put some food into the bucket that pleco prefers to eat.
  5. After filling the bucket with aquarium water, keep it in the tank 
  6. Wait until pleco comes into the bucket
  7. Gradually lift the bucket out of the water
  8. Finally, cover up the hole near the top and add them to a separate tank

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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.