Vampire Pleco Care Guide | 11 Very Important Facts |

If you need a bottom-dwelling fish in your large aquarium while keeping it unique and intriguing, Vampire pleco might be the best option for you

These peaceful omnivore species have a black or grey color body with white or yellow spots, making them fun and interesting to watch.

However, these algae eaters have some particular care needs you should learn before buying one.

In this care guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about Vampire Plecos.

vampire pleco

One look Care guide

Scientific nameLeporacanthicus Galaxias
Common nameVampire Pleco
Vampire Plecostomus
Galaxy pleco
Tusken pleco
L029
Care levelVery Easy
Native toSouth America, near the waterways of Brazil
Type catfish
Color black or grey color body with white or yellow spots
Tank size50 gallons minimum
Preferred temperature72-79℉ or 22-26℃
Other water parameters (ammonia,ect)pH level – 5.6 to 7
Preferred salinityNo salinity, freshwater species
Size of the Vampire pleco10 inches
Life Span15 years
Temperament Peaceful
Recommended tank matesPeaceful fish
Preferred foodShrimps
bloodworms
fish pellets
flakes
brine shrimps
vegetables
algae
Feeding frequencyOnce per day
BreedingVery easy

What is vampire pleco?

Scientifically named Leporacanthicus Galaxias, Vampire plecos naturally found in Rio Tocantins in the Brazilian state of Pará in South America.

These fish are popular in the aquarium trade because of their unique, pretty and intriguing appearance.

These species are usually black or grey in color, with lovely white or yellow spots all around the body.

They have large caudal and dorsal fins, which they use to hover around the tank.

Vampire plecos use their sucker mouth to attach themselves to the aquarium glass or rocks.

And also, their upright dorsal fin is filled with spines to attack when they are threatened. These are usually called plecos armors.

Unlike other fish species, Vampire plecos have pupils. These pupils dilate and shrink according to the light intensity level, which helps them to see things at night. They are nocturnal fish species.

How big do vampire pleco get?

Vampire plecos are relatively large fish that grow up to 10 inches in length. They are, however, smaller than common pleco but need a large aquarium to thrive.

Is vampire pleco aggressive?

Although these fish got a horrific name, they are actually peaceful creatures that get along well with other fish in a community tank.

However, Vampire plecos defend themselves if some other fish cause any trouble to them with their armors.

Vampire pleco behavior

Just like vampires, these creatures work at night. Vampire plecos are pretty timid creatures in the daytime.

They often spend their time hiding behind the plants or in the caves when the lights are on.

These fish become active when the light goes off. When the darkness comes to their surroundings, they start to dwell around the bottom of the tank.

They search for food while swimming around and eat both plant matter and meat-based food. Vampire plecos are actually one of the few species of plecos that are omnivores.

Vampire plecos are usually slow movers. They flare their fins while they are moving because fins help them move.

These fish will clean up your tank by eating algae but they also need more protein-based food than plant matter to thrive.

So, you will have to keep your tank algae-free at your best.

Vampire plecos are generally friendly species that cause no problem for other species in the tank.

But if they are threatened or startled by any other fish, they won’t hesitate to fight back with their defense mechanism.

They have armors in their upright dorsal fins, which helps them to scare away their enemies.

How long do vampire plecos live?

The life expectancy of Vampire pleco is around 15 years in optimum care conditions.

If the water condition in your tank is poor and they get a poor diet, their life span will be shorter.

Vampire pleco care

Caring for Vampire pleco is pretty easy if you know how to care for them. These creatures are nocturnal species. So, the usual feeding schedule doesn’t work with these species.

Vampire pleco size

Vampire plecos grow up to 10 inches in length. They are smaller than the common pleco but large enough to fit into a large aquarium.

Vampire pleco tank size

These fish need at least a 50-gallon tank to thrive. If you plan on keeping a breeding tank, you should house them in at least a 100-gallon tank.

How many vampire plecos should be kept together?

Vampire plecos are solitary species. So, one pleco per tank is the recommended amount. If you plan to breed these species, you need to keep at least four plecos together.

Tank setup

When setting up the tank, try to mimic the natural habitats of Vampire plecos as close as possible.

The waters of Rio Tocantins are temperate and fast-flowing, so your aquarium should have these conditions as well.

Substrate

These fish don’t have any specific substrate requirements. But, be sure that the substrate is soft enough not to injure the fish.

Vampire plecos are bottom-dwelling fish that stay most of their time on the substrate. Rough substrates may harm the fish while swimming.

Sand or gravel with round edges is a suitable choice for these species.

Lighting

As these fish are nocturnal species, they don’t require lighting for living. You can accommodate lighting per the needs of other fish and plant species.

Filtration

Vampire plecos are messy fish. You will have to install a powerful filtration system in order to keep the tank clean.

Decorations

Like other pleco species, Vampire plecos prefer to stay hidden most of the time. So, you will have to provide enough hiding places such as caves, rocks, and driftwood for these fish.

Air Flow

Vampire plecos prefer highly oxygenated water. You will have to provide enough airflow to the tank through powerheads, filters, air pumps, and plants.

Airflow will also ensure a strong current in the tank, which these fish prefer.

Plants

Vampire plecos prefer densely planted aquariums as the plants provide enough shelter and oxygen for these species. Keeping live plants also ensures stable water temperature in the tank.

Water quality condition

Vampire plecos need slightly acidic or completely neutral water in their surroundings. The pH level should be between 5.6 and 7.

They can not tolerate too high a temperature. The optimum water temperature is about 72-79 or 22-26.

You should perform 10% water changes every week to remove any leftover debris and other waste.

Changing water will ensure top-notch quality water in your aquarium all the time.

vampire pleco

Vampire pleco breeding 

Usually, attractive fish species are hard to breed in captivity. But, these species are fortunately easy to breed.

If you have a male and few female Vampire plecos, the breeding happens without much effort when given their needed surroundings.

Vampire pleco male or female identification 

Identifying male and female Vampire Pleco is pretty straightforward. Female pleco generally has a dull color than the male counterpart.

Males have wider heads and generally longer bodies, while females have a more rounded body.

Moreover, the odontodes are much more visible in males while they are not common in females.

And also, the dorsal fins of females are much smaller than male fish. As you see, male and female Vampire plecos have distinct differences to identify them quickly.

Identify pregnant vampire pleco and vampire pleco pregnancy stages

Plecos technically don’t get pregnant like livebearers like guppies.  Vampire plecos are egg layers.

When they sexually mature, the female fish carry eggs in their abdomen when they are ready to reproduce.

The belly of a female will be slightly larger when she carries eggs. When they are willing to reproduce, both males and females will move to a cave to spawn.

The male fertilizes the eggs while the female lays the eggs. 

Vampire pleco breeding

Breeding of Vampire pleco is much easier. You will have to provide their optimum breeding environment to induce breeding.

These fish prefer cooler water conditions for breeding. And also, they need plenty of caves and other hiding places to breed.

You have to provide these environmental conditions in order for them to breed. Otherwise, they may not reproduce in captivity.

You will also have to direct a powerhead towards the mating place. Once they lay fertilized eggs, the eggs need higher levels of oxygen until they hatch.

Most importantly, you must ensure a colony of at least four vampire plecos is housed together for breeding. Having one pair will unlikely breed in captivity.

The current of the water should be very low, but your filters should work fine. Once the female lays eggs, it will take around 5 to 7 days to hatch.

After the eggs hatch, you will have to move the fry to a nursery to avoid the fry being eaten by other fish.

How many babies do vampire pleco have?

Vampire plecos generally lay about 50 eggs at one spawn. So, you can expect around 50 pleco babies from one female.

Vampire pleco fry care

Once the eggs hatch, the fry will absorb the nutrition from the egg sac for the first few days.

And then, they will become free swimming and start to feed on other food. At this point, you can start feeding them with crushed flakes and baby brine shrimp as the starter food.

Remember to keep the fries in the nursery tank until they become juveniles for their enhanced safety.

Otherwise, fish and other species in the tank may think of fry as food and prey on them. The water quality should be in excellent condition as fry are fragile creatures.

So, perform regular cleaning of the aquarium and check water parameters to ensure the tank is clean.

Special tips

Although Vampire plecos are peaceful, they may become aggressive and territorial if the bottom of the tank gets too crowded. So, avoid housing too many bottom-dwelling species in the aquarium.

You need to be careful when handling them during a water change, breeding season, or any other reason.

These creatures’ fins can be damaged if you use regular nets. So, you have to use a very soft and fine mesh to catch them.

Do not touch Vampire plecos with bare hands unless you want to hurt yourself. 

The defensive instincts of these species think of you as a threat and will attack you if you try to hold them with your hands.

When buying Vampire pleco, check for their color morph as there is another breed called golden vampire pleco. That is the golden color variation of these species.

How to feed vampire pleco?

Vampire plecos are omnivore fish that eat anything they find in their surroundings. They will accept anything you offer, and it is very rare to find any leftovers.

In the wild, Vampire pleco is a fussy eater. It gets a wide variety of food supplies in the wild, including plant-based and meat-based food.

So, you will have to imitate this versatility in captivity to keep them happy and healthy. Otherwise, these fish get bored and will start to strike.

Although Vampire plecos are omnivores, their diet should consist of more protein-based food.

One of the best foods you can offer to these species is shrimp. Shrimps can be an expensive choice for some aquarists, but you can feed them with anything as these are fussy eaters.

You can buy whole shrimps, packeted shrimps, or frozen/freeze-dried shrimp for these fish. They will happily accept anything but be sure to cut them into small pieces.

Although Vampire plecos are large fish, they can’t handle big mouthfuls. So, whatever we feed them, we have to cut or chop them into pieces before feeding.

You can also provide dried flakes or pellets. These fish will happily accept them too. Bloodworms are one of the favorite foods of Vampire plecos.

Other food options are fresh or frozen meats, vegetables, and brine shrimps (fresh or frozen).

When you feed your fish, be sure to provide them with more meaty food than plant-based food as per their diet requirements.

If your aquarium has some algae build-up (do not let them eat more algae as it is not healthy for them.

It is better to prevent algae build-up before these fish eat), you do not need to feed them with plant-based food.

More importantly, unlike other fish species, you have to feed them at night. As you don’t stay awake after turning off the lights, the best option would be to provide them just before you turn off the lights. Feeding them once per day is enough for these species.

What fish can live with vampire pleco?

Vampire plecos are peaceful fish species. They don’t care about other fish in their surroundings and just stay behind their hiding spots most of the time.

So, any peaceful tank mate can be compatible with them.

You can also house other catfish species with these fish. They will not care about sharing the bottom space with any other fish as long as they get enough space for their needs.

However, if some other fish tries to attack them, they won’t stay behind either. Vampire plecos become aggressive when other fish threaten them and will attack them back with their armors.

So, if you keep any semi-aggressive or aggressive species, you have to monitor their behavior consistently to avoid any injuries.

Some suitable tankmates for Vampire plecos are,

It is better to avoid adding too small fish, snails and shrimps as plecos may prey on them.

The key to keeping the aquarium’s peace is to give plenty of space for each fish in the aquarium. That way, they will not fight with each other and live peacefully.

Related questions 

Are vampire plecos rare?

No. Vampire plecos are a common aquarium fish species that is often available at pet shops. If you can’t find them in your local pet shop, you can buy them online. They are not cheap, but they are not rare.

How long does a vampire pleco live?

Vampire pleco can live for around 15 years in captivity with proper care.

How big do Plecos get?

Vampire plecos reach a maximum of 10 inches in length. They are smaller than the common pleco but larger than most other aquarium fish species. Therefore, they need ample space to thrive.

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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.