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This months profile was written by Sully, a regular on the sites message board, check it out if you have a questions or comments. Thank you Sully!

South America


clown pleco

Panaqolus maccus

( Panaque maccus )


    The clown pleco has become popular with hobbyists that cannot provide appropriate accommodations for its larger cousin, the common pleco. Unfortunately many people confuse the needs and behavior of this fish with that of many other members of the pleco family. It is a hardy, easy to care for fish. Hobbyist should be sensitive to nitrate readings in tank. This fish is peaceful. Multiple specimens can be kept given sufficient space and proper décor.

Quick stats:


    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: 5” SL " (8cm)
    Tank: 36 inches 29 US Gallon
    Strata: Bottom
    PH: 6.6 to 7.8
    Hardness: Soft to hard. dH range: 2.0 - 30.0
    Temperature: 75°F to 82°F (24-28°C)


    Order: Siluriformes
    Family: Loricariidae
    Subfamily: Ancistrinae
    Genera: Panaqolus
    Species: maccus

Clown pleco


Common name:

    Clown Pleco Ringlet Pleco

Image gallery:

    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    Rio Orinoco Basin (Venezuela), Rio Las Marinas (Venezuela) and Colombian Llanos. Variants of the species have also been found in Amazon Basin of Brazil.

General Body Form:

    Except for the belly area the body is covered with large bony plates. The head is flat, broad and quite large. The mouth is found on the underside of the head and typical for the species, is shaped like a suction cup. It has one pair of barbels. The eyes are slightly protruding from the head.


    The color varies, depending on the species, age , and the area in which it was found. Generally the base color of the body is light brown to black, but can vary in shade to almost white. The belly area is white. The most noticeable coloration of the fish are its stripes which consist of 5-12 orange to white stripes. Sometimes these stripes are so broad that they appear to merge with the main body color and the fish seems to have black stripes. The fins are also striped like the main body.


    The Clown Pleco is a beautiful specimen exhibiting a brown and tan stripe pattern (which changes as the fish matures). If you need to see your fish on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis this fish probably is not for you. The Clown Pleco is found in root structures at the banks and driftwood dams. Where, due to its coloration, it is difficult to find. Properly housed, the same conditions in your tank will make him difficult to spot. Complicating sightings by the hobbyist is tank lighting. This species will not exhibit robust daytime activity in an improperly designed environment. Rather, they will stay in the shadows afforded by wood and rocks, as well as camping out in the small sized caves that should be provided. The Clown Pleco becomes easier to spot moving from location to location in dim light environments. The Clown is a wood eater, so driftwood is a must. It is territorial and will stake a claim to areas at the base of its favorite driftwood or a near by cave. At feeding times the Clown pleco will defend its patch of substrate against interlopers eating its food. Also, vegetables (zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potato, etc.) are required. Sinking pellets as well as algae and vegetable wafers should also be fed to this fish. This species creates a lot of waste. Good mechanical filtration and tank cleaning practices are required. Caution: If you are after an active algae eater this is not the fish to get.

Clown pleco
Clown pleco



    Rivers of its' home range


    Easy to Intermediate level of difficulty.


Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Aidan
I love this little fish, and mine has a great personality. Contrary to others' experiences, mine is out and about every single day, and she's fascinating to watch. I keep mine in a 25g at 80f with a pearl gourami, pygmy gouramis, dario darios and cherry shrimp, with several hiding places ranging from driftwood, plastic decorations, terra cotta pots, and a slate cave. Plenty of good options for her to stake out her own space, yet she seems to prefer just wandering around all day. I mostly feed her algae wafers (plus the driftwood in the tank), with the occasional addition of cucumbers, and she may or may not be supplementing her own diet with the odd shrimp.
From: Isabelle
I LOVE this fish! Yes, he's very shy and nocturnal but I've had one for over 2 years now, moved twice and he's still kickin'! I add a thick slice of sweet potato weighed down by tying a stone to it, and watch him graze it to the core in the dark. But he seems to transform the entire slice to orange waste! So be ready to clean up after he's had his nocturnal dinner. He does love cucumbers too.
From: James
I got one of these guys not even a week ago in my planted tank. She/he is just short of 2in at the moment. During the day it shares a wood cave with my clown loach's and at night I use an LED moonlight white color and I watch the critter cleaning my plants and intake and outake of my filter. Mine loves to eat algae. My favorite Pleco.
From: Nate
I bought my clown pleco about 2 weeks ago and have hardly ever seen him. I was a little concerned of algae taking over my tank cause I started to see just a little bit before I bought him and it's now gone. This is a 20 long that I'm keeping my pregnant guppy in and the protective places for the fry that I put in there, he's managed to get into for hiding. He finally has claimed his place under a decoration where he has actually dug the sand out which was fun to watch. I prefer to be able to see each of my fish cause I love to watch them but I'm definitely not disappointed in this purchase.
From: David Hall
I've found the clown pleco to be an awesome algae eater. Maybe it's just my own individual, but every night I find him out scouring a different surface in the tank. Tonight he's actually tackling the crust on the filter intake tube, which had built up over years of poor maintenance my cousin allowed before I rescued the fish and tank from her. Just as all fish have their own personalities, I won't guarantee my dude's performance against all other clowns, but please don't say they're all poor algae scrubbers. At least some of these handsome fish are hard workers as well.
From: Stephanie
I have found the clown pleco to be the greatest little pleco for smaller tanks! I have one in with Cardinal tetra's, a lady betta, and a royal farowella. My clown refuses to eat algae, and will only eat my driftwood, flake food, and shrimp pellets!!! I added the royal farowella for algae control. The clown is also very territorial and has killed off any cory or smaller algae eater (i.e. oto's) I have placed in the tank, but he leaves the farowella and the rest of the fish completely alone!
From: Steve
Usual very peaceful. Stays under the driftwood all the time. I also have a Clown Loach and they sit under there together, however I've seen the pleco chase him away before.
From: Pavel
The Clown Pleco is a magnificent type of fish. This pleco in my tank spends his time under caves and shadows. I never see him out of his home until I have to clean the tank and move his hiding place. This type of pleco are for people who have caves and driftwood for such creatures. They will mark there territory and may not be friendly to other fish. Watch out for the spines for they are really sharp.
From: Bobby
I have two clowns and I must say they are fantastic at eating algae. As soon as mine became comfortable in the tank, it's off too work they went. Some places say they are shy and don't eat algae, but I guess all individual clowns must different. I have really enjoyed watching mine.
From: Zak
I've have 2 clown plecos for a while now. If you want to see more of them just put zucchini (blanched or unblanched - I don't blanch it)in as food for them. If you can't get it to sink just bend one end of a paperclip up and stick the zucchini on like you bait a hook and stick the other end under the rocks.
From: Christina
Just a note to those who have alot of driftwood in their tanks. The more wood you have, the greater the chance that you will not see much of your beautiful clown other than the tip of his tail (which is cute, wiggling back and forth). My experience is that they absolutely love driftwood over anything else. Very rarely, will mine venture out from their woody haven for algae, pellets or anything else. Even at night under a low wattage actinic, they prefer to move from one root to another. However, I do love to have this species in my tanks, they're cute and you just can't beat the size factor. I'd much rather have 6 plecos that won't outgrow my 90g rather than one that will. Enjoy!
From: Rich
I recently bought a 3" clown to put into my new-world cichlid tank. He very rarely does comes out, but does make a beautiful addition with my brightly colored dempseys. definitely not a fish with much personality, but still a wonderful addition when you want something "different" or cant house the usual big commons
From: Ray Chang
I bought what was labeled and described to me as a baby Royal Pleco. Two months later I find out it is actually a Clown Pleco. This pleco does wonders for cleaning algae. Every morning, I wake up and a large section of my tank has been completely scrubbed of algae. I had a plastic root that had been growing algae on it for years, making it look real. None of my other algae eating fish in my tank could get the algae off. The pleco cleaned the entire thing bare in just a few weeks. It does not seem to be scared of lights, it is always exploring at all hours, but he does most of his eating at night.
From: a2z_2501
I got two 2-inch clown plecos to clean up a brown-algae problem in a 55-gallon tank at the advice of a fish shop employee. They have done a great job cleaning algae off every surface in the tank. Chinese algae eaters never did as well cleaning the algae as these clown plecos. They must do all that cleaning in the dark. I only see them clinging to rocks or driftwood during the day.
From: Andy
I have had a clown plec for about 1 month now they are very shy fish. They only seem to come out once in a blue moon. Mine hides under the piece of slate I have in my tank. In the month I have had him I have seen him out ONCE!!!. don't seem to like being disturbed by corys and kuli's, in fact gives them a little push out of his area in the tank.





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