The “L” number plecos (they represent many different genera and species, but are usually referred to as plecos, meaning plecostomus) are some of the nicest and most interesting fish in the hobby today. One problem, however, is that hobbyists often assume that just because they are plecos or “sucker mouth catfish” they all eat algae. Worse still, sometimes hobbyists assume they do not need to be fed individually, but can survive on leftovers and detritus.
Nothing could be further from the facts. Some of the more popular and better known “L” number plecos include the gold nugget varieties, also called gold edge because of the golden edge to unpaired fins. These fish do like to graze on algae, but they also require meaty foods and therefore need to be fed shrimps and bloodworms. The “zebra” plecos, which have become incredible expensive, are pretty much completely meat eaters and if not provided with good, high-protein fare will do not well at all.
To illustrate the point that all “L” number plecos are not the same, let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones—and please note the different genus of each one; just the genus.
This is just a very small sampling of the better known “L” number plecos—the full list is currently somewhere in the 300s. It is interesting to note that even with these few, each one is a different genus. And, they all get to different sizes—ranging from 3 inches or so for the zebra to well over a foot for the red fin cactus—and even larger for any of the royal plecos.
When it comes to their diet, there is also a wide variance. It is pretty well established (there are always some folks who disagree with everything) that the main food for the Panaques is driftwood. They absolutely need it in their diets, and anyone who has kept these plecos for any length of time will see the size of the driftwood decrease and the mulm that has passed through the fish’s body build up quickly.
To further illustrate these diet differences, I had a gorgeous Acanthicus Adonis for ten years or so. He topped out at around 21 inches, adding another 6 inches from the streamers off his fins. This fish was a total algae eater. I used to keep baby angelfish in the tank with him, and he was not interested in the bloodworm or mysis shrimp I fed them. However, he learned to take spirulina algae tablets by rolling onto his back and spinning them around in his fleshy mouth as he ate.
My point is that these beautiful fish have varying nutritional and tank size requirements, and the hobbyists who purchase them should be made aware of what these are.