15 Types of Sucker Fish for Your Aquarium

Types of sucker fish

Exploring the various types of sucker fish can be a fascinating journey for any aquarium enthusiast. These unique fish, known for their specialized mouths, play a vital role in maintaining a clean and healthy tank setup.

This article will introduce you to 15 different types, each accompanied by vivid pictures to help you identify and appreciate their appearance. 

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or just starting out, understanding these fish can enhance your aquarium’s ecosystem. Dive in and discover the captivating world of sucker fish!

15 Different Types of Sucker Fish

1. Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus spp.)

Bristlenose Pleco sucker fish
Scientific Name:Ancistrus spp.
Origin:South America
Level of Difficulty:Easy
Adult Size:4 – 6 inches (10–15 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful, bottom-dwelling
Tank Size:20 gallons minimum
Temperature:72 – 86°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Bristlenose Pleco is a favorite among aquarium lovers. Hailing from South America, this peaceful, bottom-dwelling fish is a great fit for community tanks. 

Size-wise, adults usually measure between 4 and 6 inches, making them suitable for tanks of 20 gallons or more. These fish thrive best in temperatures of 72 to 86°F and a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5

When it comes to diet, this species of sucker fish has a preference for algae; however, they also relish vegetables and sinking pellets. Keep in mind, though, that breeding them can be a bit tricky.

All in all, the Bristlenose Pleco not only helps in keeping your fish tank algae-free but also adds a touch of beauty to it.

2. Butterfly Loach (Beaufortia kweichowensis)

Butterfly Loach sucker fish
Scientific Name:Beaufortia kweichowensis
Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Adult Size:2.5 – 3 inches (6–8 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful but can be territorial with its own kind
Tank Size:Minimum 30 gallons
Temperature:68 – 75°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Intermediate

The Butterfly Loach, also known as the Chinese Hillstream Loach, is another sucker fish that originates from China. These tropical freshwater gems stand out with their distinct look and habits. 

Typically growing to a size of 2.5 to 3 inches, they might pose a slight challenge for beginners in fish-keeping. 

While generally peaceful, Butterfly Loaches can sometimes show a bit of territorial behavior, especially towards their own kind.

A tank of at least 30 gallons is recommended to keep these fish in optimal condition. These sucker fish prefer water temperatures of 68 to 75°F and a pH balance of 6.5 to 7.5

However, if you wish to add more Butterfly Loaches to your tank, it is best to check our guide on how many fish can be kept per gallon to ensure they have enough space.

Further, being omnivores, they munch on algae but are also fond of small invertebrates and store-bought fish food. 

If breeding is on your mind, gear up for a medium-level challenge and ensure the tank environment is just right.

3. Gold Nugget Pleco (Baryancistrus xanthellus)

Gold Nugget Pleco sucker fish
Scientific Name:Baryancistrus xanthellus
Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Adult Size:6 – 9 inches (15–23 cm)
Behavior:Generally peaceful but can be territorial with other bottom-dwellers
Tank Size:Minimum 50 gallons
Temperature:75 – 82°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Intermediate

The Gold Nugget Pleco is a striking choice for aquarium lovers. Found mainly in the waters of Brazil, particularly near the region of São Félix do Xingu, it’s a popular sucker fish that can add variety to your tank. 

When it comes to size, they grow to a size of 6 to 9 inches. While they’re calm by nature, they might claim their territory if they spot similar fish at the tank’s bottom.

Should you decide to get this kind of sucker fish, keep the tank within temperatures ranging from 75 to 82°F and a pH level from 6.5 to 7.5. Size-wise, their tank must be at least 50 gallons in volume.

Though they love algae-based foods, Golden Nugget Plecos also enjoy protein-rich foods like sinking pellets. 

Interestingly, Gold Nugget Plecos get their name from their bright, gold-like spots. So, if you’re on the hunt for unique sucker fish with distinct patterns, they are a top pick.

4. Rubber Lip Pleco (Chaetostoma formosae)

Rubber Lip Pleco sucker fish
Image credit: ghostyben / Instagram
Scientific Name:Chaetostoma formosae
Origin:South America
Level of Difficulty:Easy to Moderate
Adult Size:4 – 5 inches (10–13 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful, bottom-dwelling algae eater
Tank Size:Minimum 30 gallons
Temperature:70 – 78°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate to Intermediate

The Rubber Lip Pleco is a popular choice among aquarium lovers, known for its unique ability to clean tanks by feeding on algae. 

Native to South America, these sucker fish are on the smaller side, growing up to 4 to 5 inches as adults. They’re an excellent fit for both beginners and seasoned aquarists due to their easy-to-moderate care level. 

However, while they’re peaceful fish, they’re best paired with non-aggressive tank mates. Interestingly, this species is nocturnal, so you’ll find them most active during nighttime hours. 

To ensure the well-being of the Rubber Lip Pleco, you must provide a spacious tank of at least 30 gallons. If you aim to introduce diversity to your tank, Rubber Lip Plecos are top contenders.

Watch this video to see this sucker fish species in action:

My Rubber Lip Plecos!

5. Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus oblongus)

Siamese Algae Eater sucker fish
Scientific Name:Crossocheilus oblongus
Origin:Southeast Asia
Level of Difficulty:Easy to Moderate
Adult Size:4 – 6 inches (10–16 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful but can be territorial with its own kind
Tank Size:Minimum 20 gallons
Temperature:75 – 79°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate to Difficult

Next up on our list is the Siamese Algae Eater, a tropical freshwater fish hailing from Southeast Asia.

Thanks to their omnivorous diet, which is composed mainly of algae and detritus, these small fish are champs at keeping the tank clean, especially if you have plants. 

When it comes to size, these fish are usually 4 to 6 inches long, so ensure your aquarium volume is at least 20 gallons

Meanwhile, in terms of behavior, these fish are known to be friendly with other fish species; however, they might squabble with their own kind. 

For tank conditions, keep the water between 75 and 79°F and maintain a pH of 6.5 to 7.5

Another thing to note about Siamese Algae Eaters is that they are not the easiest to breed. In fact, breeding this type of sucker fish requires the utmost attention to water conditions and overall habitat.

6. Chinese Algae Eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri)

Chinese Algae Eater sucker fish
Scientific Name:Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
Origin:Southeast Asia
Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Adult Size:5 – 11 inches (13–28 cm)
Behavior:Can be aggressive, especially with age
Tank Size:Minimum 30 gallons
Temperature:72 – 82°F
pH:6.8 – 7.4
Breeding Difficulty:Intermediate

The Chinese Algae Eater, scientifically known as Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, is a sucker fish species that hails from the diverse natural habitat types of Southeast Asia. 

These fish like it best in spacious environments, and given their growth potential of 5 to 11 inches, a big enough tank of at least 30 gallons is recommended. 

A notable trait of these sucker fish is that as they mature, they might become assertive, especially towards smaller species. So, if you have little companions like goldfish in your aquarium, it’s wise to be cautious. 

Their diet is primarily algae-based, but they also enjoy algae wafers and occasionally indulge in protein-rich foods. 

Interestingly, young Chinese Algae Eaters are enthusiastic algae consumers, while the older ones might diversify their diet, sometimes even showing fin-nipping behavior.

7. Snowball Pleco (Hypancistrus inspector)

Snowball Pleco sucker fish
Scientific Name:Hypancistrus inspector
Level of Difficulty:Easy
Adult Size:5 – 6 inches (13–16 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful but can be territorial with other bottom dwellers
Tank Size:Minimum 40 gallons
Temperature:72 – 86°F
pH:5.0 – 7.6
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Snowball Pleco is another notable sucker fish species for aquariums. This species, hailing from Venezuela, stands out among sucker fish due to its manageable care requirements. 

As they mature, these little fish grow to a moderate size of 5 to 6 inches. Generally, sucker fish are peaceful, and the Snowball Pleco is no exception. 

However, they might show territorial behavior, especially near the bottom of the tank where they prefer to dwell.

These sucker fish feel best in a planted tank of at least 40 gallons is ideal. They thrive best in temperatures of 72 to 86°F and prefer a pH environment between 5.0 and 7.6

In the wild, these fish also feed on a mix of algae, small aquatic organisms, and seeds. If breeding is on your agenda, note that this species presents a moderate challenge. 

8. Zebra Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra)

Zebra Pleco sucker fish
Scientific Name:Hypancistrus zebra
Origin:Brazil, specifically the Xingu River
Level of Difficulty:Intermediate
Adult Size:2.5 – 4 inches (6–10 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful but territorial with its own kind
Tank Size:Minimum 30 gallons
Temperature:78 – 86°F
pH:6.5 – 7.0
Diet:Primarily carnivorous
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Zebra Pleco, scientifically known as Hypancistrus zebra, is another sucker fish species that aquarium enthusiasts often admire. 

Hailing from the Xingu River in Brazil, these nocturnal fish are adorned with black and white stripes, much like a zebra. Size-wise, they’re smaller fish, growing only 2.5 to 4 inches long, but require at least a 30-gallon tank

The best sucker fish conditions for Zebra Plecos include temperatures of 78 to 86°F and a pH level ranging from 6.5 to 7.0. Though peaceful with other species in the aquarium, they can be territorial with members of their own species. 

Unlike many sucker fish that love to eat algae, the Zebra Pleco’s diet leans towards high-protein foods, including meaty pellets and frozen treats.

One notable fact about this species is that they are considered critically endangered in the wild, making captive breeding efforts more significant.

9. Giant Otocinclus (Hypoptopoma gulare)

Giant Otocinclus sucker fish
Image credit: hanpen_aquarium / Instagram
Scientific Name:Hypoptopoma gulare
Origin:South America (primarily in the Amazon River basin)
Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Adult Size:2 – 4 inches (5–10 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful, but can be territorial with its own kind
Tank Size:Minimum 20 gallons
Temperature:72 – 78°F
pH:5.5 – 7
Breeding Difficulty:Intermediate

Meet the Giant Otocinclus, an intriguing sucker fish for aquariums. Hailing from the Amazon River basin, these nocturnal fish are among the variety of sucker fish species that flourish in tropical freshwater settings. 

Size-wise, these fish range from 2.5 to 4 inches and are a perfect match for aquariums holding at least 30 gallons. While they’re generally peaceful, these fish are also a tad territorial with members of their own species. 

When it comes to diet, these sucker fish are specialized carnivores, favoring protein-packed foods like meaty pellets and frozen offerings. 

Interestingly, this fish is often referred to as the “Giant Otocinclus” due to its larger size compared to most Otocinclus species. Despite its name, though, it’s not truly a giant nor a member of the genus Otocinclus.

10. Suckermouth Catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus)

Suckermouth Catfish sucker fish
Scientific Name:Hypostomus plecostomus
Origin:South America
Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Adult Size:12 – 24 inches (30–61 cm)
Behavior:Mostly peaceful but can be territorial with other bottom dwellers
Tank Size:Minimum 55 gallons
Temperature:72 – 86°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Intermediate

The Suckermouth Catfish, also known as the Common Pleco, is a group of relatively larger fish that originated from South America.

In terms of size, adult Suckermouth Catfish can stretch between 12 and 24 inches. That said, it’s crucial to make sure your fish lives in a big enough space, ideally a tank of 55 gallons or more

These fish dive right in and get busy, acting as natural cleaners by munching away on unwanted algae, helping to keep your tank clean. 

However, breeding them can be a bit tricky, so prepare for a challenging task should you decide to breed your Suckermouth Catfish.

One notable feature of these fish species is their unique ability to breathe air in low-oxygen waters. 

I’ve always been captivated by these kinds of adaptations and survival techniques. The unique adaptation of the Suckermouth Catfish allows its mouth to feed and attach — a behavior I’ve observed in other species as well. 

In particular, they have a specialized structure called a labyrinth organ that allows them to absorb oxygen from the air.

Researching this further, I found out that this adaptation is also found in fish from the Anabantidae family, like bettas and gouramis.

11. Clown Pleco (Panaqolus maccus)

Clown Pleco sucker fish
Image credit: ollies_exotics / Instagram
Scientific Name:Panaqolus maccus
Origin:Venezuela and Colombia
Level of Difficulty:Easy
Adult Size:3.5 – 4 inches (9–10 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful but territorial with its own kind
Tank Size:Minimum 20 gallons
Temperature:73 – 82°F
pH:6.0 – 8.0
Diet:Primarily a wood eater, but also requires vegetables and occasional protein
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Clown Pleco is a standout sucker fish species originating from Venezuela and Colombia. These fish, with their eye-catching look, are a great aquarium addition, especially for beginners.

They grow to a handy size of 3.5 to 4 inches, ideal for those with limited space. Although small, a 20-gallon tank is recommended for these sucker species, ensuring they live comfortably. 

In terms of aquarium conditions, these fish live best in water temperatures ranging from 73 to 82°F and a pH level of 6.0 to 8.0. These sucker fish eat mainly wood, but they also like vegetables and occasional protein snacks. 

Fun Fact: Clown Plecos thrive in the crevices of dense root systems in their natural habitat, feeding on decaying plant matter.

12. Royal Pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus)

Royal Pleco sucker fish
Scientific Name:Panaque nigrolineatus
Origin:Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela
Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Adult Size:12 – 17 inches (30–43 cm)
Behavior:Generally peaceful but can be territorial with other bottom dwellers
Tank Size:Minimum 120 gallons
Temperature:72 – 89°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5
Diet:Primarily herbivorous; feeds on wood, algae, and plant matter
Breeding Difficulty:Intermediate (rarely bred in captivity)

The Royal Pleco stands out among different sucker fish species. Hailing from the waters of Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, these fish not only add beauty but also play a key role in the aquarium. 

They have a varied diet, making them a natural choice to control algae in your tank.

When it comes to size, adult Royal Plecos can get pretty long, about 12 to 17 inches, so they need a tank big enough for at least 120 gallons

They’re mostly calm fish, but be cautious: they might not get along with other bottom dwellers. 

If you’re thinking of breeding these sucker fish, ensure your aquarium’s temperature is between 72 and 89°F and has a pH of 6.5 to 7.5

It is also worth noting that some sucker species, like the Royal Pleco, are rarely bred in captivity.

Fun Fact: Royal Plecos are one of the few fish species that can digest wood.

13. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)

Kuhli Loach sucker fish
Scientific Name:Pangio kuhlii
Origin:Southeast Asia
Level of Difficulty:Easy
Adult Size:2.5 – 4 inches (6–10 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful and nocturnal
Tank Size:Minimum 20 gallons
Temperature:73 – 86°F
pH:5.5 – 6.5
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Kuhli Loach, scientifically known as Pangio kuhlii, is among the popular types of sucker fish you can add to your tank. Found mainly in Southeast Asia, these aquarium fish are not only a visual treat but also simple to look after. 

Typically, they grow between 2.5 and 4 inches long and have a lifespan averaging 10 years

For these fish to thrive, they need a tank of at least 20 gallons with water temperatures ranging from 73 to 86°F and a pH of 5.5 to 6.5

In their natural habitat, Kuhli Loaches are social creatures, usually found in small clusters. While they aren’t schooling fish, they enjoy the company of their species. 

One thing to note about these sucker fish is that they are bottom dwellers that have a tendency to burrow into soft substrates. As a result, they occasionally become elusive in an aquarium setting.

14. Whiptail Catfish (Rineloricaria fallax)

Whiptail Catfish sucker fish
Scientific Name:Rineloricaria fallax
Origin:South America
Level of Difficulty:Easy
Adult Size:4 – 6.5 inches (10–17 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful, bottom-dwelling
Tank Size:Minimum 30 gallons
Temperature:72 – 78°F
pH:6.0 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Whiptail Catfish is a captivating species of sucker fish that live in the aquariums of many enthusiasts. 

Hailing from South America, these fish are easy to care for, making them popular among both newbies and seasoned fish keepers.

These sucker fish like to stay at the bottom, growing to a size of 4 to 6.5 inches. They are also known to hide near the base of aquatic plants, ensuring they aren’t targeted and eaten by other fish. 

Primarily, Whiptail Catfish enjoy a plant-based diet, but they’re also omnivorous. They have a preference for algae wafers, yet they’re also fans of vegetables and sometimes crave protein treats like brine shrimp. 

One notable trait of this species of fish is that they spawn in caves. During one of my research activities, I got to observe the breeding of Whiptail Catfish.

What caught my attention was that the males played an active role by tending to the clutch of eggs and assisting the fry (young fish) in emerging from the eggs.

15. Dwarf Oto (Otocinclus macrospilus)

Dwarf Oto sucker fish
Scientific Name:Otocinclus macrospilus
Origin:South America (primarily Brazil)
Level of Difficulty:Easy
Adult Size:1 – 2 inches (1.5–5 cm)
Behavior:Peaceful, schooling
Tank Size:Minimum 10 gallons
Temperature:70 – 79°F
pH:6.0 – 7.5
Breeding Difficulty:Moderate

The Dwarf Oto, scientifically known as Otocinclus macrospilus, is another sucker fish type to consider. These peaceful fish, considered nano species, grow only up to 1 to 2 inches.

Consequently, Dwarf Otos are ideal for those with smaller aquariums. However, these fish thrive best in a big enough space relative to their size.

Ideally, these fish need at least a 10-gallon tank. This ensures they can swim freely and attach themselves to the ground. 

As herbivores, these fish species have different diets, but primarily, Dwarf Otos love to eat algae, aiding in filters and keeping your fish tank clean. 

They flourish in temperatures between 70 and 79°F and prefer a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5. While caring for them is straightforward, breeding them requires a bit more expertise.

Facts About Sucker Fish

Sucker fish in an aquarium

Sucker fish, often recognized by their distinct flattened mouths, are a group of freshwater fish that adhere to various surfaces in their aquatic habitats. These fish have the ability to act as cleaners in most aquarium settings.

Their name, “sucker fish,” is derived from their ability to “suck” onto surfaces using their specialized mouths. Found in diverse regions across the globe, these fish have evolved to play crucial roles in their respective ecosystems. 

Their unique adaptation allows them to feed on algae, detritus, and other microscopic organisms found on submerged surfaces.

From rivers to home aquariums, sucker fish are a testament to nature’s ability to create specialized creatures, each perfectly adapted to its environment.

In aquariums, they serve dual purposes: adding aesthetic value with their intriguing appearances and contributing to the tank’s cleanliness. 

Keep in mind, though, that the word “suckerfish” is also linked to a handful of other definitions.

From the common plecos to the unique loaches, this guide has walked you through some of the best aquarium-friendly sucker fish types. Let us know which sucker fish you want to keep by leaving a comment below!

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