Sucker Mouth Catfish (Plecos) – The Ultimate Guide

Welcome to our article about Suckermouth Catfish! These small catfish differ from Long Whiskered Catfish as well as Tropical Catfish (most aquariums have tropical or Plecos). This is the largest family of catfish and new species are being discovered and described each year.

Sucker Mouth Catfish are desired for aquariums because they have extremely variable color patterns and body shapes.


Bristlenose pleco

The Bristlenose pleco is native to Panama and freshwater habitats within South America. Sometimes, they are also referred to as Bushynose catfish.

Bristlenose Pleco – The Last 99

Typically growing up to 4-6 inches, Bristlenose Plecos can be kept in a small tank, while still growing rather large. In aquariums, these fish require a little bit of bogwood in the tank to help ensure a balanced diet. Water pH should be around 8.0 for Bushynose catfish and the temperature should be around 73 – 80 degrees F. Good water flow is also necessary.

Gold nugget pleco

The Golden nugget pleco is an exception among the suckermouth catfish. These fellas can reach lengths of up to 13 inches. Mainly nocturnal, this species of catfish is distinguished by its black colors and speckled colors of gold nuggets.

The preferred water conditions for these catfish include a temperature of 73 – 79 deg F as well as a pH of 8 – 10. Due to their large size, a tank of at least 50 gallons is recommended.

Whiptail catfish

The Whiptail catfish is a very unique suckermouth catfish. This Catfish has a very long whisker-like split tail. They can grow to be up to 5 inches long. They will be most comfortable in water temperatures around 77 degrees F.


Panaques are a small to medium sized suckermouth catfish, known for feeding extensively on wood. The sound of these fish scraping wood can be heard from outside of an aquarium. Being  peaceful and nocturnal bottom-dwellers, these catfish make good residents in community tanks. 

Water conditions for these tanks should have water around 73 – 83 deg F and a pH of 6.5 – 7.5.

Pineapple pleco

Native to Peru and Brazil, this fish can be found swimming in wild streams and rivers throughout the Amazon Basin. Under the right conditions, they will grow to the long lengths of up to 14 inches. In aquariums, water conditions should be a pH of around 7.5 and a temperature around 73 – 80 deg F.

Zebra pleco

Zebra plecos can grow to lengths of 2.5 inches. This species was discovered fairly recently in the 1990s. It was first described in the Amazon River. While it was originally exported from Brazil in large numbers, coming across this species has recently become harder.

The aquarium conditions for this species of Catfish should be a pH somewhere between 6.5 and 7.2. The temperature should be around 80 degrees F.

Twig catfish

This species of Catfish gets its name from resembling a thin piece of wood from a brown, slender, and elongated body. They will grow up to 9 inches in length given the right water conditions which includes a temperature of 75 – 59 deg F and a pH in between 6.0 and 7.0. A tank size of 20 gallons should be enough, so long as there is no over-crowding.

Leopard sailfin pleco

The Leopard sailfin pleco can live up to 20 years! This makes is among some of the oldest living Catfish in our collections. A larger aquarium with moderate filtration is recommended since these bad boys can grow up to 19 inches.

In the aquarium, the pH should be around 6.5 – 7.8 and the water temperature should be about 73 – 80 deg F.

Zebra dwarf sucker

A smaller suckermouth catfish, the Dwarf Zebra sucker only grows to lengths of 1.7 inches. The males tend to be much smaller. Water pH should be between 5.3 and 7.5 and the temperature should be 68 – 82 deg F. They will accept softened peas, zucchini and spirulina. Algae wafers and pellets are good supplements when algae are not plentiful in the aquarium. Dwarf Suckers can be conditioned to accept a variety of other foods such as flakes and freeze-dried worms.

Sailfin pleco (catfish)

The Sailfin catfish are a tropical species of Suckermouth Catfish. This species has been introduced to habitats across the world, succeeding as an invasive species. They can live to be up to 15 years old.

This species of catfish will thrive in water with a pH of 6.5 – 7.8 and a temperature of 73 – 85 deg F.

Golden dwarf sucker

Hailing from the Amazon basin in South America, this species of suckermouth catfish grows to a measly 2 inches. The Golden Dwarf suckers will thrive in 70 – 81 deg F water with a pH around 6.0 – 6.5.

The Dwarf suckers also prefer fast moving aquarium water with a sandy substrate and plenty of hiding areas (old broken clay pipes can be a great hiding habitat).

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