Sailfin pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps)

Sailfin pleco or leopard pleco (in Latin Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps) is a kind of freshwater ray-finned fishes of Loricariidae family.

This is a strong fish that eats huge amounts of algae. A couple of adult saifin pleco species can keep even large tanks clean.

If a tank is rather large (of more than 70 gallons capacity) sailfin pleco size can be up to 30-35 cm long.

Inhabitance in the wild

Peru and Brazil are leopard pleco habitats. For example, this species was encountered in the Rio Pacaya river which has a slow water flow. Fish of this kind can form rather large groups to search food together.


Gibbiceps pleco features are rather pronounced nostrils, large dorsal fin with 12-13 fin rays. The first ray length is equal to the fish head length.

Adult species may grow to be 55 cm long and leopard plecostomus life span may be more 20 years. Coloring: the fish body has large brown spots scattered on it with some yellowish fibres.

Keeping in a tank

Sailfin pleco care is rather easy provided that it has enough feed – algae and some additional feed.

Leopard sailfin pleco is the fish just for beginners, but you have to keep how large is an adult fish, since quite often this species is being sold as a tank-cleaner. Beginners buy this fish for some small capacity tanks and some time later it becomes a problem.

It’s not necessary to keep high level of oxygen in a tank water when keeping high fin pleco in a tank.

In case of having hypoxic water in a tank spotted sailfin pleco comes up to the water surface more often and swallows some air that is then accumulated in its bowel. Oxygen can come through the gut walls and provide the fish with required amount of oxygen.
It’s desirable to create some moderate water flow in a tank and install good quality filters otherwise you’ll have to renew tank water rather often.

Once the level of byproducts in a tank is high, the fish may sometimes have holes in its fins’ membranes.

Optimal temperature of tank water for high fin spotted pleco is — 24-30 С. Also spotted sailfin pleco can easily survive some insignificant changes of tank water pH (6.5-7.5) and hardness (4-20 dH). When growing up they become more lazy and like lying in covers.

Scientific NamePterygoplichthys gibbiceps, Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps
Common NameSailfin Pleco, Leopard Pleco, Gibby
Tank sizemore then 70 gallons (320L) for one fish
DietOmnivorous bottom feeder
Temperature77-79 °F (25-26 °C)
Length19.7 inch (50-55 cm)


It’s important to feed sailfin plecostomus with a variety of plant food.

An ideal plant-protein ratio for the fish diet is 80% of plant and 20% of protein containing food. Spinach, carrots, cucumbers and squash will do as plant food (use Pleco Feeder). N

owadays there is a large amount of some specialized feed for catfish (like Hikari Tropical Algae Wafers or TetraVeggie Algae Wafers), which is rather balanced and it can be used as a basis of the fish diet and it can be combined with some plant additions.

It’s better to use frozen live feed, as a rule gibbicep pleco picks it from a tank bottom after some other fishes have been fed. It’s preferable to feed the fish with prawns, worms and blood worms as a life feed representatives.

Prawns should be cut into small pieces for the gibbicep pleco juveniles and it’s ok to feed adult fish with whole prawns.

Leopard plecostomus doesn’t do any harm to tank plants, however some adult species may turn out from the tank bottom some badly rooted plants. There definitely should be some snags in the tank, since gibby pleco spends the majority of its time gnawing them.

Absence of snags in a tank may lead to the fish indigestion. It’s recommended to keep the fish in 90 cm tanks till sailfin pleco size becomes equal to 12 cm. As the fish grows it has to be removed into 300 liter capacity tank 120 cm long.


Sailfin plecostomus is quite peaceful towards any other fish, but there may be some fights as for the territory with some other catfish.

In a small and crowded tank gibbicep pleco may become quite aggressive and attack other fish when protecting its territory.

Pay attention, though leopard plecostomus feeds mainly on plant food, in the wild the catfish are also scavengers. In a tank gibby pleco may bite off some scales from discuses and Angelfish at night, therefore it’s not a good idea to keep spotted plecostomus in a tank together with some flat from sides and slow fish.

Leopard pleco is more active at night and during the day the fish usually hides in some covers in a tank.

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Sex differences

It’s quite difficult to see between leopard pleco fish male and female. In general, the fish male is larger and brighter colored and it has pins on its pectoral fins.

Sailfin pleco breeding

Sailfin pleco breeding is impossible in a tank. The species you buy on the market were bred in the fish farms.

The thing is, that in the wild for breeding the fish requires some deep tunnels dug in the shore mud. The fish males stay in these tunnels after breeding and guard sailfin pleco juveniles. In the fish farms they put sailfin pleco into the large sized ponds with soft bottom.


This is a quite strong and disease-resistant fish. The most common reason of the fish diseases is the increase of byproducts level and the absence of snags in a tank which leads to the fish phys digestion problems.