Gold Nugget Pleco Care Guide: Types, Diet, Tanks, Tank Mates, Breeding

If you want to add a new fish to your home aquarium, the gold nugget pleco is one of the most beautiful fish you can choose.

With their yellow polka-dotted bodies and how peaceful gold nugget plecos are with other freshwater fish, it’s easy to see why they are becoming more popular.

Aside from their captivating looks, the gold nugget plecostomus or the gold nugget pleco for short are easy to take care of, making them a great choice for experienced fish keepers willing to give them the spacious habitat they need.

Maintaining tropical water temperatures and cleaning a tank larger than 50 gallons can be more tasking for beginner aquarists. So they aren’t for everyone! 

If you’re lucky enough to take this freshwater fish home, this article will provide you with everything you need to know to ensure they are happy and thriving!

Species Overview

With its origins in South America, especially Brazil, the gold Nugget pleco is a unique freshwater fish species that most fish owners only dream of having. Also known as the gold spot pleco, it’s common to find these fish in the warm waters of the Amazon river.

They mostly dwell in shallow waters where they can feed on algae growing on the rocks.  Although these fish aren’t rare, they are limited in number because it’s difficult to breed gold nugget plecos. 

If you provide them with the right conditions in their new fish tank, they can live for close to 5  years. Unlike other fish, the golden nugget pleco can live longer,  even up to 13 years, in the wild.

In their natural habitat, these gorgeous freshwater fish have more room to grow and swim than in captivity. Being confined in an aquarium sadly affects their growth and lifespan.

Here are other quick facts about this fish you should know:

  • Scientific Name: Baryancistrus xanthellus
  • Care level: Medium
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Size: 7-10 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Appearance and Size

While some catfish aren’t the most beautiful, you can’t say the same about the gold nugget pleco. They might be catfish, but to be honest, they are more pleasing to look at than their other family members. 

They have beautiful dark green and black bodies with yellow polka dots all over them. Their tail fins have a yellow border, so they’ll easily stand out in any tank even with more colorful fish. 

Nugget plecos aren’t small, though, and can grow up to a size of 13 inches in their natural environment. Due to the conditions in a community tank, the gold nugget pleco might only grow to 6-9 inches in size. 

They scavenge for their food, so their bodies have adapted with an angled head to help them find their food at the bottom of the sea or, in your case, the tank’s bottom. These catfish species also have large pectoral fins pointing backward when immobile.

If you give them clean water and good food, you’ll be surprised at how healthy and big they can get. A major inhibitor to their growth is being kept in a small tank. For your gold nugget to grow, it will need a minimum of a 55-gallon tank as its aquarium.

Types of Gold Nugget Pleco

You will find a variety of these fish species at local stores or online from select breeders. To easily classify the different types of gold nugget pleco fish, scientists use ‘L,’ which stands for Loricariid, short for the Loricariidae family to which these fish belong.

Each gold nugget pleco species is also allocated a specific number to help differentiate them because they all have dark green to black bodies with yellow spots. And you don’t want to be catfished!

So here are  the three types of gold nugget plecos you are most likely to find:

  • L018
  • L177
  • L081
  • L085

The difference is the size of these yellow spots on their bodies . An L177 has larger spots, while the L085 and L018 have medium-sized spots. The L081, on the other hand, has much smaller bright yellow spots. The L018 happens to be the most popular!

Regarding gender, an adult male gold nugget pleco has a flatter, broader head and much longer spines on its dorsal fin than a female gold nugget pleco. The females also get plumper when they are ready to spawn.

What To Look For When Buying a Gold Nugget Pleco

These catfish species are more expensive than most freshwater fish. So you should be careful which one you decide to take home to care for for the next couple of years. It’s crucial to consider the condition of the gold nugget pleco before you take out your wallet.

Here are signs that I think gold Nuggets blink or you are seeing isn’t healthy: 

  • Sunken eyes
  • Sunken belly
  • Faded colors

With all the transportation and effects of captivity that gold nugget plecos go through before arriving at a pet store, it’s only smart to assume that they might be stressed or have internal parasites—this isn’t new in the aquarium trade. 

Quarantining them for a couple of weeks can help you treat infections if you plan on adding them to a community tank.

Where To Buy a Gold Nugget Pleco

You can find a gold nugget pleco at most local fish and online stores, but they aren’t cheap. It could be mainly because they are sourced directly from their natural environment.

The average price of a gold nugget pleco is between $40 to $100, and that’s not cheap for a freshwater companion. The larger the gold nugget pleco, the more expensive it is. Depending on where you buy, consider the shipping price before paying to get this fish on your doorstep.

You can buy a gold nugget pleco at: 

It’s important to check out customer reviews and feedback when buying from any store. Reviews can help you determine which store sells the healthiest fish or offers additional services or products like filters, tank decorations, and water test kits.

Gold Nugget Pleco Care

All fish species need to be cared for to grow healthy and live long lives. If you give them a spacious tank, maintain quality water parameters, and keep them with friendly tank mates, they will be happy and comfortable in their environment. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of the easiest fish to take care of. But, if you’re up for the task, below are some of the key considerations you should make when taking care of a gold nugget pleco:

Tank Size

For a fish that grows to 9 inches, you should be prepared to make some space for a large fish tank. A golden nugget pleco needs a minimum tank size of 55 gallons to be comfortable. The bigger, the better, so choose as much space as you can afford. 

If you plan to keep more than one gold nugget pleco, you’ll need a bigger tank of between 75-110 gallons. A rectangular tank offers more horizontal space for these species than other tanks. 

Plecos are bottom dwellers and require space to swim and eat as they grow. If you’re keeping them in a community tank, you should add species that dwell in the middle and top parts of the tank to give everyone enough room.


Having a filter in your gold nugget pleco fish tank is not up for debate. These fish are larger than other species, producing more waste and increasing their chances of ammonia poisoning if the water isn’t clean.

With a filter in their tank, it’s much easier to maintain the right water conditions for your fish’s health. Ensure the filter can carry out biological and mechanical filtration. Biological filtration helps break down the organic waste produced by these large fish. 

The aquarium lighting shouldnt be too bright because they are nocturnal. Excess light can stress your nugget pleco as much as the plants need it.


The fact that gold nugget plecos are bottom dwellers means that the substrate is crucial to their happiness and survival. The best substrate for the nugget pleco is soft substrate because they will need to dig through it to get food, so it shouldn’t harm them.

 If the substrate is rough, their bellies and fins can get injured as they look for food. Rough gravel is also a bad choice for a plecos fish tank because injuries can quickly cause infections which can kill your fish.


Because golden nugget plecos fish are found in the amazon river, you know that they need plenty of vegetation in their tank. Plants have tons of benefits for these fish. 

Aside from acting as a source of nutrition, plants also help regulate the amount of light in the tank ( they don’t like the light)  and improve the water quality. 

Live plants are the best to have for plecos. They are similar to those in their natural environment and act as great hiding places when they want to stay away from other fish. 

Here are some aquatic plants you can put In your gold nugget plecos fish tank:

  • Anacharis
  • Green Cabomba
  • Hornwort
  • Moneywort
  • Rotala Indica
  • Jungle Vallisneri
  • Dwarf Sagittaria

Your pet will also enjoy snacking on the droppings from these plants. Floating plants are recommended for gold nugget plecos to help reduce the lighting in the tank.

Other decorations for their tank include driftwood, rocks, and large caves. These fish always seek coverage to stay safe in their natural environment, so rocks and caves are a must-have. What matters most to them is they have enough hiding spaces and entertainment.

Water Parameters

Water plays an important role in your fish’s health. So if you can’t maintain the proper parameters you risk their health and life. 

While these fish are easy to take care of, they still require some level of care to survive in captivity. Gold nugget plecos live in warm tropical temperatures, so you should try your level best to match their natural habitat. 

When you first introduce them to their new home, they will need time to adjust to the change in water parameters.

These parameters include : 

  • Water temperature: 73-79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ph levels:  6.5-7.5
  • Water hardness: 5-15 dH

You should conduct regular water changes and testing to maintain optimum water conditions. A 55-gallon tank gives you enough space to add filters and heaters for this fish. 

Due to their sensitivity, ensure your schedule the water changes to prevent stressing your gold nugget pleco. Water plays an important role in your fish’s health. 

Food & Diet

Gold nugget plecos aren’t picky eaters and can consume algae and plant detritus. Some aquarists want gold nuggets to help clean the tank by eating the algae. But they aren’t the most professional best clean-up crew for any fish tank. You’ll still have to do 80% of the cleaning.

If  you want to add more greens to their diet, here are some plant-based foods you can try:

  • Zucchini
  • Green peas
  • Blanched cucumbers

Gold nugget plecos are omnivorous and don’t mind having some protein in their diet. Once you understand what they like, it won’t be difficult feeding gold nugget plecos. You can treat them with meat-based pellets and flakes.

If you want to spice up their diet, you can add bloodworms, brine shrimp, and carnivore pellets. 

Overfeeding a gold nugget pleco increases the amount of leftover food in their tank. These leftovers tamper with the water quality.

Try to balance their diet so they can get enough nutrients to help with their growth and body color. You’ll find that these fish prefer eating towards the evening, so you should feed them later in the day.

Common Diseases

Unlike other aquarium fish, the gold nugget pleco doesn’t get sick easily. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye out for diseases that are common in freshwater fish. Like ich disease,  that is caused by poor water quality and a bad diet.

Reducing stress levels and keeping the water clean will help prevent these and other parasitic infections.  The best way to treat this or other infections is through medication. 

Most of the infections the gold nugget plecos suffer from are due to injuries caused by other fish or rough substrate in their tank. One way to tell if other fish in the tank are stressing your gold nugget pleco is if their color starts to fade.


These fish species are generally calm creatures who avoid conflict. You’ll mostly find them at the tank’s bottom, where they can hide, eat and feast on the algae. 

They are nocturnal, so they are most active in the evening and towards the nighttime. Gold plecos will hide for most of the day before emerging at night to do their thing. 

 If you want to observe the movement during the night, you can place a night light in the tank.

They habitually use their suckered mouths to nosh slimy algae from certain surfaces. Golden nugget plecos are kind of self-centered, so unless another fish attacks them, they are generally peaceful to have for a community tank. 

The male gold nugget plecos will mostly get territorial with their own species because they will occupy the same space at the bottom of the tank. 

Juveniles and female gold nugget plecos don’t have this problem and are more easygoing.

Suitable Tank Mates

Gold nugget plecos are peaceful creatures and keep to themselves. So unless you keep them with unfriendly roommates, you don’t have to worry about any fights breaking out in the community tank. 

 When finding suitable tank mates for the gold nugget pleco, you shouldn’t think of putting two of these fish species together. Specifically males.

As much as they are not aggressive, these species don’t like being together. Because they are all bottom dwellers, two gold nugget plecos will fight for territory at the bottom of the tank. 

That’s why you should get plecos tank mates that dwell in the middle and upper layers of the tank.

Here are some of the best tank mates for your gold nugget pleco: 

  • Goldfish
  • Neon Tetra
  • Honey Gourami
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Ember Tetra
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Pearl Gourami

Yes, you can keep them with other creatures like snails. But you must feed your pleco enough to ensure they don’t consider those snails for lunch. 

A gold nugget pleco will display its large pectoral fins to indicate its feelings if they feel threatened.


You might not hear much about breeding gold nugget plecos because it’s not easy. And no one wants to experiment on fish because it’s cruel.

Most gold nugget pleco species are taken directly from their natural environment and into captivity. 

 Efforts to breed them in these conditions have hardly been successful. Breeding them is not only risky, but you could end up stressing your pleco even more. Without enough research, it is not recommended to breed gold nugget plecos. 

Even more experienced aquarists haven’t mastered this yet, so you shouldn’t try it.  If you are looking for fish you can breed, we have a list of some of the best freshwater fish you can consider.


Do Gold nugget pleco eat algae? 

Yes, these fish munch on algae that grow on the wall of the tank and decorations like driftwood. Despite this, you should still ensure your pleco has enough food that they only opt for algae as a snack.

How big do gold Nugget plecos get? 

In captivity, these fish can grow to 7-10 inches with the proper water conditions and a healthy diet. They grow larger in their natural environment.

Are Gold Nugget Plecos aggressive?

For the most part, No. But when confronted, they will display their large fins to indicate they feel threatened by another fish. They are territorial and will get mad if another fish is in their space. 

Luckily, they come out at night when other species are tired. You can avoid this kind of confrontation if you have a huge tank.

Are Gold Nugget Plecos good for your tank? 

The golden nugget pleco is a fun and gorgeous freshwater catfish for most experienced aquarists. But with a huge tank to clean and maintain, the task of keeping them alive and happy is more challenging for beginner fish keepers.

Gold Nugget Plecos are beautiful, come alive at night, and are peaceful around most fish species. You’ll get a companion for years, and these fish will add a touch of color to any room, especially if you add them to a community tank. 

If you’ve decided to take home a gold nugget pleco, ensure you give them enough swimming space, the right diet, tank mates, and water conditions to keep them healthy and thriving.

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