blue phantom pleco care

Blue Phantom Plecos are lovely freshwater tropical fish that love to chill at the bottom of the aquarium. The suckermouth fish has dark blue and white spots and grows to be pretty big.

They’re great for cleaning up the aquarium (being bottomfeeders and all) and are entertaining to watch.

If you think they might be a good fit for your fish tank setup, check out the care guide below to see if you’ve got the right gear and right blue phantom pleco tank mates (like Pea Puffers) to cut it.

Quick Intro to Blue Phantom Plecos

Family: Loricariidae
Scientific Name:Hemiancistrus sp
Common Names:Blue phantom plecos
Care Level:Easy

Natural Habitat, Identification, and Where to Buy

Blue Phantom Plecostomus belong to the armored suckermouth catfish family. They are mid-sized fish. They are scavenger fish that can do well in community aquariums that are at least fifty gallons.

Scientists think that this fish is either a subspecies or a variation of the Green Phantom Pleco.

This is a fish that shows aggression towards other plecos but is known to be relatively peaceful around other fish species. They are freshwater fish that enjoy swimming and make their home in soft water.

While they are great at eating algae like other plecos, their diet is more diverse.

Suckermouth catfish can be found throughout central and South America. However, this species of fish can only be found within a small area. is native to the north part of the Rio Orinoco River.

This river is located in Venezuela. The downstream area of Puerto Ayacucho is their home.

Due to the limited areas this fish is found in, they tend to command a premium price when being purchased. It is common to see their price being between $50-$150 apiece.

This fish species has a look that is typical of Pleco body fish. Its mouth is wide and has suckers, along with a flat head and narrow body. They dig have strong pectoral and abdominal fins that they use in this.

They do not have scales but are protected by thick and heavy plates.

With the right water conditions, this fish only requires moderate health care. Overall they are a rather healthy species that grow fast. It should be noted that this fish has rarely been bred while kept in captivity.

When they are sold as juveniles,  they tend to be around three to five inches at length. Their maximum length is seven inches.

Optimal Water Conditions for Blue Phantom Plecos

blue pleco on gravel
Water Temperature: 77 to 86 F
Water Flow Rate:Moderate to high
pH:6.0 to 7.0
Water Hardness:2 to 12 KH

Learn about Bristlenose Plecos here.

Tank Setup

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons per individual fish
Optimal Tank Size:At least 50 gallons, preferably 25-50 gallons per fish
Optimal Tank Shape:A normal-sized tank
Recommended Filter Type:A quality filter that has replaceable filter media

Blue Phantom Plecos typically inhabit waterways, waterfalls, rapids, and other waters that have heavy currents. This does not mean you need to use a powerhead in your tank.

Members of this species that are kept in aquariums can handle having a mild current if their water quality is extremely high and the water itself is oxygenated.

A good filtration system that uses replaceable filter media should be enough current for this fish species to feel at home.

It is important that the filters used are high quality. This fish does not do well with dirty water or low-oxygen conditions. If their environment is not carefully maintained then their life expectancy will drop and they will become sick.

When putting together the aquarium for Blue Phantom Plecos there are a few suggested things to include. The aquarium itself should be at least fifty gallons, has a stand, and a cover.

The water itself needs to remain stable and warm. This fish does not handle sudden changes very well. They require extra time when it comes to acclimating to a new environment.

If this is done improperly it can cause the fish to become stressed and become sick.

Their preferred temperatures range between 77 and 86F. In order to make sure it stays this warm, most fish keepers will use an aquarium heater.

This species also prefers to have water that is softer than normal, around 2-12 KH. They require having a neutral pH level that is between 6.0-7.0.

Creating the Landscape

blue phantom pleco on log

Blue Phantom Plecos are a fish species that are active on the bottom of the tank. They require room to swim, explore, and scavenge. The ideal tank for a small number of these fish is 50 gallons.

For those who want to ensure their fish are happy and stress-free, ideally, 25-50 gallons should be given to each fish.

The perfect substrate for Blue Phantom Plecos is one that will recreate their natural homes. This recreation requires a mixture of both smooth pebbles and soft sands.

It is important to not use harsh or rough aquarium gravel because this fish species will injure itself while trying to scavenge for food in the substrate. While aquatic soil could work, this species of fish is known for digging around and would make a mess of it.

The perfect decorations for this species include tall rocks, boulders, and caves. Driftwood and branches can be included but this fish doesn’t require having a lot of wood in their tank.

Live plants can be included but this species is known for uprooting and damaging any plants that are not secured in place.

This omnivorous fish is nocturnal and will avoid any bright lights during the day. They like to hide under rocks or caves near the filter outflow. 

Best Plants: Live plants may become uprooted or killed by the fish. However, you can use plants such as yellow squash and cucumber.
Best Lighting:This fish does not like bright light during the day, so avoid natural sunlight
Best Decorations:Rocks and driftwood can be used to make caves for this fish
Decorations to Avoid:Avoid any decorations with sharp jagged edges

Learn about Clown Plecos here.

Physiological Considerations for Blue Phantom Plecos

blue pleco close up
Size: 7 inches
Lifespan:5-8 years
Preferred Tank Region:Bottom
Scale Thickness:They have a thick armor of scales
Gill Considerations:There are no special gill considerations
Swimbladder Considerations:There are no Swim Bladder Considerations
Fin Shape Considerations:They need to be in an environment with no sharp edges or their fins can be easily damaged

For Blue Phantom Plecos, it is not unheard of for them to live more than a decade in captivity. However, this life span is based upon their environment.

If the tank’s quality can be kept up and the fish be given the right balanced diet, it is not unheard of for some Blue Phantoms to live upwards of twelve to fifteen years.

Ultimately the life expectancy is depending on the quality of care. The better you take care of your Pleco the longer it will live.

Personality-wise, Blue Phantom Plecos are omnivores known for being shy, mellow, and peaceful towards other species of fish. However, at night time this fish becomes active.

They will explore their environment and scavenge for food. They like to swim around and stay near the tank’s filter outflows.

Blue Phantoms are catfish and like other fishy relatives, they are opportunistic feeders. They differ from the Common Pleco in that they are not active hunters and leave schooling fish in peace.

They are not known for being overly territorial so they can be kept in groups or with other peaceful fish.

This fish species can grow upwards of seven inches in length. Most have dark blue skin with white spots but are naturally found in a number of attractive colors.


The Blue Phantom Plecos are peaceful fish around other fish species. However, they do not always play well when in a tank with other plecos.

Part of this problem occurs because plecos are very active on the bottom of their tanks. They will swim from end to end rapidly and do not want to bump into other fish that may be blocking them.

Due to how Blue Phantom Plecos can get along with peaceful fish, you have a lot of options in their compatibility with other fish species. The only real limitations will be your budget, your aquarium size, and what the aquarium is equipped to handle.

Some fishkeepers like to put other turbulence-loving fish into the tank with Blue Phantom Plecos. Two great choices for this setup include Flagtail Characins and Silver Dollar Fish.

While it is possible to keep Blue Phantom Plecos around groups of fish that are semi-aggressive, the best results come from keeping them with peaceful fish.

Another great choice for tankmates is schooling fish. Some of the better options are Tinfoil, Tiger, and Odessa barb. Tetra fish and hatchet fish also do well in this kind of community.

You can keep them in a tank with breeding fish but it is important to note that Blue Phantom Plecos (like Blue Crayfish) are scavengers. They are not averse to eating the fish produced by a breeding group of fish.

Compatible tank mates for blue phantom pleco fish include

Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations

Blue Phantom Plecos are not a fish species known for easy breeding. There have been only a few successful reports of breeding them in captivity.

This is not to say that breeding them is impossible but likely to not happen. Due to this, most of the fish you see for sale were caught wild for selling.

It is difficult to induce breeding, even when they are in a mixed-gender group living in a pond. Those who were successful in breeding were forced to used artificial hormones.

When determining gender it is important to focus on body shape. The males are skinnier and the females have more of a round body. When looked at from the side, the female fish has a rounded abdomen that is longer than the rest of her body.

If the female becomes pregnant it will visibly develop a bigger stomach, increasing as size as the eggs develop. The female will rest more and stay in cool, peaceful, and undisturbed places in the aquarium.

Nutritional Needs

This fish enjoys a diet based on variety. They have shown some pickiness when it comes to the algae and food scraps they are willing to eat. This means that the center of their diet will need to be dependent on you to give them a balanced diet.

This fish needs to be fed at least every other day. If you have enough algae in your tank then the fish will eat that and not be hungry. However, if your tank is algae free then you should consider feeding them more often.

The best time to feed them is in the evening because this nocturnal fish will just be waking up and wanting their breakfast.

When deciding what to feed this fish species, you have a number of good options available. They like to eat brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. They are also a fan of vegetables such as spinach and other green veggies.

While these fish can survive up to 5-7 days without eating, this will affect their health. Once you have the water levels balanced and there are enough algae, they can make due for several days on their own.

Best Sustenance Food Type: A solid pellet food or sinking algae wafers
Additional Food For Optimal Health:Blood worms, balanced cucumbers, brine shrimp, or Daphnia eggs
Special Foods and Considerations for Best Color and Growth:Make sure they have a balanced diet
When and How Often to Feed Fish Based on Life Cycle:Depending on how much algae is in your tank, feed everyday or every other day at evening time

Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them

There are no specific diseases for this fish species. However, they can suffer from common ailments. Ich, Dropsy, Fin Rot, and fungal infections all originate from not taking proper care of your fish or their tank.

Preventative is the best course of action because an illness will shorten your fish’s life considerably. 

If however, you notice any symptoms of these diseases, it is important to change the water quickly and make sure your fish are given quality antibiotics so they can recover and not suffer in pain.

Best Antibiotics: Unless your fish is seriously ill, over-the-counter antibiotics will clear up most diseases
Treatments to Avoid:N/A
Food Recommendations When Sick:A healthy diet full of fresh food
Hospital Tank or Isolation Withing the Community Tank:It is important to put up a hospital tank so the fish does not spread their infections

3 Facts About Blue Phantom Plecos

Image from gtaquarium on Instagram
  1. Blue Phantom Plecos that are found in the most northern parts of Rio Orinoco valley are the darkest in coloration.
  2. Species of this fish found further down steam have a light color tone.
  3. Plecos are widely valued by aquarists due to how beautiful they are.

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