What Do Plecos Eat Besides Algae? Discover 3 Amazing Healthy Alternatives

Algae is a popular food choice for plecos for a good reason; they have a high amount of proteins and vitamins necessary for the well-being of this fish. Since Plecostomus fish are omnivorous, they can eat plants and animals. The challenge remains in identifying safe plants and meat to feed your plecos, leaving many questioning, “What do plecos eat besides algae?”

Besides algae, plecos eat vegetables, worms, and shrimp. If you decide to feed your pleco vegetables, you must balance the types so the fish can get the essential nutrients. If you go for worms, only bloodworms and earthworms are healthy for Plecostomus fish.

In the rest of this article, you’ll find other food to give your pleco besides algae. I’ll go through everything in detail, including overfeeding the fish, to help you know how to feed your fish. Keep reading!

1. Vegetables

Besides algae, vegetables make excellent food for most plecos. Fresh vegetables have sufficient fiber your fish need for a healthy bladder.

You may argue that commercially-made fish food has enough fiber for your fish, so there is no need to add vegetables to the tank. Although such an argument is valid, the amount of fiber in commercial food, especially dried ones, is limited and will not be enough for your fish’s health.

Most vegetables have between 3 and 4 grams of fiber per cup. This is sufficient fiber to keep your pleco alive and active. Therefore, you should consider feeding your pleco plenty of vegetables when you notice these signs of stress.

It’s worth mentioning that not all human-edible vegetables are safe for your pleco. You should never make the mistake of feeding your Plecostomus any vegetable, as this may be catastrophic for its survival. There are different signs of a dying pleco you should be aware of when feeding your fish so you can take the necessary action like consulting a veterinarian.

The following are the only vegetables recommended for plecos:


what do plecos eat besides algae?
Black pleco fish with white spots

Cucumber is among the safe vegetables for plecos. Besides being safe, your pet fish will enjoy the taste.

It’s not advisable to feed your fish a whole cucumber. It might be challenging for the fish to break and chew the cucumber to reap its nutritional benefits.

The best way to ensure the fish benefits from the cucumber is by bleaching the pieces. Apart from ensuring that these pieces sink to the tank’s bottom, blanching the cucumbers makes them softer for the fish to digest.

An easy way to blanch the cucumber pieces is by placing them into the microwave for 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a boiling water technique, which involves putting the pieces into hot water for around 30 minutes.

Zucchini and Squash

The zucchini family of vegetables is rich in proteins and vitamins. Moreover, squash has large amounts of Vitamin A and E.

Both fruits are easy to digest by most fish, including Plecostomus. You can prepare the fruits using different techniques and add them to your tank for the fish to enjoy.

Some prefer cutting the squash or zucchini into small pieces before adding them to the tank. Others opt for pureed zucchini, a good option if you have baby Plecostomus in the tank.

There are a few considerations to remember when feeding your fish zucchini and squash:

  • Never feed the fish zucchini flowers: Zucchini flowers are unsafe for your fish. Although the flowers may be tasty, feeding them to your pleco can result in vomiting and bloating.
  • Avoid feeding the vegetables in excess: Feeding excessive amounts of squash or zucchini is likely to negatively impact your fish’s health, especially if they are babies. It’s advisable to reduce the amount of vegetables you add to the tank when you notice that they stay there for long.
  • Feed your fish zucchini or squash that is appropriately stored: Zucchini and squash are delicate fruits that require proper storage for preservation. Ensure you use a high-quality container with airtight seals when storing these foods for your plecos.


Broccoli is a favorite of many fish. It’s rich in Vitamin C and low in fat, which makes it ideal for your pleco. Besides being tasty, broccoli contains enzymes like glucoraphanin that boosts your fish’s health.

Cooking broccoli for fish has been a long-held belief among people. However, it’s worth noting that cooking reduces the amounts of glucoraphanin and alters other nutrients in the vegetable. Therefore, adding fresh broccoli to the tank is advisable instead of cooking it for your Plecostomus.

When preparing broccoli for plecos, you can blanch it to soften it. Simply add the broccoli to boiling water for five minutes and make sure that you remove it from the heat source in time to preserve the nutrients.

2. Worms

Worms are among the few fish foods with the highest protein.

According to the National Library of Medicine, fish need proteins to get the functional amino acids needed for the following:

  • Energy production
  • Facilitation of crucial metabolic processes
  • Protein synthesis

Besides satisfying the nutritional needs of your fish, worms satisfy the natural instincts of the fish as an omnivorous animal.

There are different types of edible worms available for your fish. However, the most popular options include:

  • Earthworms: These worms live in the soil and consume plant material and animal tissues. Earthworms have high protein content and are an excellent option for Plecostomus who love hunting for their food. You can chop the earthworms into smaller pieces before dropping them into the water. However, this is optional since plecos ate non-picky eaters.
  • Bloodworms: Bloodworms are commonly found in freshwater and brackish water ponds. They are a favorite of many tropical fish, including plecos. These worms have larvae with high protein content, making them excellent for your fish.
  • Tubifex worms: These worms live in moist environments under the ground or near bodies of water. They are commonly found in rivers, lakes, and streams. Since they are large worms, you may cut them into smaller pieces before adding them to the tank.

When preparing worms for the aquarium, you can either freeze or add the worms directly to the tank. With both options, it’s essential to remove any excess dirt from the worms before adding them to the tank.

3. Shrimp

Shrimp is an excellent choice for plecos. Like worms, shrimps are rich in protein and low in fat, making them a healthy choice for your fish.

One thing to remember when feeding your fish shrimp is that they have sharp spikes on their backs. These spikes can be very painful if swallowed by the fish and should therefore be handled with care. To prepare shrimp for your fish, you can either steam or boil them to soften the exoskeleton.

There are several types of shrimp that are suitable for plecos, including:

  • Pink and freshwater shrimps: These shrimps come in different sizes and have a soft exoskeleton. They are ideal for young fish as well as larger varieties.
  • Rock shrimp: Rock shrimp are large, dark-colored shrimps that thrive in fresh and saltwater environments. They have a delicately sweet taste and can be consumed either live or frozen.
  • Crustaceans: Crustaceans are another popular choice for fish due to their high protein content. They include crabs, prawns, crawfish, and lobster.

You can also include driftwood among your plecos food. Although not all pleco species enjoy driftwood, it’s a good source of lignin and cellulose when supplied in small quantities.

The table below shows other foods plecos eat and how to feed your fish:

FoodRecommended Feeding
Algae WafersNever exceed 2 pieces per day
VegetablesA maximum of 2 times per week
Shrimp (2 to 3 cut shrimp)A maximum of 2 times per week
Shrimp pellets2 to 3 pellets a maximum of 2 times per week
Worms1 cut worm a maximum of 2 times a week
Table 1: Feeding schedule for plecos

Is It Possible to Overfeed a Pleco Fish?

It’s possible to overfeed a pleco fish, especially if you aren’t careful about the amount of food you add to the tank. Plecos are known to be voracious eaters and can easily consume all the food they’re offered within a short time.

You don’t want to overfeed your feed as this can be catastrophic. When a fish overfeeds, it undergoes improper digestion, which leads to a contaminated tank.

Moreover, an overfed pleco may experience fatty liver and fin rot. As a fish owner, you know these are severe issues that can be fatal.

Signs of overfeeding a pleco include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas bubbles in the body
  • Mucus on the skin

If you notice any of these signs, you must reduce or stop feeding your fish until they’re done with the food. Furthermore, you should clean the tank thoroughly and ensure plenty of filtration and aeration to maintain healthy water conditions in the tank.

How to Prevent Overfeeding Your Pleco

Imagine losing your beautiful pleco because you were overfeeding it. This is a painful experience because you have to start over again. You can prevent such an occurrence by:

  • Feeding your pleco a variety of foods: You should give your fish different foods in small quantities. Some of these foods include live, frozen, flaked, and pellets. This way, the fish will get all the essential nutrients it needs for survival.
  • Removing uneaten food from the tank: Plecos are non-picky eaters. Therefore, if you see some uneaten food in the tank, it means the fish is full. Living the food in the tank will just serve as an appetizer to keep the fish eating. Consequently, you’ll get the fish overfed.
  • Watching your fish’s cues: A healthy pleco will be lively and active. When eating, the body shouldn’t show signs of stress or fatigue. If you notice these signs, it means the fish has had enough food for that particular time.
  • Following a feeding schedule: This is one of the most effective ways to prevent overfeeding. You should never leave food in the tank all day, but instead, set a feeding schedule and stick to it. This will ensure your fish doesn’t eat more than it needs and that you don’t lose any precious feed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Vegetables Do Plecos Eat?

Plecos eat different types of vegetables, including cucumber, zucchini, squash, and broccoli. When feeding your pleco these vegetables, remember to slice them into smaller pieces to make it easier for the fish to eat. You can also consider blanched cucumber for your pleco fish.

What Fresh Food Do Plecos Eat?

The main fresh foods for plecos include zucchini, broccoli, lettuce, and squash. However, you should not overfeed your pleco with these foods. A rule of thumb is to feed your pleco these fresh foods once or twice a week.

What Is the Best Food to Feed Plecos?

The two best foods to feed plecos are Mysis-Feast and TDO Chroma Boost. Mysis-Feast is made from shrimp and has a high concentration of omega fatty acids, a key nutrient for your pleco’s survival. On the other hand, TDO Chroma Boost is a pellet-based pleco food that has been top-dressed with Haematococcus pluvialis, making it nutritionally dense.

Final Thoughts

What do plecos eat besides algae? I now believe you have an answer to this question.

Whether you opt for worms, shrimps, or other crustaceans, just follow the recommended feeding guidelines to prevent overfeeding. And, if you notice any warning signs mentioned above, don’t hesitate to check on your pleco. With some care and diligence, you can keep your fish happy and healthy for many years!

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