Gold Nugget Pleco 101: Care, Tank Mates, Size & More!

Gold Nugget Pleco care

Known for their impressive size and utterly stunning beauty, the Gold Nugget Pleco has become one of the most popular freshwater fish in the world in recent years. Check out some photos or videos of these brilliant beauties in an aquarium. It won’t be difficult to see why more and more people are opting to add them to their aquarium.

Are Gold Nugget Plecos A Good Idea For My Aquarium?

Of course, while these freshwater fish are fairly straightforward in how to care for them, there are still a number of things you will want to keep in mind. From making sure they have plenty of room in the aquarium, to ensuring you are feeding them exactly what they need to be happy, there are a few simple measures you will want to keep in mind

Typical Behavior And Temperament

Before we get to the best tankmates for your Gold Nugget Plecos, we should discuss some of the facets of the typical personality you can find with Gold Nugget Plecos. This doesn’t get into anything too elaborate or complex, but newcomers should still make it a point to familiarize themselves with what they can expect.

One thing people love about this particular type of fish is their overall temperament. They are by and large very peaceful, very calm fish. They generally do not like to bother others, nor do they wish to be bothered themselves. They are not known for picking fights.

They prefer to mind their own business, at the end of the day. They will spend most of their time along the bottom of the tank, either hiding, looking for food, or simply resting. They will come to the surface of the tank sometimes, but this is generally done in the interest of, you guessed it, finding food.

Typically, these fish will get in the most activity during the evenings. While not particularly concerned with other types of fish in the tank, there is the potential for some issues with another catfish. This can be avoided by making sure you have purchased a sufficiently large enough tank to accommodate everyone. Lots of hiding places will also help you to avoid any potential issues.

If you do run into problems between a Gold Nugget Pleco and another catfish, your best bet will probably be to separate them.

Getting Started: Gold Nugget Pleco Basics

Native to Brazil, the Gold Nugget Pleco is among the most popular examples of the Pleco fish. Also known to some as the Golden Nugget Pleco, there are others still who refer to them simply as L18 or L-018.

If you haven’t heard of these fish before today, relax! While growing in popularity among aquarium enthusiasts, they are relative newcomers to being kept in captivity at all. In fact, the earliest we can trace the first instances of them being kept is somewhere in the 1980s. Thankfully, if you have ever interacted with Plecos before, you will find many of the same rules and facts apply here.

While perhaps not quite as flashy as some freshwater fish, Gold Nugget Plecos still enthrall their owners for having unique color patterns, a beautiful style that makes them the most distinctive examples of their type. They also have wonderful personalities, and are fairly hardy fish overall.

As far as we’re concerned, they are among the most stunning freshwater fish in all the world. Black in appearance, and covered with yellow spots, these fish can live for at least five years with good care.

With optimal attention, they can live for at least a few more years than five.

To that end, let’s take a closer look at the essentials of Gold Nugget Pleco care.

Gold Nugget Pleco Care

As stated earlier, learning how to care for a Gold Nugget Pleco is not particularly difficult. If you have any experience with freshwater fish, then you won’t have too much trouble here.

Peaceful by nature, and generally in a mode of keeping to themselves, they can be a good choice for any experience level.

What Tank Size Do They Need?

Gold nugget plecos can grow to be quite large. Their full length in adulthood can be anywhere between seven and ten full inches. Their bodies are widest around their eyes, and their decidedly large pectoral fins are noted for pointing backwards. Given their size, you can imagine the tank you will need for them will need to be on the large side.

Tank size is the first aspect of Gold Nugget Pleco care we’re going to cover in detail. As long as you understand the best tanks for gold nugget plecos are the larger ones, you should be fine.

Anything less than 50 gallons for a gold nugget pleco is unacceptable. These are large freshwater fish, so they need plenty of room in which to move around comfortably.

You will probably want to go a bit larger than the minimum. Not just in terms of comfort, but also in terms of how many you want to keep, whether or not there will be any other tankmates around, and making sure there is space enough for accessories and other items. Some would suggest going for a 100-gallon tank. Others will suggest tanks in the 150-gallon or even 200-gallon range.

To be clear, if you’re only planning to keep a single Gold Nugget Pleco, you do NOT need a 200-gallon aquarium! Ultimately, you need to judge the size you will require by how many freshwater fish you plan to keep overall.

Perfect Water Condition

There is a nice arena of comfort to work with, when it comes to setting the best tank conditions for your Gold Nugget Plecos. Newcomers should keep an extra eye on things, particularly in the beginning, and make adjustments as needed.

Here are the basic water parameters for the tank that you should keep in mind:

  • Water temperature: This will need to be anywhere between 73- and 79-degrees Fahrenheit. This is also a range that allows for a number of other freshwater fish, if that interests you.
  • pH levels: This should fall somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5. The sweet spot for Gold Nugget Plecos is widely considered to be a firm 7.
  • Water hardness: Here, we see why the Gold Nugget Plecos are relatively hardy for their type. This number can fall comfortably anywhere between 5 and 15 dH.

Make sure you are testing your water on a regular basis, in order to ensure you are maintaining these levels as needed. This is particularly true in the beginning. Thankfully, when it comes to the best water testing kits for aquariums, you aren’t lacking in choices.

When you buy your gold nugget pleco, test the water once a day or so. Give them time to acclimate, but be ready to make changes to help them hit their comfort zone.

Accessories And Equipment

Another thing to keep in mind with your Gold Nugget Pleco is that they need the best possible quality of water, as well. Partial water changes are best. This should be done on a consistent routine. A reliable schedule for care and maintenance is best with Plecos in general.

In terms of filling the tank with everything the Gold Nugget Pleco needs to be happy, we’re going to start with making sure you have the best possible substrate.

Remember that these fish like to spend most of their time along the bottom of the aquarium. It is for this reason that they need something that is soft. Sand is a good place to begin, since that replicates their natural atmosphere the most accurately.

Rough substrate can be problematic. It can stress them out, while also potentially leaving them open to injury and/or infection.

When it comes to plants and other accessories, you don’t need to do anything too extraordinary. Most of what holds true for other freshwater fish will apply to Gold Nugget Plecos.

Good plant life, nonetheless, is going to be essential. This will keep too much light from getting to the bottom of the tank. The best plants for Gold Nugget Plecos can also add to the overall good conditions of your aquarium. For one thing, plant life means they will have plenty of good hiding places. This is something they really like!

If you are new to all of this, consider this list of great live plant choices for freshwater aquariums. The focus is on options for beginners, but just about any tank can take advantage of what’s listed here.

For hiding places, as well as for its potential to create a nice snack for your Gold Nugget Plecos in the form of algae, caves, rocks, and driftwood are all great ideas. Don’t overfill the tank with stuff, and don’t be afraid to change things up once in a while.

As long as there’s a suitable amount of darkness, combined with lots of nice hiding spots, your Gold Nugget Pleco will be very pleased indeed.

Food & Diet

Diet and the best foods to feed Gold Nugget Plecos is one of the most straightforward aspects of their care. Not only are they omnivores, but they also have a habit of not being particularly fussy about what they eat. Even so, in the interest of good health and other considerations, we still want to be sure you are feeding them the very best foods and snacks possible.

Routine is once again important here. You should make it a point to feed the Gold Nugget Plecos on a regular schedule. While they simply love snacking on algae, and some of our decoration suggestions are going to give them exactly that, you still want to be sure your diet is focusing on getting them plenty of protein.

What kind of protein do Gold Nugget Plecos like to eat? Sinking pellets are a great way to supplement what they’re going to get from the natural surroundings of the tank. For treats, steamed veggies like cucumber and cabbage can both be great suggestions for giving them a healthy treat.

Some fresh meat is also a good way to give your Gold Nugget Pleco the best possible degree of care and attention. Tubifex worms are considered to be one of the most popular treats for Gold Nugget Plecos. Bloodworms can also be a wonderful treat. Both should only be given on an occasional basis.

It is important to avoid overfeeding them. The treats we mentioned need only be administered to them every other day, or perhaps every couple of days. They should be getting what they need from algae, and you shouldn’t need to give them more than 1-2 grams of food once per day. If you miss a day altogether, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Tank Mates

Overall, it will probably be in your best interest to just avoid other Plecos and catfish in general. If you are serious about having more than one, you will absolutely need to get a tank that will accommodate everyone. This will probably mean getting a tank that is at least 100 gallons, if not bigger.

Outside of Plecos and other examples of catfish, there are actually tons of appealing possibilities for tankmates and a very peaceful atmosphere.

The Neon Tetra and Ember Tetras are both great examples of tankmates for Gold Nugget Plecos. Pearl Gourami and Honey Gourami fish are two more possibilities that you can explore. The Celestial Pearl Danio is yet another example.

There are quite a few possible tankmates that you can research in greater detail. Start with the suggestions above, but don’t be afraid to do some research on other possible tankmates.


At this point, you can decide in no uncertain terms whether the Gold Nugget Pleco is going to be a good addition to your home. People love them, and it is easy to see why!

Gabriel R

Gabriel R

Welcome to Aquarium Fish City(AFC). I’m Gabriel and I have been keeping fish for almost fifteen years. My father was a huge fan of tropical fish and our childhood home had a huge aquarium which he tended and kept hundreds of species of fish over the years. I was always fascinated by our fish tank and would spend hours staring at the fish. They seemed to all have different personalities and would interact differently with one another. Here, you can find out everything you need to know about keeping fish and aquarium maintenance.

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