Blue Eyed Pleco (Panaque cochliodon): Ultimate Care Guide

The Blue Eyed Pleco is a rare and expensive type of pleco that can be an eye-catching addition to your aquarium. Native to the Magdalena Valley in Columbia, this species was once more common in aquariums. Political instability has made accessing this fish extremely difficult. Some can still be found and bought by hobbyists but they are always expensive. This species has dark or black bodies which contrast beautifully with their turquoise eyes. Some sources indicate this fish has stripes which disappear as it matures.

Identifying this species can be a challenge. Many Plecos are categorized by L numbers. Some sources cite L191 as being Blue Eyed Pleco but this may be an incorrect categorization of the Broken Line Royal Pleco. When buying one of these fish you’ll want to do lots of research and talk to the supplier to ensure you’re getting the correct variety.

This fish is uncommon in aquariums. If you’re lucky enough to find one, there are some things you’ll need to know to ensure the best health and longevity. Let’s find out more!

Blue Eyed Pleco Care

Blue Eyed Pleco need an environment that matches their natural habitat in Columbian streams. Rocks, driftwood, and a varied diet are critical factors in keeping this species healthy.

Blue Eyed Pleco are similar to other Pleco varieties, and are usually easy to care for. Ensure they have a proper tank environment and a varied omnivore diet.


Blue Eyed Plecos prefer water temperatures between 75° and 80° F.

Water pH

Blue Eyed Plecos prefer water which stays close to neutral with a pH between 6.4 – 7.4.

Blue Eyed Pleco Size

Blue Eyed Plecos can reach 16 inches in an aquarium. Like most Plecos, this species can take around two years to reach full adult size. All specimens of this fish are wild caught so it can be tricky to determine their age. A Blue Eyed Pleco which is 16 or more inches in length will be at least two years old.

Blue Eyed Pleco (Panaque cochliodon)
Blue Eyed Pleco (Panaque cochliodon). Edited. Sini Merikallio from Helsinki, Finland, CC BY-SA 2.0

Food & Diet

Blue Eyed Pleco are omnivores and should be fed a varied diet of sinking prepared and gel feed, along with biofilm from driftwood. They shouldn’t be fed large amounts of high-protein meaty foods but these should be an occasional treat. Blue Eyed Pleco are nocturnal so be sure and feed them before turning out the lights for the night. Any food added to the tank in the daytime will sit until evening and may rot and spoil your water.

While this fish will eat algae it shouldn’t be its primary diet. Don’t expect this species to keep aquarium glass algae free. It will collect algae and biofilm from driftwood.

Blue Eyed Pleco Lifespan

Most large Plecos will live around 10 years in captivity and the Blue Eyed Pleco shouldn’t be any different.

Blue Eyed Pleco Tank Size

Blue Eyed Plecos can grow very large and need big tanks to match. At least 120 gallons is a good place to start. This is a bottom-dwelling species so needs lots of tank floor space to maneuver well and feel comfortable. Aquariums should be wider and deeper than they are tall.

Tank Setup

Blue Eyed Pleco need driftwood, rocks, and other hardscape in their tank to feel comfortable. Make sure you have enough filtration to support this fish’s large mature size. Ideally, you’ll want to simulate this species’ natural environment. This requires a rocky substrate, and enough caves or cover to provide hiding places. It is best to avoid sandy substrates as this rough material can damage your Blue Eyed Pleco’s mouth. Also provide smooth rocks or pebbles for the same reason. Avoid any substrate that includes crushed coral or aragonite sand. Not only are these materials rough enough to damage your Pleco’s mouth, they buffer alkalinity, and can raise water pH beyond what your fish can tolerate.

Like all large Plecos, your Blue Eyed Pleco will need excellent filtration and regular water changes. Because of the large tank sizes this species needs, and to provide enough filtration, consider a canister filter system. Pick a filtration setup which can turn over at least four times the volume of your tank in an hour. If you have a 120 gallon aquarium, aim to get a filter that runs at least 500 GPH (gallons per hour).

In their natural environment, Blue Eyed Plecos live in strong river currents. You can duplicate this in your tank by positioning filter outlets to stir the water, but this may not be enough. Consider adding power heads and wavemakers to add even more flow. Wavemakers are common in marine aquariums and can be positioned to create strong currents in any area of your tank. Another reason to ensure enough flow is waste removal: Plecos are messy, and powerful currents can help stir up waste for removal by your filter.

Blue Eyed Plecos won’t eat plants when well fed. Having rooted aquarium plants can be a challenge because of the nutrient poor substrates which are often used for this species. Epiphytes are a good alternative. Common choices like Anubias and Java Fern can be anchored to hardscape features and don’t need nutritious soil to grow.

Blue Eyed Pleco Breeding

Blue Eyed Plecos have not been bred in captivity, all specimens available to hobbyists are wild caught. It is believed this species spawns in caves in its natural habitat. If you want to try to breed this fish, your first challenge will be finding a mating pair. Plecos are territorial and any two fish may not get along, regardless of sex.

Plecos are normally fairly easy to breed, and there’s a good chance Blue Eyed Plecos are the same. Assuming you can find a mating pair, they will need a very large aquarium with many caves they can choose from. After spawning, Pleco males will usually guard the eggs and fry until they are free swimming. Most Pleco fry don’t venture far from where they hatched. Place food near their cave entrance to make finding it easier.

Blue Eyed Pleco Male or Female

Female Plecos have rounder abdomens than the males. Males are slimmer and tend to be smaller.

Blue Eyed Pleco Disease

Blue Eyed Pleco is a rare fish, and detailed information about disease susceptibility is scant. Many Plecos are hardy and disease resistant, and it’s a safe assumption this species is the same. Many Pleco diseases can be traced to low water quality. The first step to protecting the health of your Blue Eyed Pleco is preventive: ensure excellent filtration and perform regular water changes. Plecos can contract many of the same diseases as other freshwater fish. Ich, along with fungal and bacterial infections are common conditions. Ich is visible as small specks along body, fins, gills and tail. These can be treated with common medications or the application of increased water temperature. Plecos are sensitive to copper based medicines, so check that whatever treatment you select is appropriate to this species.

Blue Eyed Pleco Tank Mates

Blue Eyed Pleco, like many other Pleco species stay to the lower sections of their tanks and won’t bother fish that keep to mid and upper tank regions like Tetras and Angelfish. This fish can be territorial and will have problems with other Plecos and bottom dwelling species such as catfish. Let’s look at some common tank mate parings.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Betta

Blue Eyed Pleco and Betta usually make a good tank mate pairing. Bettas stay in upper regions of their tanks while Plecos stay close to the bottom.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Goldfish

Blue Eyed Pleco is usually a good tank mate with a Goldfish as long as the Pleco is well fed. Goldfish have a slime coating that some hungry Plecos may try and eat while they are sleeping. Not all Plecos do this, and usually only when they are underfed.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Bristlenose Pleco

Blue Eyed Pleco and Bristlenose Pleco are a bad choice for tank mates. Both are bottom-dwelling Plecos and are often territorial. These two species should not be kept in the same tank.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Shrimp

While a Blue Eyed Pleco is an omnivore that can scavenge meaty foods, it isn’t a predator. Shrimp can be an acceptable tank mate choice.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Corydoras

Blue Eyed Pleco and Corydoras are both bottom-dwelling fish. Your Pleco will likely have serious territorial issues with gentle Corydoras.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Angelfish

Blue Eyed Pleco and Angelfish can be a good tank mate pairing. Make sure your Pleco is well fed. Angelfish have a slime coating that some Plecos will try and eat while they are sleeping. This usually only happens when the Pleco isn’t provided with enough food.

Blue Eyed Pleco and Cichlids

Blue Eyed Pleco can be good tank mates with South American Cichlids. Avoid African Cichlids as these are more aggressive, and need more alkaline water than Plecos can tolerate.

Where can I find Blue Eyed Pleco for sale?

Blue Eyed Pleco are very rare in the hobbyist community. Expect to deal with a specialist or an online supplier. Be sure the dealer you are working with is correctly identifying this fish, as mistaken identifications do happen.

Blue Eyed Pleco Price

Blue Eyed Pleco are rare and expensive. When available, they may cost hundreds of dollars.