Candy Striped Pleco (Peckoltia vittata): Ultimate Care Guide

Candy Striped Pleco is a dwarf Pleco native to the Amazon River in South America. They are often confused with other types of plecos with similar appearance, such as Clown Plecos. This fish features a beige to dark brown base color with cream-colored stripes. This species eats algae on wood and hardscape features but won’t usually remove algae from aquarium glass. Keep this in mind if you’re choosing fish for algae control.

The Candy Striped Pleco is a dwarf species, and can be an excellent choice for the smaller aquarium. This fish is nocturnal and very timid. It prefers to spend the day hiding under rocks and in caves, only coming out at night to feed. This can be a moderately easy fish to maintain as long as proper care is taken in meeting its nutritional and environmental needs. Let’s look as the facts you’ll need to know when caring for this dwarf Pleco species.

Candy Striped Pleco Care

Candy Striped Pleco have specific food and habitat needs. Provide driftwood and rocks for hiding spaces along with meaty foods.

Candy Striped Pleco are easy to care for as long as their needs are understood. This fish is not a good algae eater, especially when mature. Meaty foods should be provided as their staple diet.


Candy Striped Pleco prefer water temperatures between 72° and 79° F.

Water pH

Candy Striped Pleco want water which is neutral or slightly acidic with a pH between 5.6 and 7.0.

Candy Striped Pleco (Peckoltia vittata)
Candy Striped Pleco (Peckoltia vittata). Edited. Gabriel Lelis Togni, CC BY 3.0

Candy Striped Pleco Size

Candy Striped Pleco will only reach a maximum length of 4 to 5 ½ inches. Like many Plecos, this species can take up to two years to reach full mature size. Therefore, a 4 inch specimen that has been kept in an aquarium is likely at least two years old. Hobbyists familiar with other Pleco species may wonder if their Candy Striped Pleco is growing correctly. It is important to remember the small adult size of this fish: don’t expect it to grow as fast as other non-dwarf varieties.

Food & Diet

Candy Striped Pleco are onmivores and prefer meaty foods. They will eat algae, but not in large quantities, and not on aquarium glass. If you’re looking for a Pleco for algae control, this species isn’t the best choice. This is a nocturnal fish and will only feed at night: only add food right before turning out the lights for the evening. Any food added to their tank during the day will sit uneaten until night and may spoil tank water. Meaty foods like frozen Mysis shrimp, frozen bloodworms and even chopped up frozen shrimp intended for human consumption are good choices. You can supplement their diet with algae wafers and sinking catfish foods in tablet or pellet form, but meaty foods should be their primary source of nutrition.

As long as you keep your Candy Striped Pleco well-fed they will leave aquarium plants and other tank mates alone. If you find they are eating plants this is probably a result of underfeeding, or feeding the wrong foods. Vary their diet until that behavior stops.

Candy Striped Pleco Lifespan

Candy Striped Pleco can live up to 10 years with proper care.

Tank Size

Candy Striped Plecos are a dwarf species and can live in tanks as small as 20 gallons. Even in small tanks this fish needs caves and other hardscape features for hiding. They mainly stay in the lower regions of their aquariums, so tanks should be selected with an eye to maximizing space on the bottom: a taller, more narrow tank might be unsuitable for this species.

Tank Setup

Candy Striped Plecos need tanks with plenty of driftwood, rocks and caves to hide in. The best substrate choice is medium to small rocks and pebbles. Driftwood not only gives this fish something to hide in, it also helps buffer acidity. You’ll want to keep your tank water neutral to slightly acidic. Including driftwood or bogwood can help achieve this.

This species won’t bother plants unless it’s underfed. The main challenge to growing plants, in this case, are nutrients: the best substrate for Candy Striped Plecos isn’t the best growing medium for many common types of aquarium plants. You have a couple of choices. You can place a layer of Aqua Soil beneath the small rocks and pebbles. This will allow rooted plants to have the nutrition they need while providing the rocky environment your Candy Striped Pleco prefers. Another choice is picking plants which are epiphytes. Plants like Anubias, Bucephalandra and Java Fern are less reliant on having nutritious aquarium soil. Some can simply be attached to hardscape features and will grow without any soil at all.

Filtration and water quality will need extra attention. Although the Candy Striped Pleco is a dwarf species, it is still a messy eater. You’ll need to be prepared for weekly 25% water changes and have excellent filtration. Hobbyists keeping the larger Pleco varieties often use powerful canister filtration systems. Canister filters can provide too much filtration for a smaller tank. Whatever filtration setup you choose will need to circulate at least four times the volume of the tank every hour. So, a 20 gallon aquarium would need at least a 100 GPH (gallon per hour) filter.

Candy Striped Pleco Breeding

Candy Striped Pleco need caves and hiding spots of breed. Consider setting up a separate breeding tank which will allow precise control of water parameters and environment. Candy Striped Pleco are bred in captivity but it’s not common. Following the tips for breeding other Plecos is probably a good place to start. Plecos are usually easy to breed and the Candy Stripes Pleco is likely no different.

Your breeding tank will needs lots of caves so your Plecos can pick the one they like best. Terracotta pots are cheap and are a popular choice with breeders. In a breeding tank, looks aren’t as critical and this type of pot is a great choice. During mating, males are particularly prone to fight other males. The best mix is one male to two females.

Once they breed successfully, the male and female separate. The male will tend to the eggs for 3 to 5 days until they hatch. A high protein diet is best for Candy Striped Pleco fry. They will not explore the tank, and will stay close to where they hatched for a few days. Place food near the breeding cave entrance within easy reach.

Candy Striped Pleco Male or Female

Male Candy Striped Pleco are smaller and more narrow than the females. Males also have small, jagged odontodes along the pectoral fins.

Candy Striped Pleco Disease

Candy Striped Pleco aren’t uniquely susceptible to any particular diseases. Though they can still contract Ich, fungal and various bacterial infections. A key to keeping this species disease free is maintaining high water quality.

Plecos can be sensitive to some common freshwater fish medications, particularly those containing copper. Often Ich in Plecos is treated by increasing tank temperature. You’ll want to maintain a separate quarantine tank (QT) to simplify special treatments for your Candy Striped Pleco and other tank mates.

Candy Striped Pleco Tank Mates

Docile and nocturnal, Candy Striped Plecos can pair with many different tank mates. Exceptions are other bottom dwellers, as these Plecos can be territorial.

Candy Striped Pleco and Betta

Candy Striped Plecos and Bettas are often a good pairing. They stick to different regions of the tank and are active at different times of day.

Candy Striped Pleco and Goldfish

Candy Striped Pleco and Goldfish can make a good pairing. As long as the Pleco is well fed it shouldn’t bother your Goldfish. If the Candy Striped Pleco is underfed it may try to eat the goldfish’s slime coat while they are sleeping.

Candy Striped Pleco and Bristlenose Pleco

Candy Striped Pleco and Bristlenose Pleco are both bottom dwellers and can be territorial. It is best to not keep two Plecos in the same tank. That rule also applies to these two fish.

Candy Striped Pleco and Shrimp

While Candy Striped Pleco can eat frozen shrimp they will usually get along fine with your live aquarium shrimp. When Plecos are well fed, they are scavengers not predators. They should coexist peacefully in this pairing.

Candy Striped Pleco and Corydoras

Corydoras are extremely peaceful but Candy Striped Pleco can be territorial and may bully this smaller species. These two fish will not be happy together in the same tank.

Candy Striped Pleco and Angelfish

Candy Striped Pleco and Angelfish stay in different tank regions and should coexist peacefully. An exception is when Candy Striped Plecos are underfed: they may try and eat the slime coat from sleeping Angelfish.

Candy Striped Pleco and Cichlids

Candy Striped Pleco can coexist with many South American Cichlids since they both prefer neutral to slightly acidic water. African Cichlids want alkaline water that Plecos won’t tolerate.

Where can I find Candy Striped Pleco for sale?

Candy Striped Pleco is a somewhat rare variety and may not be available in your local fish store. Internet sources will be your best bet. Just make sure you are getting a Candy Striped Pleco and not a Clown Pleco; these two species are often confused. Expect to pay less than $45 USD.

Candy Striped Pleco vs Common Pleco

Common Pleco is a blanket term that covers many different varieties of Pleco, but is often used as a synonym for Bristlenose Pleco. Bristlenose Pleco are a similar size as Candy Striped Pleco, and are more likely to eat algae. Candy Striped Pleco have much more distinctive striping patterns and prefer to scavenge for meaty foods.