by Kathy England
What’s that in that tank? A baby pleco? It can’t be! But it is! Wow! A pair of our bristlenose Ancistrus had spawned in a tank whose other residents included Victorian and Malawi cichlid species, as well as several synodontis multipunctatus catfish.

In a cruise through the fish room one morning I noticed a tiny pleco laying on a rock beside a clay spawning hut. I did a double-take and grabbed a flashlight. I knew we had a male and female in that particular tank, but I hadn’t been watching them closely enough to catch any hanky-panky.

Sure enough, the male pleco was in the hut, guarding the entrance to prevent any more escapes and turn aside any intruders. Several babies were hanging on the side of the hut behind him. I immediately called Marvin with the good news and, as I was running late for work, I turned out the light on the tank so hopefully any hungry tankmates would pass up the pleco tidbits until we could move the hut and its contents.

On the way home that evening I stopped by the store and picked up some zucchini. Little did I realize at the time that this would become a set pattern in my life. The baby plecos are hungry–boil more zucchini!

When we moved the spawning hut and contents to a 10-gallon tank, a few fry swam out and attached themselves to nearby rocks and wood. The male, however, stayed in the hut with the majority of the youngsters. After a few days, all the little ones were out of the hut, so we moved Dad back into the tank with Mom. On impulse, I hunted down a larger female in another tank and plunked her off in there with him. Within 4 days this larger female and the male had spawned. She laid her eggs, an orange mass, in the hut. The male then ran her out of the hut, fertilized the eggs, and began fanning them. After about three days the eggs hatched and the white larvae attached themselves to the top and side of the hut, with the male constantly on guard. We again moved the hut to a 10-gallon tank. In three to four more days, the larvae actually looked like miniature plecos–assumed the proper color and body shape–and they began to move around, although not actually swimming. A few days later, when all the babies had exited it, we moved Dad back with his ladies. History repeated itself–within a week we had more baby plecos.

By this time, Marvin was beginning to make rumblings about plecos procreating as quickly and as voluminously as angelfish, which he had forbidden me to raise as they took up too much room. We now had plecos in three 10-gallon tanks, but they were rapidly outgrowing that space, thanks to a steady diet of boiled zucchini. We cleared out a 40-gallon tank and I was assigned the task of catching and moving them.

Those little @#$%^#%$! You do not know what a fish-catching challenge is until you have tried to net a baby pleco. It would be relatively easy if they just wouldn’t stick to the sides of the tank and slide up, down, left or right in order to avoid the net. And talk about fast–those little suckers put just about every other fish to shame. You have to be extra careful; they are so tiny that you don’t want to mush them. I was not using kind words by the time I managed to catch two tanks full, which amounted to about 250 fish.

And eat! Those plecos are the ultimate recycling machines. They eat and poop–in one end and out the other as fast as they can go. I was keeping Albertson’s in business with my zucchini purchases. I was boiling two to three medium zucchini per day just to feed the plecos, both babies and adults. Once the zucchini pieces were cooked so they would not float, I scooped the seeds out and discarded them, then threw the remaining chunks over into the tank, where they were immediately swarmed. I timed the babies once. It took them less than 10 seconds to find a piece of zucchini and begin scraping on it. They attacked that zucchini like piranhas in an old jungle movie–you remember, they ate everything down to the bone in a few seconds. The zucchini looked alive with plecos; it was gone in a matter of hours.

We now have close to 400 baby plecos. We have moved the male to another tank to prevent any further spawns. But now our albino bristlenose plecos have begun spawning. Oh, well . . . . The baby plecos are hungry–boil more zucchini!

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