The Butterfly Pleco Resource

Butterfly Pleco

Butterfly Pleco“Butterfly Pleco” is the common name for the Dekeyseria brachyura species.

Adult size: 4-5 inches
Minimum tank size: 75 gallon
pH: 5.6-7.0
Temperature: 77-82°F (25-28°C)
Decor: Rocks, Driftwood, and Plants
Substrate: Gravel
Lighting: 6-7 hrs/day
Diet: Herbivore

How To Keep Butterfly Plecos
How To Breed Butterfly Plecos
Other Information About Butterfly Plecos


How to Keep Butterfly Plecos


If you adopt Butterfly Plecos from a contaminated source, your aquarium may become infected. As a result, you need to ensure you only adopt ones that are kept in a healthy environment.

They can be adopted from:

Before adopting them, understand:

  • Butterfly Plecos have an average life expectancy of 8-15 years.
  • Butterfly Plecos may be identified under the common names of: N/A

Tank Requirements

• Tank Size & Population Density

If your Butterfly Plecos are in an aquarium that is overstocked, they will become stressed – weakening their immune systems – causing them to be more prone to diseases, and they won’t grow to their appropriate size. As a result, you need to follow the rule of one inch of fish per gallon of water, but keep in mind:

  • When they are less than 1 year old, Butterfly Plecos must be kept in at least a 55 gallon aquarium.
  • When they are more than 1 year old, Butterfly Plecos must be kept in at least a 75 gallon aquarium.
  • Butterfly Plecos grow to be 4-5 inches long

How do I setup a fish tank? (Opens new tab)
How do I determine the size of my aquarium? (Opens new tab)

• Canopy & Lighting

The canopy of your aquarium ensures:

  • Your fish don’t jump out of your aquarium.
  • No contaminates enter your aquarium.

As a result, equip your aquarium with a canopy that completely covers it.

As far as lighting goes, if you want your Butterfly Plecos to be most comfortable, the amount of light they get needs to mimic the amount of sunlight they receive in their natural habitat. The amount of time you should leave their aquarium’s lights on to achieve this varies. If it’s in a room that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, you should turn their lights on during sunlight hours. However, if it’s is in a well-lit room, then 2-3 hours per day is all that is necessary.

Decor & Substrate

The Butterfly Pleco is a camouflaging species so to help it show off its colors as best as possible, you should use light substrate and decorations..

The natural decor for them consists mainly of rocks, and driftwood so you should add plenty of them to their aquarium. You may also add decorative plants. When arranging these things though, you need to ensure you:

  • Make sure there are plenty of caves and hiding places.
  • Place the decor in a fashion that allows you to see them – don’t create a barrier for them to hide behind.

As far as substrate goes, it is best to use gravel. Also, make sure you:

  • Clean their gravel beforehand. Otherwise, the residue that is on it will make their aquarium cloudy.
  • Fill their aquarium with at least 2 inches of gravel.

Water Parameters

If the water in your Butterfly Plecos’ aquarium doesn’t reflect that of their natural habitat, they can become stressed – weakening their immune systems – causing them to be more prone to diseases. As a result, you need to ensure their aquarium has a pH level of 5.6-7.0 and a temperature of 77-82°F (22-25°C).

• pH
pH can be measured by using a Freshwater Master Test Kit. If you measure your water’s pH level and it needs to be altered: remove your fish, adjust the pH, then acclimate your fish back into your aquarium – since they are sensitive to drastic changes of pH.

• Temperature
To measure your aquarium’s water temperature, equip your aquarium with an aquarium thermometer.

Ammonia, Nitrites, & Nitrates

The subject of Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates tends to be very dry. In its simplest form, they are all a byproduct of fish waste (fish poop & uneaten food) and are toxic to Butterfly Plecos. As a result, you need to ensure their aquarium has:

  • An Ammonia concentration of 0-0.2 mg/L.
  • A Nitrite concentration of 0-0.2 mg/L.
  • A Nitrate concentration of 0-20 mg/L.

If you need to test these concentrations, use a Freshwater Master Test Kit.

If you need to reduce these concentrations, ensure proper:


Butterfly Plecos are herbivores, so their diet regimen should consist of plenty of vegetables.

They should be fed twice per day – for a total of 14 feedings per week. For half of their feedings, they should be fed a staple vegetable flake. For the other half, they should be fed special foods.

During each feeding, they should be fed as much food as they can eat in 2 minutes. The exact foods they should be fed varies, depending on their size:

Health Issues

Butterfly Plecos are most commonly affected by Ich.

Tank Mates

As far as keeping them with other Buttefly Plecos goes, they are fairly compatible. Adult males might show some minor aggression towards one another, but nothing too serious.

They are also very compatible with other species. They can be put with just about every species regardless of their aggression. This is becuase they will get left alone by aggressive fish, and they won’t bother any peaceful community fish.

If you are ever unsure if two species are compatible or not, check this Compatibility Chart.


How to Breed Butterfly Plecos

Reproduction Process

The Butterfly Pleco is a cave spawning species. In comparison to other plecos, male Butterflies are considered to be very picky when searching for a suitable spawn site. Once the male has chosen a suitable cave, he will begin cleaning and preparing the site. He will then attempt to court the female by darkening his colors and flaring his fins in front of her. Eventually she will follow the male to the prepared cave and she will deposit her eggs on the cave walls, which is followed up with the fertilization from the male. After fertilization, the female will leave and the male will remain with the eggs, guarding them until they hatch. The fry will be free swimming in 7-10 days.

Our Recommended Breeding Technique

Required Aquariums:

  • 75 gallon (breeder)
  • 10 gallon (grow-out)


  • Decorate a 75 gallon aquarium with lots of driftwood and caves. This is perhaps the most important step. They are a cave spawning species so the more caves you add the more likely it is that they find a cave that they consider acceptable for spawning.
  • Place 1 male and 2-4 female Butterfly Plecos into the aquarium and provide them with the appropriate aquarium setting.
  • Colder more acidic water will work best, so you will want to aim for a pH of 5.6-6.0 and a temperature of 77°F (22°C). You will also need to do frequent water changes
  • To help induce spawning, you can simulate spring time rainfall. You can do this by draining your tank of 30 percent of its water and then replenishing it with cooler water. Not too cold though or you might stun the fish.
  • After the spawning has occurred the fry will be free swimming within 7-10 days. At this point, relocate the fry into a 10 gallon grow out tank.
  • The grow out tank should not have any decorations or substrate, this makes it easier for the baby fry to eat. It should also have a sponge filter so they don’t get sucked up.
  • In the early stages, it is best to feed your Butterfly Pleco Fry New Life Spectrum Small Fry Starter.


Other Information About Butterfly Plecos


The Butterfly Pleco is a unique camouflaging catfish that can only be found in a small area just outside of Manaus, Brazil. It is located in the Rio Negro which is a southeast flowing river that supports the Amazon River. They are a cave dwelling species that find its home in moderately fast moving waters.

A characteristic that makes this species unique is its ability to quickly camouflage.With darker backgrounds, this fish has the ability to darken all of its colors making it nearly invisible to predators.

Conservation Status

Butterfly Plecos have not been evaluated by the IUCN, therefore their Conservation Status isn’t listed on the IUCN Red List.

Taxonomic Status

The Taxonomic Status of Butterfly Plecos was most recently published in 1854 by Rudolf Kner as:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Loricariidae
Subfamily: Ancistrinae
Genus: Dekeyseria
Species: D. Brachyura


Before you go: