The Complete Care Guide to Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold Nugget Pleco

Known for their eccentric looks and peaceful demeanour, Gold Nugget Plecos have been hovering at the top of the list of choice for freshwater aquatic pets for aquarists across the globe for quite some time now. Adding them brings a colourful dynamic to your tank and thereby elevates the overall aesthetics of the interior environment.

However, these bottom-dwellers need moderate care from your end to survive and to help you know everything related to it, we are presenting a comprehensive care guide of Gold Nugget Pleco. So, follow through.

Key Specifications of Gold Nugget Pleco

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Gold Nugget Pleco, we think it might be a good idea to take a quick look at some of their key specifications.

Scientific Name                         Baryancistrus xanthellus
Origin        South America
Lifespan4-5 years
ColoursDark green and black with yellow dots
Size6-9” (15.2-22.9 cm)
Tank Size55 Gallons
Care LevelModerate


The scientific name of Gold Nugget Plecos is Baryancistrus xanthellus and they belong to the Loricariidae family. These bottom-dwelling fish are, for the most part, pretty easy to take care of. But to make sure they grow healthily in your freshwater tank, you need to bear in mind a few things, primary among them being their compatibility issues.

Origin & Habitat of Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold Nugget Plecos are native to South America and are mainly seen in Brazil, although a considerable portion of their population is also spotted in Venezuela as well. You would find them in the tributaries of the Amazon River basin.

They prefer living in an aquaspace that has plenty of driftwood and caves with minimal lighting.

Appearance of Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold Nugget Plecos are noted for their spectacular suckermouth and backwards-pointed large pectoral fins. The caudal fins of these creatures are comparatively bigger than their dorsal fins, which resemble fans.

The bodies of Gold Nugget Plecos get thinner as you go down the caudal peduncle and becomes wider their pectoral fins to the eyes.

Size of Gold Nugget Pleco

In the wild, they can grow up to 13” (33 cm), but in a home environment, they usually grow 6-9” (15.2-22.9 cm). Optimal water conditions and regular cleaning of the tank will flourish their growth and colouration.

Colour of Gold Nugget Pleco

They have a dark greenish to black body and it is covered with similar-sized and uniformly spaced small yellow dots. The ends of their dorsal and caudal fins are also yellow in colour.

Behaviour of Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold Nugget Plecos are bottom-dwellers, meaning they spend a majority of their time at the bottom of the water body. They are considered excellent tank cleaners since they consume algae and a great portion of the leftover foods (more on this will be discussed later in the article).

Although generally shy, mellow and peaceful, they can get aggressive when they are stressed, which especially generates when more than two of them are kept in the same vicinity. The same is true when you keep them with other species. They mostly mind their own business and don’t interfere with others.

Also, they love hiding, mostly during the day. So, the chances of you spotting them in the day time are very less.

Lifespan of Gold Nugget Pleco

They can live up to five years in a captive environment if you succeed in providing them with an optimal condition. However, in the wild, they end up living longer.

Diet of Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold Nugget Plecos are one of the most efficient algae-eaters that you can host in your freshwater tank. Not only that, they will also consume any leftover food and the detritus that fall off from aquatic plants. As such, they will themselves be able to contribute a lot towards keeping your tank clean. In other words, these species are not really picky eaters.

Omnivorous by nature, you can provide them with a whole range of different types of food. This includes both live and frozen foods as well as flakes and pellets. One thing that you should keep in mind about them is that they need regular protein. Therefore, make sure that you provide them with Brine Shrimp, Bloodworms, Tubifex, etc. on a regular basis.

To satiate their vegetable needs, you may provide them with blanched zucchini, cucumber, and shelled peas.

Since they are nocturnal beings, they prefer eating at night time. So, adjust their feeding time accordingly. Also, you should always keep a balance between keeping the tank clean from algae and keeping a substantial portion of algae for the consumption of your Gold Nugget Plecos. In addition, don’t keep leftover foods just for their sake thinking they will clean everything. Too much of leftover food can make them sick.

Needless to say, cut the food into small pieces always and never forget to thaw frozen foods before putting them in the tank.

Tank Requirements for Gold Nugget Pleco

To ensure they grow healthily in your freshwater tank, you need to pay major attention to the correct tank set up. Therefore, you need to bear in mind the following aspects:

Tank Size

They love roaming around the tank which means you would have to provide them with a medium-sized tank at least. We recommend a 55-gallon tank. Of course, the larger the tank, the better it is for their health.

When you squeeze them in a small tank, their health will deteriorate, their growth will be stunted, their lifespan will get shortened, they will go through more stress and will be vulnerable to more illnesses.

Tank Lid

Despite the fact that they mostly reside at the bottom of the tank and rarely come up to the water surface, having a sturdy tank lid is necessary. This would make sure they are safe from outside dirt and dust as well as any potential attack or disturbance from your children or pet dogs and cats.


Ideally, we recommend using the soft, sandy substrate for the freshwater tank you decide to host your Gold Nugget Plecos in. This not only matches with their natural habitat but it also goes well with their scavenging habit

Gold Nugget Plecos love scavenging through the substrate and a sand-based substrate is easy for them to sift through instead of sharp rocks or gravel-based substrates. Please make sure that the substrate that you are using doesn’t have any toxic colouring.


Due to the fact that they are sensitive to dirty water, you need to provide them with a strong filtration system. This would aerate the tank water and also keep the water clean which would, in turn, add to their health.


You can get creative with the décor of your tank. This is not only for aesthetic purposes but also for the health of your Gold Nugget Plecos.

These fish spend most of their time during daytime hiding. As such, they need rocks, pebbles, artificial caves and castles. You need to ensure that the holes of the castles are large enough so that they don’t get stuck in them and that they don’t have any sharp edges.


Don’t buy any fancy lights for the aquarium you keep them in. In the wild, they live in areas that have low access to sunlight and you need to replicate the same in your home aquarium. So, go for a subtle and dim lighting system.

Presence of Flora

Aquatic plants play various important roles in the lives of Gold Nugget Plecos. Not only do they provide them with detritus, which they need for their consumption, but they also provide them with hiding spots.

In addition, they provide them with shelter from excess light. Not to mention, the presence of flora would replicate their natural environment, thereby lowering their stress level in your home aquarium.

Cleaning Method

You need to regularly clean the tank to ensure your Gold Nugget Plecos stay healthy. We recommend cleaning the tank on a monthly basis. For cleaning, you should never use any soap or chemical-based products since harmful residues from them can stay back and hurt your fish.

Take a soft piece of clothing, dip it in lukewarm water and use it to wipe off the interior walls of your freshwater tank. You can scrape off algae but don’t deplete the entire algae population since Gold Nugget Plecos love consuming algae. For cleaning the substrate and the ornaments, you can put them under tap water. Regularly trim the aquatic plants so that they don’t go rogue.

When you clean the tank, keep the tank water alongside your fish in a large bucket and cover it with a lid so that your Gold Nugget Plecos can’t escape.

Water Type for Gold Nugget Pleco

Next up, you need to check the water type required for keeping your Gold Nugget Plecos healthily in a freshwater tank. Although they are not very finicky of the water type you keep them in (as long as it is clean freshwater), you need to keep conducting regular every 2-3 days to ensure healthy growth of these fish. Here are the requirements:


These are tropical being. Henceforth, if you keep the temperature of the water slightly warm, it will be beneficial for them. As such, the temperature of the tank water should be 73°F to 79°F (22.8°C to 26.1°C).

For maintaining this temperature, you would require the assistance of an aquarium heater. In the event your aquarium heater doesn’t have a temperature reading, we recommend you buy an aquarium thermometer.

pH Level

The tank water where you keep these bottom-dwelling fish in should neither be too acidic nor too basic. Therefore, make sure the pH level stays between 6.5-7.5. Use pH testing strips to maintain this optimal pH level.


The water hardness of the freshwater tank where you host Gold Nugget Plecos in should be 5-15 dH.

Replacement Procedure

We can’t stress enough on the importance of cleanliness of the tank water, and what better way to ensure the cleanliness of the tank water other than replacing portions of it from time to time. Remember, the keyword here is portions.

Until and unless it is an extreme situation, we strongly advise you not to replace the entire water content altogether. The reason behind this is that when you change the entire water content altogether, it kills off the beneficial bacteria in it. These bacteria take a lot of time to develop and they play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of the environment inside your tank.

To help manage this problem, we recommend you replace portions of tank water at a time. Depending on your availability and commitment, you can choose one of the following tank water replacement methods:

  • You may replace 10% of the tank water every seven days, or
  • Replace 20% of the tank water every 15 days, or
  • Replace 35-50% of the tank water on a monthly basis.

Make sure you pick only one of these three methods and not all three methods.

Compatibility of Gold Nugget Pleco

Although these beautiful bottom-feeders are mostly peaceful, they can get aggressive when you keep more than one of them together. Each of them needs their own space owing to their highly territorial nature. At most, you may keep a pair of Gold Nugget Plecos together.

Suitable Tankmates for Gold Nugget Pleco

As we have stated above, Gold Nugget Plecos are extremely territorial and don’t appreciate others invading their space, the same is applied when it comes to their compatibility with other species as well.

If you still want to keep them with other types of fish, a golden rule to follow here is to keep them with species that spend a majority of their time at the top and middle portion of the tank water. You can keep them with snails as long as you are feeding them properly. Else, they will start to consume the snails.

With that being said, some of the ideal tankmates for Gold Nugget Plecos are as follows:

  • Goldfish
  • Honey Gourami
  • Ember Tetra
  • Apistogramma
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Pearl Gourami
  • Celestial Pearl Danio
  • Neon Tetra
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Sparkling Gourami

Unsuitable Tankmates for Gold Nugget Pleco

You can’t keep Gold Nugget Plecos with other bottom-dwelling species because it would make them more aggressive and they would feel that their space is being invaded.

Breeding of Gold Nugget Pleco

We don’t recommend breeding Gold Nugget Plecos in a captive environment because of how difficult it is to breed them at home. If you forcefully try them to breed, it might lead to some disastrous results.

If you want to host young Gold Nugget Plecos, then you have to purchase them from a local pet store. Please buy them from a reputed store. In addition, make sure you quarantine them before adding them to your main freshwater tank. It even applies to the substrate and ornaments of the tank. All these would ensure the prohibition of outside germs and parasites from entering your main tank.


Gold Nugget Plecos are magnificent creatures that are relatively easy to rear in a home environment. Given their peaceful demeanour and beautiful appearance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone as to why they are so extremely popular.  They don’t have any fancy tank or dietary requirements. Just provide them with ample protein and keep the tank clean enough of their good health.

However, you need to ensure that you don’t keep more than two of them together. Also, don’t keep them with any bottom-dwelling species. This is because they are extremely territorial and can get aggressive when any other species invaded their space. They live up to five years in captivity. So, make sure you are ready for the commitment.

They are algae-eaters and also consume detritus and leftover food in your tank. Therefore, they themselves play a vital role in keeping the overall tank clean. However, it shouldn’t mean that you would be completely dependent on them for cleaning the tank.

Look out for parasitic diseases and Ich in them and make sure to contact veterinarian instantly if you find any symptoms in them.

Care Guides of Other Similar Pets

If you are interested in some other freshwater aquatic pets, then we have got you covered. Take a look at the following care guides of some of them: