Help with pleco not eating and looking stressed


New Member
Nov 3, 2023
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65 gallon tank
Ph 7.6
Ammonia/nitrites 0
Nitrates 20-40
1 pleco, 1 cory, 4 clown loach

All pertinent info:
I had old tank syndrome for a long time. My pleco started acting strange and it lit a fire under my ass to try and fix it, thinking it was the reason my pleco was being weird so I began doing 25% water changes 24 hours apart. I realized after the fact that I may have dropped the nitrates too fast and further contributed to stressing my pleco out. Now I have not visibly seen him eat in over a week, BEFORE I began doing water changes, and I’m worried that there was some other illness occurring this whole time that has gone untreated even longer. I’ve read about the possibility of opening up a bacterial pocket when vacuuming the tank while having water quality issues. Is that actually a thing? I’ve had this pleco for 16 years and he’s NEVER once gotten sick.

16 year old pleco
Splotchy coloring/the stressed look plecos get
Eats cucumber religiously- have not seen him eat in over a week/no poop seen in tank
Breathing normally but mouth hanging open
No external wounds/external infections/external parasites
I attached a picture because today I noticed he almost looks bloated but I really don’t know.

Should I treat the tank with something? With what/for what? I have a 10 gallon tank I could turn into a hospital tank but I’m worried the stress of moving him will make him worse. But I also don’t know if I should medicate the 65 gallon with the clown loaches in there. I’m at such a loss and worried this fish I’ve had almost half my life is going to die. Any advice greatly appreciated.

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