Thoughts on Common Plecos

PlasticGalaxy

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This is more of a vent than an informative and interactive post, so I'm not expecting many responses. I just wanted to talk about common plecos and their mistreatment in fish keeping.

There's a lot of detail about fish death here, so if you're sensitive to that sort of thing, I would advise again reading.



Today we went to the local fish shop, where they have a huge, dinner-plate sized pacu and a common pleco in their display tank at the front. I'd never seen the plec before, since it's always been too dark. He was huge. I'd never seen a fully grown common before now, and was astonished at the size. It was around 18" long, and it was stunning. The colouration and patterns were beautiful, rich dark browns and gorgeous etchings of gold all over it. I'd never seen such a beautiful fish. But seeing a common pleco of this size for the first time made me realise how poorly some live their lives. Many don't live to see their golden days where their colours are at their richest and they're the kings and queens of their tanks.

They're sold for £6 each with little to no information from the fish shops they come from. Doomed to be sold as an "algae eater" to inexperienced fish keepers, thrust into kids' tanks with rainbow gravel, SpongeBob ornaments, and the advice that "they grow to the size of their tanks".

And yes, they do: if you mean their growth is permanently stunted and their organs continue to grow inside their forever tiny bodies. Eventually they crush themselves to death years before their time should come. These beautiful beasts can live for over twenty years if properly cared for, but plecos with stunted growth will only live for a fraction of that time.

And this isn't only the fish keeper at fault. Fish shops neglect the needs of the common pleco more often than not. Twenty plecos, all of 3-5 inches in length crammed into a 1ft tank together, staring at you with terribly sad eyes, begging to be taken home. The way they shoot back and forth across your tank when you finally take them home is insane. They've never felt that much freedom before. And yet the damage is already done. They stay at that size forever, as you wonder why all your other fish have grown so well.

Within the first year you have it, it dies. You find it dead at the bottom of your tank, ghostly white and being picked at by its tank mates. It's a strange feeling, too. You've cared for this fish, loved it and given it everything it needs. But it just didn't grow. It dies on your hands and you feel nothing but sadness, guilt and frustration. Crying feels wrong, though. It's just a fish. And yet it still hurts. A lot. You can't even understand why it hurts so much, you know it was bound to happen. After all, it had never grown in all the time you'd kept it. You knew how badly it was treated in the fish shop, and you knew it was going to die. So why does it hurt so much? You wouldn't even call yourself a tree-hugger or an animal lover or one of those flowery terms, just knowing that you couldn't have done anything to help feels terrible and the feeling doesn't go away.

Eventually, as with all things, you get over it. Time heals, of course. But every time you look back at your tank, where your fish used to sleep, swim, eat and live alongside its friends, you feel a sort of melancholy.

They hardly sell, either. It's baffling that fish shops continue to get in stocks of them. The lack of knowledge on these fish they provide should be a criminal offense. Not that anything would get done, after all. The concept of "animal abuse" only spreads as far as cats and dogs apparently. Fish don't matter as much as other animals, clearly.

Why though? Why should their lives matter less than a cat's or a dog's? I assume it's because they believe fish don't emote as much as other animals do. Which is a flat-out lie. You can tell when a fish is lonely, stressed, hungry, playful, happy, and every other emotion they're able to convey. When they're in pain, it's as though you can see it in their eyes. I've never been an empathetic person really, that's just in my nature, but I know when my fish - especially my plecos - are sad. There's a palpable sense of sorrow among them. A kind of sadness that makes your eyes water when you look at them. They're no different to big animals. We're animals all the same, too. Only lungs and gills separate us from them. I must sound like a lunatic, comparing a fish to a person, but I just can't understand why we see them as lesser and see it as being perfectly okay to treat them like toys.

My apology to the common pleco, the ones who deserve better.
 
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Sgooosh

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This is more of a vent than an informative and interactive post, so I'm not expecting many responses. I just wanted to talk about common plecos and their mistreatment in fish keeping.

There's a lot of detail about fish death here, so if you're sensitive to that sort of thing, I would advise again reading.



Today we went to the local fish shop, where they have a huge, dinner-plate sized pacu and a common pleco in their display tank at the front. I'd never seen the plec before, since it's always been too dark. He was huge. I'd never seen a fully grown common before now, and was astonished at the size. It was around 18" long, and it was stunning. The colouration and patterns were beautiful, rich dark browns and gorgeous etchings of gold all over it. I'd never seen such a beautiful fish. But seeing a common pleco of this size for the first time made me realise how poorly some live their lives. Many don't live to see their golden days where their colours are at their richest and they're the kings and queens of their tanks.

They're sold for £6 each with little to no information from the fish shops they come from. Doomed to be sold as an "algae eater" to inexperienced fish keepers, thrust into kids' tanks with rainbow gravel, SpongeBob ornaments, and the advice that "they grow to the size of their tanks".

And yes, they do: if you mean their growth is permanently stunted and their organs continue to grow inside their forever tiny bodies. Eventually they either crush themselves to death years before their time should have come. These beautiful beasts can live for over twenty years if properly cared for, but plecos with stunted growth will only live for a fraction of that time.

And this isn't only the fish keeper at fault. Fish shops neglect the needs of the common pleco more often than not. Twenty plecos, all of 3-5 inches in length crammed into a 1ft tank together, staring at you with terribly sad eyes, begging to be taken home. The way they shoot back and forth across your tank when you finally take them home is insane. They've never felt that much freedom before. And yet the damage is already done. They stay at that size forever, as you wonder why all your other fish have grown so well.

Within the first year you have it, it dies. You find it dead at the bottom of your tank, ghostly white and being picked at by its tank mates. It's a strange feeling, too. You've cared for this fish, loved it and given it everything it needs. But it just didn't grow. It dies on your hands and you feel nothing but sadness, guilt and frustration. Crying feels wrong, though. It's just a fish. And yet it still hurts. A lot. You can't even understand why it hurts so much, you know it was bound to happen. After all, it had never grown in all the time you'd kept it. You knew how badly it was treated in the fish shop, and you knew it was going to die. So why does it hurt so much? You wouldn't even call yourself a tree-hugger or an animal lover or one of those flowery terms, just knowing that you couldn't have done anything to help feels terrible and the feeling doesn't go away.

Eventually, as with all things, you get over it. Time heals, of course. But every time you look back at your tank, where your fish used to sleep, swim, eat and live alongside its friends, you feel a sort of melancholy.

They hardly sell, either. It's baffling that fish shops continue to get in stocks of them. The lack of knowledge on these fish they provide should be a criminal offense. Not that anything would get done, after all. The concept of "animal abuse" only spreads as far as cats and dogs apparently. Fish don't matter as much as other animals, clearly.

Why though? Why should their lives matter less than a cat's or a dog's? I assume it's because they believe fish don't emote as much as other animals do. Which is a flat-out lie. You can tell when a fish is lonely, stressed, hungry, playful, happy, and every other emotion they're able to convey. When they're in pain, it's as though you can see it in their eyes. I've never been an empathetic person really, that's just in my nature, but I know when my fish - especially my plecos - are sad. There's a palpable sense of sorrow among them. A kind of sadness that makes your eyes water when you look at them. They're no different to big animals. We're animals all the same, too. Only lungs and gills separate us from them. I must sound like a lunatic, comparing a fish to a person, but I just can't understand why we see them as lesser and see it as being perfectly okay to treat them like toys.

My apology to the common pleco, the ones who deserve better.
sorry if i shoudlnt respond

common plecs are the cutest things! you should need a professional liscense to keep any plecs, heck you should need one to keep fish at all...
 
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PlasticGalaxy

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sorry if i shoudlnt respond

common plecs are the cutest things! you should need a professional liscense to keep any plecs, heck you should need one to keep fish at all...
I wouldn't say that you should need a license for all fish, but more that fish shops should provide much more advice than what's given. Applying for licenses can be expensive, and would be a lengthy process. I would definitely say that you should need a license to keep advanced, specialist fish such as arowanas, though... Because no beginner is going to see a 1ft long silver arowana and think "yep, good starter fish". Definitely a more advanced fish for long-term, experienced fish keepers. Maybe I'll start a petition one day, lol.

Unfortunately, common plecos aren't "specialist" fish because they're actually very easy to keep. All you need is a huge tank... Or swimming pool. If I ever happen to fall into a career involving fish keeping or maintaining a fish shop, I promise to all pleco lovers that I'll make it my mission to have proper information on common plecos and take precautions to ensure that they're kept alive and well with their owners.
 

Sgooosh

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I wouldn't say that you should need a license for all fish, but more that fish shops should provide much more advice than what's given. Applying for licenses can be expensive, and would be a lengthy process. I would definitely say that you should need a license to keep advanced, specialist fish such as arowanas, though... Because no beginner is going to see a 1ft long silver arowana and think "yep, good starter fish". Definitely a more advanced fish for long-term, experienced fish keepers. Maybe I'll start a petition one day, lol.

Unfortunately, common plecos aren't "specialist" fish because they're actually very easy to keep. All you need is a huge tank... Or swimming pool. If I ever happen to fall into a career involving fish keeping or maintaining a fish shop, I promise to all pleco lovers that I'll make it my mission to have proper information on common plecos and take precautions to ensure that they're kept alive and well with their owners.
yeah... but pet stores are really greedy and do not care about the lives of the fish sometimes..
 

OliveFish05

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To add to the fact that so many end up in kids tanks, I have heard some farmers put them in their horse water troughs, because their swimming movement keeps the water free of ice and they eat the algae. I suppose it would depend on the size of the water trough, but it sounds awful!
 
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PlasticGalaxy

PlasticGalaxy

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To add to the fact that so many end up in kids tanks, I have heard some farmers put them in their horse water troughs, because their swimming movement keeps the water free of ice and they eat the algae. I suppose it would depend on the size of the water trough, but it sounds awful!
Wow, really? I had no idea! I can imagine it though. I'm sure the horses love drinking all that poopy fish water.
We are hoping to find a large common pleco for our koi pond, where he can have all the space to swim and Grow he wants!
Had you not been halfway across the world, you could have had my common! You might be able to ask your LFS if they could put up a sign saying "overgrown pleco wanted" to encourage people to return their massive plecs and give them to you!

I'd love to swim with plecos, honestly. Was it @Colin_T that said he had fish in a pool once?
 

OliveFish05

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Wow, really? I had no idea! I can imagine it though. I'm sure the horses love drinking all that poopy fish water.
Yeah, it is crazy. A girl at my LFS said they have farmers come in and ask for small ones every year, then a couple years later they bring them back when they are massive and exchange them for small ones, and I mean at the point they are keeping the water clean enough for the horse to drink, it can’t be too Bad for the pleco I suppose. More space than those 5 gallon tanks!
 

OliveFish05

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Had you not been halfway across the world, you could have had my common! You might be able to ask your LFS if they could put up a sign saying "overgrown pleco wanted" to encourage people to return their massive plecs and give them to you!
Well my LFS sells massive ones for $50, but I think it would be sooooo nice to get one that needs a good home, my LFS takes good care of those massive ones and almost always asks buyers about their tank size, so they do their best to make sure they go to good homes!
 
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PlasticGalaxy

PlasticGalaxy

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Yeah, it is crazy. A girl at my LFS said they have farmers come in and ask for small ones every year, then a couple years later they bring them back when they are massive and exchange them for small ones, and I mean at the point they are keeping the water clean enough for the horse to drink, it can’t be too Bad for the pleco I suppose. More space than those 5 gallon tanks!
Are the plecos still in there when the horses drink from it...?
 

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