Gold Nugget Pleco Care Guide

How Much Does a Golden Nugget Pleco Cost?

Gold Nugget Pleco Care Guide7 mins read

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Gold nugget pleco care guide
Image From Flickr

This article covers one of the most striking Pleco species, the gold nugget pleco. Among many aquarists, this spectacular bottom feeder has been getting more and more attention for its superb colors, and docile, friendly nature.

There is so much to like about them, and so few issues regarding health and general care. However, gold nugget plecos are impossible to breed in captivity. Other than that they are a beginner-friendly species that is easy to keep, and not much fuss to feed; they are loners though, and will not get along with their own species. In addition, gold nugget pleco size is rather large.

The Gold Nugget Pleco will make an excellent addition to your already seasoned communal tank, and even thrive in such conditions.

So, if you are looking for a loner with a colorful and attractive demeanor, that will clean your tank, and mind its own business, then the Golden Nugget Pleco is your guy, and has even more to offer…

Breed Overview

Lifespan8 – 10 years
Size8 cm 7 inches to 22.4 centimeters average
ColorsBlack with large or fine Gold spots, or Yellow Spots
Foodalgae eater (can have some protein though)
Tank Size50 – 55 gallons
TemperamentPlacid, Nocturnal, Territorial Towards the same species
Water Temperature24 -29 °C (75.2-84.2°F)
Water pH5 – 7.2 Soft Water
Difficulty LevelEasy beginner Friendly, Impossible to Breed

Species Summary

The Gold Nugget Pleco, or “Baryancistrus xanthous  is an exceptional catfish species native to Brazil. Scientists also classify it as a benthic (denser than water living at lowest water levels) freshwater fish that lives in rivers and streams. The Baryancistrus genera catfish is an armored fish that has a membrane connecting its dorsal fin and adipose fin. This feature is rarely found in most other catfish genera.

The gold nugget pleco species is part of the Loricariidae catfish species, Thus, when selecting a color variant or species you may notice that it is indicated with the “L” and a number. This article will explain L, or Loricaridae numbers, further as we get to some of the different colors available amongst gold nugget pleco.

Gold Nugget Plecos Color Variations

Like most catfish, the gold nugget pleco similarly has thick plates of skin called armor covering its body and a softer belly. It is entirely black and has multiple small yellow spots that are relatively the same size, covering its whole body. The end of the dorsal fin does not have the spots though.

Male And Female Differences

Differentiating between male and female Gold Nugget Plecos is difficult especially in juveniles, though in adult fish you can tell by their heads mostly. Adult males have a very broad and flat head, with longer pectoral fins, while females will have a rounded head and a plump body.

Males similarly tend to have more odontodal growths in their pectoral and cheek areas.

Other Color Variants

So far there are mainly three different color varieties in the Gold nugget Pleco, as with the Pleco breed they are rendered a number that follows the letter “L” which stands for the Loricariidae catfish family.

  1. The Big Spot Gold Nugget Pleco L18 with large uniform gold spots. It is the most common of the species.
  2. The Fine Spot Gold Nugget Pleco L085 is also the largest of the species with unequal-sized pale-yellow spots.
  3. The Gold Seam Pleco L177 is one of the most vibrant in color with bright yellow polka dots, and yellow edges on its dorsal and caudal fins.

Keep in mind that every color variant may grow up to a different size, as far as size goes I have included only the full size of the largest two species.

Gold Nugget Pleco Size And Lifespan

Gold nugget pleco size and lifespan
The Gold Nugget species in general has a lifespan of around 8 -10 years with proper care and nutrition. Image From Flickr

Depending on subspecies, gold nugget pleco size can vary considerably. Referring to the Big Spot and Fine Spot Gold Nugget Pleco, the largest L085 can reach up to 34 cm (13 in) in size, while the L18 will be around 17. 8 cm 7 inches to 22.4 centimeters (8.8 in) ). The Gold Nugget species in general has a lifespan of around 8 -10 years with proper care and nutrition.

Temperament And Behavior

I have heard a phrase that Gold Nugget Plecos are “Grime Scene Investigators”. they are what is known as aufwuch gazers, grazing on all surfaces, and eating all waste matter, not just algae. In fact, they prefer very little algae.

Generally, they are a calm nocturnal species that can be found riding on a large leaf or settling on some driftwood. They are mainly explained as being peaceful, slow, and docile, especially towards other fish species, and they will show no form of aggression.

Adult males mainly become more territorial as they get older, and it is advised not to keep more than one Pleco species in a community tank.

General Care Of Gold Nugget Plecos

The Gold Nugget Pleco, like other Panaque species, requires the same care in captivity. They are herbivores with a diet of mostly vegetables, though an interesting fact, they are known as xylophagous, which means that they need Driftwood to graze on to promote good digestion. Some Pleco species require meat-based foods, though the gold nugget pleco is not one of them.

The Gold Nugget Pleco is a large fish that will produce an enormous amount of waste; thus, you will need a high-capacity tank, with a very strong filter. Other than that, they are quite easy to care for and make excellent companions for most other fish species.

Aquarium Set-Up

Aquarium set-up for gold nugget pleco
The Gold Nugget Pleco is a larger species that will require a tank of at least 50 to 55 gallons for a single Pleco with tank mates of other species. Image From Flickr

The Gold Nugget Pleco has a natural habitat of flowing rivers, streams, and water basins in areas with tropical climates and pristine water conditions. They thrive in an aquarium with plenty of driftwood, large-leafed plants, and caves to hide in.

Ideally, they prefer a more mature (well-balanced or seasoned) tank that has been running for a while and contains “gunk” (algae, and small microorganisms).

Thus, ideally, you should add them to a well-settled community tank that has already been running for a while, and that has all the suitable tank mates.

  • Tank Size – The Gold Nugget Pleco is a larger species that will require a tank of at least 50 to 55 gallons for a single Pleco with tank mates of other species. 50 to 55
  • Water Conditions – Consistent water parameters are vital for Gold Nugget Plecos. Higher temperatures between 24 -29 °C (75.2-84.2°F) are desirable, and a pH of between 6.5 and 7.2.
  • Filtration – A High-Quality filter with a moderate current is required, as larger Plecos do generate a considerable amount of waste.
  • Light – Gold Nugget Plecos thrive in dim light and shaded areas, so low light is best, or indirect sunlight. Keep in mind that if you keep live plants, they will need some light for growth.
  • Heat -As the Gold Nugget Pleco is a Tropical fish native to warmer climates, a strong heater will be necessary to keep optimal temperatures. You will need a good thermostat to ensure that temperatures are constant.

Gold Nugget Pleco Tank Decor

Though gold nugget plecos are mostly nocturnal, they tend to emerge for a few moments during the day. Plecos need caves and spaces to hide, as well as surfaces to feed on. It is recommended to place them in a tank with plenty of rocks, driftwood, and a few live plants.

  • Substrate – Soft sand and very fine gravel substrate are ideal for medium-sized rocks. Your Pleco is a bottom dweller that will feed from the surface of the tank. sand soft small rocks
  • Ornaments And Toys – Ideally more natural décor items such as Rocks, and driftwood are ideal. Driftwood is especially good as it has a biofilm of microorganisms that the Gold Nugget Pleco enjoys grazing on.
  • Live Plants –You can plant your tank with Live well-rooted plants, especially larger leaves for them to rest on. Gold Nugget Plecos will feed on dead plant matter but rarely eat live plants. Some great plant species include: Anubias, Amazon swords, Vallisneria, Java Ferns, Floating Amazon Frogbit, and Java Moss.

Introducing And Choosing Your Gold Nugget Pleco

One important aspect of most Pleco fish species is that they require constant water parameter. Indeed, abrupt changes in water conditions can be harmful to them. Thus, I advise that you properly cycle a new tank, and allow it some time to mature before adding your new Pleco.

Choosing A Healthy Pleco

When choosing any new Pleco species you should regard the following:

  • The Eyes and Tummy must never be sunken.
  • The tummy must be round but not bloated.
  • The colors of the fish need to be clear and vivid with no discolored patches.
  • The eyes should not be cloudy or white.

How To Place A Fish In A Tank

Take care when placing your Golden Nugget Pleco in its new home. When adding it to a communal tank ensure that you have fed all the other fish in the tank and that the lights are off. Follow this procedure with a new, seasoned, or communal tank:

  1. Allow your Pleco to float on the surface in its bag for 30 minutes to acclimate.
  2. Replace the water in the bag with water from the tank, small amounts at a time until the water in the bag is almost completely replaced.
  3. Follow these steps with intervals of 15 minutes in between.
  4. Now you can release your Pleco into its new home.

Suitable Tank Mates

The Gold Nugget Pleco is a peaceful bottom dweller that will do well with other fish species. This is except for other plecos, as it is territorial when mature, and the larger gold nugget pleco size can make other smaller plecos intimidated. Other peaceful fish species will make perfect tank mates.

Some good choices in aquarium companions are;

  • Honey, Pearl, or Sparkling Gouramis.
  • Ember and Neon Tetras.
  • Most Species Danios.
  • Smaller Ornamental Goldfish.

Feeding Gold Nugget Plecos

Gold Nugget Plecos as we have said are aufwuch grazers, that graze on the microorganisms in your aquarium. However, they are not the best algae eaters. Instead, they are omnivores that enjoy a more meat-based diet, with vegetable supplements.

  • What To Feed – Did you know, gold nugget plecos will accept almost anything edible? However, don’t take advantage of this – they tend to prefer gel-based foods which you can buy in an aquatics store, online, or make at home. You can similarly offer them Brine shrimp, Bloodworms, and other invertebrate-based protein foods, as well as vegetables such as blanched zucchini, spinach, kale, and courgettes.
  • How To Feed – Feeding them once or twice a day will be sufficient, as they mostly feed on whatever lands up on the surface of the tank.

Tank Maintenance

Tank maintenance for gold nugget pleco
Remove 30% – 50 % of the water from your tank siphoning it from the bottom with a hose.

Remember, gold nugget plecos can create an enormous amount of waste, even though they help to clean the tank. Thus weekly water changes are necessary to maintain your tank. Keep in mind that they prefer pristine quality clear and clean water, which is constant in parameters.

Weekly water change:

  • Remove 30% – 50 % of the water from your tank siphoning it from the bottom with a hose.
  • Prepare water in a separate container to refill the tank with, ensuring that it’s heated.
  • Condition the clean water and raise the temperatures.
  • Use a testing kit to ensure the parameters are the same, and a thermostat to get the right temperatures.
  • Now you can add the fresh water to your tank slowly.

Health Issues In Plecos

Luckily Gold Nugget Plecos do not have species-specific diseases and pests. Nevertheless, they may be affected by common freshwater fish health conditions from time to time.

For the most part, you may face bacterial or fungal infections, or parasites called ich. You can read more about these in any one of our freshwater fish care guides.

  • Ich – A protozoan parasite that causes white spots on your fish. It is contagious and you will need to quarantine your fish in clean water. You can get medication for Ich, though quarantine needs to be for at least a week to end the life cycle of the parasite.
  • Fin Rot – A bacterial Infection that is usually the result of an injury and poor water conditions. It will spread and cause discoloration and damage to the fins and body of your fish. Quarantine and a proper antibacterial solution is the solution in this case.
  • Fungal And Bacterial Infections – Fungal and bacterial infections may affect the organs such as the swim bladder, or skin of your Pleco. It requires quarantine in proper water conditions. Then you can use an antibacterial or antibiotic medication, depending on the infection.
  • Worms – Worms can attach to the gills, or insides of your fish for which you will also need to separate the Pleco to prevent infecting other fish. Then, you can treat it with medication for worms.
  • Indigestion – Sometimes bloating in Plecos may be confused with the condition Dropsy when most of the time it is just indigestion. This comes from eating too much or certain foods. Thus, ensure that you do not overfeed your Pleco and that it has a balanced diet, alongside some driftwood for fiber.

Breeding Gold Nugget Plecos

At this stage, it is difficult to get much information about breeding Gold Nugget Plecos, as there are no trusted resources. Very few people, apart from some elite breeders with some good connections have managed to breed this species.

Most regular-sized aquariums for Gold Nugget Plecos are not big enough to spawn in. Unfortunately, these guys need specialized large tanks and water conditions, with a complex set-up to breed.

Final Thoughts

The Gold Nugget Pleco
Gold Nugget Plecos are easy to keep, just remember to always keep their water conditions and temperatures constant, as they are highly sensitive to any changes. Image From Flickr

The gold nugget pleco is an appealing and entertaining bottom-dwelling fish that will bring you many years of viewing pleasure. Additionally, they make superb tank companions for other fish species because they keep to themselves mostly.

For beginners, gold nugget plecos are easy to keep, too. Just remember to always keep their water conditions and temperatures constant, as they are highly sensitive to any changes.

This article also recommends the Gold Nugget Pleco as an addition to a large, existing community tank rather than a new aquarium. Here, it will truly have the chance to thrive and become part of a larger ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Keep a Gold Nugget Pleco with an African Cichlid?
Unfortunately, the Gold Nugget Pleco is not a suitable companion for the African Cichlids, as they tend to torment more peaceful Pleco species. I would rather opt for a Bristlenose Pleco.
How Much Does a Golden Nugget Pleco Cost?
A good quality Gold Nugget Pleco from a reliable breeder or specialist can cost anything between $30 and $100. Keep in mind shipping fees may be added if you purchase your Pleco online.
Will My Pleco Eat Algae?
The Gold Nugget Pleco is not the best algae eater as explained, it feeds mostly on foods and dead plant matter that have dropped to the surface of the tank.
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