Vampire Pleco (L-240): The Complete Care Guide

Vampire Plecos are gorgeous freshwater fish that many people enjoy owning. Their low-maintenance care requirements and beauty really make them stand out!

Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Vampire Pleco care.

Species Summary

If you’re looking for an eye-catching bottom-dweller to spice up your aquarium, the Vampire Pleco (Leporacanthicus cf. galaxias) is a fantastic choice. This freshwater fish is also known as the Galaxy Pleco or L-240 in the catfish scientific classification system.

They’re native to the Orinoco drainage system in Colombia. A similar fish resides in the nearby Tocantins River in Brazil. While many believe that the two species are the same, Vampire Plecos have some subtle physical differences that make them unique.

With its distinct coloration and markings, the Vampire Pleco is a sight to behold! Despite spending its time at the bottom of the tank, it’s an eye-catching fish that continues to captivate enthusiasts across the world.


Vampire Plecos have a similar silhouette to other popular freshwater catfish species. They’re sporting a flat bottom, underturned mouth for gnawing on algae, and expansive fins.

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A Vampire Pleco resting on driftwood

This species is sporting a tall, rayed dorsal fin that usually sits flat against the back. However, it can raise the fin for swimming in strong currents. 

The caudal fin, pectoral, and pelvic fins also have delicate rays. They’re quite large, creating a well-defined profile.

When it comes to color, most Vampire Plecos are dark black. Some can be brown or gray as well. Small white and yellowish dots adorn the body. The dots cover every inch of the upper body, including the fins.

Author Note: Sexual dimorphism is subtle. However, males tend to have longer and broader heads than females. 

Average Vampire Pleco Size

The typical Vampire Pleco size is just under 10 inches in length for a full-grown fish. They’re not as large as other types of plecos, but they certainly demand significant space and a well-designed underwater habitat.


In good living conditions, these can be with you for a long time. Vampire Plecos have a lifespan that can reach up to 15 years when given proper care.

It’s impossible to determine a guaranteed lifespan, as several factors contribute to a fish’s overall health and well-being. In addition to genetics, everything from environmental conditions and diet makes a difference.

Vampire Pleco Care

Vampire Plecos are comparable to other South American catfish species when it comes to their difficulty of care. These freshwater fish have unique habits and special needs you have to meet.

Fortunately, keeping them happy and healthy isn’t difficult if you follow these established care guidelines.

Tank Size

One of the most important parts of Vampire Pleco care is choosing an appropriately sized aquarium. Don’t let this fish’s bottom-dwelling nature fool you. It still needs ample space to swim, explore, and scavenge.

A single adult should live in an aquarium that holds at least 50 gallons. That’s the bare minimum. If you have the means to go bigger, 75-gallon aquariums are a far better choice.

Author Note: You can keep younger juveniles in smaller 30-gallon tanks. But once they grow longer than three inches, you’ll need to upgrade.

Water Parameters

The Vampire Pleco originates in the Orinoco River system. While it’s technically a separate system, the conditions are similar to that of the Amazon River. The goal when establishing water conditions is to mimic the fish’s natural environment as closely as possible.

These fish prefer warm and slightly acidic water. Vampire Plecos are relatively tolerant to a wide range of conditions. However, it’s best to stick to the following parameters and focus on stability over the long run.

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 82°F (around 76 to 78 degrees is ideal)
  • pH levels: 5.6 to 7.0 (slight acidity is preferred)
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 KH

Author Note: Make sure you invest in a reliable and accurate aquarium water test kit. This will give you the ability to quickly monitor these parameters and ensure that your fish are living in healthy conditions.

What To Put In Their Tank

Here’s where you can start to get a bit creative. For decorations, create a setup that mimics the fast-flowing streams these fish are familiar with most.

Start by installing a water pump with a powerful head. Vampire Plecos prefer moderate to high flow. Not only does it replicate river rapids, but it creates a highly oxygenated environment.

Next, add substrate. Vampire Plecos do best with fine gravel or sand. On top of that, add bogwood, rocks, and plants.

Give your Pleco plenty of places to hide. However, make sure that there’s ample room to move around. The last thing you want to do is overcrowd the tank.

Don’t forget to add several pieces of driftwood. The wood accumulates algae for snacking. Vampire Plecos may also gnaw on the wood directly to aid with digestion.

Common Possible Diseases

Vampire Plecos can succumb to all the same diseases as any other tropical freshwater fish. Ich and fungal infections are the most common conditions to plague plecos.

Ich is a parasitic disease that’s often a byproduct of stress. It causes small white dots to form all over the fish’s body. Unfortunately, the condition is very contagious and can quickly spread to other tank mates.

Plecostomus disease is common as well. It’s a fungal issue that results in white or grayish growths that look like cotton balls.

Author Note: Both of these diseases are treatable with quarantine methods and medicines. However, you have to be careful when choosing medications. Vampire Plecos can react negatively to copper-based medication.

Food & Diet

These fish will chew on algae that accumulate throughout the tank, but it can’t rely on aquarium algae alone to stay healthy. 

Vampire Plecos are protein-loving fish! They’re carnivorous scavengers that feed on all kinds of meat-based foods in the wild.

In addition to sinking pellets and commercial foods, provide a meaty diet of dried, live, and frozen foods. You can give your Vampire Pleco live brine shrimp, bloodworms, chopped market shrimp, and other common fish foods.

The occasional blanched vegetable and algae wafer will be appreciated as well.

Behavior & Temperament

A Vampire Pleco’s temperament largely depends on its environment.

When this fish has everything it needs, it’s pretty peaceful. As a bottom-dweller, it doesn’t pay much attention to what’s going on above. It only cares about scavenging for food and getting comfortable amongst the decor.

In a well-designed tank, this fish is pretty passive and easy-going.

However, it can exhibit semi-aggressive tendencies in overcrowded or poorly decorated tanks. This fish can get very territorial. It doesn’t like sharing and will try to fight with other bottom dwellers.

Aggressive behavior is more common in tanks that don’t offer enough space. For example, small, crowded, or barren tanks almost always pose problems. Vampire Plecos need space to scavenge and plenty of places to hide. Otherwise, they’ll get a little more territorial.

Tank Mates

Vampire Plecos are great community fish. However, you have to plan the community strategically.

First off, avoid putting other bottom-dwellers in the tank. You can add other plecos, but the tank needs to be quite large to ensure that territorial disputes don’t become commonplace. Make sure that hiding spots are abundant so that every fish can find a safe place to get some peace.

Many aquarists choose to focus on tank mates that occupy the middle and upper parts of the water column. Vampire Places are great with schooling fish. Despite their large size, this freshwater species can even cohabitate with small types of tetras and livebearers!

Your best bet is to choose other peace-loving fish from tropical rivers in South America.

Some good tank mates for the Vampire Pleco include:


Breeding Vampire Plecos in captivity is difficult, as the conditions that trigger spawning aren’t easy to create. It’s possible, but you’ll need to invest in a large breeding tank and additional equipment.

Start by setting up a 100-gallon tank. Like the main aquarium, create moderate to high water flow with a pump. It’s important to add several hiding spots as well.

Vampire Plecos like to breed in caves. To increase the likelihood of successful spawning, add large artificial caves. Overturned flower pots work well, too.

Add about two breeding pairs. To trigger spawning, you’ll need to simulate the South American dry season. Perform a slow water change with fresh water that’s about two degrees cooler.

As the water conditions shift, the mature fish should begin to breed. They’ll lay eggs on the sides of the caves and pots. Once spawning is done, remove the adults to maximize egg survival rates.

Eggs hatch in about five to seven days. After they absorb the egg sac, you can feed the babies powdered food and baby brine shrimp. Make sure to maintain considerable water flow and top-notch water conditions to keep the fry healthy.


Vampire Plecos are fairly easy to care for and a lot of fun to watch! Their amazing design never gets old, and we know many owners who spend hours just observing these freshwater fish.

Let us know if you have any questions about this species or have stories about owning one that you’d like to share. It’s always fun to hear from our readers!

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