Freshwater Fish

Royal Pleco – Panaque nigrolineatus: Care Guide

Royal Plecos are an incredibly unique freshwater fish that will turn heads in any tank.

These large and interesting looking fish are quite popular with aquarists for obvious reasons. Not only do they add a neat aesthetic to the tank, but they are also low maintenance!

However, it is important to have a good understanding of its basic care requirements before getting one yourself. These creatures can be sensitive to suboptimal tank conditions and should be kept by an owner who understands their needs.

But don’t worry, this guide will get you up to speed on everything you need to know about Panaque Real care. When you’re done reading it, you’ll be ready to buy one for yourself.


While Plecos are nothing new to the aquarium trade, the Panaque Nigrolineatus (Panaque nigrolineatus) is a sought-after species with much to offer. Not only are they beautiful, but they have some distinctive biological quirks that make them an interesting addition to your tank.

These fish are native to various countries in South America. They can be found living in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.

There are several subspecies included in the large Panaque Real family. All of these take on a similar appearance and require the same care. However, there are some minor physical differences between regional variations.

Regardless of the type of Royal pleco you get, caring for these creatures can be a rewarding experience. Thanks to their docile nature and unique behavior, they make great additions to larger community tank settings.


The average size of Panaque Nigrolineatus when fully grown is around 16 to 17 inches long!Like many other types of Plecos, the maximum size of this species can be quite large (they also have a fairly slow growth rate).

That said, some varieties can grow even taller. For example, the Royal Black Panaque has been known to reach lengths of 24 inches in the right conditions.


With proper care and living conditions, the average lifespan of a Royal Pleco is 10 years.This is by no means the ceiling, as many have lived much longer. In fact, these fish commonly outlive their tank mates, which requires long-term dedication to their well-being.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to life expectancy. Like any other fish species, King Panaque are directly affected by the level of care they receive.

Author’s Note: Despite their long lifespan, these fish tend to be quite sensitive to environmental changes. The key to helping your Panaque Nigrolineatus live as long as possible is to follow established and consistent care guidelines by remaining vigilant with tank maintenance.


Panaque Real has a bold and somewhat intimidating look. Not only are they big, but they also have some unique physical characteristics.

This species has the recognizable pleco profile. They have a large head, downward sucker mouth, and large fins.However, the Panaque Nigrolineatus are slightly different in terms of mass.

Panaque Real are a bit more corpulent than other species. Most of that mass is located in the head, which makes the fish appear taller and stronger.

The mouth is very large and has spoon-shaped teeth. To facilitate their appetite for wood, these teeth are sharp. They are perfect for scraping algae and peeling wood little by little.

On the top of its head, the Royal pleco has glowing red eyes!It offers an impressive contrast with the muted tones of the body.

There are some different color variations among the numerous subspecies. However, the most common color change you will see in the trade is gray and black. The base color is usually light gray. Sometimes it can also take on a brownish hue.

Accompanying that base color are striking stripes of black or dark brown. The stripes run laterally along the entire length of the fish. The stripes are imperfect, creating a distinct pattern from fish to fish. The tip of the expansive dorsal fin is covered in a creamy gold color.

You can also find Panaque Real black or those that have spots instead of stripes. For the most part, these varieties are rare in the fish trade.

Like other species of Plecos and catfish, the Panaque Nigrolineatus is scaleless. Instead, it is covered in tough, armor-like plates of skin. Although these plates cover the entire body, the belly is much softer.

ROYAL pleco care

Panaque Real care is not very complicated. In fact, they are considered by many to be one of the easiest Pleco species to keep.

However, that doesn’t mean Royal Plecos don’t need special attention.

These are large fish with unique eating habits! It is important to plan your habitat to suit your lifestyle. Below are essential care guidelines to get you started.


A sizeable tank is essential for the Panaque Real.At the very least, you will need an aquarium that can hold 120 gallons!

It’s not just the volume that you need to pay attention to. The width of the tank must be at least 24 inches from front to back.

This is important because Panaque Nigrolineatus are not good swimmers. While they enjoy exploring the tank, they may have a hard time turning around in tight spaces.

Author’s Note: As always, a bigger tank is always better if possible. In our experience, the longest living royal plecos always seem to be in the largest tanks.


Royal Plecos are tropical fish that need warm waters, and the best course of action is to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. The rivers they occupy in the wild are warm, dark and full of food sources.

Panaque Real prefers water that is relatively neutral and slightly hard. As a result, you may need to take additional steps to get things right. If your tap water is soft and acidic, consider using something like aragonite in your filter.

Here are some crucial parameters you need to stick to:

  • Water temperature: Between 72°F and 78°F
  • pH levels: 6.6 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 10 DH

Because these fish lack scales, they are a bit more sensitive to extreme fluctuations in the water. It is important to test the conditions regularly and change about 25 percent of the water weekly.


When you are decorating the aquarium, pay close attention to the bottom of the tank. Royal Plecos are bottom dwellers and rarely come to the surface.

The bottom should be covered with a soft substrate, such as sand. Gravel is also suitable.

However, you need to make sure the individual pieces aren’t small enough to swallow, which can be a challenge due to the size of the pleco.

When it comes to decorations, the most important thing to incorporate is driftwood.Panaque Nigrolineatus are one of the few species that have symbiotic gut bacteria to safely digest wood. They take full advantage of this!

Incorporate large chunks of driftwood throughout. The wood will act as a food source and at the same time facilitate the growth of algae.

Whether you choose to incorporate plants or not is up to you. Panaque Real does well with or without.

However, if you want to use plants, you have to make sure they are real.

These fish are known to chew holes through the leaves of plants. They cannot digest silk or plastic plant parts, which can result in impaction.

Without plants, you can keep light levels relatively low. Royal Plecos are naturally nocturnal. Not only that, but the rivers they come from in the wild are murky. Low light levels help reproduce that experience without having to affect the color of the water.

Strong filtration is paramount for a fish of this size! They produce a lot of waste so you need to make sure your filter is strong enough to cycle the tank. We recommend something robust like the fluval fx4.

Not only that, but you need to create a strong flow. The presence of driftwood creates natural dead zones where debris can settle and affect water quality. Incorporates additional power heads to keep the flow going strong at all times.

POSSIBLE COMMON DISEASES of Panaque Nigrolineatus

Royal Plecos are at risk for many of the standard freshwater diseases. However, these fish require different treatments.

For example, these Plecos can suffer from Ich, which is a highly contagious protozoan disease. This can usually be easily treated with copper-based medications, but that is not the case with Panaque Real.

The lack of scales makes them very sensitive to copper.Therefore, you will have to quarantine the fish and slowly increase the water temperature over several days.

Panaque Nigrolineatus can also suffer from problems such as fin rot and other bacterial infections. The same goes for fungal infections. Fortunately, those ailments can be easily treated with Pleco-approved medications.

Author’s Note: The best way to avoid disease is to be aware of tank conditions. Most ailments are caused by poor living conditions and stress factors. Panaque Real care is always easier when you can prevent problems instead of treating them.


As we mentioned earlier, Royal Plecos have a healthy appetite for wood! You will see them eating driftwood quite often.

But that’s not the only thing they eat.

These fish also eat aquarium algae and plant debris. They are natural herbivores so there are plenty of food sources for them in the tank. Of course, you can’t rely solely on natural harvesting to keep your fish healthy.

Commercial algae wafers and sinking meal pellets should be the staple. You can supplement these dry foods periodically with blanched vegetables. Panaque Nigrolineatus enjoy zucchini, peas and cucumbers.


Royal Plecos are generally very docile. They stick to the bottom of the tank and pay no attention to fish that occupy other parts of the water column.

The only exception is other species of Panaque Real and catfish. These fish are known to be very territorial with their own kind! As a result, multiple Panaque Nigrolineatus should never be kept in the same tank. Otherwise, you may find fights!

Throughout the day Panaque Real will usually hide under driftwood or among any plants you may have in the tank.They are nocturnal, so they tend to be shy during the day.

Author’s Note: Once the sun goes down, they will become more active. The fish will explore the tank looking for food sources. They are not the strongest swimmers, but they can survive as long as the tank is not too full.


As long as no other species of Plecos or catfish are present, Royal Plecos do well in a community tank.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing tankmates.

The first is what part of the tank they occupy. King Panaques stick to the bottom, so you can easily find fish that live in the middle and top of the tank to make sure everyone has enough space.

Another thing to think about is the swimming abilities of the Panaque Nigrolineatus. They are not powerful swimmers. Therefore, they cannot get out of harm’s way quickly if the going gets tough.

Avoid fast-swimming fish that like to peck at the fins. While they will not cause any serious damage to Panaque Real, they will often swim to the bottom and bite off the dorsal fin. This can make life for Royal Plecos stressful and open them up to disease.

Generally, non-aggressive fish species that originate from the same area are good choices. Here are some ideas:

  • congo tetra
  • silver dollar fish
  • Tetra black skirt
  • Jaguar Cichlid
  • Headstage
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • silver arowana
  • flag cichlids
  • Bloodfin Tetra
  • Angelfish


Breeding Panaque Real is a difficult task. It is quite rare for owners to successfully breed these fish. Professional breeders do it, but there are too many factors out of their control in a standard tank.

Also, this species’ penchant for aggression against its own kind can make things very complicated.

If you are lucky enough to come across a bonded pair, you can try your luck. Breeding is best done by simulating the breeding season in the wild. This usually happens during the rainy season.

With heavy rains come changes in water conditions. Slowly raises acidity levels. Soften the water a bit and lower the temperature as well.

To trigger breeding, you can try feeding your fish lots of high-quality food. Vinewood is a favorite among breeders because it is smooth and easy to digest.

If successful, the female will lay her eggs at the bottom of the tank. Usually the eggs will be deposited in a pile of debris. Therefore, she may want to delay sucking up the substrate if she is trying to breed her Plecos.


As you can see, Panaque Real care is not too complex. All that is required is a fundamental understanding of the needs of these fish and the dedication to maintaining your tank.

These freshwater fish are one of the most interesting species that exist. We trust that if you get one you will not regret it in the least!

If you have any nagging questions about these fish that our care guide didn’t cover, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can ask us via the contact page on our website or on Facebook!

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