Leopard sailfin pleco Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: October 24, 2022

Leopard Sailfin Plecos are a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that are perfect for the intermediate to advanced fish keeper.

They’re not the easiest fish to care for, but they’re definitely worth the effort. These fish are absolutely stunning, and they’re sure to be the center of attention in your aquarium.

But before you go out and buy one of these fish, there are a few things you need to know. In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about Leopard Sailfin Pleco care.

You’ll learn about their diet, tank mates, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

Leopard sailfin plecos (scientific name: Pterygoplichthys pardalis) are usually found around Brazil, Guyana, and Suriname. In their natural habitat, they’re often found in areas with a lot of driftwood and other pieces of wood for them to hide in and eat.

They’re a peaceful fish that does well with other peaceful tank mates. They’re also a very hardy fish, so they can survive in a wide range of water conditions.

The leopard sailfin pleco is a popular choice for many aquariums because of its unique spots and patterns. They’re a beautiful fish that can really add some visual interest to your tank.


Leopard sailfin pleco

Leopard sailfin plecos are one of the most unique and beautiful pleco species out there. They have a black base color with white spots all over their body. The spots are of varying sizes, but they’re all pretty uniform in shape.

The spots on these fish are what give them their name since they resemble the spots on a leopard.

Leopard sailfin plecos have a long and thin body shape with a fair amount of height to them. They have a large dorsal fin that starts about two-thirds of the way back on their body.

This dorsal fin is tall and triangular in shape. The back edge of the dorsal fin is lined with white spots that match the rest of their body.

The anal fin on these fish is also tall and triangular. It’s located right behind the dorsal fin and has the same white spotting.

Their caudal fin is forked and also has the white spotting. The ventral fins are located on the bottom of the pleco and are thin and transparent.

Leopard sailfin plecos have a pair of barbels on their face that they use to help them find food. They also have three pairs of pores on their head that they use for sensing their surroundings.


Leopard sailfin plecos have a lifespan of around 10 years. However, it’s not uncommon for them to live up to 15 years in captivity.

As with any other fish, there are a number of factors that impact their lifespan. Good water quality and a healthy diet are obviously important.

But perhaps the most important factor is stress. These fish are very sensitive to changes in their environment. If they’re constantly being moved around or their tank mates are constantly changing, it can really shorten their lifespan.


The Leopard sailfin pleco grows to an average length of 12 inches, with some specimens reaching up to 18 inches. As bottom-dwellers, they require an aquarium with a length of at least 4 feet to provide them with enough swimming space.


Tank Size

125 gallons

The Leopard Sailfin Pleco (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps) is a peaceful community fish that gets along well with other fish, as long as they are not too small. They are not particularly aggressive but can become territorial with other plecos. They are also known to be quite messy eaters so a good filter is a must. A 125 gallon tank is the minimum recommended size but they will do much better in a larger tank.

Water Parameters

The leopard sailfin pleco is a tropical freshwater fish that’s native to South America. In the wild, they’re found in slow-moving rivers and streams with plenty of vegetation.

To keep your leopard sailfin pleco healthy, it’s important to maintain water parameters that are as close to their natural habitat as possible. That includes water temperature, pH levels, and water hardness.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to leopard sailfin pleco care.

  • Water temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 2 to 15 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 5-10 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

Leopard sailfin plecos are a bit different than other sailfin plecos in that they prefer to live in tanks that are more on the open side.

This means that you won’t need to include as many hiding spots or decorations as you would with other plecos.

We recommend a sandy substrate for these fish since they like to dig and burrow. They might also uproot plants if they’re not careful, so we recommend avoiding live vegetation.

Rocks, driftwood, and caves are all good choices for decorations. Just make sure that they’re not too small (these fish can get pretty big!).

One thing to keep in mind is that these fish are known to be jumpers. It’s not uncommon for them to try and escape their tanks if given the chance.

Make sure that your tank has a secure lid to prevent any accidents!

Common Diseases

The Leopard Sailfin Pleco is a hardy fish that is resistant to most diseases. However, there are a few illnesses that they are susceptible to.

The most common disease that these fish experience is ich. This is a parasite that can cause a lot of problems if it’s not dealt with quickly.

The most obvious sign of ich is the presence of white spots on the body of your fish. If you notice this, it’s important to take action immediately.

There are a few other potential diseases that these fish can experience, but they’re not as common. Things like fungal infections, bacterial infections, and parasites can all cause problems.

The best way to prevent these fish from getting sick is to maintain the quality of the water in their tank. A tank with clean and stable water conditions always leads to healthier fish who are more resistant to disease.

Behavior & Temperament

Leopard sailfin plecos are one of the more peaceful pleco species. They’re relatively shy, so don’t expect them to be the center of attention in your aquarium.

These fish are nocturnal, so they’ll be the most active when the lights are off. During the day, they’ll find a place to hide and rest.

Leopard sailfin plecos are scavengers, so they’ll eat just about anything they can find. This includes algae, leftover fish food, and dead fish.

One thing to keep in mind is that these plecos can get pretty big. They can grow up to 18 inches in length, so make sure you have a tank that can accommodate them.

Tank Mates

Leopard sailfin plecos are typically peaceful fish. They’re not known to be aggressive and will usually leave other fish alone.

This is good news because it means that you have a lot of options when it comes to choosing leopard sailfin plecos tank mates.

In terms of water conditions, these fish come from the Amazon. As a result, they’re used to warm water. This is important to consider because some of their potential tank mates might not do as well in warm water.

With that in mind, here are some leopard sailfin pleco tank mates to consider:

  • Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Plecostomus Catfish
  • Snails


The Leopard sailfin pleco is a beautiful and relatively easy to breed species of fish. They are a mouth-brooding pleco, which means that the male will carry the eggs in his mouth until they hatch.

To start the breeding process, you will need to provide the plecos with a suitable environment. This includes a tank that is at least 50 gallons in size, with plenty of hiding places and driftwood. The water should be of good quality and well-oxygenated.

When ready, add two females for every male. The female will lay her eggs on a surface in the tank, and the male will fertilize them. He will then pick them up in his mouth and carry them around until they hatch.

This process takes about two weeks. Once the fry have hatched, you can remove the adults and begin feeding the fry baby brine shrimp.


The Leopard Sailfin Pleco is an absolutely stunning freshwater fish. They have a beautiful leopard-like pattern on their body and fins that is sure to stand out in any aquarium.

In addition to their great looks, they are also very peaceful and easy to care for. They are a great addition to any community tank and will get along well with other fish.

Overall, we highly recommend the Leopard Sailfin Pleco for anyone looking for a beautiful and easy to care for fish.