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Sunshine Pleco: A Detailed Care Guide

Sunshine Pleco: A Detailed Care Guide

Do you love pleco fish? If so, you might have considered adopting a Sunshine Pleco. Before you go ahead, what do you need to know about this species?

Sunshine Plecos are large fish with brightly colored yellow spots throughout their bodies. They need vast tanks of at least 120 gallons/545 liters and are omnivorous bottom feeders. Breeding Sunshine Plecos domestically is virtually impossible and typically only successful with breeders.   

If you’re interested in introducing one of these delightful plecos to your aquarium, this article provides everything you need to know. Let’s dive right in! 

Sunshine Pleco Overview & Natural Habitat

Below is a comprehensive fact sheet about the Sunshine Pleco: 

  • Common name: Sunshine Pleco, Goldie, or L014.
  • Scientific name: Scobonancistrus aureatus
  • Care level: Easy.
  • Size: 12 inches/31 cm.
  • Lifespan: 10 years. 
  • Temperament: Reclusive, timid, and easygoing. 
  • Diet: Omnivorous. 
  • Group size: Solitary fish.
  • Minimum tank size: 120 gallons/545 liters. However, they would prefer a slightly larger tank if possible.  
  • Tank level: Bottom dwellers.
  • Water temperature: 74 to 84°F (23 to 29°C).
  • Water pH levels: .6.0 to 7.2
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 KH.

Sunshine Plecos originate from the fast-moving waters of Brazil’s Rio Xingu in South America, where they live in freshwater streams, rivers, and tributaries. They are accustomed to warm temperatures, excellent water quality, and plenty of oxygen.

These plecos belong to the largest family of catfish, known as Loricariidae, and are one of the most vibrant.

Sunshine Pleco Appearance & Size

The Sunshine Pleco gets its name due to the brightly-colored yellow or gold spots covering its black or dark brown body. The spots also extend to the fins, giving it a unique and cheerful appearance. 

The body is broad but flat with yellow-gold edging on the fins. 

Like most plecos, they have prominent sucker mouths and fanned dorsal fins with a bony frame. With their large size and attractive appearance, they have quite a presence in an aquarium and are popular fish with pleco fans. 

Sunshine Plecos reach an average size of 12 inches/31 cm as adults.

Difference Between Males and Females 

There are negligible differences between male and female Sunshine Plecos, and if you’ve never owned this species before, it can be challenging to tell them apart. 

However, male Sunshine Plecos are slightly larger as adults and typically have larger and more prominent heads. 

Sunshine Pleco Personality & Behavior

Like all plecos, Sunshine Plecos aren’t outgoing fish, prefer keeping to themselves, and like hiding away in aquatic vegetation or tank caves. 

As gentle fish, they’re not confrontational and will only show aggression if they really need to, such as if another fish invades their territory. The aggression is usually just for show, and because these fish are so large, the display of aggression is often enough to scare off any unwanted fish. 

Sunshine Plecos are also nocturnal and spend daylight hours at the bottom of the tank, hiding away in tank plants and sleeping. When it gets dark, you’ll notice your Sunshine Pleco moving around the bottom of the tank and looking for tiny pieces of food. 

Sunshine Pleco Expected Lifespan

If you keep the tank conditions within the recommended parameters and feed your Sunshine Pleco appropriately, you can expect it to have a lifespan of around 10 years

However, this can vary depending on genetics, and some individuals can live a few years longer than this. 

Sunshine Pleco Care & Tank Set Up

When it comes to caring for Sunshine Plecos and setting up their tank, providing the right environment is essential.

Creating a suitable habitat includes considering factors such as tank size, water parameters, decorations, and diet, all of which contribute to ensuring a healthy and thriving environment for these beautiful fish.

Tank Size

As one of the larger pleco varieties, Sunshine Plecos need a vast tank, which provides them with enough space to explore, look for food and feel safe in their territory. 

Sunshine Plecos need at least a 120-gallon tank, which is quite large, and this pleco species may not be the best choice for you if you don’t have the space for such a big tank. 

How Many Sunshine Plecos Are Suitable for a 120-Gallon Tank?

You may be surprised to learn that you should introduce more than one Sunshine Pleco to a tank that already has one. 

Two Sunshine Plecos is suitable for a 120-gallon tank, but you should avoid placing two males together, as they will probably compete for territory and any females. 

Water Parameters

Maintaining the correct water parameters for your Sunshine Pleco is essential, and involves a bit of work, but it isn’t time-consuming. 

Below is what to take note of when setting up your Sunshine Pleco’s aquarium: 

Water Temperature 

The ideal temperature range for the water in your Sunshine Pleco’s tank is between 74 to 84°F (23 to 29°C)

This is the temperature range in their natural, South American habitat, and you can monitor it using a tank temperature gauge, which you can buy from a pet store or online.  

Water pH Levels

Sunshine Plecos differ from most pleco fish in that they prefer neutral to slightly acidic water instead of mildly acidic water. 

The ideal water pH for this species is between 6.0 and 7.2

Water Hardness

When it comes to water hardness, the Sunshine Pleco isn’t too fussy and will tolerate any hardness level as long as it’s lower than 30 dKH.

Water Current 

Sunshine Plecos love fast-moving and well-aerated water, as this type of water is present in their natural habitat. You can use a pump to create a suitable water current for your Sunshine Pleco and ensure it’s well-oxygenated. 

What To Put In The Tank

The perfect tank for a Sunshine Pleco is easy to set up, and you should consider the elements below: 


Sunshine Plecos are bottom feeders, which means they like to find food scraps at the bottom of the tank. 

To make it easy for your pleco fish to do this, you should have a sandy substrate or one that consists of fine gravel without any sharp edges that could inadvertently injure your pleco’s fins.

You can also include a few tiny, hard pebbles in the soft substrate to give it texture. 


If you enjoy decorating your aquarium with lots of interesting items, a Sunshine Pleco is a good choice for you because they love nooks and crannies in which they can hide. 

They love exploring hollow aquatic ornaments like caves, PVC pipes, and castles but these need to be large enough for your Sunshine Pleco to swim through. You can find a wide range of these decorations at any aquatic pet store or online. 

Sunshine Plecos also like driftwood, which allows them to chew tiny holes in it and gives them the necessary dietary fiber. You may need to change out the driftwood every few months and when it starts to look weather-beaten. 

Ideal Plants

Sunshine Plecos need lots of tank plants for hiding and shade. Thankfully, they aren’t too fussy about the kinds of aquatic plants, but the perfect plants for them include the following: 

Sunshine Plecos won’t damage or bite tank plants on purpose but may accidentally break delicate varieties as they swim past. It’s, therefore, best to stick to the plants above because they’re hardy enough to withstand a Sunshine Pleco’s large body. 


Sunshine Plecos like low to medium tank lighting. Suppose your tank is in a well-lit room and positioned away from direct sunlight or artificial light. In that case, your Sunshine Pleco should be happy with the light conditions as long as you provide plenty of aquatic vegetation for shade. 

In rare cases, and if the tank is located in a dark place (such as a basement), you may need to invest in a tank light and keep it on the dimmest setting. 


Depending on the temperature in the room your Sunshine Pleco’s tank is located, you may need to use an aquarium heater if you’re struggling to maintain their preferred water temperature range of 74 to 84°F (23 to 29°C).

investing in a reliable heater becomes absolutely crucial for the well-being of your pleco


Sunshine Plecos do a fantastic job of eating algae on plants and on the inside of the tank, keeping your maintenance and cleaning to a minimum. However, a canister tank filter is recommended to keep the water nitrate levels at consistently healthy levels. 

Sunshine Pleco Tank Mates

Sunshine Plecos need large tanks, and you’ll probably be keen to add some tank mates. To prevent conflict between fish, introduce middle to top tank dwellers, and species such as: 

  • Angelfish
  • Guppies
  • Swordtails
  • Betta fish

Tank Mates To Avoid

Unfortunately, not all fish will get on with your Sunshine Pleco. Here are some examples of tank mates to avoid: 

  • Gouramis
  • Chinese algae eaters
  • Goldfish
  • Discus

Introducing any of these fish to the tank will likely make everyone stressed, and it’s not worth reducing your pet’s quality of life by introducing an unsuitable tank mate. 

Sunshine Pleco Food & Diet

Sunshine Plecos are omnivores and eat a wide variety of plant matter and organic material. They love eating algae and will happily accept sinking pellets or suitable freeze-dried flakes

They also need plenty of protein, and you can provide this by including bloodworms and snails in the tank. 

You should feed your Sunshine Pleco with vet-approved food (pellets or flakes) once a day and feed them protein every other day. 

Breeding Sunshine Plecos

Breeding other pleco species is normally doable if you maintain optimal tank conditions and provide a place for the female to lay eggs. 

Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to breed Sunshine Plecos, and breeding is typically done by experts in specialized hatcheries and not pet owners. If you want to breed plecos, a Sunshine Pleco would, therefore, not be the best choice. 

Sunshine Pleco Common Health Issues

If you feed your Sunshine Pleco with the correct food and keep the tank clean, your fish shouldn’t develop health issues. 

However, Sunshine Plecos can occasionally develop ich, a non-serious parasitic infection. 


Ich (white spot disease) is caused by parasites that enter the tank and begin multiplying on your pleco. It mainly affects the fins and gills and is easy to spot. 

Ich Symptoms

If your Sunshine Pleco has ich, they will have pale cottonwool-like spots or outgrowths on their fins or gills. As the infection intensifies, the white spots will become larger, and your pleco may begin to lose their appetite and lose weight. 

Ich Treatment

Ich is easy to treat and involves buying a treatment solution from your vet, pet store or online. Follow the directions on the label (you normally need to put a few drops in the tank water for a week), and consider quarantining any unaffected fish. 

Ich Prevention

You can prevent ich by keeping your tank clean, monitoring the nitrate levels, and using a filter to eliminate waste products. 

Are Sunshine Pleco Right For You?

Sunshine Pleco are right for you if you have enough space for a very big tank and are happy to keep up to two Sunshine Pleco in the aquarium and introduce only a limited number of pleco-friendly species. 

You should also be prepared to monitor the tank water’s temperature, pH, and nitrate levels almost daily.  

Sunshine Pleco FAQs

Are Sunshine Plecos Hardy? 

Sunshine Plecos are relatively hardy and aren’t known to be prone to aquatic illnesses. However, if a parasite enters the tank, it can develop ich, a common and easily treatable condition. 

Do Sunshine Plecos Eat Snails?

Sunshine Plecos eat snails, and experienced owners know that their Sunshine Pleco will quickly eat any snails they introduce to the tank. Sunshine Plecos are omnivores and require protein, making snails an ideal part of their diet. 

How Big Do Sunshine Plecos Get?

Sunshine Plecos grow to a maximum size of 12 inches/31 cm. Males can be slightly larger than females and have bigger and more pronounced heads. Sunshine Plecos are one of the largest pleco varieties. 

What Is The Sunshine Pleco Habitat?

Sunshine Plecos’ natural habitat includes freshwater environments with fast-moving water flow. They can be found in rivers and streams, where they inhabit rocky or sandy bottoms. They prefer areas with hiding spots such as caves, crevices, and submerged logs.

Do Sunshine Plecos Eat Algae?

Sunshine Plecos do eat algae that form on the surface of tank plants, but their primary diet are meaty options like bloodworm, snails, and sinking pallets.

Wrapping Up

Sunshine Plecos are beautiful and cheerful-looking pleco fish that you would be proud to have in your aquarium. They have dark, flat bodies with golden-yellow spots and fleshy fins that are on full display when they swim around the tank. 

These pleco varieties are omnivores and aren’t fussy eaters. However, maintaining the optimal tank conditions (as described above) is essential to keep your Sunshine Pleco happy and healthy.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...