With the number of people keeping a pleco in their tank constantly increasing due to how great plecos are for members of a tank’s clean up crew, we commonly see people reaching out with a wide range of different questions about keeping a pleco healthy.
Thankfully, the majority of plecos are relatively easy to care for with most types of pleco being hardy but every now and then, there seems to be a spike in the number of people reaching out about a problem with their plecos.
For today’s article, we are going to be focusing on one of these issues as there have been a large number of people reaching out recently about how they can treat a plecos bloated stomach.
Before you are able to actually treat your plecos bloated stomach, you have to work out what the problem is so we wanted to publish this article going over how you are able to better identify potential problems with your pleco that can cause them to bloat as well as how you are able to treat the problem.
Why Your Pleco Has A Bloated Stomach!
We have listed the six most common reasons that your pleco may have a bloated stomach below but we will cover each potential problem in more detail throughout the article:-
- Internal Parasites!
- Ready To Spawn Eggs!
- Intestinal Blockages!
- Swim Bladder Disease!
- An Unsuitable Diet!
Some plecos may actually have more than one of these problems causing them to bloat so try to make sure that you consider all potential possibilities.
One of the most common reasons that your pleco may have a bloated stomach is due to them being constipated.
Being a bottom feeder, plecos will often eat a wide range of different types of food that they are able to find but in some cases, this food may take longer to digest and cause problems with the fish being able to digest its food resulting on bloating and constipation.
In this, this should pass but if you notice that your pleco is consistently having problems with constipation causing bloating then adding some algae waffers for your pleco to eat to help improve its bowl movements may be a good idea.
Another reason that your pleco may have a bloated stomach is due to them being infected with internal parasites.
Internal parasites are a common issue for fish kept in tanks as they can often be introduced to the tank via live food or plants and once in the tank, these parasites will attach themselves to the lining of the stomach resulting in bloating.
You can often see parasites being excreted in your plecos poop helping to give you an idea that this is why your pleco is bloated and thankfully, most types of internal parasites are very easy to treat.
There are a wide range of suitable anti-parasitic treatments on the market that you are able to use with your pleco to deal with internal parasites quickly and all local fish stores should have a selection of these products or you can order them online.
Melafix and Pimafix are both great options but in some cases, you may have to use both to compound their active ingredients to quickly deal with the internal parasites in your pleco to stop the bloating.
Ready To Spawn Eggs!
One of the more common issues that we see with people reaching out about their plecos bloating is that they are in fact not bloated, they are just full of eggs!
If you have a female pleco and she starts to bloat up then this is often a sign that she is getting ready to lay her eggs and you will want to provide her with a suitable place to lay her eggs so that you can then raise the fry once they have hatched.
An easy way to tell if your female pleco is just full of eggs or actually bloated is to look at her abdomen, if it is rounded then she is just full of eggs but if it looks like she has a balloon inside her then this is a sign of bloat and you will want to look at other potential causes.
Your pleco will usually just spawn her eggs when she is ready and in most cases, there won’t be anything that you need to do to help the process.
In some cases, your pleco may have an intestinal blockage causing them to bloat.
Intestinal blockages are often caused by plecos eating things that they should not such as small rocks or gravel which can then get stuck in their intestines causing a blockage.
This is common when the pleco is kept in a tank with an unsuitable substrate for the species, you have to remember that plecos are bottom feeders so they can easily swallow some of their substrates when feeding so you need to make sure that you have something that will be easy for your pleco to pass.
The other main reason that plecos may suffer from intestinal blockages is due to them eating too much food which can also cause problems further down the line.
If you suspect that your pleco has an intestinal blockage then you will want to look for other signs such as lethargy, loss of appetite and changes in their stool.
If you think that your pleco may have an intestinal blockage then the best course of action is to take them to your local vet as it can be surprisingly difficult to deal with a substrate related blockage in a fish.
Swim Bladder Disease!
One of the more serious issues that can cause a pleco to bloat is swim bladder disease.
Swim bladder disease is a condition that affects the swim bladder which is a gas-filled sac in fish that allows them to control their buoyancy.
There are a few different things that can cause swim bladder disease in fish with one of the most common being a change in water conditions such as a sudden change in temperature or pH.
Other potential causes of swim bladder disease include constipation, intestinal parasites and even tumors.
There are a number of treatments on the market that can help with swim bladder disease but in most cases, the treatments actually deal with the underlying problem rather than the swim bladder disease symptom.
In some cases your pleco will be able to get over swim bladder disease itself without needing medication though so keep that in mind too.
An Unsuitable Diet!
One of the more common issues that can cause a pleco to bloat is an unsuitable diet.
Plecos are bottom feeders so they need a diet that is high in fiber to help them digest their food properly.
If your pleco is not getting enough fiber in their diet then this can lead to problems further down the line such as constipation which can then lead to bloating.
There are a number of pleco specific foods on the market that you can use to make sure that your pleco is getting the right diet but you can also supplement their diet with vegetables such as zucchini and cucumber.
As well as making sure that your pleco is getting enough fiber in their diet you also need to make sure that they are not eating too much as this can also cause problems.
It is best to feed your pleco a couple of times a day rather than just leaving food in the tank for them to graze on as this can lead to them eating too much and becoming bloated and just like all other species of fish, you should try to avoid overfeeding if possible.