With plecos being one of, if not the most commonly kept bottom dwelling fish species within the fish keeping hobby, it is only natural that we will see a wide range of questions from the community about caring for plecos.
After publishing our article going over the various signs your pleco is dying, we noticed a number of people reaching out to ask about why their pleco has white spots.
Although some plecos naturally have white spots in their color pattern that may develop later in life, the most common reason that a pleco will develop white spots as an adult is due to having ich.
The ich parasite can spread to other fish in your aquarium quickly and potentially be fatal to your pleco so it is vital to treat the condition as soon as you notice white spots on your pleco.
There are some much less common things that can also cause white spots on a pleco such as some fungal infections but the most common cause by far is the ich parasite infection.
Due to this, we will be focusing on ich for the rest of the article but if the white spots on your pleco appear to be fuzzy and have fibers coming off them then it could be a fungal problem and a high-quality fungal treatment should be able to help.
Why Does My Pleco Have White Spots Growing On It?
Most plecos with white spots on them will be suffering from an ich parasite infection. It is generally easy to confirm that the white spots are due to ich as the spots will slowly spread in their size as the infection becomes worse.
In less common cases, a fungal infection can cause white spots on a pleco and in very rare situations, trauma to the fish can cause white bumps that look similar to spots.
There are a number of pleco species that will naturally develop white spots as a part of their natural color pattern too.
Although the majority of plecos will have these spots from being young, some of these white spots can develop later in life often leading people to presume that their pleco has ich or some other problem when the white spots are totally natural.
If you are new to keeping plecos and you notice that your adult pleco suddenly developed white spots that look to be in a specific pattern all along its body then quickly Google search the species of pleco you keep and check if this is normal for them.
Although rare, it is surprising how often we have seen people on social media worry about their pleco only to realize that the white spots are just part of its natural color and the fish is a late bloomer.
How Do You Treat A Pleco With Ich?
The best way to treat ich on a pleco is to use a suitable ich treatment that has a good reputation for rapidly treating ich such as APIs Super Ich Cure.
Depending on your aquarium setup, you can also try adjusting your tank’s water temperature, adding aquarium salt to the tank, and adding garlic flakes to your plecos food but these are less successful than a specialist treatment.
Although adjusting your aquarium’s water temperature is one of the easiest and most popular ways to deal with the ich parasite as most ich strains can struggle with higher temperatures, some species of pleco have a lower heat tolerance than ich.
Our pleco temperature guide may be helpful if you are wanting to try the water temperature strategy but remember to factor in the upper temperature limit for the other things living in your aquarium too.
People have successfully treat ich in their freshwater tanks by adding small amounts of aquarium salt but you have to factor in salinity tolerances so it is usually not recommended for beginners.
Garlic is a natural anti-parasitic and has been proven to be able to fish off ich too but it is not as reliable as some people make it seem and it is one of the more difficult ich treatments to use, especially for plecos who are usually last to eat the garlic infused fish food due to being bottom dwellers.
What Is The Best Ich Treatment For Plecos?
There are a number of suitable ich treatments that you are able to use to treat a pleco with white spots and we feel that APIs Super Ich Cure is the best option due to its low price, ease of use, and great reputation for quickly treating ich.
Alternatives include White Spot Cure, Ich Attack, and Rid Ich Plus that can perform well too.
There are a number of alternative ich treatments on the market that may work but we would stick to the four mentioned above.
They have the best reputation of the ich treatments currently available while also having a budget friendly price tag with the proven ability to treat white spot on plecos quickly while being safe for the other fish in your aquarium in most situations.
Still, if you do have a pleco with white spots and you suspect ich to be the cause we would still recommend that you try to quarantine the pleco or your other fish in a separate tank while treating the condition.
Not only can this help to prevent the ich from spreading but it also prevents issues with negative effects from active ingredients in ich treatments in the healthy fish.
Will Ich On A Pleco Kill The Fish?
White spots on a pleco that are due to the ich parasite can end up killing the fish if left untreated for long enough.
It is also unlikely that the ich will fade by itself without you treating it too so it is always recommended to start an ich treatment as soon as you notice the white spots growing on your pleco as the sooner you act, the higher the chances of survival your fish has.
In some cases, ich may perish in your tank but this is very rare and should never be relied upon.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, ich also presents a very real risk to the tank mates of your pleco and can rapidly spread, especially in smaller tanks or heavily stocked large tanks so you really should be taking action as soon as possible.
We have seen some people claim that shrimp will pick ich off a pleco but we doubt this to be true and would never rely on this either.
There are some saltwater shrimp that will pick parasites off fish but the normal freshwater shrimps are not known for this type of behavior so we usually put the people recommending this ich treatment for plecos down to them getting confused or misunderstanding what people are saying online about the saltwater shrimp that can eat parasites.
What Are Other Ich Symptoms To Watch Out For On A Pleco?
An ich infection has an initial stage where it can be very difficult to notice as there are usually no visible signs.
Due to the parasite just taking hold, some fish will itch against rocks in their aquarium more than normal but this is still rare and most people are not aware they have a problem with ich until the white spots start to form on their pleco.
We have seen some people saying that their pleco will not eat while it has ich but this is often once the white spots have formed.
Other people have also reported that their pleco will move less than normal if it has white spots but this is probably more to do with you paying more attention to the fish and noticing it staying still more as many species of pleco are nocturnal and will move less during the day anyway.
That brings our article going over why your pleco white spots and how to treat the white spots if it is due to ich even though we did briefly cover how to cure the white spots if it is due to fungus back at the start of the article. Thankfully, ich is pretty easy to treat these days so it is highly likely that your pleco will end up making a full recovery anyway provided you start to treat the condition as soon as possible. Remember consider quarantining your pleco or the other fish in your aquarium if you have any old or weak fish too as the last thing you want is for the ich to spread to them.