Blue Phantom pleco: Size, Care, Breeding, Tank size and Lifespan

Blue Phantom Pleco scientifically known as Hemiancistrus sp. L128 is a charming freshwater suckermouth catfish that relaxes at the bottom of the aquarium.

In their natural habitat, they live among rocky substrates in fast-flowing rivers, which makes them need a proper aquarium setup with sufficient current and oxygenation.

Blue Phantom Plecos are mid-sized freshwater fish species belonging to the Loricariidae family. 

The Blue Phantom Pleco is native to the Rio Orinoco and Rio Inirida river basins in Venezuela, South America. These rivers are its natural habitat.

Blue Phantom Plecos have distinct dark colouration, ranging from deep black to dark blue or even dark greenish-blue spots and stripes. Their striking colouration is one of their defining features, making them highly sought after in the aquarium hobby.

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Quick Overview

Scientific NameHemiancistrus sp.
DistributionSouth America
Max. Size20cm (8 inches)
Tank Size30-40 gallons (113-150 litres). 
Temperature24-28°C (75-82 F)
Water pH6.5-7.5
Water hardness 5-15 dGh
FeedingAlgae wafers, vegetables, catfish pellets, flakes etc.
LightingNo special requirements
TemperamentAggressive to fellow Blue Plecs, Peaceful with other catfish
Lifespan5-10 years

Size: Blue Phantom Pleco Growth

blue phantom pleco

Blue Phantom Plecos (L128) grow to an average size of 5 to 7 inches (12 to 18 centimetres) with a max size of 8 inches (20 centimetres) in captivity. However, some blue phantom plecos grow slightly larger, while others may stay on the smaller side.

The growth rate of a Blue Phantom Pleco can vary, but under optimal conditions with proper care and nutrition, they can reach their adult size of 5 to 7 inches within 1.5 to 2 years.

For healthy growth, provide them with a well-maintained aquarium, stable water parameters, and a balanced diet consisting of high-quality pellets, vegetables, and occasional protein-rich foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp. 

Care for Blue Phantom Pleco

Water Quality and Parameters

   Blue Phantom Plecos thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. Aim for a pH range between 6.5 to 7.5. Keep the pH stable, as sudden fluctuations do stress the fish.

   Maintain a water temperature within the range of 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 28 degrees Celsius). These temperatures simulate their natural habitat in South American rivers and help them stay healthy and active.

   They like soft to moderately hard water. A general guideline is to keep the water hardness (measured in degrees GH) between 5 and 15. Providing water within this range will promote their well-being and reduce the risk of health issues related to extreme hardness levels.

Diet and feeding

   Blue Phantom Plecos are omnivorous, but their diet primarily consists of plant matter and some protein. Here are some optimal foods for their diet:

  • High-quality sinking pellets: Choose pellets designed for bottom-dwelling fish, as these will sink to their level, making it easier for them to feed.
  • Vegetables: Offer blanched or boiled vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, and spinach. These should be softened to make them easier for the plecos to consume.
  • Algae wafers: Yes, Plecs eat algae. These provide essential plant matter and are a good source of nutrition for plecos.
  • Occasional protein: While they are primarily herbivorous, Blue Phantom Plecs benefit from occasional protein-rich foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia.

Blue Phantom Plecos are nocturnal feeders, so it’s best to feed them in the evening or after the tank lights are turned off. Here’s a general feeding frequency guideline:

  • Daily: Offer a small amount of sinking pellets. Ensure they sink to the bottom, where the plecos can easily access them.
  • Every other day: Provide a vegetable treat, such as blanched zucchini or cucumber. Remove any uneaten portions after a few hours to maintain water quality.
  • Once or twice a week: Include protein-rich foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp. Again, be cautious not to overfeed with protein.

Blue Phantom Plecos Tank Size and setup

Tank Size

   The minimum tank size for a single adult pleco should be at least 20 gallons (75 litres). 

   An optimal tank size for a single Blue Phantom Pleco is around 30 to 40 gallons (113 to 150 litres). 

For a community tank containing Blue Phantom Plecos and other fish species, a tank of 55 gallons (208 litres) or larger is recommended. This larger tank size allows for better compatibility with other fish and provides ample space for plants and decorations.

Tank Setup

   Blue Phantom Plecos prefer tanks with sandy or fine-gravel substrates. This type of substrate is easier on their delicate underbelly and mimics their natural habitat. It also allows them to forage for food more effectively.

   Blue Phantom Plecos are shy and nocturnal, so they require hiding spots in the aquarium to feel secure. Provide caves, driftwood, and rocky formations where they will retreat during the day. PVC pipes or specially designed pleco caves also work well. Ensure that these hiding spots are placed in different areas of the tank to prevent territorial conflicts if you have multiple plecos.

   Good filtration and aeration are essential for Blue Phantom Plecos. They are sensitive to poor water quality, so a quality aquarium filter is a must. Canister filters or sponge filters are good options. 

   Additionally, provide gentle aeration to ensure proper oxygenation of the water. This can be achieved using air stones or air-driven sponge filters.

Blue Phantom Pleco Tank Mates

Breeding Blue Phantom Plecos

blue phantom plecos

Blue Phantom Pleco are cave spawners, which means they lay their eggs in hidden locations. 

Breeding these Plecos is not common. Only a few people have successfully bred them in tanks. While it’s not impossible, it’s unlikely. That’s why many of the Blue Phantom Plecos you find for sale were caught in the wild even mine. 

It is hard to induce breeding but you can set a record though. I could help;

Ensure pristine water quality by conducting regular water changes and using an efficient filtration system.

Provide suitable caves or hiding spots for the plecos to lay their eggs. PVC pipes, ceramic caves, or rocky crevices work well.

Ensure there are multiple hiding spots, as Blue Phantom Plecos can be territorial during breeding.

Spawning Behavior and Care for Fry

From the few successful breeders I’ve met, I’ve been enlightened that Blue Phantom Plecos are known to clean their chosen nesting sites before laying eggs.

Once the eggs are laid, the male guards them, often fanning them with his fins to provide oxygen and prevent fungus growth.

It’s necessary to provide adequate hiding spots to protect the eggs and fry from potential threats, including other fish in the tank.

After hatching, Blue Phantom Pleco fry will initially feed on their yolk sacs. Once they absorb these nutrients, you can offer them infusoria, microworms, or specially formulated fry foods.

As they grow, you can gradually introduce finely crushed flakes or pellets.

Common Breeding Problems

Eggs not hatching: Poor water quality, fungal infections, or infertile eggs can prevent successful hatching.
Aggression: Blue Phantom Plecos are territorial during breeding, leading to conflicts among males.
Fry survival: Ensuring proper nutrition and protection from predators is crucial for fry survival.

Solutions to Blue Plec Breeding Problems

  • Maintain excellent water quality with regular water changes.
  • Provide a variety of hiding spots to reduce territorial disputes among males.
  • Use a separate breeding tank if possible to protect eggs and fry from potential threats in the main tank.
  • Offer a well-balanced diet to both adult plecos and fry to support their health and growth.

Blue Phantom Pleco Lifespan

The lifespan of a Blue Phantom Pleco ranges from 10 to 15 years in captivity. 

Factors such as water quality, diet, tank size, genetics, and stress can influence their lifespan.

To ensure a healthy and happy life, maintain water quality, provide a balanced diet, create an appropriate tank setup, monitor behaviour, and minimize stress in the aquarium.

Blue Phantom Pleco Price

I see many people want to know how much Blue Phantom Plecos cost because since they are hard to get, they are quite expensive. 

When I got mine, each was for $40 and I have friends that argue that is a dirt cheap price. Now, there are sites that put Blue Phantom Plecs up for sale anywhere between $50 to $150. 

But to make it easier, I did my homework and found a site where you can order at the price I got mine or even $10 cheaper. Go get it here (N/B: I have no affiliation with this site)

FAQs on Blue Phantom Pleco

Are Blue Phantom Plecos hardy?

  What I will say is that Blue Phantom Plecos are hardy when provided with suitable care and water conditions. 

Do Blue Phantom Plecos Need Driftwood?

   While Blue Phantom Plecos do not require driftwood in their tank, they do appreciate its presence. Driftwood provides hiding spots, acts as a source of fibre in their diet, and aids in maintaining stable water parameters. It also replicates their natural habitat.

How do I know if I have a male or female pleco?

Male Blue Phantom Plecos are slimmer and longer. Females, on the other hand, have rounded bellies, similar to what you might observe in other fish.

What kind of substrate for Blue Phantom Pleco?

For Blue Phantom Plecos, use a substrate of fine sand or fine gravel in your aquarium. This type of substrate is easier on their delicate underbelly, mimicking their natural habitat in sandy or rocky riverbeds.
Fine substrate allows them to forage more comfortably and exhibit their natural behaviours. Avoid sharp or coarse gravel that may cause injuries to the plecos or make it difficult for them to burrow and search for food.

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Edet Ubok-Obong
Edet Ubok-Obong

Edet Ubok-Obong is an experienced Writer with a deep passion for Gardening, Fishing and home improvement. He shares his knowledge of these fields through this website.