Snowball Pleco Care: Care Guide

This guide will demonstrate how to properly care for Snowball Plecos and provide them with a habitat in which they can thrive.

Species Summary

If you are looking for a small and peaceful Pleco for your community aquarium, the Snowball Pleco (scientific name: Hypancistrus ins Inspector ) might be for you. Docile and undemanding, this freshwater fish is perfect for aquarists of all skill levels.

Snowball Pleco comes from the Rio Negro in Venezuela, is the largest black water river in the world. Thanks to the unique water conditions of its natural habitat, Snowball Pleco has some unique care requirements.

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Fortunately, this fish is quite tolerant and easily adapts to life in captivity. With the right care, they can thrive in your aquarium!

Average Pleco Snowball Size

The average size of the Snowball Pleco is about 5.5 inches and 6.3 inches in length when fully grown. Compared to other popular plecos, Snowballs are actually quite small.

Note: There have been rare cases where this species has reached 7 inches in length. However, that is extremely rare for this species.


In general, the lifespan of a healthy Snowball Pleco will be 8 to 10 years. It's actually a bit shorter than Common Pleco.

These fish depend on stable water conditions and proper breeding to thrive. Without good care, they can quickly succumb to disease, resulting in a significantly shortened lifespan. This means that if you are going to own a Snowball Pleco, proper care is paramount.


Snowball Plecos are beautiful creatures with familiar shapes. They have the same iconic Pleco profile. It consists of a flattened belly, a concave mouth, and a torpedo-shaped outline.

Like other Plecos, Snowballs have spread pectoral and pelvic fins. They also have a large triangular dorsal fin. Under the right conditions, you can see this fin standing in the spotlight, giving the fish a unique look.

Pleco snowball at the bottom of the freshwater tank

The base color for Snowball Plecos is black or dark gray. Males can also be dark brown with a hint of red. For both men and women, the base color is accented with white or pale yellow polka dots!

These dots cover the entire body. You can find them on the fins, on the head, and everywhere in between! They create a great contrast to the fish's overall dark appearance.

The difference between men and women is quite noticeable. Males usually have a subtle red tint to them. In addition, the offspring are also fuller and rounder.

Note: Males also have more pronounced serrations, which are the outer teeth on the side of the head.

Snowball Pleco Care

Taking care of Snowball Pleco is really not too difficult. As we mentioned earlier, they are well adapted to life in the aquarium.

However, there are still some bases you need to equip. Like any other fish, Snowball Plecos have some unique needs that you must address if you want them to thrive. Doing so can help your fish reach its full potential and live a long, happy life!

Tank size

Let's start with the tank size! Thanks to their smaller stature, you don't need to plan ahead for big growth like you do with other Plecos.

These fish do well in aquariums that can hold as little as 40 gallons.

However, it is recommended to scale up larger if you plan on creating a community pool. The more space available for this fish, the better.

In fact, most of the longest-living Snowball Plecos are kept in large tanks. There's something about the extra room that makes a big difference.

Water parameters

Read more: Betta Fish Care: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Snowball Plecos comes from an interesting natural environment. Rio Negro is dark, like the color of tea water. Rotting vegetation on the riverbed is responsible for this distinct coloration.

With darker color comes with unique water composition. The water is relatively soft, but it's also more acidic than what you might be used to. These fish can tolerate neutral water, but they do best if their environment is somewhat acidic.

To keep your Snowball Pleco healthy, recreate these water conditions as closely as possible. Buy an aquarium thermometer and water test kit to make sure the following parameters are stable.

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 86°F
  • pH level: 5.0 to 7.6 (somewhere in between is ideal)
  • Water hardness: 6 to 10 dKH

Once you start keeping these fish, you should test the water more often. That will help you determine if the parameters are consistent while your fish adjust.

What to put in their tank

You can set up your tank with simple decorations and artificial decorations. However, the best way to keep your Snowball Pleco happy and healthy is to create a natural environment that resembles the Rio Negro!

Pay special attention to the bottom of the tank. These fish are bottom dwellers, so they will spend most of their time exploring the lower part of the water column.

Start with a fine sand background. The sand is soft and safe for Snowball Plecos. It is also the perfect material for plants and natural decorations!

On the background layer, place some cave-like decorations. You can create caves with driftwood and rocks. The man-made caves also work well. Feel free to create your own cave with upside down potted plants if you want!

A series of beautiful tunnels and caves to explore is very important. These fish need hiding places to feel safe. Plus, they will play an important role in the breeding process!

Next, add plants! You can use pretty much any freshwater plant species, so feel free to mix things up and get creative! Snowball Plecos are not known for uprooting plants, so you can use anything that's suitable for the biotope.

To keep the water in good shape, use a strong filtration system. In fast-flowing rivers like the Rio Negro, water conditions are still good because waste is washed away. Your filter must efficiently circulate the water to prevent ammonia and nitrate levels from getting too high.

Note: Speaking of water currents, Snowball Plecos prefers stronger currents. It is not an absolute necessity, but these fish prefer it. You can do some pumps or blowers to keep things moving and increase the amount of oxygen.

Common diseases that can occur

There are no special diseases that specifically target Snowball Plecos. But this species can suffer from diseases common to other freshwater fish.

The problem with this species is that they don't have the traditional scales you see on other fish. Instead, they have sturdy armor-like plates. This makes them a bit more sensitive to chemicals, salts and antibiotics in the water. Often, this can cause them to experience the symptoms of infectious diseases a little faster.

The most common disease you have to worry about is Ich's disease. This highly contagious disease causes white spots all over the fish's body. Usually, you can simply use copper-based medications to deal with the problem. However, this species is particularly sensitive to copper.

Therefore, you will have to isolate them and treat them naturally by adjusting the water conditions. The same goes for fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections. Fortunately, you can use several medications approved by Pleco to treat the condition.

As always, don't hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about how to proceed.

Food & Diet

Snowball Plecos can eat a variety of foods. They are natural omnivores.

Outside of feeding time, you can see these fish nibbling on biofilms. Contrary to popular belief, these fish are not the best algae eaters. They can enjoy the algae from time to time, but they won't consume it as quickly as other species in the family.

Read more: 20 peaceful community fishes for your aquarium

Instead, they prefer a varied diet with both protein and plant-based foods. You can give them standard sinking pellets or algae pads as a substrate.

For snacks, try bloodworms, brine shrimp, or crustaceans. You can also offer vegetables such as:

  • Poached peas
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers (they really like this one)

Offer only as much food as your fish can consume in a few minutes. Remove any leftovers to make sure the water doesn't sour too quickly.

Note: Most of their potential health problems are due to poor water conditions and excess food can lead to this. Make sure that you clean the tank regularly and change 30 to 50 percent of the water each week to keep things consistent. This will keep your fish healthy and avoid stress and disease.

Behavior & Temperament

Snowball Plecos is not very social. Most will not notice the other fish in the tank. For the most part, this species will cling to itself and spend most of its time hiding in caves.

However, they can become more sociable during the breeding season. This is when there is a clear incentive to get out and interact with each other!

We do not recommend raising males together. Males in the same tank tend to exhibit territorial aggression. Females do well with males, so make sure you have the right combination if you plan on keeping several in the same aquarium.

Finally, these fish are nocturnal so don't expect to see them much during the day! They will rest in dark caves until the sun goes down.


Thanks to their peaceful nature, you have a lot of options when it comes to creating a community tank. Try to choose other peaceful species that live in the upper parts of the aquarium to be safe.

Snowball Plecos will largely ignore any tank mates, so you don't need to worry about problems as long as every fish in the tank is peaceful.

Note: The only time you can get into trouble is when the dwarf shrimp are in the tank. Snowballs often mistake them for food!

Here are some good boosts for Snowball Pleco:

  • Different tetra species (we recommend Ember and Rummy Nose)
  • Celestial Pearl Danio
  • Plate
  • Corydoras
  • Apistogramma
  • Large shrimp species (try Amano)
  • Types of snails


Breed Snowball Plecos hit or miss. These fish are willing to breed in captivity, but you have to put in a lot of effort to provide the right conditions.

Set up a separate spawning tank with primary water conditions. Make sure the tank has large caves.

After placing a pair of Snowball Plecos in the tank, feed the fish to spawn. Offer plenty of raw or frozen foods for best results. If the process is successful, you will notice that the female will swell with eggs. She will then spawn in a cave (after investigating them a bit).

The male will guard the eggs and may also fan them periodically. After about a week, the eggs will hatch!

After the newly hatched fish eat all the egg bags, let the baby shrimps soak in salt water and blanch vegetables as food. These foods will provide them with the nutrients they need to facilitate growth.       


Snowball Pleco takes great care of aquarists who are just starting out or anyone who doesn't want a high-maintenance fish. Their combination of beauty and ease of care is really hard to beat!

We strongly recommend keeping this fish if you are still worried about getting one. This breed is definitely one of our favorites and we know a lot of other owners who say the same thing.

Refer: Common Pleco: Care Guide

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