Fry survival is perhaps the make or break on whether your hobby is retracting, maintaining or expanding and most surprisingly from our experience seems to be poorly planned out by many hobbyists we have had this particular conversation with. For many L number species in Australia the value placed upon 3cm individuals summarises two specific factors for that species in question. First, the difficulty in spawning that species and second, the fry survival rate.

L333 eggs in dish

As mentioned earlier, in our experience the majority of pleco hobbyists are so focused on spawning their fish that the more important challenge to pleco husbandry is ignored. Preparations either completely absent or poor husbandry routines result in significant fry mortality. In our experience, it’s watching fry decay and cohort losses that break a pleco hobbyists spirit rather than waiting patiently for their adults to spawn, which is why when given the chance we focus on educating on fry survival before worrying about adult spawning requirements.

The focus of these tips are intended to assist pleco hobbyists during the most significant time of fry raising known as first feed and first week as this is when the fry are the most vulnerable to poor husbandry choices.




Surface area is in our opinion the most important factor when raising juvenile plecos as it systematically impacts every other variable in fry care. For example, the use of fry boxes greatly reduces the surface area and distance fry have to search for food so in theory this is a huge benefit to ensuring all of your fry find sufficient food. However, unless the water quality is maintained reduced surface area and by correlation water volume leads to faster water quality decline and now your fry are trapped in toxic water. Fry boxes are also notorious for surface area bacteria from the breakdown of uneaten food when used for long periods which can also cause significant issues for your fry survival.

Careful consideration about whether you intend to utiltise the entire aquarium or use a reduced space like fry boxes greatly impacts how you should feed and most importantly how often you should be cleaning where you place your fry. The smaller the surface area, the more often you should be cleaning, for example fry boxes will need at least daily minor cleans or potentially twice daily cleans when feeding a large number of pleco fry. The consequence of lacking fry box cleaning bacteria breaking down the excess biomass which can harm your fry from either consumption or direct exposure.


Feeding surface area much like surface area is so important that it practically determines if a hobbyists pleco fry will die as soon as their yolk metabolic energy reserves are exhausted.  Large surface areas with small volume is the ideal way to feed pleco fry so that no matter where they are in either the aquarium or fry box they will find food. 

The ideal surface area foods include vegetables like zucchini or cucumber cut in long, thin as possible, slices distributed throughout the aquarium in several locations to ensure fry find them while also being stable for up to 24 hours submerged. Keep in mind water quality will significantly drop when feeding heavily, so consider substantial water change routines to ensure your aquarium doesn’t crash.


Live or frozen baby brine shrimp is already the cornerstone of aquaculture hatcheries as no other live food can be so easily cultivated with immediate positive impacts on almost every form of fish fry. Live Baby brine shrimp can stay in the water column for up to 24hrs. They are packed full of essential omega fatty acids when they first hatch, aren’t particularly good swimmers and will sink to the bottom of the aquarium or fry box quickly where our pleco and bristlenose fry can easily feed.

Frozen baby brine has every benefit mentioned for live baby brine shrimp and is even easier as its just place and forget, Not to mention there is now hatching or extra equipment required.


Pleco fry use up the highest portion of potential metabolic energy reserves for basic metabolic functions like growth and basic body function. During their first week of feeding, as their embryo reserves exhaust and due to their particularly small size they can’t actually eat meal portions big enough to survive for long periods of time. In our experience, pleco fry require between 2 to 5 feedings a day which is either possible for you or it just simply isn’t, as life often gets in the way.

However, the solution is extremely easy. Feed foods like baby brine shrimp as soon as you wake up and before you go to sleep as part of your routine to ensure the big metabolic energy bursts are there at least twice a day and the maintenance food like cucumber vegetables or grazing gel foods are present when you can’t be during the day or night.

This high intensity feeding regime can be adapted after the first week, but done correctly this one change to feeding routine will vastly improve fry survival of even the most difficult pleco species through the crucial first feeding week.

#5 DIET NUTRIENT COMPOSITION (Protiens, Carbohydrates and Fats)

Pleco fry require every essential nutrient in ample supply during their first week of feeding such as essential omega fatty acids proteins and carbohydrates. In particular pleco hobbyists should take particular caution and avoid staple diets high in proteins in the first week as proteins are hard to digest due to their complex compositions and often cause fry mortality when fed in too high concentrations. Essentially high protein diets cause constipation in pleco fry which can be observed by the fry appearing as if their bellies have become inflated with a mini balloon.

As a rule of thumb we try to feed at a maximum 40 - 60% of an adult pleco’s protein dietary requirement to avoid protein bloat mortality in our fry and supplement the lack of protein with excess essential fatty acids and carbohydrates so that the protein consumed is only used for growth. 

Essentially if you provide newly hatched baby brine shrimp once or twice a day you will have provided all the essential fatty acids required by your pleco fry. Carbohydrates can be supplied from zucchini or cucumber and a basic high quality fry pellet or flake food of appropriate protein content can supply the rest of the nutrients they require.


Micro or Fry Pellets and flake diets are great high surface area low volume diet options and can be used with great effect when the circumstances present. For example, flake foods are significantly softer than micro pellets which are prepared with a hard dried outer layer albeit a very small one that the fry have to chew through or digest whole. For species with particularly slow to develop gut digestion flake diets are just that bit easier to digest as they lack the layers of compaction that makes a pellet’s outer surface. Even the 1% benefits begin adding up when you consider the impacts of 1% mortalities for each 1000 fry individuals.

Micro pellets have their advantages because of that compacted layer mentioned earlier giving them considerably more flexible water stability. In fact, main size pellets can last potentially for days where as flake diets begin decomposition as soon as they encounter moisture. The longer the pellets seem to be water soluble the thicker the compacted layer which is of particular importance when offering micro pellets as a first feed option.


Feeding any fish a pelleted or flake diet is not a natural behavior like eating a moving small object like a baby brine shrimp which is why utilising older individuals to ‘teach’ first time eating fry is particularly important. However, one has to balance the impact of how many times difference in mass day old fry are compared to their adult father, it would be comparable to humans being born at 20grams instead of 2500grams which is considered a healthy weight. Imagine human children being fully developed at birth being just 20grams, often its not until this realization that hobbyists begin to realise that the sheer scale of the father isn’t always the most suitable feeding tutor. 

The best feeding tutors from experience are the fastest growing individuals from the previous spawn from the same species or any spawn that is within a month of age where possible. This is a tip we have used for years and probably the golden gem among the ones given so far as a thank you to those who have continued to read up until this point. 

The two most significant advantages for using the best of previous spawns becomes most obvious when told, but took a decade for us to incorporate. 

(A) You are indirectly selecting for feeding response for every cohort which may encourage more individuals of the most recently spawned cohort to follow the enthusiasm of the best eaters. Perhaps it’s tail flicking behavior, speed of consumption, noise, vibration in fact there's really no way to be sure, but the theory can’t be disproved easily either.

(B) The size differential between a fish 10x heavier and larger is better than a fish 1000x your size pushing you round or scarring you off eating. Fry have an ingrained flight response, there is no fight so reducing issues where they even consider they are at threat vastly improves their eating durations and correlating potential to be at peak metabolic energy usage improving growth and immune systems reducing mortality rates.