Snowball Pleco – Habitat, Care, Tank Mates, Deiet

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The Snowball Pleco (Hypancistrus Inspector) is a beautiful freshwater fish that many people overlook in favor of other types of plecos.

They belong to such a popular family that people often forget about them.

These lovely fish are a joy to have around. They are striking, easy to care for, and comparatively small.

This guide will teach you how to properly care for a Snowball Pleco and give it the habitat it needs to be happy and healthy.

Snowball Pleco Overview

Snowball Plecos are from Venezuela, the Rio Negro to be precise – it’s a black water river flowing into the Amazon.

The Rio Negro is called a black water river because of its tea-colored water.

These fish, scientific name (Hypancistrus Inspector), need less space than some other species of plecos.

They only grow to about 6 inches (15 cm) in total length.

Snowball Plecos can live up to 10 years in optimal conditions.

To provide these, keep the water clean, test it regularly, reduce stress as much as possible, and try to replicate their natural environment.

They are very susceptible to diseases and they react negatively to copper.

The best care for this beautiful and peaceful fish is a combination of regular water testing, weekly water changes, and the use of a quarantine tank for new arrivals.

What I Like About This Fish:

  • The Snowball Pleco is a very beautiful and peaceful addition to most aquariums due to its hardiness. It’s also very pretty.
  • With a maximum size of 5.5-6.3 inches, this fish is very practical and manageable for most sized tanks.
  • This fish will not bother most plants. It will also scavenge and consume any uneaten fish food.
  • The Snowball Pleco is an interesting fish with a unique look.

Snowball Pleco Appearance

They have the same signature “flat belly” and torpedo-like shape that other pleco fish have and just like other plecos, they have rows of whiskers on their faces.

Snowballs have splayed-out fins near the pectoral and pelvic areas.

They also have a large dorsal fin that stands up in certain conditions, which can make them look even cuter than they already are.

The similarities between other plecos and Snowball Plecos end there.

The Snowball Pleco is one of a kind.

They have white or yellow “snowballs” all over, which contrast nicely against their black or dark gray base color.

They’re really pretty!

We have some in our tank at home too and they just make any tank look stunning.

Difference Between Females and Males

Males and females in some species show only subtle differences but Snowball Plecos are an example of where the difference is obvious.

Females typically have a more rounded build than males.

You’ll also notice that males have a noticeable reddish tone that is absent in females.

Additionally, these plecos have cheek plates with external teeth on the side of their head.

Male Snowball Plecos have more noticeable odontodes (external teeth) than females.

Snowball Pleco care

Temperament and Behavior

This species usually sticks to itself and will spend most of its time hiding out in caves.

However, they’re more social during the breeding season!

This is because there’s an obvious incentive to get out and find their mate!

We don’t recommend putting more than one male in the same tank as they may be territorial and aggressive to each other.

Females do just fine with males so you need to make sure you have one of each sex if you want to keep two in the same aquarium.

These fish are nocturnal so don’t expect them to be out much during the day.

They will usually rest in dark caves until sunset.

Tank Size and Habitat

Snowball Plecos are bottom dwellers, meaning they’ll spend most of their time exploring the lower part of the water column and moving around on the substrate of the tank.

The best would be to have a fine sand substrate at the bottom of your tank.

It is safe for pleco fish and will not harm their sensitive underbellies.

The substrate also allows for easier plant growth and enhances natural decor.

A series of dark tunnels and caves is important for this fish.

They need places to hide out so they can feel secure, so it’s important that they are available.

They also enjoy plants! Any type of freshwater, and live plants will work.

Snowball Plecos are not known to uproot plants, so you can use any plant that suits your aquarium’s biotope.

Tank Size

These fish do well in tanks with at least 40 gallons of water.

If you’re looking for a community tank then try and go bigger than 40 gallons so that the Snowball Pleco will stay happy as they will appreciate the extra space.

Water Parameters

The Snowball Pleco comes from an interesting natural environment.

The river they are found in has dark tea-stained water because of the decaying plant matter found on the river bed.

This means that the water is more acidic and soft. 

The Snowball Pleco can handle water that is neutral but to keep them healthy try to keep the water more acidic just like their natural environment.

  • Water temperature:72°F to 86°F
  • pH levels:5.0 to 7.6 (The middle range is ideal)
  • Water hardness:6 to 10 dKH

Water Conditions

Snowball plecos like strong currents–this is what they live in naturally.

Besides a strong current, the water needs to be soft and acidic. One way to do this is to add peat to the filter.

Driftwood is another good option as it releases tannins which will color the water that Snowball Plecos are used to living in.

Make sure you have a good water test kit ready to use.

The reason for this is that when you first add your Snowball Pleco to a tank, it will need a period of adjustment.

Regular water changes are crucial so make sure you do a 50% water change every second week with weekly water testing to keep the parameters in check.

You’ll need a high-quality filter to keep the water clean, maintain ammonia and nitrate levels, and provide abundant oxygen.

This will also help create the current that these Plecos are so fond of.

Important – Snowball Plecos are very sensitive to copper so avoid using tap water in their tank. Tap water normally contains copper.

snowball pleco tank mates

Snowball Pleco Tank Mates

Thanks to their peaceful nature, there are many options when it comes to setting up a community tank with a resident Snowball Pleco as it typically ignores other fish.

The only thing that you need to keep in mind is making sure that the tank mates also need similar habitat and water requirements as the Snowball Pleco.

Some good tank mates are:

  • Tetras like Rummy Nose, Ember, or Cardinals)
  • Celestial Pearl Danio
  • Bigger Shrimps like Amano, Bamboo, and Blue Dream Shrimp
  • Snails
  • Discus
  • Corydoras
  • Apistogramma


This pleco is fine eating biofilm in the wild but needs actual food to be supplied in the tank.

Feeding is fairly simple using pleco wafers and fresh vegetables. It’s known to have a preference for sweet potato!

The Snowball Pleco does not ship well and may not eat when first introduced to your tank.

Just make sure there are lots of hiding places and consistently provide the right foods and it should start eating on its own time.

Contrary to popular belief, they are not that good at eating algae.

Though they’ll occasionally eat algae, they won’t consume it at the same rate as other species in their family.

You can also feed them bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp with a variety of vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, blanched peas, and spinach.

Make sure to provide just enough food for your fish to eat in a few minutes and remove any leftover feedings.

This will ensure that the water quality remains high.

Snowball Pleco Size

Common Diseases

There is no evidence to suggest that Snowball Plecos carry special diseases that affect them.

However, they are susceptible to many of the same common diseases that other freshwater fish are.

Bacterial infections are common because snowball plecos don’t have scales and their skin is very sensitive to water quality.

Fins can be damaged by rough surfaces like rocks or gravel which the fish likes to rub against for a better grip on the substrate.

Parasites like ich can develop when the fish is stressed.


Snowball Plecos are not easily bred in captivity.

You need a separate breeding tank and of course, the right conditions before any reproduction can happen.

Make sure water conditions in the breeding tank are as good as possible.

You’ll need a few caves for the females to lay eggs in.

It’s important to make sure that your chosen breeding pair has both live & frozen fish food.

The female Snowball Pleco should puff up with eggs once mating occurs.

The female will lay her eggs in one of the caves.

The male will then take over and protect the eggs and keep them cool by fanning them.

The eggs will usually hatch in about 7 days.

The first food they eat is the egg sac and then you can feed them baby brine shrimp and small pieces of blanched vegetables.

Final Thoughts

If you have a large enough tank then the Snowball Pleco comes highly recommended.

It will leave your other fish alone, is easy to care for, and will be a stunning addition to your tank.

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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