The aquatic world presents several choices to aquarium hobbyists, but some pets just seem to have become prime favorites – a reality that may be as a result of their temperament, level of care, or gorgeousness. Snowball Pleco, which is native to the blackwater river of Rio Negro in Venezuela, has constantly found its way into the home aquarium. Its scientific name is Hypancistrus inspector and belongs to the family, Loricariidae – same as other Plecos.
The reasons for the popularity of Snowball Plecos among aquarists shall be unraveled as you read through this article that has been prepared to shed more light on the characteristics and care needs of Snowball Plecos.
The Average Size of Snowball Pleco
Snowball Plecos can measure up to 15cm on average. Having said that, they can reach a maximum length of about 18cm in atypical instances, but this is even short of the size of other more popular Plecos that may reach up to 50cm or thereabout.
Snowball Plecos can live for close to 8 – 10 years. It is, however, important to emphasize that this can only be achieved under optimal or right tank conditions as this species is known to have a high susceptibility to diseases, particularly those caused by unclean or unstable water conditions.
Snowball Plecos have a characteristic coloration about them; they portray a mix of black and white thus reflecting a polka dot appearance. As a matter of fact, the ‘snowball’ tag in the name comes from the display of colors on the fish’s body. Nevertheless, yellow dots – rather than white dots – may be seen over the predominant black coloration in some instances. The underbelly may have an entirely black or grey coloration. Male Snowball Pleco are known to show off red tone whereas such characteristic is not found in females.
Moving on to the body shape and outline; Snowball Plecos have a shape in the mold of a torpedo, with the body bending inward from the peduncle down to the upper body thus making the fish’s mouth to be downturned – just like most of the other species in the Pleco family. They also have whiskers around their mouth region. It needs to be stated that the body shape of Snowball Pleco is usually used for sex differentiating purposes as females are more rounded than males.
Snowball Plecos have a set of fins – pectoral and ventral fins – that spread outward from the side. The pectoral fin rays bear some odontodes which are a form of dentition, and this is typically more in male Snowball Plecos than what is obtainable in females – another gender differentiating element. They also have a triangular dorsal fin that stands erect whenever the fish feels like showing off.
When it comes to behavioral patterns; one notable observation is that Snowball Plecos are not sociable. They cherish being alone, going about their business without disturbing any tank inhabitant so, it suffices that Snowball Plecos are generally peaceful. Nevertheless, the male Snowball Pleco could exhibit some aggressive tendencies – especially towards other male Snowball Plecos – as it looks toward intruders off its territory. This behavior may be more noticeable during the breeding season.
Another behavioral trend you will most likely notice in your Snowball Pleco is the nocturnal inclination. They are quite active at night and may go into hiding during the day. Again, they tend to spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank.
Aquarium setup and care
Preparing and/or maintaining the aquarium where you house your Snowball Pleco is (are) exercise(s) that must be done with great care and commitment. This is down to the fact that the species is not so tolerant of compromising or fluctuating water/tank conditions. They are not so difficult to care for, but you just have to ensure that you provide them with the essentials on a consistent basis – it is basically about replicating what is attainable in their natural space within the home aquarium.
In view of the foregoing, it is expedient that you have a complete [and effective] test kit – including the thermometer, nitrate/ammonia test kit, pH meter/litmus paper, and so on – within reach. With this kit, you will be able to check the condition of the water at regular intervals.
Water parameters for Snowball Plecos
Water temperature: Snowball Plecos will thrive in cool to slightly warmer temperatures, with a range between 22 – 300C.
pH level: Snowball Plecos love moderately acidic water though they can also survive in one that is neutral. So, a pH level range of between 5.0 – 7.6 is suitable.
Water hardness: Hard water with a value between 6 – 10 dGH is perfect for Snowball Plecos in the home aquarium.
Starting with the size of the aquarium; one with a carrying capacity of about 150 liters should be sufficient for housing a Snowball Pleco. However, as you might have been aware; you will need something larger if you intend to build a community of fish or aquatic pets within your home aquarium. That said, you have to be mindful of the fact that larger-sized tanks will demand an increased level of maintenance.
Considering that Snowball Plecos have high oxygen demand, it is crucial that you integrate a good filtration system into the aquarium setup. With an efficient filtration system, the concentrations of ammonia and nitrate will be kept at a low and/or harmless range.
For the substrate, you will need to take into account the bottom-dwelling nature of this amazing pet. As such, a coarse substrate that can easily cause injury to the underbelly of your pet should be avoided. Rather a substrate like fine gravel or sand should be used. You can then add some plants and other decorative items. The plants will also aid the increased supply of oxygen in the tank.
More specifically, you should put driftwood and caves in Snowball Pleco’s aquarium as these will help create hiding spots for the fish. By the way, driftwood is particularly valuable in this respect as it contains tannins that add some natural coloration – like that obtainable in Snowball Pleco’s natural habitat – to the aquarium water.
The cleaning of the aquarium is yet another aspect you cannot afford to overlook when it comes to taking care of Snowball Plecos. In essence, you will have to carry out water changes on a weekly basis – a 50% weekly water change is recommended to keep the internal water environment fresh. Additionally, you should regularly vacuum the substrate of the tank to get rid of waste food and/or other particles that may be present. These measures will help to ensure the maintenance of a clear waterbody with toxicity adequately checked.
Snowball Plecos are not picky eaters; they get to feast on whatever edible that they come in contact with. To put it more precisely, they are omnivores and will feed on meaty, as well as plant foods. So, you will provide them with brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, insect larvae, etc.
Their meals can also be supplemented with veggies like spinach, cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, and even some fruits. More so, Snowball Plecos can sometimes consume the algae that may be found within the aquarium. At this point, it is important to add that any food that you are providing your Snowball Pleco with, must be such that gets to the bottom – this is why sinking pellets are often recommended. They may also show up some detritivore inclination by feeding on decaying organic matter.
Though Snowball Plecos eat virtually anything, you should be careful not to give them foods that have high copper content as they are sensitive to this element. Owing to this, foods like spirulina, peas, etc. can be left out of Snowball Pleco’s feeding plan.
On the frequency of the feeding; Snowball Plecos should be fed twice daily with just about the quantity of feed they can consume at a go – within 2 – 3 minutes. This is key as the incidences of overfeeding must be checked. Moreover, putting excessive feed into the aquarium will end up soiling the internal environment thereby subjecting your pet to diseases.
Aquarium Mates and Compatibility
When you are attempting to bring in other pets into the same tank with Snowball Pleco, you should look away from those fish species that can easily overpower or prey (on) it. Smaller-sized species, which Snowball Pleco can prey on, should not be paired with them. So, only similar-sized and non-aggressive tank mates should be introduced. You can also consider introducing aquatic species that love to dominate other levels – apart from the bottom – of the tank.
Again, due to the expression of territoriality by Snowball Plecos, it is not advisable to put them up with tank mates of their kind.
Below are some fish species/aquatic pets that should be compatible with Snowball Pleco:
- Panda Cory Catfish
- Celestial Pearl Danio
- Dwarf Cichlids
- Ember Tetras
- Amano Shrimp
Breeding Snowball Pleco can be a bit tasking, but it is worth giving a try for anyone who craves some adventure while keeping them as pets in the home aquarium. First things first; you must get a separate tank, set it up, and maintain optimal water condition, with caves incorporated therein. Then put in the male and female Snowball Plecos – a ratio of 1:1 is fine. You can now induce spawning by providing the pair with sufficient high-quality live and frozen foods.
A successful spawning process will be indicated as the female Snowball Pleco swells up, having been filled with eggs. She will then lay the eggs within the caves while the male Snowball Pleco assumes a protective role, intermittently fanning the eggs until they are hatched. The eggs should hatch within a week. The fry will eventually consume the yolk sac; after this, you can feed them with blanched spinach, lettuce, and baby brine shrimp, and watch them grow. You can take out the adult Snowball Plecos into separate tanks.
Although there is no fish disease that is known to be specific to Snowball Plecos, they are susceptible to a host of diseases common to other species. While most of these diseases are caused by the activities of microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, and so on, unhealthy water conditions can exacerbate the situation. Some of these diseases include:
Ich: This is caused by a protozoan, and it is characterized by the presence of white spots on the fish’s body. The affected fish also shows signs of lethargy and may become utterly inactive, staying at the bottom of the tank. This disease can, however, be taken care of by heat treatment with the temperature raised and maintained (at) 290C for 1 – 2 day(s).
Pop-eye disease: This is a bacterial infection that causes the eyes of the fish to protrude unusually. You should entirely change the water in the tank and clean it up appropriately. The affected fish should be given antibiotics (e.g., tetracycline) and fed with vitamin-rich foods like frozen brine shrimp.
Cottonmouth disease: The manifestation of this disease is reflected in the paleness of some parts of Snowball Plecos – especially the regions around the head and mouth. It is also caused by a bacterium. Other symptoms include skin ulceration, the appearance of patches on the gills, and labored breathing. For the treatment of this disease, you should carry out a 50% water change and take out the carbon from the filter. After this, you can treat the water with aquarium salt or antibiotics.
There is no doubt about Snowball Pleco being a lovely pet to have in the home aquarium. It is one aquatic creature that many aquarists have delighted to own, and it would definitely make a great recommendation for a beginner aquarist – who may want to take his/her fish-keeping hobby up a notch. The ease of care, as well as lifestyle pattern, make Snowball Pleco quite endearing. You will not have any regret keeping this wonderful aquatic creature. Remember to always see to your pet’s health and welfare.