Green Phantom Pleco: Species Profile and Care Guide

Are you interested in adding a green phantom pleco to your tank? Before doing so, read our guide to learn everything you need to know about this unique species.

Species Overview

Perhaps the biggest draw to the green phantom pleco is its coloration. The fish is a light green color with yellow spots of varying sizes.

It is not a delicate fish, but it may be better suited to intermediate aquarium enthusiasts since its water needs are specific: the green phantom pleco requires relatively clean water, meaning you’ll need to check and change your tank’s water regularly.

The green phantom pleco is sometimes referred to as L200, a name stemming from an older classification system used on species of catfish. The “L” stands for Loricariidae, the taxonomical family containing catfish and green phantom plecos among others.

Distinguishing Features

The green phantom pleco’s distinctive yellow spots make it stand out, but its fins are eye-catching, too.

The spots are usually yellow, though they can lean toward being whitish, and they can vary in size depending on where on the fish’s body they fall.

Relative to the body size, a pleco’s fins are large and billowy, and the dorsal fin stands tall. The male green phantom pleco has larger and longer pectoral fins than its female counterpart, but both sexes have impressive fins.

As a bottom-feeding fish, the green phantom pleco also has a sucker mouth that gives it a distinct appearance, part of which includes the denticles we see on so many fish from the Loricariidae family.

As part of the Hemiancistrus genus, this fish, like its relatives, resembles a catfish in many ways.

Green Phantom Pleco L200


The green phantom pleco hails from South American waters, specifically the Rio Orinoco, the fourth-largest river in the world. As such, the fish is comfortable with the current, so it will thrive in tanks that provide a moderate one.

The river’s substrate is largely sandy, so the fish will appreciate a similar tank floor. Driftwood and larger rocks can provide some decoration and interruption to monotony for the fish, but it doesn’t require lots of plants in the tank.

The green phantom pleco is a cave-spawner, so it won’t seek out plants for shelter. However, it will appreciate a cave decoration that allows the fish to sneak off for a short time now and then.


The average pleco grows to between 5.5 and 6.5 inches. Smaller tanks will produce smaller fish, of course, but in general, you can expect at least five inches from a healthy fish.

Like many species, males tend to be larger than females, though, in the green phantom pleco, that size difference is more readily visible in the width of their heads and the length of their fins. That said, males will usually be somewhat longer than females, but they don’t dwarf their mates by any stretch, as the sexual dimorphism in plecos isn’t as pronounced as it can be in other species.


In a well-kept tank with a moderate current, regularly maintained water, and bright lights to facilitate algae growth, a green phantom pleco can live an average of about ten years. Some keepers report fish living as long as 12 years, but a decade is a realistic estimation of the green phantom pleco’s average lifespan.

The key word, though, is “well-kept.” Heavy filtration, a good current, a healthy diet, and general attentive care to the fish all contribute to the lifespan, and if any of these aspects falter, the fish won’t live as long.


While male cardinals, for instance, are much more brightly and vibrantly colored than females, the differences in male and female gree phantom plecos are not so pronounced. In terms of colors, there is little difference.

As mentioned above, the males will grow slightly longer than the females, but identifying a male is perhaps easier by comparing the size and shape of the fish’s heads.

The male’s head will be flatter and broader than the female’s, and while the difference is apparent, it doesn’t make them look violently different from each other. His pectoral fins will be longer and a bit more billowy than hers, as well.

Finally, a look at the dermal denticles (also called dermal teeth) reveals more (and more visible) ones on male than on female plecos.


While the green phantom pleco is often considered a peaceful fish, he isn’t eager to spend time in large groups— especially if there are other plecos in that group.

As green phantom plecos grow, they become territorial and will attack if they feel their turf is being compromised. Solutions include a large enough tank for multiple plecos to establish their territories or avoiding placing other bottom-dwellers in with your green phantom pleco.

Also, note that plecos are not territorial when they are younger. It’s not until they mature that they become aggressive when territorial issues arise.

Females are not as aggressive as males, but neither are they white-flag-waving peaceniks.

Tank Parameters

Every tank has a set of needs to meet for all the fish living in it. Depending on the environment your fish need, you may find some that are incompatible with others— riparian and pelagic fish, for instance, simply can’t live in the same tank.

Parameters for the best environment for your green phantom pleco are straightforward, though to be fair, it’s the ongoing maintenance that makes this fish not a good choice for first-time aquarium owners.

Green Phantom Pleco L200

Minimum Tank Size

At a bare minimum, your green phantom pleco needs a 30-gallon tank. Most often, a tank of this capacity measures three feet long and 16” tall. Giving your green phantom pleco more room won’t cause problems. The 30-gallon figure is a minimum, though your fish won’t complain about having more swimming area.

That said, if you plan on having more than one pleco or other bottom-dwellers with your green phantom pleco, this minimum tank size will invite trouble. Multiple plecos in one tank need to have a tank large enough for each fish to have the territory it can lord over.

Too small a tank will lead to violence between plecos.

Water Parameters

More than any other environmental factor, the water in which your fish live will determine how well they do in a tank in your home. Paying close attention to temperature and pH levels will help ensure your green phantom pleco has an ideal habitat.

Here is a good spot to remember that plecos come from a river habitat and will benefit from the existence of a moderate current in the tank. Consider a water pump to help move water around the tank.


If your water temperature strays outside the 70s (Fahrenheit), your green phantom pleco will not do well. Ideally, the water temperature should stay between 72 and 77 degrees. Short periods of higher or lower temps won’t irreparably harm your fish, but extended exposure could cause problems.

Remember that the green phantom pleco hails from a river that runs through Columbia and Venezuela, so the fish is used to equatorial temperatures, and those don’t vary widely throughout the year.


The perfect pH level for your green phantom pleco will lean toward being slightly acidic. Your green phantom pleco needs a pH level of between 6.0 and no more basic than 7.8.


As the green phantom pleco is a freshwater fish, salinity isn’t an issue. It is an issue if you find yourself with a saltwater tank. Your green phantom pleco won’t survive that. Maintaining fresh water and monitoring temperature and pH levels will help keep the tank safe for your green phantom pleco.

Tank Setup

Determining what goes where in your aquarium serves two purposes— it provides your fish with the environment they’ll live in for what we hope will be long, happy lives. It also brings visual appeal to the people outside the water looking in on the fish.


Since the green phantom pleco comes from a tropical river, a sandy substrate will work for him in your tank. That said, plecos do enjoy resting on rounded surfaces, so you’ll want to provide yours with some larger, smooth stones rather than just a sandy or gravelly tank bottom.


Your fish will want some places to rest and to swim around, so consider the larger rocks mentioned above as well as driftwood placed here and there.

Avoid decorations with sharp points or edges. This goes for most fish, but especially the green phantom pleco. Your fish will want to rest now and then, and if he decides to do so on a tank decoration with a sharp edge on it, he risks injury.

Go for rounded edges and naturally occurring objects that a pleco might encounter in the Rio Orinoco.


The plants in any aquarium can make for a pretty underwater environment, but the green phantom pleco doesn’t necessarily need plants in its tank, so if you opt against them for aesthetic purposes, you won’t be causing your green phantom pleco any problems.

And depending on what plants you might put in the tank, they could end up as lunch since the green phantom pleco will eat some types of plants.

The green phantom pleco doesn’t need plants due to its cave-dwelling nature, so consider including a small cave or similar cave-like decoration. Your fish will want to swim into it now and then, but as a very active fish, the green phantom pleco won’t stay in that cave for long.


The most important thing the green phantom pleco needs in terms of lighting is quantity. The green phantom pleco, feeding on algae, needs algae to grow around him. The best way to do this is to ensure that your tank gets plenty of bright light regularly to encourage algae growth.

Plecos are omnivorous, but as bottom-dwellers, algae constitute a large part of their diet.


No matter what filtration medium you choose, understand that filtration is crucial to keeping your green phantom pleco healthy. Again, as a riverine fish, the green phantom pleco expects a good current, which in turn keeps the water relatively clear and oxygenated.

The green phantom pleco is sensitive to organic waste, so in a tank that’s not filtered well and that doesn’t have the water changed regularly, the fish won’t thrive (at best; at worst, they’ll fall ill and die).

The best bet for a tank with a green phantom pleco in it is for it to use a heavy-duty external power filtration system.


Your green phantom pleco will flourish as long as the water temperature remains in the 70s. Keep a tank heater engaged and get a tank thermometer. If this is a new tank or a new fish, monitor everything closely and carefully until you get an idea of what works best in terms of settings.

If you’re new to fishkeeping, you’ll want to be extra vigilant as you monitor all the tank parameters.

Consider also where you place your tank. Placing it in a drafty part of your home will make it difficult to keep the water temperature consistent. A tank lid can help hold in some heat, and if need be (perhaps in the event of a temporary power loss or something similar), you can wrap the tank in blankets or other insulating materials.


Your bottom-dwelling pleco will eat algae in the tank, but that shouldn’t be his only source of good. Flakes or algae wafers will satisfy him, and since the green phantom pleco is an omnivore, he’ll eat bloodworms or Mysis shrimp, too.

These last shouldn’t be regular parts of the green phantom pleco’s diet, however, as they aren’t as easily digestible as the vegetable matter and could conceivably cause blockage they’re part of a pleco’s daily diet.

A few pellets or pinches of fish flakes each day, coupled with the occasional bloodworm treat, will satisfy your green phantom pleco and help maintain his physical health.


Like most fish, plecos lay eggs. Since they spawn in caves, you’ll want some cave-like structures in your tank if you plan on breeding these fish. However, and this is important, you’ll want those structures in a separate breeding tank— one without other species and from which you can remove the parents.

  • The female green phantom pleco spawns in a cave, laying 30 to 50 eggs at once. She can come out of the tank once the eggs are laid.
  • The male will stand guard in front of the cave entrance as she lays her eggs. He’ll do so until the eggs hatch.
  • Once the fry hatch, they’ll feed on the egg sac for up to a week. After that, they can start getting baby brine shrimp.

The male green phantom pleco won’t usually try to eat the fry as many species do. That said, any sick or dead fry that spends time on the tank bottom is just as likely as algae to get sucked up into the male pleco’s mouth.

Common Diseases

Most freshwater fish face danger from a parasitic ich ailment or fin rot, and green phantom plecos are no different. These common freshwater fish ailments affect plecos as much as any other freshwater denizen.

This knowledge, though, lets us also understand why these ailments occur. Largely, they are the result of poor water quality. Your green phantom pleco prefers water with a good current in it, and this current helps provide oxygenation for the fish and move contaminants away and into the filtration system.

A properly maintained aquarium, complete with a good, sandy substrate, a filter, and a water current should go far in preventing these commonly occurring freshwater fish ailments.

Potential Tank Mates

Tetras make great tank mates for the plecos, though that’s not the only choice. Things to keep in mind when it comes to tank mates include

  • Avoid other bottom-dwellers, as the green phantom pleco will perceive them as competitors and enemies
  • Choose fish that flourish in water with a current such as rasboras or hatchet fish
  • Plecos like slightly acidic water, so look for fish similarly inclined

Unless you place another pleco or bottom dweller in a small tank, your green phantom pleco should get along well with just about any fish you add to the tank.

Final Thoughts

The green phantom pleco is a distinctive fish, and in a 30-gallon tank, its six-inch length can be impressive. As with most bottom-dwellers, a green phantom pleco will cruise along in your tank and keep algae from growing into unmanageable populations. The fish’s lush green body and striking yellowish spots look great, too.

The trade-off is that you must commit to caring for your green phantom pleco. While it’s not a delicate fish, it does need well-filtered water and a balanced diet to cater to its omnivorous nature. The green phantom pleco is especially sensitive to organic waste in the water while also producing much of that waste.

A powerful and maintained filtration system will ensure the health and long life of this great-looking fish.