Ultimate Gold Nugget Pleco Care Guide

Alison Page

Alison Page


Gold Nugget Place Care Guide

Sharing is caring!

If you’re looking for a stunningly beautiful bottom-dwelling fish to add to your community tank, a Gold Nugget pleco could be worth considering.

These fish are considered to be more suited to experienced hobbyists than beginners, as they are quite expensive to buy and challenging to care for. So, the last thing you want is to have your new fish die within days of getting it home.

In this guide, we provide you with all the information that you need to ensure your Gold Nugget pleco thrives and provides you with enjoyment for many years.

Gold Nugget Pleco

Gold Nugget pleco origins

The Gold Nugget pleco is a freshwater catfish, scientific name Loricariid Baryancistrus Xanthellus, and is also sometimes referred to as the Gold Spot pleco.

These fish live in rivers where the water is clear and smooth-flowing, especially in the Amazon basin, where the largest examples of the species can grow up to 13 inches in length. Captive-kept plecos generally grow to be between six to ten inches in length.

The different forms of Gold Nugget pleco are found in three main areas of the Xingu river in the Amazon rainforest.

Varieties of Gold Nugget pleco

There are several different varieties of Baryancistrus that you can find in fish stores and online through specialist dealers. Although the species were scientifically classified in 2011, they are still generally referred to by the use of “L” numbers. “L” stands for Loricariidae, and the number suffix is the number allocated to the particular variety of fish.

There are three types of Gold Nugget plecos:

  • L018
  • L085
  • L081
  • L177

All Gold Nugget plecos have dark green to black bodies with brilliant yellow spots and a yellow band on the outer edge of both the caudal and dorsal fins.

L081 has very small yellow spots, L018 and L085 have medium-sized yellow spots, while L177 is the larger-spotted variant.

Sexing adult Gold Nugget plecos is relatively straightforward. Adult male fish have a flatter, broader head, and longer pectoral fin spines than female Gold Nuggets.

Gold Nugget Place


Gold Nugget plecos can be found in some good fish stores, although you may need to order a specimen online. These are not cheap fish, largely because many are sourced from the wild environment, as they are extremely difficult to breed in captivity.

You can expect to pay from $60 to $100 for a Gold Nugget pleco. Remember that you may also have to pay shipping costs if you order a fish online.

When making a purchase, be sure to look closely at the condition of the specimen before you part with your cash. A very common problem with imported Gold Nugget plecos is malnutrition. The fish should not have sunken eyes or a sunken belly. Starvation is a common problem with plecos, so be sure to check that your fish looks fat and healthy.

Care of the Gold Nugget pleco

In this section of our guide, we explain how to look after your Gold Nugget pleco so that he stays healthy, happy, and thriving.

Tank size

Baryancistrus Xanthellus can grow up to ten inches long in size, so you will need a large tank to comfortably accommodate one of these fish.

Also, the species is a highly territorial bottom-dweller that needs room to swim, places to hide away during the day, and an area of the tank to call his own. So, to provide maximum space on the tank bottom, you should choose a tank that is long rather than tall. Plecos are large fish that can produce rather a lot of waste, which is another reason that you should provide your fish with the largest tank that you can.

Ideally, the minimum tank volume should be 120 gallons, with tank dimensions of 78 inches x 24 inches x 24 inches.

Water parameters

Gold Nugget plecos live in a tropical, freshwater environment. The water temperature range in the home aquarium should, therefore, be between 770 and 840.

The perfect pH range for Gold Nugget plecos is between 6.5 and 7.5, with a water hardness range of 2 to 15 dGH.

Plecos are notoriously dirty fish, so you will need to have a very efficient filtration system in place, and frequent partial water changes are essential to keep the tank clean. Also, the fish’ natural river environment has quite a strong water flow with a high level of dissolved oxygen, so you should try to replicate that in the aquarium as best you can, perhaps by including an airstone in your setup.

Tank decoration

Golden Nugget plecos in the wild environment have a defined territory with plenty of caves in which to breed and take shelter.

These fish like to forage for leftovers and eat the algae that they find growing on the substrate and decoration. So, be sure to provide plenty of flat rocks and driftwood that will enable algae to grow. Baryancistrus also enjoy resting on flat rocks and on the leaves of broad-leaved plants, too, so make sure that you include these in your aquascaping design too.

In its natural habitat, Baryancistrus Xanthellus lives in the shadowy depths of its river home, hiding away in caves, beneath driftwood, and under overhangs. Consequently, these fish do not appreciate very bright lighting conditions in the home aquarium, so you should either make sure that the tank is heavily planted or keep light levels low. Of course, you will need to take into consideration the conditions that are needed by the pleco’s tankmates and establish a community that shares the same lighting and water parameter requirements.


Baryancistrus Xanthellus are generally peaceful creatures when kept with other similarly amenable fish species.

That said, as these fish mature, they can become aggressive and territorial toward members of their own species. As the Gold Nugget pleco lives mainly on the bottom of the aquarium, it’s best to keep yours with medium-to-large tropical fish species that prefer to swim in the mid to upper regions of the water column.

If you have a very large tank, you may be able to keep other catfish species, as well as one adult Gold Nugget pleco. To keep the peace, be sure to provide plenty of visual barriers and physical, territorial space.

Nutrition and diet

Gold Nugget plecos are omnivores, although their main diet in the wild environment is the algae that they find growing on driftwood and rocks.

In captivity, the fish eat scraps of leftover food that drifts down to the substrate from above, and they will happily graze on algae that are growing on rocks and decorations. However, it is crucial that you supplement that diet by feeding your Gold Nugget plecos flakes and sinking wafers that are specially formulated for the species. In addition, the fish enjoy fresh veggies, such as shelled peas, cucumber, and zucchini. Also, you can introduce very small amounts of brine shrimp, tubifex worms, and freeze-dried bloodworms.

These fish are primarily nocturnal, so feed them once a day just before lights-out. The plecos will come out under cover of darkness to eat, so if you equip your tank with a nightlight, you’ll be able to see more of them.


Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to breed Gold Nugget plecos in an aquarium environment, as the species is a cave spawner, and there is simply not enough space for plecos to spawn in a regular tank.


The Gold Nugget pleco is quite a long-lived fish that can enjoy a lifespan of ten years, as long as it is kept in the correct conditions and fed a high-quality diet that contains all the nutrients that the fish needs to thrive.

Most fish diseases are caused in some part by poor water quality and incorrect feeding. Living in dirty water causes stress in aquarium fish, which is when many bacteria and fungus species attack. Like all plecos, the Golden Nugget is scaleless, and they cannot tolerate treatments that contain potassium permanganate or copper, so always check the ingredients that are included in medications before adding them to your tank.

Like most aquarium fish, there are a few conditions that can affect plecos, the most common of those being Ich.

Gold Nugget


Ich, or white spot disease, is probably the most commonly seen disease in freshwater fish. The condition is caused by a parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which is often already present in the aquarium, going undetected until a fish becomes weakened by malnutrition or stress.

White spot disease is very easy to recognize. Affected fish develop a rash of tiny white spots across their body, fins, tail, and gills. As the disease progresses, the fish become irritated by the parasites and begin flicking or rubbing their bodies against items in the aquarium.

If one fish is affected by Ich, it usually follows that others will be infected too. So, it’s important that you treat the whole tank, rather than attempting to isolate only one or two fish. Start by increasing the water temperature in the aquarium to between 780 and 800 Fahrenheit for a period of at least four days to disrupt the parasite’s lifecycle. Also, add an over-the-counter white spot disease treatment to the water at the manufacturer’s recommended dose.


In this part of our guide to the Gold Nugget pleco, we answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about this beautiful fish.

Q: How big do Gold Nugget Plecos get?

A: In captivity, Baryancistrus Xanthellus generally grows to between six and ten inches in length.

Q: How much is a Golden Nugget pleco?

A: These are not cheap fish! You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 for a Baryancistrus Xanthellus. Remember that you will also have to pay shipping fees if you buy your specimen through an online dealer.

Q: Do Gold Nugget Plecos eat algae?

A: Gold Nugget plecos grow on algae that grow on flat surfaces and on the substrate on the tank bottom. However, algae should only form a small part of the plecos diet. You should supplement your fish’s ration with flakes, algae wafers, and green vegetable matter. Baryancistrus Xanthellus also eat meat in the form of brine shrimp, as well as freeze-dried tubifex worms and bloodworms.

Q: How fast do Gold Nugget Plecos grow?

A: Baryancistrus Xanthellus grow quite slowly at a rate of around one centimeter every couple of months, provided that you provide your fish with a high-quality, varied diet and the correct water parameters.

Final thoughts

The Gold Nugget pleco makes an unusual and extremely attractive addition to the community tank. These territorial catfish do best in an environment that’s shared with peaceful, medium to large size fish and should not be kept with others of the same species.

Baryancistrus Xanthellus grows to quite a large size, so you will need a large tank of at least 120 gallons with a very efficient and powerful filtration system to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated.

So, if you’re an experienced hobbyist who can provide one of these stunners with the care and environment that they need, a Gold Nugget might be the fish you’re looking for.

Sharing is caring!

2 thoughts on “Ultimate Gold Nugget Pleco Care Guide”

  1. I’ve a L81 for 20 years this week. I keep it in a 240 liter community tank. The water here in Israel is very hard. I feed him wafers but for years only peas and cucumbers. He used to be a fickle eater. Now he takes other foods. The yellow border disappeared years ago. This to be expected. This variety achieves 6 inches. I guess he grew maybe 2 inches these 20 years.

    • Hi Yehoshua!
      In general, most gold nuggets can reach about 10 inches (25 cm); they seem to stop growing so quickly after the first couple of years. Glad to hear that yours is doing well!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.