Gold Nugget Pleco (L018 Pleco): Care, Size, Lifespan, & More

Gold Nugget Pleco (Baryancistrus xanthellus) are stunning freshwater fish from the Loricariidae family. This pleco fish gained popularity in recent years for its beautiful black body color that is designed with yellow patterns. 

These fish are shy and try to hide so you might not see them so often to enjoy their beauty. But at the same time, they are relatively low-maintenance and peaceful fish which makes them an ideal addition to most tanks.

In this guide, we’ll cover Gold Nugget Pleco care and everything else you need to know so you can care for them properly. 

Species Profile & Overview

Gold Nugget Pleco (L018 Pleco) is an armored catfish from the Loricariidae family native to the Rio Xingú (shin-gu) in Para, Brazil. This is where this fish is being collected for the aquarium trade. They can be found in low quantities in other parts of Brazil as well. 

In pet stores, you might see this fish under different names like Gold Nugget Pleco, L081, L085, L177, or L018 Pleco. All these are different representations of the same fish. Depending on the area they have been collected they will look slightly different, Which is why there are different L numbers associated with this fish.

Gold Nugget Pleco mainly swims on the sandy bed of the river and hides under rocks and boulders. The waters this fish is coming from are warm and well-oxygenated so a similar environment is necessary for an aquarium setup. 

This species of plecos stay small which is why most aquarists want to have it in their tanks. In the past, only larger species of plecos were available in the stores which are why most think all plecos grow very large. So in recent years, the fishkeeping community has started to realize that there are also smaller plecos that they can own in smaller tanks. 

This is why the L018 Gold Nugget pleco has gained a lot of popularity nowadays. 


L018 Gold Nugget Pleco

The L018 Pleco has a bold yellow dot pattern on its body and the tip of its dorsal and tail fin has a thick yellow stripe. These yellow patterns in contrast with their black body make them look stunning. 

On top of its body, this fish has several rows of armor-bony plates that shield it from predators. Their body is flat on the belly side and has no armor to protect themselves. This is why they are rarely seen swimming in the water column as their soft belly can be an easy source of food for other fish. 

The dot pattern covers the entire back and fins of this fish. But the belly area is usually light yellow with fewer or no visible patterns. Some species develop smaller dots while others develop thicker dots but they all have the strip on the tail and dorsal fin.

Adult Size

The average adult Gold Nugget Pleco size is 8 – 9.5 inches. This makes them great fish for medium or larger tanks. They are usually sold at around 6 – 7 inches in pet stores and it takes a few years before they reach their max size. 


Gold Nugget Pleco’s lifespan is about 8 – 10 years. While most claim this fish only lives 5 years, we have kept this fish for over 8 years with no issues. The majority of the people fail to provide this fish with an ideal environment which is why they might see this fish die a little sooner than other plecos. 

Food is an important part of helping them reach their expected 10 years lifespan. Feeding them a poor diet or having them in bad water conditions will drastically reduce the age of the fish.

Behavior and Temperament

Gold Nugget Pleco is a passive and shy species and will mind its own business most of the time. They tend to hide during the day and come out at night. This means they need enough hiding spots so they feel safe. If they feel safe enough, they will also come out during the day but not as much as other fish.

The male specimens of Gold Nuggets can attack each other and fight over hiding spots or caves. You can easily prevent this from happening by providing multiple caves and hiding spots for your tank. The minimum number of caves you need to add to your tank is the equivalent number of male plecos you have in a tank.

Gold Nugget Pleco Care

Gold Nugget Pleco Care is easy and simple as they are not demanding species. This fish can adapt to any tank as long as the tank meets the minimum parameters these plecos need. This makes them great beginner fish but their high price might discourage most people from buying this beautiful fish. 

The Gold Nugget Pleco is endemic to Rio Xingu So the best way to care for them is to recreate their natural habitat in your tank. They need warm and clean water that is well-oxygenated. Giving them this environment will solve most of the issues people face with keeping plecos in their tanks. 

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a single Gold Nugget Pleco is 50 gallons. This fish needs a lot of surfaces to explore and stable water parameters. A tank of this size will give your fish enough living space to live without any issues. 

As long as the tank holds stable and clean parameters the gallons it holds are not that important. This pleco needs more surface as it does not swim in the water column. Shorter tanks that have more surface area are the ideal types of things you can get for your gold nuggets. So in a 50 gallon long tank, you can keep more of this fish in comparison to a 50 gallons tall tank. 

L018 Gold Nugget Pleco

Tank Setup:

Arranging or rearranging the tank decorations specifically for Gold Nugget Pleco is the best way of setting up your tank. As mentioned, this fish needs more surface area so it’s important to create an environment that provides the fish with enough surface area to explore.

It is also important to recreate a similar environment as they get in their natural habitat to make them feel at home and safe at all times. This species of fish are shy and need enough hiding spots so make sure to implement a few hiding spots when placing your decorations. 

Natural or artificial decorations can make your tank look beautiful as well as provide this pleco with a lot of surfaces to explore. The type and number of decorations you place in your tank make a huge difference in the amount of surface you can create. Tiles, slates, and driftwoods are our favorite types of decorations as it is easy to create more surfaces as well as hide spots in the tank. Pleco caves are also very important as they can provide your fish with a dark and safe space to rest during the day. 

The other important thing you need to consider is the type of substrate you want to use. Gold nugget plecos have a soft belly and sharp substrate can easily harm them. You should avoid any sharp object or substrate in your tank. Sand and small gravels are the ideal types of substrate for this fish. As you can see in the pictures we keep them in bare-bottom tanks with no to little substrate. 

The gold nugget pleco loves to live in a well-planted tank. So it is important to have live plants in your tank so they feel safe and sound at all times. Live plants will also make your tank stay cleaner as well as provide your plecos with more hiding spots. The L018 will also eat the algae film that grows on the plants that can not be found in most fish foods. This will help your fish to live a longer and healthier life. 

Water Conditions:

Gold Nugget Pleco needs warm and clean waters that move slightly fast. When water is warm the oxygen levels can deplete so it is important to add a few air bubbles in your tank so your fish do not suffocate. 

The water should be very stable with no fluctuations in the water parameters. Fluctuating water parameters will cause stress in fish that can threaten their health. In order to keep this fish happy and healthy make sure to set your parameters to the recommended range mentioned below:

  • Temperature: 77 – 86 Degrees Fahrenheit 
  • PH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • TDS: 60 – 200 PPM

Regular water changes are the key to keeping your tank healthy and clean. This fish produces a lot of waste so you will have to do more water changes to keep the tank in the range or parameters mentioned above. Having a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter will help you to determine when a water change is necessary. 


With the right tank setup, Gold Nugget Pleco can adapt to any lighting conditions. However, they prefer a low-light tank so try to use low-light plants and use light with low intensity. 

If you have enough hiding spots and caves then the lighting doesn’t matter that much as the fish can find a dark place even when the lights are on. 

Filter System:

Gold Nugget Pleco, like most plecos, generates a considerable amount of waste. This means you will need a powerful filter that can handle the waste produced by this fish. The filter is the heart of your tank that can ensure the water in your tank is always clean. L018 Plecos are extremely sensitive to ammonia spikes and it can cause the fish to develop diseases and even sudden death. We recommend having a strong canister filter for your tank. Canister filters can circulate the tank’s water a few times per hour which keeps your tank super clean. 

Common Diseases and Prevention

Gold Nugget Pleco is one of the hardiest species of fish you can buy. However, an aquarium is a tiny space and endemics are inevitable. In an unbalanced aquarium, these fish will suffer and will easily get sick. If you introduce new fish that carry diseases, your golden nugget can also get the same sickness. 

The most common type of sickness for gold nugget plecos are internal diseases and worms as well as Ich. These diseases can easily transfer from fish to fish and tank to another tank so make sure to always quarantine new fish and plants before adding them to your pleco tank. 

Maintaining a clean tank will also prevent the worm and other diseases from naturally occurring in the tank. Low water quality is the main cause of most diseases in aquariums. Remind yourself to do weekly water changes for the optimum health and wellness of your tank and fish.

Diet and Feeding Requirements

Gold Nugget Pleco are omnivore species but they tend to lean more towards plant-based foods. They will also eat small amounts of insect larvae, crustaceans, and small organisms. In the wild, fresh plants and algae are the main part of their diet. 

Fresh vegetables should be part of their daily diet as well. Most people feed only commercially made foods that are high in protein which can lower the life expectancy of gold nuggets plecos. Fresh vegetables like cucumber, spinach, zucchini, carrots, and sweet potato can be great sources of fresh foods. 

Live and frozen foods are great sources of protein but you should only feed them as snacks and on rare occasions. Bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, tubifex worm, and other types of small fresh or frozen foods can be given to this pleco. Make sure not to add too much and too often. 

The Gold Nugget Pleco are mainly active and scavenge for food at night. So the ideal time to feed them is when the lights are off and not much movement is around the tank. Only feed them as much as they can finish by the morning. 

Tank Mates

The ideal tank mates for Gold Nugget Pleco are the type of fish that can live in similar water parameters as your pleco. Most South American and South Asian fish can live peacefully with this fish.

Because this pleco stays at the bottom of the tank, most water column fish can be great tank mates as they will not bother each other. This pleco is calm and will not pick fights with others. But make sure not to add super aggressive fish to your tank as they might bully your gold nuggets. 

L018 Gold Nugget Pleco


This beautiful pleco can be a great addition to your tank if you are looking for a different yet beautiful-looking fish. This fish needs adequate bottom space so only get it if you have a 50 gallon tank or larger. The beautiful patterns and colors of this fish along with their small size and peaceful temperament make them an ideal fish for most community tanks. Gold Nugget plecos are definitely a type of pleco you should consider for your tank.