Red Fin Dwarf Pleco – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Parotocinclus maculicauda (Red Fin Dwarf Pleco) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Parotocinclus maculicauda, commonly known as the Red Fin Dwarf Pleco, is a small fish species that can be a great addition to cold tanks.

To create an optimal aquarium environment for Red Fin Dwarf Plecos, it’s recommended to have densely planted tanks, a rocky substrate, subdued lighting, and plenty of hiding spots.

In this article, I will summarize everything known about Parotocinclus maculicauda, including its preferences for care, diet, and breeding.

Quick Notes about Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

Name Red Fin Dwarf Pleco
Other Names Red Fin Otocinclus, Red-Tailed Otocinclus,
Red Oto, or the Minute armored catfish
Scientific Name Parotocinclus maculicauda
Water type Freshwater
Tank size (minimum) 15 gallons (~60 liters)
Keeping Medium
Breeding Difficult
Size 1.6 – 2.4 inches (4 – 6 cm)
Optimal Temperature 68 – 79°F (20 – 26°C)
Optimal PH 5.5 – 7.5 
Optimal GH 1 – 10 
Dwellers bottom to mid-dwelling
Nitrate Less than 40
Diet Detritivorous
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 5 years
Color Form Light brown with small black spots 

Etymology of Parotocinclus Maculicauda

The genus name “Parotocinclus” is composed of the Greek “Para” (meaning – near), “Ous or Otis” (meaning – ear), and “Kinklis” (meaning – grid). Basically, it refers to the perforated post-temporal bone.

The species name “Maculicauda” is a combination of two Latin words: “Macula” means spot or blotch, and “Cauda” means tail, indicating the tail region of the fish.

Therefore, “Parotocinclus maculicauda” roughly translates to “small fish with perforated post-temporal bone and marked tail”.

Near the ear with a perforated post-temporal bone, spotted tail,” describing a small fish.


Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Chordata (Chordates – animals possessing a notochord at some stage during their development)
Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
Order: Siluriformes (Catfishes)
Family: Loricariidae (Armored Catfishes)
Genus: Parotocinclus (This genus comprises small, freshwater catfish species found primarily in South America)
Species: Parotocinclus maculicauda

In 1877, this fish was first described by the Austrian zoologist, ichthyologist, and herpetologist Franz Steindachner (1834 -1919) as Otocinclus maculicauda.

In 1889, Parotocinclus was initially described by Eigenmann & Eigenmann as a monotypic subgenus of Hisonotus for the species Otocinclus maculicauda.

In 1948, the species was renamed Parotocinclus steindachneri by Di Caporiacco. However, the name was not accepted.

In 1977, during a genus revision, it was discovered that Parotocinclus differed from Otocinclus by the presence of an adipose fin. As a result of this finding, the species was renamed from Otocinclus maculicauda to Parotocinclus maculicauda.

Distribution of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

Parotocinclus maculicauda (Red Fin Dwarf Pleco) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding destributionThis species is mostly found in the south of Brazil (southeastern coastal rivers of Brazil, from Santa Catarina to Espirito Santo).

There are also some reports that Parotocinclus maculicauda has also been observed in different coastal rivers of the Atlantic Forest.

Habitat of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

These fish typically inhabit the bottom of slow and fast-moving rivers, often near rocks, and logs, in association with submerged vegetation, where they graze on the biofilm.

Description of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

Parotocinclus maculicauda (Red Fin Dwarf Pleco) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding difference with OtocinclusThis is a small fish species. In aquariums, the average size of adult Parotocinclus maculicauda is about 1.6 – 2.4 inches (4 – 6 cm) in total length.

As I have already mentioned, Parotocinclus resembles its closest relatives, the Otocinclus, but unlike them, it possesses a tiny adipose fin.

Distinguishing characteristics of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco:

  • Body shape. The body from the tip of the snout to the beginning of the dorsal fin is slightly convex.
  • Head. The head is normal, without any crests, depressions, or tufts of denticles. The region between the nostrils is slightly depressed. The upper region of the snout has denticles as large as those on the lower surface of the rostral margin.
  • Mouth. There are 25-32 premaxillary teeth and 24-28 dentary teeth.
  • Scales. The fish has 23-25 lateral line plates. The abdomen is covered by three regular rows of large plates.
  • Fins. The tips of the pectoral fins reach more than the middle of the ventrals, and in males, they reach the anal fin. The anal fin is truncate, and the caudal fin is strongly notched.
  • Coloration. There is a lateral light brown band, larger than the orbit, running from the tip of the snout to the caudal peduncle, passing through the middle of the body.

The body above the lateral band is light brown, while below it is yellowish with small black spots on the anterior region. There are four transverse black bars, as large as the lateral band on the dorsum: two beside the dorsal fin and two beside the adipose fin.

The fin rays are light brown, regularly stained with black, and the interradial membranes are transparent.

There is a large and irregular black blotch on almost the inferior lobe of the caudal fin, continuing the lateral black band.

Some caudal rays and membranes are brown distally, forming a large blotch on the upper caudal lobe, and the inferior lobe also has a distal irregular spot, separated from the basal blotch by a hyaline area.

For a detailed description of Parotocinclus maculicauda, you can refer to this scientific paper.

Lifespan of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

Currently, there is no data available on the maximum lifespan for Parotocinclus maculicauda in the wild.

However, in aquariums, if appropriately cared for, these fish can live up to 4 – 5 years on average.

Their lifespan greatly depends on the conditions they are kept in, how well you feed them, and how stressful your aquarium environment is for them.

Typical Behavior of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco


Red Fin Dwarf Plecos are known to be peaceful fish. They have a calm temperament and are not inclined towards aggression or nipping at other fish.


In their natural habitat, these fish are usually found in large groups. Therefore, maintaining a group of them in the aquarium setting is highly beneficial for their overall well-being.

It is generally recommended to keep them in groups of at least 6 or more individuals.

Keeping them in a group allows them to behave more naturally and reduces stress levels. They will feel more vulnerable and behave less actively and socially when kept in smaller groups or alone.


Red Fin Dwarf Plecos are not shy or timid fish. They are also very playful fish and are truly fun to watch especially when they stir up sediment clouds in the tank.

Periodically, you can also observe them lying and resting on large, flat rocks.

As a diurnal species, Red Fin Dwarf Plecos prefer light conditions during the day. They rely heavily on their vision to detect predators and locate food or fellow members of their species. However, they are also quick to retreat to darker areas of the tank as a response to perceived threats.

Placement in Tank:

Red Fin Dwarf Pleco is a bottom-dwelling fish species.

They are naturally adapted to live in rocky streams where they scavenge for food and hide in crevices and caves along the bottom of the water body.


  • Social: Yes
  • Activity: Average
  • Placement: bottom-dwellers
  • Peaceful: Yes
  • Nippers: No
  • Jumpers: No

Diet of Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

According to the study, Parotocinclus maculicauda is detritivorous.

In their natural environment, their diet consists of a periphyton matrix (biofilm) – a complex community of microorganisms, algae, and other organisms that attach to submerged surfaces such as rocks, logs, and plants in aquatic environments. It’s like a slimy layer that’s a big meal for lots of water animals, including some types of fish.

In aquariums, the basis of their diet will be popular dry foods (flakes, pellets). It is also recommended to regularly provide plant-based foods, as well as pieces of blanched vegetables (cucumbers, lettuce leaves, zucchini, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, etc.).

Good supplements will be protein products (live food) such as:

Despite the fact that Parotocinclus maculicauda can also consume certain types of algae (such as Green Dust Algae and Green Spot Algae), they are not as good at it as Otocinclus catfish. So, it’s better not to rely on them too much for keeping algae under control.

How Often to Feed Red Fin Dwarf Pleco?

Adult fish should be fed once per day. Give them only food that sinks to the bottom.

Keep in mind that the so-called “five-minute rule” cannot be applied to this species. These fish eat pretty slowly.


  • Diet Type: Omnivore (mostly herbivore)
  • Food Preference: Plant-based
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily

Are Red Fin Dwarf Pleco Plants Safe?

Yes, this species can be kept in planted tanks.

Generally, they will not eat any healthy plants in the tank. However, it is worth noting that while they eat, they might accidentally harm plants with soft leaves.

Keeping and Caring for Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

Poor water quality can greatly affect their lifespan. Key stressors on water quality include temperature, pH levels, oxygen levels, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates.

It is important that you cycle your tank before bringing fish home. Once the tank is cycled you need to check the quality of the water using a test kit.

Tank size:

The minimum recommended tank size for the group of 5-6 fish is 15 gallons (60 liters).

Despite their small size, they should not be kept in small tanks due to their active behavior. Additionally, they need horizontal swimming space more than depth.

Water parameters:

Temperature: The recommended water temperature for keeping them is 68 – 79°F (20 – 26°C). However, they can tolerate fluctuations up to 86°F (30°C) quite easily, as practical experience has shown.
Parotocinclus maculicauda can be a good choice for cold tanks.

pH: The ideal pH range is between 5.5 – 7.5. In their natural environment, they thrive in slightly acidic waters.

Hardness: The tank should preferably have soft to medium water hardness as well. However, anything in the 1 – 10 GH range is acceptable. They do not like very hard water.


Subdued lighting will be the best choice for Parotocinclus maculicauda.

However, if you decide to keep these fish in planted tanks, lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants.

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In the natural ecosystem, Parotocinclus maculicauda inhabits shallow streams and rivers where the current is slow or even fast. They do like to swim in it.

Of course, it is absolutely possible to keep these fish in an aquarium without a current, it will not significantly affect them too much. 


Aeration and water flow often go hand in hand.

Keep in mind that a powerful filtration system needs to be in place to properly aerate the aquarium water and maintain a high level of oxygenation as well. The fish enjoys water with rich oxygenation.

Air stones and other aeration decors can be added to the tank for more oxygenation.

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No special requirements.

As long as you have got the filter that works great with the size of the tank you have got you will be fine.


In their natural habitat, Red Fin Dwarf Plecos thrive among mud, rocks, and boulders. To create a suitable environment in our tanks, it’s best to replicate these features.

Avoid using coarse gravel, as its sharp edges can potentially harm the fish as they navigate the lower areas of the tank.

In aquariums with a sand substrate, they may even burrow a bit. It can look quite funny when their body sticks out with their tail out while their head is buried like an ostrich hiding in the sand.

Note: Large stones provide a lot of surface area for biofilm and other microorganisms’ growth.

Decorations and Plants:

Red Fin Dwarf Plecos require plenty of hiding places, such as caves, driftwood, twigs, tall plants, leaves, pipes, and floating plants. 

They may retreat to these hiding places if they feel threatened or stressed. It will simulate their natural habitat.

Some aquarists believe that having driftwood is essential for these fish because they nibble on it a bit during feeding, which helps their digestion.

As for digestion, I’m not sure yet, but driftwood quickly develops tasty biofilm that they enjoy. That is for sure.

Related article:

Breeding Red Fin Dwarf Pleco

Unfortunately, the reproductive process of this species is not even explored in scientific literature.

Breeding them in aquariums has proven to be difficult.

According to the scarce information:

  1. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 6 – 8 months.
  2. Mature males have visible genital papilla.
  3. Parotocinclus maculicauda is an egg-scattering spawner.
  4. Parents do not care for their eggs and fry.
  5. They need soft and acidic water for spawning.
  6. Females usually release 5-10 translucent, yellow-green eggs and attach them to the undersides of plant leaves. The eggs are relatively large (about 2 mm).
  7. The egg shape is more elliptical compared to the Otos.
  8. Nutrients are absorbed quickly in the yoke sack leading to fry hatching within 3-5 days.

Red Fin Dwarf Pleco and Suitable Tankmates

This is a very friendly fish that is suitable for community tanks but be sure of it that they still have sufficient swimming space for them. 


Small or medium-sized fish that share the same water conditions, such as:

Dwarf shrimp

Red Fin Dwarf Plecos will not harm adult dwarf shrimp, unlike newly hatched shrimp, which may be eaten if caught.

The only good news here is that these fish are not persistent hunters and will not specifically chase after shrimplets.


Red Fin Dwarf Plecos can share the same tank with any type of freshwater snail. However, if you decide to breed them, snails may eat the eggs. Keep in mind that snails do not like soft and acidic water since it can erode snail shells over time.


  • Large and/or aggressive, and/or boisterous fishes.
  • Keep them away from all types of crayfish and most types offreshwater crabs

Related article:

In Conclusion

Red Fin Dwarf Pleco is a fascinating and beautiful aquarium fish.

However, it is important to note that this species is not very hardy and requires careful attention to water quality and temperature to thrive and breed. Therefore, I would not recommend them to beginners.


  1. de Castro, André LM, Renata E. Vollú, Raquel S. Peixoto, André L. Grigorevski-Lima, Rosalie RR Coelho, Elba PS Bon, Alexandre S. Rosado, and Lucy Seldin. “Cellulolytic potential of a novel strain of Paenibacillus sp. isolated from the armored catfish Parotocinclus maculicauda gut.” Brazilian Journal of Microbiology42 (2011): 1608-1615.
  2. Garavello, Julio. (1976). Systematics and geographical distribution of the genus Parotocinclus Eigenamnn & Eigenamnn, 1889 (Ostariophysi, Loricariidae). Arquivos de Zoologia. 28. 1. 10.11606/issn.2176-7793.v28i4p1-37.
  3. Mazzoni, Rosana, Raquel Costa da Silva, and Míriam Plaza Pinto. “Invasion and colonisation of a tropical stream by an exotic loricariid fish: indices of gradual displacement of the native common pleco (Hypostomus punctatus) by the red fin dwarf pleco (Parotocinclus maculicauda) over fifteen years.” PloS one10, no. 10 (2015): e0139968.

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