How long can a Pl*co survive out of water

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AC Members
Dec 10, 2002
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Juts curious - as I was doing a water change today and about 10 minutes into it I noted my true Albino Bristlenose Ancistrus wedged in between my rock wall - and my overflow box at the top of the tank. He was just hanging there out of the water not moving. (his color blends in real well with the wall - and where he wedged himself in is hard to see unless you are looking for it.

Well, since I had drained about as much water as I wanted to anyway - I started adding new water - and in about 5 minutes he was covered again. Really didn't move during the whole time except to blink his eye.

An hour later, he is swimming in the tank looking for algae like nothing happened. So I am curious how long these fish can survive out of water?


Apr 20, 2001
Phoenix, AZ
As long as they are damp or wet they can live for probably 20-30 minutes. Not real sure though since don't feel like doing an experiment:)! This is only a guess but they prefer to be in water all the time...of course! I have a saltwater Lunare Wrasse that jumped from his tank and was on the floor for probably close to 20 minutes and mom found him on the floor and came back to life within an hour! Some fish are so hardy that they can't even kill themselves!


AC Members
Apr 29, 2001
i have heard reports of them lasting quite a while out of water. certain species have apparently demonstarted the ability to absorb oxygen into their blood through their stomac by swallowing it.


AC Members
Apr 19, 2008
I know that this thread was posted in 2003 but I just wanted to revive it as we had an accident with 2 of our pleco's today, a bristlenose and a dwarf clown pleco.

They were removed without knowing (inside a cave decor) we thought they had swum out. We put the cave outside (it was raining and very cold). An hour later I went outside for a ciggie and thought i'd have a look at the cave. Inside were the 2 pleco's, without thinking I came running in and put the cave back in the tank and wafted it around for a while. 10 mins later they both came back to life. I've never heard of this before but I think what made me do this is I used to keep Koi carp that tend to jump out of the water and if you run water over their gills it can revive them. But definitely not over an hour long out of water.

Just before one of them came back to life an air bubble came from his mouth. So in answer they can survive quite a while out of water.


Staff member
Dec 30, 2005
Real Name
Mr. Normal
I have heard similar stories of 1-2 hours for plecos and some other cats...


AC Members
Apr 19, 2008
corona, ca
ive heard a story of one spending a few hours on the carpet under a tank (jumper).. when he was found his skin was all dry and his owner thought he was dead but when he went to pick him up he moved.. so after a few weeks in a recovery tank he was back to normal...

mine has clung to the glass for 15+ minutes while doing a gravel changeout


AC Members
Mar 4, 2007

During a water change, I also removed a decoration containing a 2" common pleco and placed all the decorations in an igloo cooler overnight[was installing an ugj system] to my amazement the next day while I was replacing the decor, low and behold there was my pleco in the bottom of the cooler, he had been in there for over 20 hrs. in 60 degree water less than 1\4" deep! Put him in bag and re acclimated him for 20 mins and he swam away like nothing had ever happend!


AC Members
Nov 7, 2006
Charlotte NC
During our latest move, Wataugachicken and I could'nt dislodge one of the bristle nose plecs from our largest chunk of driftwood. No matter what we did, he would'nt come out. So I sighed, and accepted I was going to lose him. We finished breaking down our multiple tanks, loaded the moving truck, drove it for three hours, spent two more hours waiting for the moving helpers, got the truck unloaded, started setting up the tanks, put the decor back in, added the fish.... and the bristle nose swam out of the wood when we put in algae wafers....

I'd say it was perhaps seven hours total just stuck in a piece of damp wood.


We don't need no stinking badges!
Jan 25, 2007
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
A long, long, long time ago when I was young my friends and I always had tanks. When one of us would pack it in for a while we would pass this one pleco to another person. This guy lasted about 10 years. It was in a tank with Piranha and had scars on it, but after a while they left it alone. One time a buddy was cleaning his tank and took all the fish out and put them in a bucket. When done cleaning he put them back in, minus the pleco that had jumped out of the bucket. I came over to his house about 4 hours later and noticed the plec was missing. We found him on the carpet under his bed and it looked pretty dead. Threw him in the tank anyway and it survived. I have never seen any fish go through as much as this guy did for about 10 years and live. I don't know what ever happened to him, but he was ONE TOUGH FISH.