Bristlenose Plecos – A Complete Guide – Care, Diet, Facts.

The Bristlenose Pleco is one of the most common aquarium choices because of how easy it is to care for. They are great for beginner fish owners, and make a great addition to an aquarium.

They are a member of the Loricariidae family of South American suckermouth catfishes.

This aquarium favorite lives for 5+ years and adults grow to be about 5 inches. It is one of the smallest aquarium catfishes you can find.

They’re an easy fish to care for as they are very adaptable and hardy. They also feed off the algae and leftovers that build up on the tank floor, preventing it from getting too dirty.



Their colors are typically neutral and vary from brown, green or grey. They usually have yellow or white spots that cover their whole bodies.

Their fleshy tentacles give them their unique look and make it easy to distinguish between males and females. The females have tentacles on their snout while the males have tentacles on their heads.


Bristlenose Plecos are one of the friendliest fish species you can own. They are typically very peaceful as they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank or in various hiding spaces.

They are a primarily nocturnal fish, but once comfortable in their tank they will come out during the day if there is adequate hiding space.

They get along easily with others in their environment, as long as the other fish aren’t aggressive.

Males can be extremely territorial and should not be kept together, especially if you plan to breed your plecos.

If you notice your pleco rushing to the top of the tank for air, don’t stress, Bristlenoses need to take in some oxygen. However, if they are doing it frequently you might need to change the water. There could be too much ammonia or not enough oxygen in the water.

Disease Risks

There is no one disease that the Bristlenose Pleco is particularly prone to. However, they are no exception to common diseases that occur in aquariums.

Ich is a common disease that occurs in low quality water. A fish with ich will have small white spots all over its body. Heating up the tank water will kill off the disease but you should quarantine your fish if they become infected.

Fin rot is another common disease, also caused by poor water quality. Fish with fin rot will have discolored fins that look frayed, as infected pieces start to fall off. You can treat fin rot with tetracycline. You should change the tank water if any fish are diseased.

Another common disease risk is Dropsy, also known as Malawi bloat. This is a bacterial disease which causes discoloration and bloating in your fish. Changing the tank water and giving higher quality food or medication to your fish can solve this problem.

To prevent these diseases, it is important to keep the water clean and of good quality. While Bristlenose Plecos can keep the tank clean, they release a lot of waste, so it’s important to have a good water filter system. Regularly inspecting your fish is essential so keep an eye out for any changes in behavior or coloration.

Tank Requirements

Bristlenose Plecos need a tank size of at least 25 to 35 gallons. But, if you are planning on adding more fish, then it’s best to use a 40 or 50-gallon tank.

This breed of fish originated from streams in South America. Their natural habitat has a current and is well aerated. You can recreate that with the use of air stones and water pumps. This will make the plecos feel more at home, but it will also oxygenate the water, creating a healthier environment.

Ph. Hardiness, and Temperature

The pH should be between 5.8 and 7.8, and the hardiness 2 to 30 dGH. Younger plecos can be more sensitive to pH levels so, if you’re a beginner in fish keeping, purchase an adult pleco to save yourself time and stress.

Keep the tank temperature between about 73 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shelter, Decorative Items and Plants

Bristlenose Plecos like having plenty of places to hide. They are nocturnal, so they need dark areas where they take cover during the daytime, such as under bits of wood, in caves, amongst plants, or even under pieces of piping.

They are bottom dwellers so some driftwood can provide a build-up of algae that they can graze on.

Caves are essential if you want to breed your Plecos. If you have more than one male in your tank, then you need more than one cave to prevent any aggression.

You can use real or artificial plants in the tank for the plecos to hide and forage amongst. If you’re going to use artificial plants just be sure to get silk ones so you don’t harm their skin. Real plants have many natural benefits to the overall aquarium health so typically they are the better option.


Use a clay or dirt based substrate to mimic their natural substrate of dirt, clay and gravel. However, the Plecos will be fine with pretty much any substrate, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect. As long as they can forage among some sort of substrate rather than just a bare-bottomed tank, they will be happy.


When it comes to light, they are easy to care for as they just need natural day and night. You can use LED lights to provide the natural light needed. They are cost effective, reliable and you can put them on an automatic timer.

Because they are a nocturnal species, make sure that at night there is adequate darkness for them to feel comfortable.

Filter System

Plecos eat a lot and therefore produce a lot of waste so it is very important to have a good filtration system. If the water isn’t well-filtered the quality will quickly worsen, which could harm your fish. Consider choosing a canister or a hang on back filter that is at least 300 gph.

Feeding Your Plecos

The Bristlenose Plecos are mostly plant based bottom feeders so they will eat natural algae that grows in your tank. It is good to add driftwood to your tank as it gives them a source of fiber to snack on.

They cannot meet their nutritional needs on algae alone so be sure to include vegetables and pellets in their diet.

You can feed them algae or spirulina wafers that will sink to the bottom quickly.

For extra nutrition, you should also feed them fresh vegetables like green beans, zucchini slices, green peas, blanched romaine and spinach. Blanched vegetables are easier to digest and sink to the bottom more quickly.

Ensure any uneaten leftovers are removed within a day of feeding so that they don’t rot and harm your fish. Replenish the vegetables every 8 to 24 hours.

You should feed them about every other day. Be sure to provide enough food and algae for them so that they don’t feel outcompeted for food. They can get aggressive if food is scarce, especially among other bottom feeders.

Don’t overfeed your Plecos, overeating can lead to health problems and even death. Always monitor how much they’re eating and make sure that they have a balanced diet.

If you notice that your plecos have started eating the plants, that could be a sign that they are not eating enough.

Well-fed plecos will have good coloration. Keep an eye on their appearance to ensure their nutritional needs are being met.


The Bristlenose Pleco is a relatively easy fish to breed. A normal tank habitat is almost ideal for breeding, so you don’t have to make too many changes.

Correct Environment for Breeding

In their natural habitat, the Bristlenose Plecos would mate during the amazon’s rainy season – around November. You can mimic this in your tank by conducting frequent water changes and making the water 4 degrees colder. This will instinctively encourage them to mate.

Aim to change the water about 40% to 50% every three days.

This breed is usually a very peaceful fish but, like all animals, when breeding they can become territorial and aggressive. It is probably best to only have one male in the tank so that no aggression arises. But if you have a big enough tank, more females than males, and lots of shelter then it would probably be okay.

It is a good idea to add a cave to give them a safe area to breed in, where their eggs are able to stick to a hard surface. When choosing a cave be sure to choose one that is big enough to house two Bristlenoses, but not so big that it discourages them from mating.

Choosing Your Breeders

When choosing a male and a female to breed with, pick the two Bristlenoses that are healthiest. Usually that’s the younger ones.

You can judge how healthy they are by looking at the overall signs. Make sure their fins aren’t clamped, and that they’re eating and behaving as usual.

Once they have mated, the female pleco may look unwell, even starving, because her stomach will flatten. This is a normal part of the breeding process. She will start eating more and more, eventually growing back to a normal size.

Your males will grow increasingly territorial so make sure they aren’t disturbed while breeding.

The Breeding Process

Once males find a suitable space for spawning, they will claim and defend that territory until a mate shows up. When the female arrives, she will lay her eggs in the space claimed by the male.

The eggs will stick to the top of the cave, or any other hard surface that you have supplied. The male will fertilize the eggs and then guard the spawning area for 5 to 10 days until they hatch.

He will fan the eggs with his fins to ensure they’re getting enough oxygen. He will eat very little and spend all of his time caring for the eggs.

Before the eggs hatch it is a good idea to move them into an isolated tank to give them the best chance at survival.

After the Eggs Have Hatched

After about 10 days the eggs will hatch and the fry will absorb the egg yolk for a few days.

By having the fry in an isolated tank there is no risk of them being eaten by other fish.

Baby plecos are also more sensitive to pH and oxygen levels than adult pleco. This is another reason to keep them isolated until they are ready to be introduced to the other tank.

They will start feeding on algae and powdered spirulina after a few days. Gradually introduce other foods such as pellets and various vegetables as they grow.

They grow very quickly and can be adult sized after about 6 months.

Frequently asked questions 

What are similar species to the Bristlenose Pleco?
Small catfish are similar, they have similar eating habits and are easy to care for. The julii cory, panda cory and three strip cory are also similar breeds.

What is the scientific name for the Bristlenose Pleco?
Ancistrus Cirrhosus

What are other names for the Bristlenose Pleco?
Bristlenose catfish, bushynose catfish, and bushy nose.

Are Bristlenose Pleco aggressive?
Plecos are usually peaceful aquarium fish, however aggression can arise during times of breeding and feeding. It is important to ensure there is enough food, and when breeding make sure there are more females than males and plenty of hiding spaces. It is also a good idea to avoid more aggressive tank mates.

Do Bristlenose Plecos eat their babies?

Normally male plecos will guard the eggs and won’t eat the fry, however it can happen. If you separate the eggs before they hatch into a separate tank, then they can grow without the risk of being eaten by other fish.

How do you know if a Bristlenose Pleco is male or female?

The bristles on a male bristlenose are much more pronounced as they cover the head and are longer. In females, the bristles only cover the edge of the mouth.

Will a Bristlenose Pleco eat my other fish?

The bristlenose will generally ignore the other fish in the tank, but they might eat small shrimp fry.

What fish go well with Bristlenose Pleco?

Bristlenose Plecos are fairly harmonious fish that can live peacefully with most fish. As long as the other fish in the tank aren’t aggressive, they shouldn’t be either. Common fish that live well with bristlenoses are guppies, tetras, bettas, or other bottom feeders such as snails.

Final Thoughts

Bristlenose Plecos can be a great addition to your aquarium. They are peaceful fish that are easy to care for, and their love of algae will keep your tank nice and clean.

As long as you provide food, shelter, a good filter system and suitable tank mates, your Bristlenose pleco will be very happy.


Leave a Comment