Bristlenose Plecos Ancistrus: Care, Breeding, Diet & Habitat

Bristlenose Pleco is amongst the most popular aquarium Plecos. It is also known as Ancistrus sp. The Bristlenose is every fish keeper’s first choice over the typical Pleco because of their tiny size and also, they are very convenient to keep.

Bristlenose Plecos Ancistrus: Care Breeding Size Tank Mates Habitat Lifespan

Everything About Bristlenose Plecos Fish

The Bristlenose Plecos is a perfect aquarium cleaner and also a master of disguise. This fish is very common in home aquariums due to its useful ability to keep useless algae down.

It has a variety of several names which includes; Common Bristlenose Catfish, Bushynose Catfish, Brushmouth Pleco, and the Bristlenose Catfish.

Take a quick glimpse at the following overview before you study how to care for Bristlenose Plecos. I’m quite sure it will help you to decide whether this species is right for you or not.

Care Level:Easy
Temperament:Very Peaceful
Color Form:Albino, Brown, Black, Grey
Bristlenose Pleco Lifespan:5+ Years
Size:Up to 5″
Diet:Mostly Herbivore
Minimum Tank Size:25 Gallons
Tank Set-Up:Plenty of Caves and Hiding Spaces

Bristlenose Pleco Appearance

The Bristlenose Catfish is one of the tiniest fish tank catfish. It will grow up to an average size of 3-5 inches. Its head is wider. This catfish is much fatter, shorter, and flatter than the other Usual Pleco.

Their body structure is flattened which is almost covered in bony plates. As they get matured, they sprout tentacle-like branches from their wider head. The tentacles of the males’ are more prominent and longer than females.

They are an excellent suckerfish because they possess a round mouth with elongated lips and a pair of abdominal and pectoral fins.

Bristlenose Plecos’ colors are generally brown, black, grey, or olive with light yellow or white spots on their whole body. The belly side of the fish is slightly lighter in color than the upper main body.

With their natural environment they blend themselves in extremely well. They can sit motionless for so many hours.

About Bristlenose Temperament & Tank Mates

They spend the majority of their time sucking on the side of the aquarium glass or sitting at the bottom of the fish tank. Bristlenoses Plecos are a very peaceful species. They can stay along with most other peaceful community fish.

I will recommend this fish both for beginner and experienced aquarists. It is a great fish. They can easily adapt to live in a wide variety of aquarium conditions and are very hardy. However, I will not suggest you keep two males together in the same aquarium as they get extremely competitive and territorial with another similarly shaped species.

Bristlenoses’ bony armor protects them against small aggressive and semi-aggressive fish, but they shall require to be observed very carefully if you decide to keep them together.

Ancistrus PiaH Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco Tank Requirements

Bristlenose Plecos are native to the rivers and streams in South America and Panama. Bristlenose mostly prefers freshwater with a water current that is well aerated. You must ensure that your aquarium water is nicely oxygenated with a decent flow of water.

Bristlenoses are a genus of nocturnal fish in the family Loricariidae of order Siluriformes. You have to ensure that there are a lot of hiding places so that they can take rest during the daytime. They prefer shaded areas. Driftwood, plants, and caves all together make an excellent hiding space for them. Giving driftwood in your aquarium may also permit for

somewhere for algae to grow for the Bristlenose Plecos to feed on. Your aquarium’s water temperature must be maintained between 15-27oC (60-80 F), the hardness of water must fall within 20-25, and the water pH level should be within 6.5 to 7.5.

A decent amount of waste is produced by them, so if they are kept with tank mates, the bigger the aquarium the better.

Based on what type of tank mates you are keeping with the Bristlenose fish, a minimum aquarium size of 25 gallons is a must, and you have to make it certain that in the bottom of the aquarium, which is where Bristlenoses spend most of their time is a large fish.

An under-water gravel system may help you to ascertain that the aquarium remains decently oxygenated and can maintain proper water conditions. As usual, it is important to have a filter in your aquarium. In my view, the most useful filter to have in a fish tank with Bristlenose Plecos is a canister filter.

If you are a beginner fish keeper, my suggestion is to buy a fully matured adult Bristlenose fish. Juveniles are comparatively more sensitive to the aquarium pH levels than adults.

This is usual for this fish that they normally rush to the surface of the tank for air, but it could be a signal that there are nitrates and a lot of ammonia in the aquarium water, or there is not sufficient oxygen.

Bristlenose Pleco Diet and Feeding Guide

Bristlenose Plecos usually prefer a vegetarian diet and they are bottom-feeding plecos. They spend most of their time grazing on and hiding out the aquarium algae which grows all around the tank surfaces.

They eat a lot of algae. Though they are very good at keeping your aquarium clean, the tank’s algae can’t give the Bristlenose Plecos a balanced healthy diet. Around 15% of protein and 85% of plant matter should exist there in their diet.

Some fish food manufacturing companies have developed tablets for bottom-dwelling herbivores such as sinking wafers or algae pellets and you can provide them those tablets. Plenty of balanced vegetables may also be provided to them.

Some examples of balanced vegetables you can try are cucumber or peas, cabbage leaves, carrots, parboiled lettuce. Bear in mind to take any unconsumed vegetables or food out of your aquarium within 24 hours of feeding them. It prevents affecting the tank water conditions from starting to deteriorate.

If you provide your Bristlenose fish vegetables every day, it seems they will be getting sufficient fiber, but if you are not able to provide these foods consistently, you will have to give them a different source of fiber.

If you put a piece of driftwood in your aquarium it will help to grow algae for them to eat and it will also provide them with the fibrous matter. To make sure they get a well-balanced diet, you can also provide your Bristlenoses a very little amount of meaty foods as part of their diets. It’s even more beneficial if you have a plan on breeding them.

Maintain a daily feeding routine for the Bristlenose Plecos and be fed once or twice every day. In the case of your aquarium plants, Bristlenoses typically leave them well alone so far as they are decently fed.

If you closely observe your Bristlenose Plecos and they start to eat your aquarium plants – it could be a very good sign that you are not feeding them excessively.

Another sensible tip to see whether the Bristlenoses fish are being well fed or not is their body color. If their nutritional requirements are completely met, they will get a nice-looking coloration.

Bristlenose Pleco Breeding Guide

Bristlenose fish are very simple to breed but there are some aspects to look at before we understand how to breed them.

  1. The first important thing, it is most unlikely the fry or eggs can sustain in a community a fish tank that you may require a particular breeding aquarium. If Bristlenose Plecos do breed in a community aquarium, you can shift the eggs to another fish tank.
  2. Breeding of Bristlenose fish usually happens in the winter season or the rainy season of Amazon. To change this situation you may have to make your aquarium slightly cooler than the normal condition.
  3. The third important thing, you must give enough driftwood or caves for the male Bristlenose to choose the most possible spawn site.

Let’s have a glance at how to breed Bristlenose Plecos. Firstly, you will require being able to confirm their gender, which is females and males. It’s very simple to do with the Bristlenose Plecos.

The male Bristlenose fish own larger bristles, which grows to the center of its head. The female Bristlenose has very smaller bristles that only grow around their round mouths. The males are aggressive and territorial, particularly during their breeding time, so you should always try to possess more females than male Bristlenose.

Males can demand a cave, and clean and prepare its surfaces ready for laying eggs. If you have got over one male Bristlenose, they are going to fight for the cave to claim it and may eat their rival’s eggs providing the chance.

Therefore, you must give as many caves as possible if you own more than one male Bristlenose Plecos.

After that he is going to wait for a female to come. Then the female will examine the newly provided cave. If she feels impressed, then she will store some adhesive eggs that are bright orange colored.

In the next step, the male will fertilize those eggs, and push the female Bristlenose out to guard and protect the eggs. In a male cave, one or more females may lay eggs. After that, the male fish will aerate the eggs with its fins in the 4 to 10 days which they take for hatching and clean the nest and the eggs.

When the hatching process is completed, the fry is going to attach themselves to the sides of the aquarium cave till they have fully absorbed the egg sacks. This process typically takes an extra 2 to 4 days. Because of their speedy growth, they can be as big as their parents within 6 months old.

Is a Bristlenose Pleco Fish Suitable for Your Aquarium?

The Bristlenose Pleco is for you if you have possessed a peaceful community aquarium and you are trying to find a decent-looking, and useful fish…The caring process for this fish is very simple, gets on well with any type of peaceful community fish, and comparatively, their maintenance is very low.

If you need an algae eater to help decrease the ratio of algae in your aquarium, this fish would be the best option for you!

Hey, do you have any Bristlenose Plecos in your collection of fish? Do you find them attractive or strange looking? We are eagerly waiting to hear from you in the comments section below.


Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.