Bristlenose Pleco Care Guide

Bristlenose Plecos: A Complete Care Guide of Bristlenos Plecostmus

So to keep up with constant demands, we are again here presenting you with a complete care guide for Bristlenose lecostmus. This guide will cover all information about Bristlenose plecos, from their origin to what to feed them, and which tank mates to keep with them. 

Bristlenose Plecos are special, extraordinary, and fun creatures popular for their uniqueness. Commonly known as Bushy Nose Pleco or Bristlenose Catfish. Their unique appearance gets mixed reactions when it comes to fishkeepers, some find them amusing and exceptional and others ugly and frightening. 


So let’s start with where these fun beings come from. Originally, these fun entertaining Bristlenose Plecos come from the tributaries and streams in Amazon but they are also commonly found in South and Central America including Panama. 

Scientifically known as Ancistrus Cirrhosus in the Loricariidae family, Bristlenose Plecos are popular among novice fish keepers because of their algae-eating nature and the ease of keeping them in the home. 

Bristlenose plecos are freshwater fish and were classified in the 1800s. Their district nature and need make them unique from other freshwater aquarium catfish.


When talking about the appearance of tank cleaning creatures, we cannot miss the busy nose appendages that grow from their snouts, one of the reasons that are called Bristlenose. These tentacles generally start appearing once the fish reaches its maturity at about six months of age. 

As the mouth of Bristlenose Plecos is on the bottom of their bodies, it makes it easier for them to cling onto vertical surfaces and also to extract algae from the substrate. These fish have elongated lips and wider heads as compared to their other cousins. Moreover, the Bristlenise Plecos are shorter and bit plumper than other Plecos. 

Other distinct features of Bristlnose Plecos include a pair of pectoral fins and a pair of abdominal fins. They also have a dorsal fin up top. 

They are covered in bony plates over their bodies creating a protective barrier against more aggressive fish.

Difference between male and female Bristlenose catfish

Though both male and female have the same features these bristles are more prominent in male Bristlenose plecos. Male holds longer bristles going higher towards their heads. On the other hand, the female Bristlenose pleco carries a more subdued and subtle presence of these bristles near the mouth area.


Their unique colors also help them avoid any trouble as the dark color tones (back, olive, gray and dark brown) easily blend with the substrate in Amazon Basin. Talking about their appearance and color, the Bristlenose Plecos are covered in a series of light white or yellow dots with a dark base color fading to a slightly lighter tone over the belly area. 

Bristlenose Pleco Size 

The maximum size that A Bristlenose Pleco reaches is an average of between 3-5 inches. They are known for being one of the smallest aquarium fish.

Types of Bristlenose Plecos 

There are quite a few types that are popular among the fishkeepers. Most commonly found are: 

  • Albino Bristlenose Pleco
  • Longfin Bristlenose Pleco
  • Starlight Bristlenose Pleco
  • Super Red Bristlenose Pleco
  • Calico Bristlenose Pleco

Albino Bristlnose Plecostomus

As the name suggests the Albino Bristlenose Plecos are different from other types of plecos and are the most popular variation. The light yellow and pink tone of the body is easily recognizable covered with marble and spotted patterns in much lighter colors. For more detailed information about these plecos read our complete guide. 

Longfin Bristlenose Pleco

The longfin Bristlenose Pleco gained its name because of its very long and flowing fins that make them unique from the other variations. It is known for calming the audience through the hypnotic swaying of this long fin as it swims around. This same effect is why this variation is so popular among aquarist and fishkeeping hobbyists. 

Super red Bristlenose Pleco 

This variation of Bristlnoe pleco is easily recognizable because of its complete and orange and light red body color. This variation is primarily nocturnal, but can also be active during daytime if the fish tank has plenty of rockwork, driftwood, and hiding spaces.

Starlight Bristlenose Pleco 

Also known as the White Seam Bristlezone Pleco, this variation is exotic when it comes to appearance. Having a black body covered with bright spots and a white seam on its tail and dorsal fins, this fish instantly captures the attention. The beauty this creature holds is the sole reason for such a dramatic name they have.

Longfin Calico Bristlenose Pleco

This Incredibly unique and elegant variation has a very textured appearance with mostly orange and black color tones. 

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 Bristlenose Pleco


Bristlenose Pleco’s average life span is 5 years but they can live up to 10-15 years depending on how much you care for them in terms of feed and a healthy environment. The lifespan of this fish is one of the reasons that people are attracted to keep this fish. 

What to Feed Bristlenose Pleco?

Bristlenose Pleco tends to have variation when it comes to their food while they must be fed once or twice a day. Having a mostly herbivore diet, these fish spend most of their time winnowing through the substrate to consume plant-based substances in their natural habitat. Other times they cling onto plants to consume tiny insect larvae and algae. 

This behavior is also common in most Bristlnose Pleco kept in captivity as they can survive on diest mostly based on Algae. One method is to feed them algae wafers if the fish tank does not have natural algae. However, to stay healthy they will need other supplementary diets as well. 

As this fish is a bottom dweller. It is important to feed them with food that can easily reach them for instance, spirulina wafers or sinking fish pellets. To keep the diet balanced, you can also occasionally feed them a protein-based diet. Natural feed like blanched peas, zucchini, carrots, cucumber, and other vegetables are a good source of nutrients they need. However, in the case of such feed, you must remove the blanched vegetable after some time, once they had enough time to pick on it. 

What to Avoid?

Do not overfeed the Bristlenose Pleco nor deprived them of a balanced diet with lots of nutrients. One thing that helps you identify if your fish is not getting the right amount of nutrients would be the dull and muted coloration of their body. The bright and striking color patterns are the signs of a thriving fish with the right feed. Another sign of them not getting enough food is if they start eating plants as they usually consume just the algae. If they are eating the natural plants in the aquarium, increase the frequency of the feeding might help achieve their health back.

Natural Algae and Plant Feed

As the Bristlenose Plecos are suckerfish and consume natural algae in their natural habitat, it can be difficult for you to provide them with the same environment setting. To grow natural algae in your fish tank, put a piece of driftwood in the aquarium as it is a great source of natural algae. It will not take long for the algae to cover the wooden piece allowing the Bristlenose Plecostmus to healthily survive on plenty of fiber nutrients present in algae.

If you have a planted aquarium, they will also cling onto natural plants like Java moss or hornwort to consume the algae.

Behaviour and Temperament

Bristlnose Plecos are calm and peaceful species and you can easily add them to the community fish tank. They are very social and docile fish spending most of their time at the bottom of the tank not even paying attention to other inhabitants that are occupying upper parts of the water column. 

Being nocturnal, they do not move around much during daytime and because of their coloration and tendencies to hide in caves and darkness,  it is also hard to find them. You will find them moving around once the sun goes down. They’ll search for food in the substrate and may stay at one spot, If they find an ideal one with lots of algae, for as much time as they can before the sun rises up again. 

Aquarium and Water Parameters

Keeping a fish is never easy as it comes with a lot of precautions and guidelines to follow. However, keeping a Bristlenose Pleco is quite easy when it comes to pet them. Let’s start with the tank size that you may need to keep these tank cleaners. 

Bristlenose pleco tank size

Because of their small size, they can survive in small fish tanks as well, however, it must be at least 25-gallon for one fish to provide them with enough swimming space. If you are intending on keeping more than one, adjust the aquarium size accordingly. 

Decore and Substrate 

As natural bottom dwellers, Bristlenose plecos prefer a habitat that resonates with their natural environment. Therefore it is important to build a fish tank with lots of hiding spaces and complimenting decor items. As mentioned before, Live plants, driftwood, and artificial caves in their tank will serve multiple purposes, being their hiding and breeding space are two of those. 

READ  Discus Fish | A complete Guide, their Origin, Types, Care Guide, Breeding

To replicate their natural habitat, a substrate made of gravel, dirt, and clay mixture will be ideal. Make a mixture of dirt and clay as a base and top it off with the gravel. You can easily clean the gravel layer later. Though Bristlenose Plecos are fine with any substrate, creating their natural environment will make them more comfortable. 

Required Equipment and Cleaning 

Bristlenose Plecos’ natural habitats have fast flow and high water current and turnover. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain good filtration and oxygenation through the right equipment in the fish tank to keep them healthy. 

You can install a high-powered filter with an intake hose for oxygen to create the right flow for them. These filters allow additional oxygen to enter the tank keeping the water sufficiently oxygenated. If it is not enough, installing an air pump will serve the purpose of maintaining the right level of aeration. An under-gravel water system in the Bristlenose Pleco tank also keeps the bottom part of the water column in great condition while retaining the right oxygen level.

As Bristlenose Plecos are the algae eaters and most commonly known as tank cleaners, their nature is not enough to keep the tank clean. They still produce the waste and you should not depend on them to maintain the good condition in the tank. Therefore our specialists suggest using canister filters like the Fluval FX4 OR FX6 to keep the tank clean. Such filters are very effective in removing wastage and blend well with under-gravel water systems. 

These fish are darkness lover so do not need any special lighting system. You will only need natural light to keep the plants alive and healthy. You can use a led light to automate the timings if needed. 

Required Water Conditions

It is crucial to have nitrogen cycled aquarium if you are thinking to keep Bristlenose Plecos as not following the timely cycles may endanger your fish’s health. To keep them healthy you must be maintaining the water in good conditions. 

Water Temperature

Bristlenose Pleco is also a cold-water fish and this versatility makes it easier to keep them, however, the preferable water temperature should range between 73-80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

PH level

The recommended pH level for Bristlenose Pleco is 6.5 to 7.5. Read our full guides to know more about the processes to lower the pH level or to raise it. Adult Bristlenose Plecos can handle the fluctuations of water conditions better than the sensitive baby Bristlenose Plecos. Younger plecos can get unwell in unbalanced pH levels in the water.  

Water hardness

The required water hardness for a tank inhabiting Bristlenose Plecos is 6-10 dGH. If you are struggling with hard water stains, read our guide to remove hard to remove stains. 

Water Changes 

These fish are water cleaners but regular water changes are recommended based on the types of tank mates they have. Frequent water changes encourage breeding among Bristlenose Plecos as they prefer raining season in Amazon to breed. 

Tank Mates

Bristlenose Plecos, as mentioned before are social species and any fish with a peaceful temperament is ideal to keep with them. Considering the similar water parameters are a must though. Few include

  • Neon Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Platy fish
  • Gouramis
  • Tiger Barbs
  • Zebra Danios

Though they are capable of protecting themselves through camouflaging and bony plates, it is recommended to not put them with aggressive fish like bettas and African Cichlids. Pairing them with aggressors can raise stress in fish as the male Bristlenose Plecos can get a bit territorial and aggressive. 

Therefore, it is also recommended to not put more than one male in the tank. If you are putting more than one male then make sure to add more female Plecos, at least two per each male Bristlenose Pleco to avoid any fights for a hiding spot, cave, or partner. 

Avoid pairing them with Discus or Goldfish as larger Plecos are often found sucking on slime coats of these fish resulting in nasty open wounds and ulcers. 

They are also bottom dwellers so make sure they are not competing with other bottom dwellers like Kuhli loaches. Pairing them with fish that loves to be on the surface would be ideal. 

How to Breed Bristlenose Catfish 

Breeding a Bristlenose Pleco is quite easy if you maintain the right water conditions and tank space. 

  1. Select a Tank

    The original tank, if with the right setting, can be used as well. But to prevent other inhabitants from eating newly hatched babies, you might want to create a separate breeding tank. It is also ideal to shift them to the breeding tank to initiate breeding instinct.

  2. Create Hiding Spots

    Create plenty of hiding spots, caves, and plants as the male seek such hiding spots as a breeding area. The hiding spots are very important in setting up an aquarium for these fish as they play a major role in the breeding process.

  3. Water Conditions and Triggers

    Naturally, the Bristlenose Plecos breed in the rainy season and colder water, so changing 75% of water or reducing the temperature that is 4 degrees celsius cooler than usual can produce much more preferable conditions for breeding. Frequent water changes also look like rain to Bristlenose Plecos, helping them initiate the breeding process. Change 40-50 percent of the water every three days. 

  4. Keep more females

    Keep more females than males to not force the breeding. More males mean territorial fights so increase the hiding spots if you want to keep things peaceful. 

  5. Choose healthy pair

    Younger fish are ideal for breeding. Search for any unhealthy conditions like clamped fins while choosing the pair for breeding, if found any, you can look for a healthier one. 

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Breeding Process

The male finds the right spawning area and cleans it so that she can lay her eggs on the walls and floor if deemed appropriate by the female. fertilizes the egg followed by the female guarding the area. The male Bristlenose Pleco keeps the egg clean and keeps fanning them while waiting for them to hatch.

If the breeding took place in the community tank, this is where you can remove the eggs or the spawning area from the tank and transfer it into another one. The eggs take up to 4-10 days to hatch. The hatched babies have more chances to survive as, unlike other species, the Bristlenose Plecos do not eat their babies but are protective of them. 

There is no need to feed the babies for few days as they will latch onto the cave walls and feed on the egg sacks. You can start feeding them once you find them swimming in the tank. They would love to consume algae but you can balance their diet through supplements like mashed vegetables. 

Common Diseases

There are no common diseases that are known to be associated with the Bristlenose Plecos. As far as they have clean water conditions with the right balanced diet, these fish will thrive. 

Pricing and Availability

As commercially bred, the Bristlenose Plecos are easily available on large platforms like eBay. Though the pricing may differ depending on the variation and size.
The price range may vary from $1 to a few hundred dollars. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When do Bristlenose Plecos get their bristles?

At six months of age: you will start observing the growing bristles on the males more clearly on the male Bristlenose Plecos than the females though they also start developing it by the age of six months. 

How often do Plecos breed?

Very frequently: As soon as the female is full of eggs and the male has claimed the cave after their last spawning, if put together with the right water consitions then you will find the fry or eggs the very next morning.

How fast do Bristlenose plecos grow?

Bristlnose Plecos can grow fairly fast enough as they reach their maturity in just six months but their complete growth might take approximately two years.

How many Bristlenose plecos can be kept in a 55-gallon tank?

No more than 3 based on their requirements as a Bristlenose Pleco might need 20-25 gallons of water. 

Can Bristlenose Plecos live in cold water?

Yes. coming from fresh and high current water of Amazon basins, Bristlenose Catfish can easily survive and breed in cold water.

Do Bristlenose Plecos eat other fish?

No. there have never been instances if the Bristlenose Plecos are found eating live fish in the tanks. Though once dead the Bristlenose Pleco might feed on them. They will only suck on the slime coat of fish like Discus or Goldfish if kept together. Therefore to avoid such accidents feed them frequently. 

How big do Albino Bristlenose Plecos get?

4 to 5 inches: The Albino variation of Bristlenose Plecos can get 4-5 inches big unlike other common Plecos and Trinidad Plecos. 


So we have to come to an end of this guide. I hope you will have a clear understanding of how to care for these fun creatures. For more such guide, subscribe to RSS feed or Newsletter. If you have fun stories to share with us, do comment below. 


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