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Bristlenose Pleco - Ultimate Guide with Background Info

Author: Sammie C.

The Common Pleco, the suckermouth catfish or Hypostomus plecostomus, has for long been the most popular freshwater fish among the Loricariidae family. The armored catfish family has over 150 species in which the Pleco fish stands out amongst fish keepers due to its scavenging characteristics. The armored catfish does great in home aquariums and can also grow up to 24 inches long.

Another species in the Loricariidae family that has become typical in aquariums at home is the Bristlenose Pleco whose scientific name is Ancistrus. This species also goes by the name Common Bristlenose Catfish, Bristlenose Catfish, Brushmouth Pleco, Hypostomus Plecostomus, Bushynose Pleco, Bushynose Catfish and more.

The Bristlenose catfish can be found naturally in the river basin of the Amazon river. This armored catfish is prominent within the aquarium industry because of its relatively smaller size and excellent ability in cleaning tanks; The Bristlenose Pleco has a massive algae-eating tendency. This type of fish is mostly recommended for beginning aquarists and sought after by many aquatic hobbyists.

The Bristlenose Pleco is the smallest aquarium catfish; it can grow up to an average of between 3 and 5 inches or up to 8 inches long in 2 years. The appearance of the Brushmouth Pleco displays spots of black, brown, grey with light white or yellow colors on the main body, which are a bit lighter underneath the fish. Depending on the habitat, this type of Catfish has a life span ranging from 5 to 12 Years.

The Brushmouth Pleco has a broader head, and when compared to the Common Pleco, it is seen to be somehow shorter, flatter and fatter. They swim with a pair of pectoral and abdominal fins. The bony external plates on their bodies confirm their position as armored catfish.

What sets the Bushynose Catfish apart from the other species in the armored catfish family is the outgrowths that develop on its head when it reaches maturity. The male species have more protruding bristles, which grow out to the middle of its head, while the female Bristlenose have less pronounced whiskers around their suckermouths.

Care Guide

The Common Bristlenose Catfish is peaceful and can live along well with other community fish of similar character. It is a master of disguise as it blends exceptionally well with its natural environment. Bristlenoses spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank and will sit motionless for hours. At times you will find them busy sucking on the side of the glass. However, this Pleco species is well loved because it can comfortably adapt to live in a wide variety of tank conditions. The fish species is nocturnal, so they often rest in during the day inside the provided hiding places.


The Bristlenose Pleco is bottom-dwelling herbivorous. In the tank, Bristlenoses adhere their suckermouths to the glass and feed on the natural algae. The vegetarian bottom-feeding fish need a balanced diet that is comprised of 85 percent plant matter and 15 percent protein.

For plant matter, you can feed them blanched vegetables (parboiled lettuce, romaine lettuce, cabbage leaves, carrots, cucumber or peas) and sinking algae wafers or plant-based pellets such as spirulina. As for the proteins they naturally feed on small crustaceans, and a tiny amount of meaty foods is allowed. They can get their fibrous matter from the vegetables you feed them or the pieces of driftwood in the tank. This fish species should be fed one to two times a day, and any leftover plant or meaty food removed within a day of feeding.

When you adequately nourish your Bristlenose, it develops good coloration, but when you don’t feed it well, it tends to feed on the aquatic plants in your water tank. Due to the amount they consume, they are known to produce a large amount of waste.


The Bristlenose Pleco requires an aquarium that can hold a minimum water capacity ranging from 25 to 30 gallons; For a community tank, you will need a bigger size. Inside the water tank, you can add plenty of caves and hiding spaces. You can use PVC pipes and stacked rocks to build the caves or even buy pre-made caves.

Adding plants, and driftwood in your aquarium provides shadowed areas and hiding places for the fish. These additions also offer a surface for the growth of algae, natural food for the Bristlenoses. The plants need Natural daylight while at night you can use programmable and automatic LED lights.

Besides aeration, there are three other qualities of the water tank that you need to control: the water hardness, ph, and the aquarium temperatures. The conducive temperature, ph, and hardness for the survival of Bristlenoses should be in the range 15 - 27.2 degrees Celsius (60 - 81 degrees Fahrenheit), 5.8 -7.5 and 2 - 25 dGH, respectively.

The Bristlenose Plecos prefer living in freshwater with adequate aeration and moderate to steady water movement. The male species in this family of fish can get aggressively territorial and competitive when placed together in a tank, so it is not advisable to house two Bristlenose male species in the same water tank.

You can use any substrate as a base layer inside your water tank, which you can recreate with a mixture of natural clay, dirt, and gravel. The substrate can also provide the Bristlenose Catfish with nutrients and food.

According to aquarists housing the Bristlenoses, this species produces a substantial amount of waste. You will require a reliable filtration system to ensure that the tank maintains good water flow and remains highly oxygenated. In this case, the best options are the Canister and hang-on-back (HOB) filters.

The Pleco catfish is not known to rush to the surface for air occasionally, so when this happens, it is an indicator of limited oxygen levels or presence of nitrates and ammonia elements in the water. You will need to change 40 to 50 percent of the water every three days.


The Bristlenoses breed in the cooler winter months during the Amazon’s rainy season, so for your case, you have to adjust the tank temperature to slightly 4 degrees Celsius cooler than the usual to breed them at home. The eggs are not likely to survive in a community tank so that you will need a specific breeding tank.

During breeding, the males take the responsibility of selecting the best possible spawn site. Therefore the more caves and driftwood you have in your aquarium, the better the breeding. Since the males are extremely territorial, it is better to house more females than males during breeding: A female to male ratio of 2:1. Given the opportunity, a male Brushmouth Pleco can eat a rival’s bright orange adhesive eggs.

The eggs take four to 10 days to hatch after mating, and during this period the male fish cleans, aerate and guards them inside the cave. After hatching, the larvae attach onto the sides of the cave until they have yolk-sac completely disappears, which takes two to four days before the fry is ready to swim freely and feed on algae.


Therefore, the Bristlenose Pleco is a beneficial fish in a peaceful community tank. With time You will realize that it is a relatively low maintenance pet to keep. The fish species make an excellent addition to most community tank to help reduce the number of algae in the aquarium.