Bristlenose Pleco Ultimate Care Guide

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The Bristlenose Pleco is a great choice if interested in getting a Pleco for your Aquarium. It’s very easy to keep and also helps to keep your tank clean. Read the guide below to learn more about how to care for them, feed them, and which fish you should get as a tank mate for the Bristlenose.

The Bristlenose Pleco is known under a number of different names, its scientific name is Ancistrus. Although it’s also called Bristlenose catfish, bushy nose Catfish, and Brushmouth Pleco. It’s a common Pleco for home aquariums as it’s smaller than alternatives and also very easy to care for. 

If you’re looking for an Algae eating fish then this one is perfect, it will really help to keep your tank clean. Below you can find my complete guide on how to care for the Bristlenose Pleco, if you’re interested in keeping them then please take a look.

Bristlenose Pleco Quick Stats

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Introducing Bristlenose Pleco

The Bristlenose Pleco is a very popular fish, it looks very unique and is perfect for those that are beginners to fish owning.

They are one of those types of fish that are really easy to look after, as they are algae eaters they also help to improve the overall quality of the tank.

Bristlenose Pleco - Black Image

This freshwater fish was discovered in the 1800s in the streams and tributaries in the Amazon Basin, they have however been found in Central and South America. The Bristlenose Plecos is very unique so it cannot really be cared for the same way you would with other Catfish and Plecos, even though there are some similarities.

The Appearance

The Bristlenose pleco is pretty small when compared to other catfish, it will roughly grow between 3-5 inches. You can always post these fish due to their tentacles that grow from their snouts, its these bristles that give them their name. These bristles are more noticeable in males as they grow much longer than females, they don’t start to appear however until fish reaches 6 months of age. 

The Bristlenose Plecos have a wider head than their body, with their mouth on the bottom of their bodies. It is this that helps them to be able to eat algae from the surface, the lips are elongated which helps them cling better vertically. 

These fish are incredibly good at blending into the environment since they are usually black, brown or grey with white or yellow spots. This is so they blend better with the substrate in the Amazon, helping to keep them hidden from potential predators. 

There are several different variations of the Bristlenose Pleco

Albino Bristlenose Pleco

The Albino Bristlenose Pleco is very unique in its appearance compared to the other types, which makes it a very popular choice. The Albino Bristlenose is light yellow and pink in color, if you look close you will also see it has a gorgeous spotted and marbled pattern.

Longfin Bristlenose Pleco

Personally I love Longfin Bristlenose Pleco. When you compare it to the other variations, it has longer flowering fins. When it’s swimming around it looks incredible and very hypnotic, I often sit watching these for hours.

Super Red Bristlenose Pleco

It’s obvious where the Super Red Bristlenose Pleco gets its name from, its body is orange and light red. No matter what different fish you have in your tank or what plants you might have, you will definitely be able to spot this fish!

Starlight Bristlenose Pleco

The colors of the Starlight Bristlenose Pleco are simply amazing. It’s completely black in color except for being covered in white spots which gives the look of stars in the night sky. There is also a white strip that can be found on the top of the caudal and dorsal fins.

Calico Bristlenose Pleco

The Calico Bristlenose Pleco is a popular choice among freshwater aquarists. The body is orange with black patches, which gives it a really neat texture look.

Basic Bristlenose Pleco Care Guide

As already mentioned the Bristlenose Pleco is the perfect beginner fish for someone that is just starting their own Aquarium. They do well in different tank conditions, so as long as you keep it well looked after, you shouldn’t see any issues. 

When I first started looking at different fish, I was worried about all of the different diseases, the Bristlenose is not very susceptible to these so you shouldn’t see them suffer from any major health issues. They really do seem to be a pretty tough and hardy fish, ideal for beginners. 

The key is to think about their natural habitat in the Amazon. If you can keep the water flow to be fairly moderate, warm temperatures and plenty of oxygen then the Bristlenose Plecos will love it.

Getting Your Aquarium Right – Tank Size & Their Habitat

Since the Bristlenose Pleco is not a hard fish to look after, it makes it a very popular choice. As mentioned above they do survive on a varied degree of tank conditions but getting it set up right will make them much happier and you will see this in the way they swim around the tank. 

When it comes to the tank, you need to make sure it’s at least a 25-gallon tank, this will give your Bristlenose plenty of room to roam around. They are bottom-dwellers, so you want to have a decent substrate as they will spend a lot of time looking for food. 

It’s important to give the Bristlenose Plecos places to hide

Since they are nocturnal fish, they will be sleeping during the day. Live plants, driftwood and caves will be perfect for them to use as a place to rest and also hide if they get scared. If you are going to breed them, then hiding places are also essential for that. 

The Bristlenose Pleco is an algae eater and actually a very good one, although naturally they cannot keep the tank completely clean and you will need an effective filter. They do like water that has plenty of oxygen, so an under-gravel water system will be ideal. 

If you notice them swim up to the top a lot, you might find there is not enough oxygen and therefore need to look at getting a better filter or changing the settings. 

In terms of water you want to get it to the following conditions; 

  • Water Temperature: 60-80 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Level: 6.5-7.5 Range
  • Water Hardness: 20-25

Bristlenose Pleco Diet

Bristlenose Plecos tend to get a very varied diet when in the wild, this is because they are normally found at the bottom eating a very plant-based diet. Time to time they will also eat on tiny insect larvae. Ideally in the fish tank, you want to also try and keep them on the same behavior, although you will naturally want to supplement it with fish food. 

You want to feed them once a twice per day with good quality food that is made for bottom dwellers. Pellets that sink or spirulina wafers could make for a very good choice. Protein is naturally important for them so to ensure they get this you could feed them bloodworms. 

A good tip on finding out if they are eating enough is the tone of their coloring. If it’s dull or soft then they are not getting a balanced diet, the coloring and the pattern should really stand out. 

Since they do eat Algae, I would recommend introducing items into the environment to help grow algae. For example, putting some driftwood in the tank, you will find it is covered in algae in no time. The Bristlenose Pleco will eat it and get a lot of benefits from it and this will help keep them healthy. 

You could also pop in some live plants, as this also helps to gather algae.


Before we get into potential Bristlenose Pleco Tank Mates, it’s worth going into the behavior and temperament first. 

Being a relaxed fish they tend to get on really well with other relaxed and peaceful fish. They can, however, come across as very docile since during the day they don’t really do much, in the evening you will often see them being more active. 

The Bristlenose Pleco will dwell at the bottom of the tank, so if you do have any that swim higher up it will often not bother it.

Compatibility – Bristlenose Pleco Tank Mates

You want to go for peaceful and non-aggressive tank mates for your Bristlenose Plecos. This fish is quite unique in the fact that it does have protection around its body, this will help prevent them from getting injured. I would still recommend staying away from more aggressive fish, as they could still get stress-related issues.    

I would personally recommend having 1 male Bristlenose Pleco per tank, having a couple could result in them fighting as they are very territorial.

  • Guppy
  • Molly
  • Platy
  • Swordtail
  • Corydoras
  • Gourami
  • Betta
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Tiger Barbs
  • Angelfish
  • Neon Tetras
  • Siamese Algae Eater
  • Rosy Tetra

How To Determine Gender?

Learning the gender of the Bristlenose Pleco is very easy. If you have a couple then one that grows faster is generally going to be the male. You will also find that the bristles on the male will be larger than that of the female.

Bristlenose Pleco Breeding Guide

As well as being easy to look after, the Bristlenose Pleco is also one of the easiest fish to breed. It’s important to make sure that you have a decent ratio of female to male, for each male there should be 2 females. 

The first thing we need to do is to make sure that your fish has plenty of places to hide, this means making sure you have caves or live plants. It is here that they will be able to do their thing and having plenty of hiding places will help with spawning. 

In the Amazon they will usually start breeding in the rainy season, to emulate this in the tank you should look to changing 50% of the water in the tank. I would also recommend feeding more live food for the protein and always ensure all food is of high quality. 

The rest will happen naturally, it is, however, worth noting that the males do tend to become even more territorial when looking after their eggs. If you do have other males then this could cause issues, they may even fall out with other fish in the tank. 

Any eggs that are produced will often hatch in 10 days. If you do have fish that eat fry then there is a risk that they might eat the Pleco fry, you can avoid this by moving them to another tank until they have hatched. 

The baby Bristlenose Plecos will move around the tank and happily feed on algae, I would recommend having plenty of live plants and driftwood to encourage the growth of algae. You can also feed them with high-quality fish foods but don’t feed them live foods until they begin to grow more.

Common Questions

How to tell a male from a female Bristlenose Pleco?

The easiest way to tell the difference between a male and female Bristlenose Pleco is their bristles. A male has much longer ones that often go over their head, whereas females are much smaller. 

How long does Bristlenose Pleco live for?

As long as they are looked after correctly, they will normally live up to 20 years.

What is their scientific name?

Their scientific name is Ancistrus Cirrhosis


I really hope that this guide has helped you understand how to care for your Bristlenose Pleco. They are such an easy fish to start with, easy to look after, relaxed and they look fantastic. 

If you do have any other questions about the Bristlenose Plecos, please feel free to drop me an email or comment below. I’d love to hear from you and even see some pics of yours if you already have some in your tank!

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