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Bristlenose Pleco Care Guide

The Bristlenose Pleco is without a doubt one of, if not the most, popular Plecos fish among home aquarists all across the globe. They hail from the large river basins located in the Amazon forest around South America and are usually commonly referred to as the suckerfish or the Bushy-nose plecos.

The Bristlenose is normally preferred over common plecos because of its manageable size. It's much smaller than its Plecos counterparts which makes them easier to keep and maintain.

Another reason why it's so popular among home aqauarists is because it's a freshwater algae eater. This makes it particularly easy to feed.

The Bristlenose Pleco is a hardy and robust fish that can survive in several different habitats and can live in each of these different habitats for about twelve years or so.

This type of pleco is a member of the armored catfish family, which are assigned this name because their bodies are usually covered with a plate-like scute coating.

There are several different breeds of Pleco fish species out there, however, the Bristlenose has its own unique appearance. They have long whiskers that run down the sides of their heads and that's what really makes them different from all the other members found in the family of catfish.

When in the wild, they place their suckermouths on the water surface and feed of aquatic plants, natural algae and small crustaceans, according to ​modestfish.

Their scientific name in full is Hypostomus Plecostomus and they grow to about eight inches in length. Herein below is your ideal Bristlenose pleco care guide

What Does The Bristlenose Pleco Look Like?

The Bristlenose Plecos is among the smallest aquarium catfish on the planet and will usually grow up to an average range of about five to three inches long. Its head is wider, it's generally much shorter and it's flatter as well as fatter than your Common Pleco.

Their flattened body is fully covered in bony plates. Once they become mature adults, tentacle-like branches sprout out from their heads. The females have shorter and less prominent tentacles compared to their male counterparts.

They've also got a pair of abdominal and pectoral fins alongside a round mouth that contains elongated lips, which is what actually makes them great suckerfish.

Unlike the rest of the other pleco species, the Bristlenose Pleco normally stays small. The largest you may ever get to see them become is around five inches long and those are the ones usually found in the wild.

When in captivation, most of them stay about three inches long. Aquarium bred Bristlenose pleco rarely grow to become larger than four inches in length. Not many people know the reason why this happens, experts and amateurs a like.

They are sold when they get to about one inch in size and a Bristlenose this small can start off in a ten gallon fish tank. However, for long term care, a twenty gallon tank is what most will advise you to go with, according to advancedaquariumconcepts.

What Are Their Tank Requirements?

Because of their size, this type of pleco usually requires a fish tank or aquarium that can hold about twenty to thirty gallons of water. Another reason why they usually need an aquarium this size is because the Bristlenose Plecos are widely renowned for being very prominent poopers and produce large amounts of waste.

This in large part due to the vast amounts of food they're capable of consuming. These are two things you'll definitely need to keep in mind when picking the the right fish tank or aquarium for your Bristlenose fish.

This also means that if you intend to have a community tank that houses your Bristlenose alongside other fish, then you might want to house them in a considerably large aquarium. If not, then you'll need to invest in a state of the art filtration system.

In the wild, when fully matured into adults, the Bristlenose Pleco tends to enjoy spending most of its time hiding in caves or under rocks or under pieces of driftwood, which makes it feel safe, according to ​aquariumtidings

Other than that, the rest of their time is spent looking for what they can feed on. When setting up your aquarium at home, try to incorporate the characteristics and features found in its natural habitat.

Provide them with the kind of hiding spots they'd find in the wild such as a few loose pieces of driftwood here and there as well as plant pots and some PVC piping that can be modified to act as caves.

Do You Need A Water Filtration System?

There's definitely a very high chance that you'll need a proper water filtration system if you intend on housing Bristlenose Pleco . Your best bet would normally be to go with a Hang-on-back(HOB) filter which often happens to be the most economical option for the average home aquarist.

Combine this with a proper sponge filter and your water will stay sparkling clean for longer periods of time. However, for those of you that might have a little more money to burn then you might want to consider using a canister filter. These are usually the best for tropical fish tanks and aquariums.

This fish comes from waters that flow very fast. This means that they'll require a filtration system that is strong as well as one that will offer a good flow all throughout the aquarium.

As mentioned earlier, this type of fish has a large consumption rate which translates to an equally high waste output. If the fish tank water is not filtered, then its quality is bound to deteriorate at a very rapid pace. Aside from the filters we've advised you on, you should consider getting water pumps as well as a few air stones to help create and maintain the strong water flow.

Applying all what we've mentioned herein will ensure that the water in your tank stays optimal. Waste will be dealt with effectively and swiftly, and the fish are bound to appreciate the comfortable environment with high quality water at all times.

What Are The Best Water Conditions For The Bristlenose Pleco?

If you're one that doesn't already have a cycled fish tank, then you'll need to pay close attention to what we have to say next. One of the most vital steps when setting up a fish tank meant to house Britlenose Pleco is a Nitrogen Cycle.

Your fish could be exposed to serious risk if you don't cycle your aquarium. When it comes to optimal water temperature conditions, this type of pleco fish thrives in water temperatures that range between twenty and twenty seven degrees Celsius or seventy three to eighty degrees Fahrenheit.

Another thing you'll need to remember is that the Plecos are from the fast flowing waters of the Amazon rivers found in South America which means that they're naturally accustomed to water that flows very fast, according to ​modestfish

The creation of adequate water flow will not only make your Bristlenose fish feel at home, it will also ensure the water in the fish tank stays sufficiently well-oxygenated. This in turn will help create and provide your fish with a healthy environment.

When it comes to matters concerning acidity and alkalinity of the water, the pH level of the water should generally measure between 6.4-7.4.

If you happen to be a beginner home aquarist, then purchasing a Bristlenose Pleco that has matured into a fully grown adult might be less of a hassle and will probably save you a boat load of time. Those that are of tender age are way more sensitive to water pH levels than their adult counterparts.

What Do These Fish Eat?

Like we've constantly highlighted throughout this article, the Bristlenose Pleco is a fish that absolutely loves to eat and can eat almost anything you put in front of its mouth.

Their main feeding diet should comprise of herbivore sinking pellets, mostly because they're usually fond of eating from the bottom regions of the aquarium. Hikari Algae Wafers are normally the best bet when feeding plecos.

You should supplement these with vegetables, reason being the Bristlenose is a fish that has a diet plan that requires a lot of plant matter to survive and live healthily.

A hungry Bristlenose will devour pieces of cucumber medallions, blanched zucchini and shelled peas in a heartbeat. They also like broccoli along with numerous other vegetable products.

Don't forget to expel any leftover or uneaten food in order to avoid fouling up your water. This should be done after every twenty four hours.

If your intention is to get this type of pleco into breeding conditions, then you might want to consider feeding them a diet of frozen and live foods. Live blackworms and bloodworms are some of their all time favorites and they sometimes can tend to ignore other live or frozen food.

The main thing here is to ensure the food reaches the tank's bottom. because if not they might not even notice it all together.

Fiber is something the Bristlenose Pleco can't go without in their diet, especially in the situation where you happen to be fond of feeding it regular fish food.

Vegetables can be a good source of this, however, if you don't feed it to them consistently they might end up not having enough fiber to keep them healthy, according to fishkeepingadvice. Including pieces of driftwood in the aquarium can be a simple solution to all this as well.

How Often Should You Feed The Fish?

Algae wafers is not something you should feed your Bristlenose Plecos on a daily basis. In between feeding them algae wafers, try as much as you can to ensure your consistently providing them with fresh nutritious vegetables such as cucumber, spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbage and zucchini.

And as we highlighted in the previous sub-topic, make sure you clean out excess vegetables every twenty four hours and replenish them with fresh vegetables every eight to twenty four hours in order to prevent them from rotting which in turn dirties and pollutes the water in the tank.

Your three day interval feeding should look something like this:-

  • Day One: Add fresh pieces of vegetable alongside Hikari Algae Wafers
  • Day Two: Replace everything with fresh vegetables
  • Day Three: Replace all the vegetables and plant matter with algae wafers.

Repeat the procedure over and over again.

Are They Easy To Breed?

The Bristlenose Plecos is a relatively easy fish to breed and usually only requires a cave in which it uses to spawn. Everything else they do entirely on their own. You should always look to have a higher population of females rather than males in your tank.

However, that's unless you own a very big aquarium or fish tank. Males are usually extremely territorial and will look to claim any cave they can get their fins on and use it for breeding purposes. Other males will often fight this particular male for control over the cave and may even make a meal out of the rivals eggs.

When breeding this type of plecos, you'll first need to ensure you have a minimum of one female and one male. The "bristles" found on their heads will help you determine whether that particular fish your examining is a male or female Bristlenose Plecos.

The bristles on the males are much larger than that of their female counterparts and they extend all the way to the middle of the head. The bristles on the females will only be found around their mouths and are usually considerably smaller than that of the male.

When the male wants to breed, you'll notice it will start to excavate a cave. It will then clear its surfaces in preparation for eggs. Once it's done with all this, it will settle in to the newly acquired cave and then wait patiently for the arrival of a female.

When the female comes over, she'll inspect the cave and judge whether it's suitable for her and if impressed by the cave, she'll move in and lay her eggs. Once deposited into the cave, the male proceeds to fertilize the eggs.

He will then evict the female from the cave and proceed to guarding the eggs. During this time, the male's cave can still entice other females which means it can still fertilize a different set of eggs from different female companions.

Choosing A Cave For Breeding

Just like you, the Bristlenose Plecos needs its privacy when it comes to mating and breeding. They definitely don't want people ogling and staring at them while they get their business done.

A cave is usually their breeding shrine. Some of the best makeshift caves happen to be something as simple as PVC piping even though they aren't the most aesthetically pleasing. It's their affordability that makes them quite popular amongst home aquarists.

However, if you aren't down with using PVC piping then you might want to consider buying ready made ornamental aquarium fish caves that you'll probably be able to find in your local pet store.

You can also stick rocks together and assemble them in the shape of a cave. The cave you make at home or buy should be big enough to comfortably house two Bristlenose Pleco, That should be a bit obvious because it takes two to tango after all, isn't it? But ensure it's not so big that it makes them feel a little insecure.

Pleco or Plecostomus?

Those of you that are beginner aquarists will often always hear these fish referred to as "plecos" rather than the latter, Plecostomus. What may be the reason for this you might ask? Well, it's beacuse calling plecos by their full name is usually considered very bad luck in the aquatic realm.

The common belief among aquarists and fish tank enthusiasts is that whenever your refer to this type of fish using their full names, very soon after the fact, you'll probably have a dead plecos on your hands. Nevertheless, for now this is merely and urban myth so don't fret too much if you've been accustomed to using the long version name.

What Other Fish Make Good Tankmates For The Bristlenose Plecos?

The Bristlenose Plecos is a fish that has very sociable and peaceful temperaments, so you may be wondering if you can mix them with other fish, for e.g. ​white cloud mountain minnows. They are almost never that aggressive towards other fish. This is in large part why this fish can co-exist harmoniously with most other fish that live in similar water condition requirements.

But you'll need to remember that this highly sociable personality is not absolute. Those Plecos that happen to be considerably big in size have been known to suck fish slime coats. The common victims to these attacks are usually goldfish or discus. This can lead to your fish getting very nasty wounds or/and ulcers.

The breeding period can also cause this type of pleco to become aggressive as well as highly territorial. However, also food can make them get this way. So. you'll need to ensure your Bristlenose is not being out-competed when food is concerned, especially if there's a presence of faster bottom feeders, such us clown loaches, in your aquarium or tank.

Also, you should try and avoid placing them alongside fish that are accustomed to harder water because the Bristlenose Plecos is a fish that prefers softer waters.

Another thing we mentioned earlier is that when your housing this type of pleco fish, it's best you have a female population that exceeds that of the male's. This will help you make sure you avoid the male competition that may arise from the search for breeding partners.

If the females are more than the males, then the males won't have to compete with each other when it comes to picking breeding partners. All in all, although there may be several risks involved when it comes to taking care of such fish, most aquarists only have positive reviews and experiences when it comes to taking care and keeping this type of pleco fish.

Does It Require Special Lighting?

Another great thing about the Bristlenose pleco is the fact that it does not require specialist lighting in order to stay fit and healthy. This is another reason why it's so easy to keep and maintain.

All you'll need is the natural lighting of the room in order for the plants and vegetation inside the fish tank to remain healthy. LED lights are normally the best for long term use because they're so affordable and cost effective. They also provide the natural lighting that's needed by the plants. They can also be set and programmed to run on automatic timers.

What Type Of Substrate Should Be Used?

When in the wild, the natural habitat of the Bristlenose pleco would be a combination of dirt, clay and gravel. It would be a very good idea to recreate this using a base layer of clay or dirt based substrate. and then top everything off using a layer of soft gravel. Nevertheless, this type of plecos, or rather pretty much any pleco in general for that matter, will normally be okay with any type of substrate you put in their fish tank.

A bare bottom aquarium is something that you might be able to get away with, however, being that they're bottom feeders by nature, they adore having to forage for food amongst the substrate.

Which means that leaving the bottom bare is something you might not want to do. Plus, if you've read through this article and carefully followed the advice that has been offered to you, then you'll probably have a large presence of plant matter in your aquarium and without substrate your plants won't have any source of nutrients to feed on. Especially if they're column or root feeders.


If your looking for a useful and unique looking fish for your community tank at home or wherever, then look no further than the Bristlenose Plecos.

Not only is it super easy to keep and maintain(as in literally any aquarist can handle taking care of this fish especially with this handy Bristlenose pleco care guide) it's also peaceful and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. You won't need much more than this once you've got it. Go on, get yours today.


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.