Bristlenose Pleco 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates, & More

If you are undecided about getting a Bristlenose Pleco, this article will provide you with some additional information to help you get one for your aquarium. 

The common name Bristlenose Pleco comprises different plecos species from the Ancistrus genus. All of these fish have similar appearance and care requirements. They are hardy and suitable for aquarists of all levels of experience, from beginners to experts.

Bristlenose Pleco
Bristlenose Pleco

Species Summary

Belonging to the Loricariidae (plecos catfish) family, the Bristlenose Pleco is a tropical freshwater catfish found in South America. This species is an excellent pleco, to begin with, highly sought-after for its unique beauty and behavior.

What makes this fish impressive? A species commonly found in home aquariums is often the first pleco of many hobbyists.

The fish occurs in diverse habitats, such as streams and river margins and are available in many colors and forms.

Bristle Nose Care Guide

Bristlenose Plecos are beautiful fish that thrive when given a balanced diet and kept in a suitable aquarium. They are hardy and able to adapt to different types of aquariums. They are also generally peaceful, making the species a good candidate for community tanks.

Although it is a resistant and easy-to-care fish, that does not exclude the need for in-depth knowledge of the species, its habits, and behaviors.

Tank Size

This pleco is not very active, but, like all plecos, it is a species suitable with relatively larger tanks. As a result, they should reside in aquariums with over 20 gallons of water. The minimum dimensions for the tank should be 32 x 12 x 12 inches. This size is appropriate for a small group of them.

Tank Mates

The Bristlenose Pleco is a peaceful and non-territorial fish with no problem coexisting with other animals; it can live with numerous other fish and invertebrates in a community aquarium.

But don’t forget: larger, aggressive species should be avoided when selecting possible aquarium mates for the Pleco, as they could cause injury. The same goes for species that will compete directly for food.

The gregarious nature of this species means that it should be kept in groups of no fewer than ten individuals. Tetras, Dwarf Shrimps, Bettas, Dwarf Cichlids, Rasboras, and Oto Catfish are all excellent tankmates for this fish species.

Same Species Tanks

While Bristlenose Plecos are not generally used as a single species in an assembly, they can be kept alone in a well-decorated aquarium in a themed or biotope style.

Water Parameters

The fish are incredibly resistant, supporting a wide range of parameters. However, this species can be susceptible to pollutants in the water and the accumulation of organic matter.

The optimal temperature for keeping the Bristlenose Pleco in an aquarium is 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal pH range is between 5.8 to 7.4.

The difference in hardness and pH is related to the region where the specimen originated and demonstrates how parameters fluctuate during dry and rainy seasons.

What to Put in Their Tank

Keeping a Bristlenose Pleco healthy requires an aquarium heater and a filtering system, as with any other aquatic animal. The filtration system must be appropriately sized in order to create a low to moderate flow.

And although the decoration of an aquarium is not critical to maintaining the species, it can still be incredibly beneficial to have a well-decorated and planted tank. They can inhabit fine sand ponds, driftwood and a bed of dry leaves, and densely planted aquariums.

A fine sand substrate is also necessary. Otherwise, substrates with edges and angles can injure the fish. Use ornaments that create shelters and areas to rest, such as plants with large leaves and desirable roots. They enjoy a slightly lotic flow but can be kept in calmer waters.

Common Diseases

Bristlenose Plecos are notably resistant to diseases. As long as you maintain the water and tank quality at optimal levels and provide a good-quality diet, they should not experience any problems. But remember this: always quarantine new plecos before adding them to the main aquarium.

Food and Diet

Driftwood is recommended to be an essential part of the Bristlenose diet, as these fish are herbivores.

They feed on plants, detritus (amorphous solids), benthic algae, and phytoplankton in their natural environment. The consumption will depend on the availability of food sources in the natural habitat.

In an aquarium setting, Bristlenose Plecos accept all types of food. These fish are unfortunately labelled as cleaner fish and feed primarily on leftover feed and feces from other fish. They should not be expected to survive on ‘leftover’ food alone.

It is appropriate to provide food regularly, including specific bottom fish, feeds, and live or fresh food. Additionally, combining high-quality commercial feed and fresh foods such as zucchini, carrots, or nori algae will result in a more vivid Bristlenose Pleco with good behavior.

Feed the fish at set intervals, trying to give them an amount that can be consumed quickly. They are always hungry fish.


Under the proper conditions, with a stabilized environment and appropriate diet, this animal can live for over ten years.

On the other hand, Bristlenose Plecos tend to have shorter lifespans in the wild due to their increased susceptibility to diseases, predation, and other environmental factors.


The Bristlenose Pleco has the typical shape of other plecos, characterized by short tentacles on the snout. Also, the colors and shapes of fish can vary depending on their variety. Wild ones are typically brownish in color.


Bristlenose Plecos can grow up to 5.5 inches when well taken care of, but they are typically around 0.8 inches long.

Behavior and Temperament

The Bristlenose Pleco is known for its peaceful behavior and is a compatible addition to a community aquarium. However, males may be territorial against other males of the same species.

These fish are passive, remaining in their caves mostly and only emerging to feed.


The captive breeding of Bristlenose Pleco is relatively simple and is carried out commercially and accidentally in home aquariums worldwide.

It is an oviparous species that exhibit parental care. All Ancistrus are cave spawners.

The male attracts different females to his cave, where they will spawn. After spawning, the male expels the female and guards the cave entrance until the fry is free-swimming.

Gender Differences: Male vs Female

Sexual dimorphism is observed in adult specimens, with males developing longer tentacles on the snout and exhibiting more territorial behavior as they reach sexual maturity.

Bristlenose Pleco Fun Facts

  • They are considered “leather” fish, having a skinny layer of external epithelial mucus, and not supporting the presence of salt in the water, which can easily lead to death by dehydration due to the osmotic difference created.
  • Ancistrus is derived from the Greek word Agkistrodon, meaning hook, about the hooked interopercular odontodes. This specific epithet means furry (cirrus = hair) and refers to the tentacles found on its snout.
  • The common Bristlenose we commonly encounter is virtually impossible to identify the species with exactitude, mainly due to the lack of information about the original locality and undescribed congeners. Some claim to be a hybrid. However, it is not easy to determine whether or not it is. Man creates countless varieties through artificial selection.


Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.), 1998. Catalog of fishes. Special Publication, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. 3 vols. 2905 p.

Reis, R. E. (2003). Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. Edipucrs.